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School News

Pace High School turns 50

New students unite with alumni, former faculty at Mass kicking off year-long celebration

Tuesday, September 13, 2011
Marlene Quaroni - Florida Catholic

Members of the Teresian Association, who taught at Pace for three decades beginning in 1961, pose for a photo after the 50th anniversary Mass along with some current students, current principal Ana Garcia (third from right) and Marist Brothers who also taught at the school from the very beginning.

Sophomores Alejandro Hernandez and Elexa Suarez carry a framed copy of the Nov. 1, 1963 edition of the Pace High School newspaper, Kerygma, during the offertory procession.

Pace senior Moise Jerome and Monica Lauzurique of the lay missionary group Amor en Accion, present the archbishop with symbols of the high school's commitment to service during the offertory.

From left, Estefani Cruz-Alvarez, 16, Francesca Fernandez, 17, Yesenia Colon, 17, Quincie Barron, 17, and Stephanie Aguirre, 17, share a laugh after the 50th anniversary Mass.

Ana Garcia, current Pace principal, poses with her husband, Eddy, principal of Immaculate Conception School in Hialeah. The two met at Pace and are members of the 1980 graduating class.
MIAMI GARDENS — In 1961, long before Nicholas Fernandez, 15, was born, Msgr. Edward Pace High School’s first male students started their classes at Our Lady of Perpetual Help elementary school. Except for one school building, which was still under construction, Pace’s current site was a sand dune desert.

“That was 18,251 days ago,” said Fernandez, a sophomore, as he read a concise history of the school during a Mass kicking off a year-long 50th anniversary celebration. “That’s five popes, 18 wars, 12 summer Olympics, and 10 presidents since 66 pioneering young men established a tradition of excellence which lives on in a legacy that continues to this day.”

In 1962, the school admitted its first girl students, housed in a newly-constructed building separate from the boys. Members of the Teresian Association, an international movement of educators committed to evangelization through their profession, were invited to teach the girls while Marist Brothers taught the boys. In 1974, Pace officially became co-ed when boys and girls had classes together. The brothers and members of the Teresian Association remained at Pace for the next two decades, teaching and sharing the administrative duties at the school.

Present at the Sept. 1 Mass were the school’s current student body, past and present faculty, alumni, community leaders, priests and Archbishop Thomas Wenski, who celebrated the Mass in the school’s gym. 

“We moved from OLPH into our first building three weeks after the school year started,” said Marist Brother Stephen Kappes, who was among the original faculty. “They were putting in tile floors and painting when we moved in. We didn’t have air-conditioning until 1963, and then it was only in a few rooms. We enlisted some of the boys to plant sod between the two new buildings.”

Much of the student body consisted of immigrant children whose families made sacrifices to send their kids to Pace — at first Cuban refugees and later Haitians, said Brother Stephen.

“The kids had great values which they learned from their parents,” he said.

Pace was the first Catholic institution on the archdiocesan-owned site north of Opa-Locka Airport. Biscayne College, now St. Thomas University, followed, then the Marian Center for children with developmental disabilities. 

Marist Brother Felix Elardo, now principal of St. Brendan High School in Miami, spent 23 years teaching at Pace. He recalled Msgr. William Hennessey’s years as supervising principal, 1965-1974 and 1991-1996, when he helped transform the sand dunes into sports fields.

“He did a lot of physical work, like moving dirt around on a tractor,” said Brother Felix. “He helped build the baseball, football and track fields.”

In honor of Msgr. Hennessey, the Hennessey Center opened in 1998, and serves as the school cafetorium. Also in 1998, the gym originally built in 1971 was renovated. Throughout the years several new buildings were added on the 44-acre campus, as well as a student plaza with fountains, lamp posts and benches. 

The gym’s walls are covered with championship banners which the Spartans’ sports teams have won, including six state championships in baseball, five state championships in boys’ basketball and one in football. In 2003, the U.S. Department of Education honored Pace with a Blue Ribbon School of Excellence Award.

In addition to publishing a 50th anniversary yearbook that celebrates its first half-century, Msgr. Edward Pace High School is planning a number of golden jubilee events, and calling all alumni from the past 50 years to participate. 
Among those events are: 
  • a homecoming game and alumni bash Oct. 7
  • a Tons of Love Mass Nov. 19
  • a Christmas Tykes Party Dec. 6
  • a Sparta-Fest Family Fun Day Feb. 4, 2012
  • a Spartan Golf Classic March 30, 2012
  • an alumni retreat April 14-15, 2012; and
  • a golden jubilee gala May 12, 2012.
Find out more by going to
Among famous alumni and staff are Catherine Keener, 1976, two-time Academy Award nominee for best supporting actress; Alex Fernandez, 1988, major league baseball pitcher who played for the Chicago White Sox and the 1997 world champion Florida Marlins; and Bill O’Reilly, conservative talk show host who taught history and English at the school from 1970 to 1972.

Alumnus Ana Mundet-Garcia, 1980, met her husband, Eddie Garcia, 1980, at Pace. Now, she is principal of the high school and he is principal of one of its feeder schools, Immaculate Conception in Hialeah. Their three children — Jenise, Bryan, and Steven — all graduated from Pace, and the Garcias are about to reach the same milestone as their alma mater.

“Next year we will turn 50 years old along with the school,” said Ana Garcia.

Several former teachers from the Teresian Association attended the anniversary Mass. Carmen Zabalegui was one of them. She taught and served as a guidance counselor at Pace from 1973 to 1985 and remembers Garcia.

“The current principal was my student,” she said. “Ana was a great dancer.”

Archbishop Wenski said the most important lesson Pace’s 1,040 students will learn at the school is to live as friends of Jesus and to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord.

“You’ll learn a lot about algebra and science,” he said. “You’ll learn about English literature and English composition and a whole lot of other subjects. You will go on to great colleges and universities and as an alumnus of Pace you will go on to great careers. Thanks to your teachers, you will learn how to do well, but the most important lesson you will learn here at Pace is to learn how to do good.”

Don Espino, Miami Springs councilman, presented a proclamation from Miami-Dade County proclaiming Sept. 1, 2011 as Msgr. Edward M. Pace High School Day. In addition, he brought proclamations from several cities where Pace feeder schools are located, including Miami Gardens, Miami Springs, Miami Lakes, Doral, Hialeah and Virginia Gardens.

Pace is the first Catholic school that sophomore Nicholas Fernandez, who compiled the history of the school, has ever attended.

“Going to Pace is a different experience for me,” he said. “I went to public school throughout my life. I became interested in the history of the school because I wanted to know what made Pace so special. I felt I would be able to feel prouder of my school if I knew more about it.”

Pace High School students stand up and sing their alma mater.

Comments from readers

As a 2012 Pace senior, celebrating our 50th anniversary has been special, honorable, and most importantly, memorable to me. Learning about our cherishing history, makes me even more proud to be a Monsignor Edward Pace Spartan.
ANA RODRIGUEZ-SOTO - 9/15/2011 10:52 AM
As a 1977 graduate of Pace, I am sorry I was unable to attend the Mass. I will always remember my years at that school as some of the happiest of my life; the faculty were mentors and friends, and some remain so to this day, especially the members of the Teresian Association and the Marist Brothers. May that spirit of community, learning and service continue at Pace for at least another 50 years. Thank you, Ana Garcia, current principal, for keeping that Spartan spirit alive.
EDUARDO FLOR - 9/15/2011 9:50 AM
It has been an honor to be a part of Pace life for the past 16 years (4 as a student c/o 2000 and 12 as an educator). Pace is a family and this day was an example of just that. The Eucharistic Celebration led by the Archbishop was beautiful and really set the tone in a spiritual manner for the rest of the school year. I look forward to all our great events! Happy 50th Anniversary to Msgr. Pace H.S., my alma mater!
NICHOLAS FERNANDEZ - 9/14/2011 9:43 PM
Participating in the mass was an honor and we're blessed to be experiencing the 50th anniversary as students at Pace. The school has really come a long way and it was awesome to see how many people still cared about their alma mater by celebrating at the mass. This school year is going to be great, and the next 50 are looking even better!
EDDY GARCIA - 9/14/2011 8:15 PM
What a beautiful day to celebrate a place we call home. It is truly a place that has impacted our lives and our family and our class of 1980 a truly fulfilling experience of faith, friendship, and love.
ESTHER FLOR - 9/14/2011 4:21 PM
I am a very proud parent of a Pace HIgh School Student. Having been a student in 1990-1991, I see what a long way Pace has come. It truly is a school of excellence!
ELVITA REIGOSA - 9/14/2011 2:53 PM
It was a beautiful day!!! The Eucharistic Celebration was amazing. The Pace family came together to rejoice and celebrate 50 years of excellence. It was great to see familiar faces from the past share this day with us. Happy 50th Anniversary Monsignor Edward Pace High School!
MARIA RODRIGUEZ - 9/14/2011 1:48 PM
What an amazing day it was! It was a privilege to experience the excitement and see old friends as well as well-wishers from the past and present.
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