Inspired by our rich Catholic tradition, the Elder community seeks to transform our students into men of integrity and compassion, formed to become grateful, respectful leaders and positive forces in a diverse world with the Gospel of Jesus Christ as the model.

The History of Elder High School

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.

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    Mr. Kurt Ruffing 

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Our mission is to develop young men to strive for Altiora by serving God and others, embracing and living the teachings of the Roman Catholic Church, while pursuing academic excellence.

Archbishop William Henry Elder

William Henry Elder was born March 22, 1819 in Baltimore, Maryland, the ninth of ten children of Basil and Elizabeth (Snowden) Elder. He attended Mt. St. Mary’s College in Emmitsburg, Maryland and graduating in 1837. Elder then began his studies for the priesthood at Mt. St. Mary’s Seminary, also in Emmitsburg. Coincidentally, the headmaster of the seminary was Rev. John Baptist Purcell whom Elder would later succeed as Archbishop of Cincinnati. In 1842, Elder was sent to Rome, Italy to earn a Doctorate of Divinity from the College of the Propaganda. He was ordained a priest in Rome on March 29, 1846, and then joined the faculty of his alma mater, Mt. St. Mary’s Seminary. On May 3, 1857, Elder was appointed Bishop of Natchez, Mississippi; he was the youngest bishop in the United States at that time.

During the Civil War, Bishop Elder heroically tended to the hungry, wounded, and deceased of both armies—the Confederacy and the Union. In 1864, he was imprisoned for refusing to comply with a Union order requesting “prayers be offered for the President of the United States and the success of the Union arms.” Following a written appeal from Elder directly to President Abraham Lincoln, Secretary of War Edwin Stanton issued the order for his release from Federal custody.

In 1878, Elder was asked to transfer to San Francisco, California; however, he requested permission to remain in Natchez to minister to the victims of the yellow fever epidemic that had been ravaging Mississippi. His efforts to help those in need earned Elder the gratitude, respect, and admiration of the entire region. In January of 1880, Pope Leo XIII appointed Bishop Elder as Coadjutor of the Archdiocese of Cincinnati to succeed Archbishop John Baptist Purcell.

Bishop Elder arrived in Cincinnati on Sunday, April 18, 1880. Purcell, now ailing from poor health, retired to the convent of the Ursulines of Brown County (Ohio) and Elder assumed the responsibilities of running the archdiocese. Upon Purcell’s death in July of 1883, Elder was elevated to Archbishop of Cincinnati. His major focus during his tenure was to reestablish a firm financial foundation for the archdiocese, to reopen the seminary, and to promote Catholic education within the parishes.

Archbishop Elder died on October 31, 1904, only four days after his last official appearance at a celebration of the Sisters of Charity at Cedar Grove Academy (now known as Seton High School). At the time of his death, Archbishop Elder was the oldest bishop in the United States both in age and tenure. Rev. Henry Moeller succeeded Elder as Archbishop of Cincinnati.

Archbishop William Henry Elder had a reputation for being an effective arbiter among the Catholic bishops of the United States, brokering major compromises on a variety of topics. He was recognized for his wisdom, faith, unfailing kindness, and genuine holiness by the people he served and by the Church of that era. He is buried in St. Joseph Cemetery off Rapid Run Pike in Price Hill, less than two miles from Elder High School.