Ursuline Academy Pittsburgh celebrated an All–Class Reunion October 21-22, 2022.
The Academy was established in 1872 as the Ursuline Young Ladies Academy. In 1894, it moved to a former estate bounded by Winebiddle Avenue and Coral and Evaline Streets. In its middle years, Ursuline Academy offered classes from elementary through 12th grade, but later focused on grades 9 through 12 for young women.
In 1958 the Ursuline Sisters of Pittsburgh joined with the Ursuline Sisters of Louisville, Kentucky. Decreased enrollment and the opening of Lawrenceville Area Catholic High School in the neighborhood led to the closing of Ursuline Academy in June 1981 and its merger with Lawrenceville Catholic High School. https://ursulinesisterslouisville.org/ursuline-academy-pittsburgh/
The following is an article written by the executive director of Ursuline Support Services, Tony Turro, reflecting on the 40th anniversary of the organization, which is housed in the former academy’s building, along with the Waldorf School of Pittsburgh.
40 Year History at the “Heart” of Ursuline
If you have been anywhere around Ursuline Support Services over the past couple of years you have heard me say many times that we are celebrating 40 years of service to Pittsburgh and surrounding communities! This “Ruby” anniversary, marks 40-plus years in operation since, in the fall of 1981, the original Ursuline “Center” opened for business as a multi-service community center in the old Winebiddle Avenue manse that housed the Ursuline Academy. For nearly 100 years prior to that, generations of Ursuline Sisters out of Louisville, Kentucky educated and molded class after class of “refined young ladies” right here in the Friendship neighborhood of Pittsburgh, where our agency first got its start.
Responding to a community needs survey, conducted by the founding Executive Director Sr. Elaine Eckert, OSU, the first Center provided not only services to our aging neighbors, but to families and children as well through childcare, job-training, and even a “Friendship House” for the families of patients being cared for at nearby St. Francis Hospital. In the 1990’s, the Ursuline Sisters sold the old Academy building to a private developer and moved the agency to a space on Baum Boulevard. At the same time, they called the remainder of their Sisters home to Louisville and turned the agency over to the local community simultaneously changing its name to Ursuline “Services.”
Over the years, the agency’s concentration of services gradually focused more fully on those for elderly neighbors aging in place through the provision of care management and protective services. At the same time, the agency was established as a sole-source provider of guardianship services for seniors under an agreement with the Allegheny County Area Agency on Aging. As a result, the agency updated its name to Ursuline “Senior” Services in 2005 to reflect its more specific service to our older neighbors.
In 2012, after the acquisition and operation of the Good Grief Center for several years, the agency finally settled on the name Ursuline “Support” Services to better communicate the comprehensive nature of the services we provide, those that “help navigate life’s transitions,” in all the many forms such changes can take. The agency’s staff completed its move to the former grief center location on Murray Avenue in Squirrel Hill in 2017, where we remain today.
Through all the twists and turns of our forty-year history, one thing has endured: the compassionate care provided by those who have worked with USS for the benefit of our aging, disabled, and disadvantaged neighbors–what we call The Ursuline Way. Our goal remains to treat all those we meet with dignity, respect, trust, and (most especially) kindness. At Ursuline, we never turn anyone away who requests help—even if all we can offer is an appropriate referral for a service we may not provide.
Sr. Rita Joseph Jarrell, OSU (the last principal to serve the Ursuline Academy of Pittsburgh when it graduated its last class in 1981) coined the phrase “the Coeur d’Ursuline” (the “Heart” of Ursuline), in commemoration of the legacy the Academy has left in the community-benefit organization Ursuline Support Services has become. And she never falters in reminding her remaining “refined young ladies” that the heart of their alma mater still beats in the important work Ursuline still provides across this community every day!