FAIRFIELD—Sacred Heart University and the Diocese of Bridgeport have reached an agreement for the university to purchase Notre Dame Catholic High School for $15 million. The two institutions have a long history of cooperation and partnership that will be strengthened by making it official, representatives from both sides say.
The university has committed to making significant investments in the school and grounds for the benefit of the students and families of Notre Dame as well as the Sacred Heart community.
“We are excited to have Notre Dame’s students, faculty, staff and alumni officially join the SHU family,” said SHU President John J. Petillo. “We look forward to maximizing resources, making improvements and creating new and exciting opportunities for students at both Notre Dame and SHU. We welcome this chance to ensure that students continue to receive a top-level Catholic education that will prepare them for the future.”
“This partnership provides a wonderful opportunity for the growth of Catholic education in the diocese—specifically for the Notre Dame students,” said Diocese of Bridgeport Bishop Frank J. Caggiano. “The university resources will allow Notre Dame to expand as an institution while retaining its Catholic identity. We anticipate great work from the collaboration between the high school and university, but we also recognize the unique differences between high school and college students. This agreement is based on a clear recognition of the need to establish appropriate separations to ensure a true Catholic ministerial experience for Notre Dame students even as they become a part of this strong Catholic university.”
The bishop will serve on the board of Notre Dame going forward.
“Notre Dame’s ongoing Catholic identity is fundamental, and I look forward to serving the board in this critical role,” said Bishop Caggiano.
Proceeds from the sale will be used to support and strengthen Catholic secondary education through an endowment fund dedicated to providing scholarships and financing other investments, Bishop Caggiano said.
Petillo said that Sacred Heart would invest at least $5 million in the school and property that will likely include physical improvements, building infrastructure, technology upgrades and updated athletic facilities. This will start within six months of the closing date with an assessment to determine needed upgrades and priorities. Renovations will start over the next two years.
Since 2011, both schools have had a partnership that included sharing facilities, such as SHU’s library and Chapel of the Holy Spirit, athletics fields and more. For many years, SHU has also offered a 50 percent tuition scholarship to Notre Dame students who are accepted to the university. Since 2018, approximately 20 percent of each Notre Dame graduating class has gone on to study at SHU.
“We are two Catholic institutions that share a common mission and vision. I’m looking forward to working even more collaboratively and strengthening the long-standing academic and community relationship between our two schools,” Petillo said. “Adding a successful high school like Notre Dame to our portfolio is a natural expansion of our brand and our commitment to Catholic education and to the local community.” SHU’s portfolio includes the SHU Community Theatre in downtown Fairfield, the Sacred Heart Discovery Museum and Planetarium in Bridgeport and the Great River Golf Club in Milford.
Notre Dame will provide teaching and learning opportunities for SHU students, Petillo said. For example, faculty, staff and students from SHU’s Farrington College of Education and Human Development will have the opportunity to collaborate professionally with their counterparts at Notre Dame in new and meaningful ways that will enhance outcomes for both organizations. In addition, Notre Dame’s faculty and staff will be provided tuition reimbursement when taking classes at Sacred Heart.
Both Petillo and Bishop Caggiano emphasized that “Notre Dame” will always be a part of the high school’s name in recognition of the school’s long history and proud and distinguished alumni.
Bishop Caggiano expressed appreciation and gratitude to the Notre Dame Advisory Board and Principal Chris Cipriano for their vision and guidance.
“I am excited about the opportunities this new relationship with Sacred Heart will provide to our school community,” Cipriano said. “As we build upon our existing partnership, I see tremendous opportunities for our staff and—most importantly—our students. I believe some of our best days truly lie ahead.”
Notre Dame chairman Paul Gleason said the board unanimously supported the acquisition: “Our strong relationship dates back decades. We share a large number of alumni, many on our ND staff are also SHU alumni, Notre Dame grads have served in key positions at Sacred Heart and our students actively utilize the outstanding SHU facilities.”
Nearly 14,000 students have graduated from Notre Dame in its 67-year history. The school originally occupied what is now the Academic Center on Sacred Heart’s Park Avenue campus.
There will be a yearlong period of transition after the deal is finalized in June during which faculty and staff at Notre Dame will remain unchanged. The school’s board will continue to serve in an advisory role.
“The agreement is a milestone for Notre Dame Catholic High School and Catholic secondary education in the diocese,” Bishop Caggiano said. “The relationship between Notre Dame and Sacred Heart is deeply rooted in the faith, generosity and aspirations of the people of our diocese. The benefits that Sacred Heart University can bring to their students and families will be enormous.”
“We want to ensure that Notre Dame Catholic High School is part of the community for many years to come,” Petillo added.