St. Thomas Heritage
The history of the St. Thomas development office can be traced back to 1991, when then Pastor of St. Thomas the Apostle, Fr. Dennis O’Neil hired the first lay principal of the school, Mr. Dan Horn. Mr. Horn and Fr. Dennis shared the same vision of providing an affordable Catholic education for all, especially for parish families. Mr. Horn hired Mr. Joe Neeb as the school’s first Director of Development. His job was to go out and establish relationships with donors, foundations and alumni. He went out to tell the story of St. Thomas the Apostle. The story of St. Thomas is one of service, love, community, family, perseverance, opportunity and hope. Together, Mr. Horn and Mr. Neeb successfully laid the foundation for a scholarship fund and for program support. Thus, St. Thomas Heritage Fund was born. Heritage helped deserving students from needy families attend St. Thomas. That same year, St. Thomas was named a National Blue Ribbon School of Excellence by the U.S. Department of Education. This is a highlight of our school’s history. During this time, early plans of a new school campus emerged. The plans were aimed to address the school building’s constant usage from adult classes, church ministries and youth groups and the toll it took on the 80-year old building. The plans also addressed the severe lack of space.
Fr. Dennis O’Neil left St. Thomas in 1999, as well as Mr. Horn. Mr. Vincent O’Donoghue became the new principal and Fr. Jarlath Cunnane was assigned as the new pastor. St. Thomas Church was heavily damaged in a 1999 fire. This fire and its aftermath crystallized the importance of St. Thomas to the Pico-Union community. The church was rebuilt in 2002. Fr. Jarlath Cunnane oversaw the reconstruction of the church with the help of Mr. Neeb (left St. Thomas in 2003). With this tremendous accomplishment complete, the spark was lit and the formal process began to design and build a new educational campus at St. Thomas the Apostle. A building advisory board was quickly formed and the first donation from The Shea Foundation launched the building campaign. The new educational campus was completed in May of 2010.
Now under the direction of St. Thomas alumna, Vanessa Rivera, Heritage continues to provide scholarship assistance at a steady pace to over 90% of our families, despite the precedence of the building campaign and the economic turmoil of the early 2000’s. In addition, Heritage has continues to help finance curricular programs such as Fine Arts, Sports, Technology, and school library.
We thank all the foundations, alumni, and friends of St. Thomas for supporting Heritage through the years. It is because of their great generosity that we have been blessed with such a beautiful campus that not only serves our school community but the larger St. Thomas Church community as well. Our school has become a cultural center in the Pico-Union neighborhood that continues to provide a quality Catholic education to our students. We value the partnerships with all our supports and we pray that you continue to support St. Thomas Heritage.