By Lauren Cox and Paula Zalar
Sister Janet Roesener and Sister Joan Hartlaub visited McNick for the first time in many years on Apr. 20.
The Sisters of St. Joseph played an instrumental role in transitioning the all-girls St. Joseph Academy into McNicholas High School. Hartlaub was a member of the last graduating class of St. Joseph Academy (1950,) and Roesener was part of the second graduating class of McNicholas High School (1952.) “There were not as many coed high schools at that time that there are now. We were the first coed Catholic school in Cincinnati,” Roesener said.
“It was very interesting because when I was a senior, they [only] took freshman boys that year. The next year they took all [grades of boys.] It was much different, and we went to football games and cheered for freshmen,” Roesener added.
After their years as students, they entered the convent to become Sisters of St. Joseph and later joined back with McNick as part of the staff. “I taught first– math and science, then I was assistant principal and then I was principal. Those were my years at McNicholas. I loved [being principal]. I enjoyed teaching… I liked the whole episode,” Roesner said. Roesner was principal from 1967-1970.
Hartlaub began her McNick career as a math and English teacher. In 1967 while they were both working at McNick, the sisters transitioned from wearing habits to lay clothes. “Janet and I decided we would both go to school that day [after the transition] … We had to make our own clothes because we didn’t have any,” Hartlaub said.
“One of the senior boys came to me in the lunchroom that first day and he said, ‘Wow, Sister. Welcome back to the human race.’ It was a big change,” Roesner added.
Hartlaub returned in the nineties as a guidance counselor. “[There’s] one incident I’ll never forget: There was a student that was afraid of his shadow… He had a presentation he was supposed to make in class, and I said, ‘You have to. You have to do it.’ I said to just look over everybody’s heads… I just remember he came back to my office… and I said, ‘You did it!’ And he came into my arms [for a hug]. It was the most beautiful experience that I had as a counselor. I was just so proud of him, and he was so pleased with himself,” Hartlaub said.
Since they have since moved on from McNick, many things have changed: Lights on the football field, new school colors, and even a new school name. “I’m delighted to see how McNicholas has developed, grown, been through ups and downs and everything… It’s just delightful to see how [the students] interact and the activities that are going on. I haven’t had direct relationship with the school, but people are watch[ing] outside of the school. When you live on school property, you can tell what’s going on, and I’m very proud of what I saw,” Roesner said.
“I think the thing that excites me as I came back… was the development [of Paradise] on the hill. We used to go out there and pick blackberries. Now there’s this gorgeous [athletic] complex,” Hartlaub added.
No matter how far away or how many years have passed, Sister Joan and Sister Janet both love McNick to this day. “It’s a pleasure to follow the development [of McNick],” Roesner said.