Very few high schools existed in Cincinnati, Ohio in the early 1900s. But in 1912, the parishioners of St. Lawrence Parish in Price Hill persuaded their pastor to add a ninth grade to the elementary school and then a tenth grade in 1913. They would name it Elder High School in honor of William Henry Elder, the second archbishop of Cincinnati, who had laid the cornerstone of St. Lawrence's new church building in 1886.
This two-year school originally educated only boys; however, girls were permitted to enroll in 1920. Parents of Cincinnati's west-side parishes later petitioned their pastors to establish a four-year central high school for their children. In response, Rev. Louis J. Nau, former pastor of St. Lawrence, appealed to Archbishop Henry Moeller for permission to establish a four-year high school. The founding parishes were St. Lawrence, St. William, Holy Family, St. Michael, St. Teresa, Blessed Sacrament, Resurrection, St. Vincent de Paul, St. Aloysius (Delhi), Our Lady of Perpetual Help, and Our Lady of Victory.
Seven-and-a-half acres on Vincent Avenue (at Regina) were purchased from the Sisters of Charity for $10,000. Construction of the school building ($188,000) and fieldhouse ($22,000), now known as the Donohoe Center, was funded by the sale of bonds in the parishes.
Elder High School opened as a four-year high school in the fall of 1922 with an enrollment of 452 students, becoming just the fourth high school in Cincinnati and the city's first Catholic diocesan high school. Elder was coeducational for the first five years until Seton High School
, an all-girls high school, opened immediately next door in the fall of 1927.
Since the 1927-1928 school year, Elder has operated as a Catholic, all-male, comprehensive high school, enrolling students ranging from the academically challenged to the academically gifted. The school motto, Altiora
, is Latin and translates to “strive for the higher things," a principle taught both inside and outside of the classroom, in the hallways, on the playing fields, and beyond.