How BSM differs between the generations

Even though BSM has dramatically changed throughout the years with the coming and going fashion trends, the improving technology, and shifting academics, the community has remained close knit.


Alice Petty

Benilde High School, an all boys school, and St. Margaret’s Academy, an all girls school, merged together in 1974 to form Benilde-St. Margaret’s High School, which has been making history ever since.

From its beginnings as the separate all-girls Saint Margaret’s Academy of 1907 and Benilde High School all-boys academy of 1956, BSM has formed a community that cares for its people. “Students need to know they are loved and cared for, and that they have a place to be themselves, regardless of the changing times and generations,” Mike Jeremiah, BSM campus minister of 44 years, said.

The Wolfe family has a rich history with BSM, generations of them attending the school since 1938 when it was just St. Margaret’s Academy. St. Margaret’s alum from 1965 and mother and grandmother to ten Red Knights, Karen Shull reflects on the all-girls environment.“I personally loved it as we did not have to worry about trying to impress the boys during classes,” Shull said. The all-girls school eventually merged with Benilde High school, forming Benilde-St. Margaret’s High School.

Oftentimes, students take the freedom and flexibility offered within school for granted. Schools back in the early 1900s, specifically private academies, had strict rules for how to behave, how to respect superiors, how to dress, and how to act in and out of school grounds. Of course, schools today require students to follow a handbook of expectations; however, this doesn’t compare to the meticulousness of earlier generations’ rules. “We were in an all-girls school taught by great sisters who took us to task when needed and taught us to be respectful, powerful women. We had very strict rules about everything from the way we walked the halls to the way we wore our uniforms. On weekends, we wore Mini-skirts, bell bottoms, Capezio shoes if we could afford them, and our hair was either short pixies or long flips-ups,” Shull said.

St. Margaret’s Academy girls didn’t have the freedom of dress that high school students are given today. The number of schools requiring uniforms over the years steadily decreased as students advocated for the right to express themselves with dress and fashion. “Starting in [the] 1980s, we rocked bangs, oversized flannels, and Guess jeans, and dress code wasn’t nearly as strict as past generations,” Nicole Wolfe, BSM alum class of 1991 and daughter of Shull, said.

Most of today’s high schoolers, specifically those at public schools, never experienced uniforms and use fashion to show personality and taste. “I love seeing all the different things people wear. A uniform-free environment makes school more exciting and individualistic,” senior Kate Hancuch said.

I’ve always said that the times change, but the needs of the students haven’t changed.”

— Mr. Mike Jeremiah

Of course, fashion trends come and go, but the big, burning generational difference that continues to develop is technology. Students today view opening a laptop or iPad to type an essay, or having teachers project a lesson on a SmartBoard as second nature. However, grandparents and parents of current high school and university students never got to experience such luxuries. Technology has improved tremendously; typewriters, telephones, and the Internet revolutionized communication and learning in the 1900s, but these inventions were not like the ones we see today. There were no iPhones, Apple Watches, Smart Boards, or MacBook Airs. “At St. Margaret’s, we thought we were very techie because we had a new invention called an electric typewriter. To pass typing class we had to type 60 words a minute. We also had T.V.’s and transistor radios. If we needed to look up any information for school we had to go to the library,” Shull said.

From schools in early to late 1900s there was yet another leap in the sweeping race of technology. “We had computers at our house and many private schools had computer rooms, but we still had hard copy textbooks. Mr. Poser would wheel a VCR cart into the room if we needed to watch a movie or video,” Wolfe said.

Today, students hardly touch heavy, back-straining textbooks, and instead use lightweight laptops. “The progress I’ve seen with technology in learning environments is the most pressing change from generation to generation,” Jeremiah said.

Along with the progress of technology, BSM students have been improving and forming traditions of their own since the early 1900s. “We had a beautiful tradition in May of crowning the Blessed Mary. We also had Big Sister/Little Sisters. This tradition was when a senior girl would get a freshman girl as her little sister and she would be there to help show her all the ins and outs of high school life and make her feel welcomed into the St. Margaret’s community,” Shull said.

The classes were very different than they are today.”

— Mr. Mike Jeremiah

However, traditions come and go, and the crowning of the Blessed Mary eventually transformed into the crowning of Homecoming King and Queen. The new coed environment of BSM also yielded new student-life traditions. “We used to do a hockey game at night and the girls would dress up in all the guys hockey stuff and have a girls game against each grade. Big Sister/Little Sister was a tradition in all my four years, but eventually the school got rid of it,” Wolfe said. Recently, students at BSM have started new traditions such as senior ladies’ overalls, all school pep rallies, and festive dress-up days to express Red Knight pride.

Even with all of the excitement from school spirit and tradition, high school still comes with a load of responsibilities. Every upperclassman knows the stress of ACT testing, college applications, homework, and rigorous schedules. “Almost everything we do in high school is for college applications. Everyone wants to have a stacked resume and impressive grades. BSM is a college prep-school, giving us loads of homework to prepare us for what’s ahead,” junior Olivia Schmitz said.

The boom of college frenzy started with Generation Z (1995-2012), giving earlier generations a far less stressful and competitive academic environment. “The whole process is much more rigorous now. I don’t remember stressing about homework,” Wolfe said. Along with its focus on forming a close-knit community, the faith of BSM has remained strong through all generations. Originally the Christian Brothers taught Benilde students and the Sisters of Saint Joseph nuns taught at St. Margarets. BSM continues to emphasize the importance of incorporating faith into education today, with classes ranging from Christian Prayer and Spirituality, to Morality, and even active volunteering in Discipleship.

However, classes have not always been this organized and planned out. With the ending of Vatican II, the 1960s were full of changes for the Catholic Church. Catholic schools everywhere were experimenting with new courses to adapt to these significant changes. “When I started in 1975, there were still a lot of leftovers from the 60s with lots of strange classes, such as Serendipity. It was a strange period. The classes were very different than they are today,” Jeremiah said.

Rather than preaching the rules and regulations of the Catholic Church, teachers today are instead focused on giving students a strong faith foundation to build on after leaving BSM. “The religion department is much more constructed today and geared toward creating a good foundation of faith…I’ve always said that the times change, but the needs of the students haven’t changed,” Jeremiah said.

With advanced technology, college competition, fun fashion trends, and a constantly changing academic environment, BSM adapts to changes while still upholding a close-knit community and place for students to call home. And despite the changing times and hustle and bustle of high school, many BSM students still have a desire and need for the BSM community and faith opportunities. “They hunger for faith opportunities and to have a closeness with God,”Jeremiah said.