BRANDYWINE HUNDRED — The students at St. Edmond’s Academy in north Wilmington kicked off Catholic Schools Week by harkening back to the first day at the current location. More specifically, the community remembered the first boy to walk through the doors at 2120 Veale Road.
The first few years of St. Edmond’s took place at the former home of then-Wilmington Bishop Edmond J. FitzMaurice, who led the diocese from 1925-60. He donated the home to the school’s founders, who then named it in his honor.
A group of parents worked with the Brothers of the Holy Cross to find a permanent home for St. Edmond’s, and in May 1961 the land on Veale Road was purchased. The doors opened on Jan. 28, 1963, and the first student to enter was Christopher Degnan.
Degnan died in 2007, but his widow, Toni Ann, attended the Mass celebrated by Father James Kirk, the pastor of St. Mary Magdalen Parish and school chaplain. After the Mass, assistant headmaster and director of alumni relations Bill D’Amato presented her with a framed photograph of her husband walking through the door and being welcomed by Brother Edward Quintell, along with a section of a stained-glass window from the original chapel. The glass had been in the former home of the Holy Cross Brothers who used to staff the school.
“I was very touched and honored that they honored Chris. I had no idea that they were going to make such a big deal about this. I’m very appreciative,” Toni Ann Degnan said after Mass.
She traveled down a back hallway to the original front door, joined by school officials and members of the student government. There, Father Kirk blessed the door, and the group posed for photographs. Outside, the brothers’ home was visible. Headmaster Brian Ray explained that in the early days, a driveway ran past the door.
Toni Ann Degnan said her husband was proud of his designation as the first arrival, “but Chris was really kind of a humble guy, so he didn’t say too much. His mother was always early for everything, so that would make sense.”
Chris Degnan’s two sons graduated from St. Edmond’s, in 1993 and ’97, and other family members also attended. The school is an important part of the family, Toni Ann Degnan said.