Aquin Central Celebrating 100 Years
By Amanda Hudson, News Editor
August 10, 2023
FREEPORT—Plans are in the works for this year’s celebration of the 100th anniversary of Aquin Central Catholic High School.
Early in the year, the anniversary will be remembered at the annual Colby Smith Four-Mile Classic In Person and Virtual Run on Aug. 26. The four-mile, course-certified Rockford Road Runners circuit race will begin at St. Thomas Aquinas Church and end on the Aquin High School football field. Proceeds benefit the Colby Smith Memorial Scholarship Fund which provides scholarships to attend Aquin Catholic Schools. The scholarship has awarded over $144,000 to students since 2010.
On Sept. 23, Aquin will hold its annual 50-Year Combined Reunion, honoring the class of 1973 and welcoming all graduates from years prior. The class of 1973 graduated halfway through the school’s 100 year history, and much reminiscing is anticipated.
The first bishop of the Diocese of Rockford, Bishop Peter J. Muldoon, was a great believer in the value of Catholic education. In July 1923 he met with the pastors and trustees of Freeport parishes to organize what would be called The Catholic Community High School of Freeport, known as Aquin High School by opening day in September 1924.
The school opened in early September 1923 with 35 pupils under the tutelage of the Dominican Sisters of Sinsinawa, Wis. The new school was located on the second floor of St. Mary Parish elementary school building. By fall of 1925, the school expanded to include also the third floor.
As enrollment increased, six acres of property was acquired across from then-St. Vincent Orphanage. The cornerstone of the new high school was laid by Bishop Muldoon on May 9, 1926.
Aquin has been accredited by the University of Illinois since Dec. 22, 1926;  by the State of Illinois Office of Public Instruction since May 13, 1929, and by the North Central Association of Colleges and Secondary Schools since April 10, 1931.
A contest held by the Class of 1943 led to the “Bulldogs” mascot that continues to this day.
Catholics from Freeport and surrounding areas met with Bishop Loras T. Lane in 1959, and Aquin became a central Catholic high school. Ground was broken that year for a new addition (library, cafeteria, gym, laboratories, and additional classrooms). The new addition was dedicated March 19, 1961. The junior high school was added to the building in 1976.
In September 2007, Bishop Thomas G. Doran announced that Freeport Catholic Schools would now be known as Aquin Catholic Schools. Incorporating three campuses across Freeport, this new name unites PreSchool through Grade 12 students under the Aquin name.  Five parishes continue to support the system both financially and spiritually. 
Sources: “The Diocese of Rockford: Our History” published 2008;  ‘Aquin Alumni Directory’, published 1993 - via the Aquin Catholic Schools’ website.
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