Abbot Pennings Forever
In the quiet suburb of De Pere, Wisconsin, Abbot Pennings High School stood as a beacon of education and community spirit for over 90 years. The physical building will be removed this fall, but its foundation, rich history, and deep impact on the local community make it a cherished institution that will be fondly remembered for many years.
The school was established as a college preparatory school in 1898 along with St. Norbert College. Originally known as St. Norbert High School, it was housed in Boyle Hall on the St. Norbert College campus until 1959, when it was renamed to honor Abbot Pennings, the founder of the Norbertine Order’s Wisconsin chapter. The school relocated to the former Nicolet High School building at the corner of Third and Reid Streets in De Pere, giving it a prominent location and proximity to the Fox River.
Under the guidance of the Norbertine Fathers, Abbot Pennings High School became a nurturing environment that promoted academic excellence and personal growth. The dedicated faculty and staff fostered a supportive atmosphere that encouraged students to pursue their passions and develop their talents fully.
The school’s athletic programs, including basketball, football, and soccer, not only fostered physical fitness and teamwork but also united the community in support of their beloved Abbot Pennings Squires. The school’s spirited sporting events were a source of pride and camaraderie, with families, alumni, and residents coming together to cheer on their teams. Pennings teams punched far above their weight, often participating in the playoffs of various sports.
The dedication to faith was an integral part of the school’s spirit, with regular Masses, retreats, and religious activities bringing students closer to their spiritual roots. These experiences instilled in them a sense of moral purpose and taught them the value of compassion, empathy, and service to others.
In 1990 Abbot Pennings was merged with St. Joseph’s Academy and Our Lady of Prémontré High School to form Notre Dame de la Baie Academy. The new school embodies the foundational principles of the three predecessor institutions. The recent news of the demolition of the Pennings building was met with great sadness and nostalgia within the community. The physical structure that housed countless memories, laughter, and learning experiences will soon be gone, but the impact it had on generations of students and the community will never fade.
As the wrecking ball swings, the spirit of Abbot Pennings High School will live on in the hearts and minds of those who passed through its doors. Best of all, we who went there will always remember, “It’s great to be a Squire!”
PATRICK J. WOOD
Author of “Dear Reader” and “Tapestry of Love and Loss”