In 1956 the Piarist Fathers opened Devon Preparatory School for Boys on a 20 acre campus on North Valley Forge Road in Devon, Pennsylvania. They paid $86,000 for the Main Line campus, which included an old mansion, a carriage house, a stable and workers’ quarters.
The mansion, the centerpiece of the estate, was built in 1913 by Philadelphia publisher Dr. Charles M. Lea. After World War II the estate was sold to a real estate developer, who lived on the estate for only one year. During that time he divided the original property into smaller parcels. The remaining land and properties were sold to a physician, who turned it into a psychiatric hospital. However, complaints from the neighbors prevented his project from succeeding. The mansion was abandoned for several years until it was bought by the Piarists.
The task of transforming the mansion into a school began in March of 1956. It was renamed Calasanctius Hall after St. Joseph Calasanctius, founder of the Piarist Order. The first entrance exam was given on April 28, 1956. Devon Preparatory School opened its doors on September 8 with 49 freshmen, including several boarders.
The first Headmaster was Rev. Stephen Senye, Sch.P. Other faculty members were Piarist Fathers Ladislaus Magyar, Louis Mesko, John Scharvary and Andrew Soczowka, as well as one lay teacher, Mr. John Collins. Mr. Collins was the father of current Devon Prep Faculty Member Mr. Michael Collins.
Philadelphia Archbishop John O’Hara dedicated the school on December 8, 1956. In the years that followed the other buildings became functional parts of the campus. First, the stable became the chapel; next the carriage house became the chemistry lab, and finally the workers’ cottage became the student activities center.
The school graduated its first class on June 4, 1960. The following September groundbreaking ceremonies were held for the new school and gymnasium. Construction was finished the following year and Archbishop John Krol dedicated the new buildings on October 21, 1961. Today that building houses mostly upper school classes.
The school then turned to student activities. The Student Council became functional after 1961, and the first school play (“Room Service”) was produced by Mr. Martin Bowen in the fall of 1961. The patron drive of 1961 turned into an annual ad drive in 1962. The first two clubs, the radio and camera club, were formed in 1963, and the school newspaper was first issued the following year.
Rev. Stephen Mustos, Sch.P. succeeded Fr. Senye in 1969 as Headmaster, and that Christmas the school first celebrated its annual Midnight Mass.
The boarding school was closed in 1970, and the following year the school held its first annual Open House for prospective Devon students. About that same time Devon Prep instituted its Advanced Placement Program. In 1972 Devon Prep expanded to include seventh and eighth grades.
Devon Prep has had 11 interscholastic or club sports: basketball (1957), track (1958), cross-country (1960), bowling (1961) golf (1962), crew (1964), baseball (1973), soccer (1975), ice hockey (1975), tennis (1979), and lacrosse (2005). The first sports banquet was held in 1971, and construction of the athletic field was completed in 1975.
The school held its silver jubilee year from March 1981 until March 1982, and on March 7, 1982 the year of celebration ended with a Jubilee Mass celebrated by Bishop Francis Schulte. On March 28, 1987 John Cardinal Krol celebrated the school’s 30th Anniversary Mass.
In August 1987 Devon Prep Alumnus Rev. Richard S. Wyzykiewicz, Sch.P. ’61, was appointed Headmaster, replacing Fr. Mustos, and thus becoming the school’s third Headmaster. During Fr. Richard’s five year tenure Devon Prep was accredited for the first time by the Middle States Association and a Development Office was established.
In 1992, Rev. John Callan, a 1975 graduate of Devon Prep, became the fourth Headmaster. Although he only served in the position for two years, Fr. John made a significant contribution to the growth of the school by opening a sixth grade in the Middle School.
The fifth and current Headmaster, Rev. James J. Shea, ’66, succeeded Fr. Callan in 1994. Fr. Shea appointed Mr. Larry Iezzi as the first lay Assistant Headmaster in January of 1997. During the past 15 years many important changes have taken place at Devon Prep. Among them are: the establishment of a Board of Trustees; a steady growth in the enrollment of both the upper school and middle school; and the construction of a new classroom building. St. Anthony Hall was opened in 2004. It includes a state of the art computer center, library media center, a science lab and six classrooms.
Today, Devon Prep has the largest enrollment of its history, a faculty comprised of Piarist Fathers and both male and female lay faculty, a staff of more than 20 persons, and an alumni base of over 2000.
Although Devon Prep has grown significantly in the past five decades its mission and purpose have remained the same. The Piarist Fathers established Devon Prep to educate young men to the full development of their spiritual, mental and physical abilities.
Fundamental to the school’s philosophy is a love of God, a positive self-image and respect for others. Through challenging academics, with a qualified and dedicated faculty, Devon Prep continues to provide young men with the foundation necessary to succeed in college and to face the challenges of life with confidence.