Bertram Rantin

Cardinal Newman seniors give one final ‘smile’ at Forest Drive (+ video)

It was the latest first in a series of farewells for seniors at Cardinal Newman High School.

For years, members of the graduating class at the private Catholic high school have gathered at a special location on the school campus, clad in caps and gowns, for their senior picture.

But when the Class of 2015 class faced the cameras Wednesday on the front lawn of the campus at 4701 Forest Drive, it would be the last senior class to do so before the school moves early next year to it new location at 2921 Alpine Road.

School officials say construction on the new 115,000-square-foot-building on the 49.7-acre site is on schedule, and faculty and students are set to make the move in January after spending the first half of the next school year at the Forest Acres site.

“It’s definitely bittersweet,” said Bernie Herbkersman, one of the 80 graduates who lined the stands and chairs for Wednesday’s photo session on a warm, sunny afternoon. “It’s bitter because we’ll be leaving this building. But it’s sweet that we’ll be moving into bigger things.”

Wednesday’s gathering included a traditional group photograph, a tassel toss shot and, of course, the obligatory selfies.

“And there they go,” Cardinal Newman Principal Jacqualine Kasprowski said as the students threw their mortarboards into the air to the delight of parents and others looking on.

Earlier in the day the students had participated in the Senior Farewell Mass and just a few days earlier many attended the final soccer match of the season.

“They’re still up here (emotionally),” Cardinal Newman Development Director Terry Hodaly said. “It will hit them when they go to college I think.”

Kasprowski said it was fitting that this year’s group would be the last to graduate from the current campus.

“This class has been a special class from the time they came in as seventh-graders,” she said. “They have always been very close-knit.”

Senior Daisy Johnston was nostalgic as she gathered with her classmates for one of the last times at the Forest Drive location.

“It’s an honor to be a part of the last campus,” she said.

Cardinal Newman’s history dates to the early 1800s. The school began as a learning institution for young women and has occupied various locations before and after Sherman’s army burned the city of Columbia.

The first classrooms were located in a cottage along Park Street and the school moved to the Preston Place along Hampton Street in 1887.

In 1938, Ursuline High School was accredited as a Class A private institution and the first male students were graduated in 1951. In 1957 the property of Ursuline High School was transferred to the Most Rev. J. J. Russell, Bishop of Charleston, and the name was changed to Catholic High School of Columbia.

In 1961 Catholic High School of Columbia moved to its new home along Forest Drive and its name was changed to Cardinal Newman High School. The new location included an eight-acre lot where nine classrooms, a library, chapel, cafeteria, kitchen several offices and utility rooms were built.

There has been no public announcement about what will happen to the Forest Drive site.

Still, for Herbkersman and others, the legacy of the school’s history will outlast any location. Even so, he said, he’ll hold special memories whenever he passes by the old site.

“It will be crazy to see it as something else,” he said, “but I’ll always remember it as it is now.”