When William Aloysius Scully was bishop of Albany, six new Roman Catholic high schools were established in the diocese. The school that opened on a 62-acre lot on upper Church Street in Amsterdam in 1966, three years before Scully’s death, was named in his honor.
St. Mary’s Institute on Forbes Street, which dates back to 1881, had been the city’s previous Catholic high school. It was adjacent to St. Mary’s Church in the heart of the city. Bishop Scully High school was built near the city’s outer limits.
The new school was under construction in February 1966, when three local priests, a banker and other community members packed a hearing to oppose a proposal to change zoning on upper Church Street to permit construction of a bowling alley a thousand feet from the school. The bowling alley was not built and Bishop Scully High School opened in September.
The first principal was Reverend Joseph Oathout. Bishop Scully himself attended formal dedication ceremonies.
There had been a major fundraising campaign to build the school, including a substantial donation from Mohasco carpet company executive Herbert Shuttleworth II. The new school had carpet on the floor according to Reverend Joseph E. Anselment, who was Scully’s principal from 1968 through the mid 1970s.
Anselment said enrollment and funding were key issues. “I used to do two bingo games a week,” Anselment said.
There was a small enrollment boost when Gloversville’s Catholic high school, Bishop Burke, closed in 1974. Novelist Richard Russo was a Burke honors graduate in 1967.
At Scully, the first valedictorian was James Edward Going. According to his brother Robert Going, James is retired from a career at Xerox in Rochester.
Among locally well known alumni is Philip Cortese, now Montgomery County Family Court judge. Cortese started as a freshman when Scully opened in 1966 and recalled there were rolls of carpet in the building as the interior was not quite ready. Cortese went on to be president of the student government. He said students organized both an Earth Day march and a debate on the Vietnam War in 1970.
Casper Wells, Jr. is a Scully graduate. His son, also named Casper Wells, has played baseball for several major league teams. Longtime Scully secretaries included the MLB baseball player’s grandmother, Mary Wells. Another well-known secretary was Sue Rosek.
The colorful Francis “Dutch” Howlan coached successful sports teams at Scully for many years. The Scully gym was named Howlan Hall in 1982; the coach died in 1989
Donna Palczak of Amsterdam first worked at Scully once a week, using what had been the kitchen in the priest’s apartment to teach home economics to seven or eight female students.
After a hiatus of some years, Palczak returned to Scully as the librarian. Frugality was the watchword, Palczak said. Paper saving efforts included use of both sides of a sheet of paper.
Tuition was rising, enrollment was falling, and teachers in religious orders were dwindling. In early May of 1990 Bishop Howard Hubbard announced that Scully would close in June. Only 85 students had enrolled for the next school year.
Palczak said when the closing was announced at a school assembly, there were a lot of tears. And tears returned at each milestone along the way to the final commencement.
Principal Arlene Maranville told the Amsterdam Recorder that the juniors recognized they would not spend their senior year together, “They’re upset but they’ll be OK.”
In December 1990 St. Mary’s Institute, a Catholic grade school for students from early childhood through eighth grade, began moving into the former high school and remains there today.
A version of the this story first appeared in the Schenectady Gazette.