Grosse Pointe Academy Head of School Tommy Adams  welcomes Rosalie Bellanca Posselius, a member of the Grosse Pointe Academy’s inaugural class, to the podium during the  school’s 50th anniversary celebration Oct. 4.

Grosse Pointe Academy Head of School Tommy Adams welcomes Rosalie Bellanca Posselius, a member of the Grosse Pointe Academy’s inaugural class, to the podium during the school’s 50th anniversary celebration Oct. 4.

Photo by Sean Work

Grosse Pointe Academy celebrates 50-year anniversary

By: Maria Allard | Grosse Pointe Times | Published October 8, 2019


GROSSE POINTE FARMS — Past and present Grosse Pointe Academy, or GPA, staff, parents and board members reminisced about the good times when they gathered Oct. 4 to celebrate the school’s 50-year anniversary.

Last Friday evening, about 270 people assembled in the main building for a cocktail party to reflect on the school’s history. People came from the local area as well as Florida, California, Georgia and Massachusetts to attend.

“Clearly, the attendance at the 50th anniversary celebration is a reflection of the love and admiration people have for the Grosse Pointe Academy. The institution has had an incredible impact on the lives of many young people over the past 50 years,” Head of School Tommy Adams said in an email. “We are in the midst of crafting a new strategic plan that will focus on continuing to strengthen the educational foundation at the academy while also establishing new programming that will help develop within our students critical thinking, communication and problem-solving skills that will be important to their future success beyond college.’’

“It’s such an exciting time for the academy,” said Jennifer Kendall, assistant head of school for early and lower education and director of curriculum. “It’s nice everyone can get together and celebrate 50 years of the academy.”

Located at 171 Lake Shore Drive, surrounded by trees and having a view of Lake St. Clair, the Grosse Pointe Academy building dates back to the 1800s when the Religious of the Sacred Heart, an order of nuns, purchased the property along with several nearby acres. According to information posted on the Grosse Pointe Academy’s website,, the Academy of the Sacred Heart opened as a day and boarding school for girls on Sept. 3, 1885.

“Over the years, the school would undergo many facelifts and upgrades, including the addition in 1899 of the French Gothic chapel, the 1929 construction of a new Tudor-Gothic building, the implementation of the Montessori method in 1962 and the 1990 addition of the Tracy Fieldhouse, which received a new gym floor this summer,” the website states.

In January 1969, an announcement was made that the school would close. However, a group of concerned parents formed a committee to save the school. The Grosse Pointe Academy officially opened as an academic institution on Sept. 3, 1969.

The school currently offers a preschool through eighth grade curriculum. Kendall has worked at the academy for 12 years. Her son is in the eighth grade there, and her daughter is in the sixth grade.

“We continue to stay focused on the whole child,” Kendall said. “There’s a strong sense of Christian values, morals and expectations among their peers and adults.”

Susan Haggarty, of Grosse Pointe Farms, has fond recollections of her children’s time at the school. Her daughter began attending the Grosse Pointe Academy in 1973, and her son began one year later. Susan’s husband George Haggarty’s children also were students at the academy. Susan and George married 2 1/2 years ago, after their spouses passed away.

“Our families have known each other for over 45 years,” Susan Haggarty said. “Our kids all went to the academy and knew each other.”

She said her children “were happy there.”

“I think they had a wonderful education. They taught the kids to do public speaking through plays and presentations. There was a lot of creativity,” she said.

Susan Haggarty attended the school when it was the Academy of the Sacred Heart, graduating in 1961; prior to that, her mother had been a student there.

“It’s a beautiful campus. There’s so much history there. The nuns found the trees from all over the world and planted them,” said Susan Haggarty, prior to the cocktail party. “I’m just looking forward to seeing my old friends. We all became involved in the school. Many of us were on the board. We formed a real bond that has lasted to this day.”

Sheila Connolly, a teacher who also became the fourth through eighth grade principal, was teaching at the Academy of the Sacred Heart in 1969 before the school was sold and became the Grosse Pointe Academy.

During the Grosse Pointe Academy’s inaugural year, there wasn’t a teaching position for Connolly, but she came back the following year and stayed on for 28 years. Connolly’s two sons also attended the Grosse Pointe Academy, beginning at ages 2 and 3 in the early school around 1970.

“The academy is a very special place. My kids thought the same thing,” Connolly said. “My older son, who is a writer, said he learned everything at the academy because of the writing program there.”

High points that Connolly pointed to were trips to Washington, D.C.; Williamsburg; and Gettysburg. There also were team-building camping trips on the west side of the state. Another highlight was when the students volunteered for the Special Olympics.

Over the years, Connolly has run into former students in the community. Connolly and one of her sons made it out for the cocktail party Oct. 4.

“It was huge. There were founding people and a lot of people who taught there,” she said. “You had a lot of students from the early years that were there, so it was a good turnout. It was amazing to see the number of people that were there that still support the school.”