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A History of Roslindale High School
Submitted by Patrick O'Connor

Slide 2

The building that was Roslindale High School at 110 Poplar Street was built in two sections in 1924 and 1926 and initially the Washington Irving Junior High School. The school was designed by noted architect Charles Howard Walker.

In September, 1936, a new junior high school on Cummins Highway opened and the Poplar Street building transformed into Roslindale High School. Approximately 1200 students entered on Thursday, September 10, 1936. First headmaster, appointed on April 27, 1936, was Ambrose B. Warren. He was born in Vermont on October 14, 1876 and grew up in Cornish, Maine. He held degrees from Colby, Harvard and Boston University. His association with the Boston Public Schools began in 1908 when he joined the faculty of Mechanical Arts High School in the Back Bay. Previous to coming to Roslindale, he was head of the science department at Dorchester High School for boys.

During the World War II years, as many at 675 graduates of Roslindale High were in the various armed forces of the nation fighting in Europe.

At the end of the school year in 1947, Mr. Warren announced his retirement. At the time, he lived in West Roxbury. He eventually relocated to Vermont. He died there on January 10, 1957.

Second headmaster was distinguished educator Gerald F. Coughlin. He attended Boston College and studied at Harvard School of Education and Boston Teachers College. He joined the Boston Public Schools in September, 1924, teaching and coaching football at Mechanic Arts High School. In 1938, he transferred to English High School, having charge of the English department. His time at Rossi was brief. Beginning the new school year in September, 1948, he was appointed Assistant School Superintendent by the superintendent, Dennis C. Haley. A sudden illness led to his untimely death on December 10, 1950 at the age of 46.

Thomas F. Gately became the third headmaster in September, 1948. After graduating from English High School, he attended Boston College and Boston State Teachers College. He began his career with the Boston Public Schools in 1924 at Jamaica Plain High School. In 1936, he joined the staff at Rossi and was of great assistance to Mr. Warren in starting the school. He eventually was made head of the business department. In September, 1957, he transferred to become headmaster of Girls Latin School. He died on October 26, 1982 and was laid to rest from St. Gregory Church in Dorchester on Saturday, October 30.

His successor and fourth headmaster was Wilfred L. O'Leary. A Boston native and 1925 graduate of Boston Latin School, he earned degrees at Boston College, Boston State Teachers College and a doctorate in education a Calvin Coolidge College. He joined the Boston Public Schools in 1933 and held teaching assignments at the High School of Commerce, Boston Latin School and the Burke. In 1942, he was called to military service and served four and a half years in the Army Air Force, holding various positions. Prior to his discharge, he was commanding officer at Ft. Worth Army Air Base in Texas. He returned to teaching at Boston Latin School and in 1948, took charge of the history department at the Jeremiah E. Burke High School.

In September, 1964, Mr. O’Leary was appointed headmaster of Boston Latin School. He led that remarkable school to his retirement in 1976. He passed away on July 12, 1995 at the age of 89. A funeral Mass was held at Holy Name Church and burial followed at St. Joseph Cemetery in West Roxbury.

Fifth headmaster was William J. Cunningham. Born and raised in Dorchester, he attended BC High, Boston College and Boston State College. His career in the Boston Public Schools included teaching at Brighton High, Dorchester High, the High School of Commerce and Charlestown High School. He was also a strong supporter of Boston College athletics and athletics in the Boston Public Schools. He retired in June, 1971and settled in Yarmouth. Declining in health, he died on January 25, 1993 at St. Patrick Manor in Framingham. He was 86. A funeral Mass was held on January 29 at St. Ignatius Church in Newton and burial followed at St. Joseph Cemetery in West Roxbury.

Sixth headmaster and first woman to lead the school, Helen M. Moran, arrived in September, 1971. A Dorchester native, she studied at Simmons and Boston Teachers College. Her career in the Boston Public Schools included teaching and being a guidance counselor at East Boston High and being headmaster of Girls Trade School and the Jeremiah E. Burke. For three years, she led the school. A month before the start of the new school year, in August, 1974, she was appointed assistant superintendent of schools for the Roslindale, West Roxbury and Jamaica Plain area.

In the spring of 1974, US Federal Judge Arthur W. Garrity ordered a desegregation plan of the schools with a goal of achieving racial balance throughout the system. In a reorganization plan, junior high schools became middle schools with grades 6-8 instead of 7-9 and district high schools added a ninth grade to become four year schools instead of three. On September 12, 1974, Rossi opened with a ninth grade class (many from the Washington Irving) and with a new headmaster, Donald G. Burgess. He earned degrees from Boston College and Boston State. He had previously taught at Boston Tech and English High School.

In 1973, Mayor surprised the West Roxbury/Roslindale area with intentions to build a new high school in West Roxbury on a 14 acre site on the VFW Parkway. Mayor White and city officials broke ground on Monday, January 7, 1974. Original plans called for the school to be completed by September, 1975 and to be a magnet school, attracting students from all over the city. Construction took longer than planned.

In the spring of 1976, US Federal Judge Arthur Garrity announced plans for the new school to replace Roslindale High School as a district high school. Rossi was to close for a year and undergo a major renovation. The last class to graduate from Roslindale High took place on June 4, 1976 at the Hynes Auditorium. Diplomas were presented to 232 graduates. Over the summer of 1976, Rossi moved to the new West Roxbury High. With much excitement and joy, the new school opened on September 12, 1976.

The plan to renovate and reopen Rossi never materialized. The building remained abandoned and boarded up for ten years.

On Saturday, February 15, 1986, Mayor Raymond Flynn led residents and alumni in a celebration to begin the transformation of the boarded up building into elderly housing. The project was completed in May, 1987 and is today known as Roslindale House at 120 Poplar Street.


Ambrose Benton Warren
1936 - 1947
Died: January 10, 1957

Gerald F. Coughlin
1947 - 1948
Died: December 10, 1950

Thomas F. Gately
1948 - 1957
Died: October 26, 1982

Wilfred L. O'Leary
1957 - 1964
Died: July 12, 1995

William J. Cunningham
1964 - 1971
Died: January 25, 1993

Helen M. Moran
1971 - 1974
Died: May 6, 1997

Donald G. Burgess
1974 - 1976


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