B.D.H.S. History

This history is a document proclaiming the creation of Bishop Donahue High School. A special note of thanks to Carol Adamiak Yarnall who gathered and published this information on the occassion of the 50th Anniversary.  This document was amended at the conclusion of the 2016-17 school year with the closure of the school.

If you would like to make additions or corrections please email Tom Wise at twise76@hotmail.com

If there are other graduates who have passed away, we would like to know their names to include them in our prayers and this history.


Our History and Heritage ….1955-2017

Published On the Occasion of our 50th Anniversary, September 2005, and amended in 2017, Bishop Donahue Memorial High School was chartered by the Roman Catholic Diocese of Wheeling, West Virginia, in conjunction with the Dominican Sisters of St Catherine, Kentucky. The Sisters of St Joseph also played a key role in the formation of the school.  We also thank the Marist Brothers and Marist Sisters, who in the spirit of St. Marcellin Champagnat, made invaluable contributions to our history. Finally,  we offer our thanks to the lay faculty and staff who have been instrumental in the School’s successful history.

“Enter to learn Christ, Exit to serve Christ”


The Formation Years

Three parish priests and the Bishop of Wheeling had a dream and with financial pledges from parishioners made it come true. In the early 1950s, Wheeling. In 1952, The Most Reverend John J. Swint, Archbishop, Bishop of Wheeling, Rev. Benjamin F. Farrell, pastor at St. Francis in Moundsville, Rev. Joseph J. Daly, pastor at St. James, McMechen and Rev. John J. Griffin, pastor at St. Johns in Benwood formed a partnership to make the dream of a catholic high school in Marshall County a reality. They purchased property adjacent to St James Church, McMechen, mid-way between Moundsville and Benwood. As a result of their untiring efforts, today stands Bishop Donahue Memorial High School. The doors were first opened in September 1955 to an enrollment of 43 freshmen, dubbed co-founders, who constituted the first class. Each year brought another class, until the freshman became seniors and 35 students became the first graduates, in 1959.

The school involved new construction and renovation of a portion of St James Grade School. In December 1952, the three pastors announced the preliminary plans for a Catholic High School in Marshall County. On January 25, 1953, Bishop Swint said,”Catholic Education is the most important work that the church could undertake at this time in the Benwood, McMechen, and Moundsville area. This school will be a tribute to our youth.”

All of the work to raise the $275,000 needed to build the school was done by committee members, with the generosity of parents and parishioners from St. James, St. Johns and St. Frances Xavier. Through their generosity, Bishop Donahue High School stood as a monument to the strength and unity of the Catholic people of Marshall County.

The school’s reputation and standards for excellence were soon recognized in the Ohio Valley. Leadership, faith, academics, and athletics became the cornerstone of a Bishop Donahue education.

The Sisters of St Dominic from St Catherines, KY, agreed to take charge of the school and provide a principal and faculty. From the first day the students had a rich exposure to studies, social skills and sports. During the first year two nuns, Sr. Mary Gilbert and Sr. Ellen Francis, both natives of Brooklyn, NY, taught all subjects to the new freshman. That was the year that the Brooklyn Dodgers won the World Series and since both of the first two nuns were from Brooklyn, the students got to watch the games in class. The second year, Sr. Mary Thomas came as principal and she and Sr. Mary Brigid taught the sophomores. During their junior year, additional faculty was added: Sr. Mary Michael, for business classes, typing and shorthand and Sr. Carmelita for Chemistry, Biology and Spanish. By the senior year, a basketball team was formed and Mr. Ed Bentz taught American History, English, and civics. He initiated and coached a football team which began regular season after the first class graduated. Joe Blaha taught the boys physical education and became basketball Coach. In 1959, Donahue won the catholic high school basketball tournament in Huntington, the first time it entered—a major feat!! A bus load of cheering students were there to celebrate. Mrs. Finnegan served as librarian and Stella Plychuck and Mrs. Urneck cooked and ran the cafeteria and Mr. Reilly was custodian. Students attended daily mass and said rosary in the church after lunch every day. During the freshman year, Arthur Murray School of Dance came every Friday afternoon and the students learned the box step and all kind of dances for 25c per week. Ms Rose Chiazza taught the girls’ physical education and folk dancing—recall Cum Baya? A chorale was formed from the whole school and Christmas and St Patrick’s Day concerts were given. Three act plays were performed. Scrabble hops were held on Friday evenings and the two nuns showed the students how to play the game. Elvis Presley was the rage, but his records were not allowed to be played at sock hops because his movements were considered vulgar. The school colors were chosen as green and gold. The first class wrote the alma mater and named the yearbook “Veritas”, Latin for “Truth”.