Oldenburg Academy's Foundation
Ordained a priest on August 10, 1839 in Strassburg, Alsace, 31 year old Father Francis Joseph Rudolf arrived in Oldenburg, Indiana in late October of 1844. His prayers were to found a community of Sisters to teach the children of the German immigrants who made up his parish. Those prayers were answered when seven years later, Sister Teresa Hackelmeier arrived from Vienna, Austria at Oldenburg on January 6, 1851. The young nun, just 24 years of age, readily took up the task of educating the girls in the surrounding communities.
During those first winter months at Oldenburg, Mother Teresa had only herself and three young Sisters: Michaela Lindemann, Gabriela Ehret and Josepha Speier, to prepare for teaching. By that summer they were joined by Theresa Dreer from Rorschach, Switzerland -- a young woman of superior education who came to the United States to dedicate herself to God and educating youth.
Late in the fall of 1851, the Sisters took definite charge of the parochial school comprised of 20 children. As the students prepared to make their First Holy Communion the weather was so bitter it was difficult for five or six of them, who lived in outlying farms, to return safely home from school. So those students stayed with the Sisters and became the first boarders. By 1852 the number of boarders, some of whom were in their teens, had increased to a total of 12. Thus began the Academy.
A Time For Growth
Mother Teresa gave Sister Antonia Dreer charge of the boarding school. Besides being principal, Sister Antonia also taught music. Thus began the Academy’s reputation for excelling in music. When Mother Teresa died in 1860, Sister Antonia was elected as superior of the Sisters of St. Francis. Shortly after her election, she appointed Sister Dorothea Michael Directress (Principal) of the Academy. Sister Dorothea served from 1860-1863 and again from 1865-1872.
Like many academies of the nineteenth century, the school took in children as young as six or seven among its students. By 1863, a new building was needed to accommodate the ever growing population that had soared to 117.
Early school terms lasted the entire year, except for two-week vacations in May and September. This changed during the Civil War to a month off in July. The first commencement was held in 1862 with an elaborate program.
In 1872, a niece of Father Francis Joseph Rudolf, Sister Veronica Rudolf, began her first term as Academy Directress. Sister Veronica oversaw the building of yet another Academy wing to accommodate further growth in 1872. In the following decades that Sister Veronica led the Academy as Directress, she witnessed much of the school’s academic growth as the preparatory program of today began to take shape. At the turn of the Twentieth Century, the Academy offered: German, French, Latin, Botany, Algebra, Higher Arithmetic, Church History, Christian Doctrine, Government, Literature, Physiography, Zoology, English Composition, and some business courses. The Academy received its commission as a high school in 1910.
Responding To Changing Needs
In 1941, the elementary grades were discontinued. Additional systemic changes followed some 40 plus years later. First, the residency program experienced change. Second, the Sisters of St. Francis relinquished the encompassing financial responsibility for the Academy. The Academy became incorporated in 1994, as Oldenburg Academy of the Immaculate Conception, Inc. changed to a Board of Trustees. The resident program was discontinued at the close of the 1998-1999 school year. In the fall of 2000, the school welcomed young men for the first time in its 148-year history. Familiarity with the history of the Academy reveals change as consistent with its tradition.
The School Seal: Virtue, Honor, Education
This motto was developed in 1852 and remains the same today. Mary Laurel Hartman stated in the 1852 Olivia school publication: Virtue-Honor-Education triune standard of our school, live forever through the centuries, be its helpful, guiding rule. This motto stands strong today as a reminder to the Academy students to strive for excellence in academics and character development.