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Our History

Founded in 1856, Seton Hall Preparatory School is the oldest Catholic college preparatory school in New Jersey.

Bishop James Roosevelt Bayley, first Bishop of Newark and nephew of Elizabeth Ann Seton, began to plan and organize Seton Hall. Bayley purchased an estate in Madison, NJ, using money donated by Catholic Charities. Five priests and eight laymen formed a Board of Directors, which transformed the site into a Catholic preparatory school, college and seminary. The inaugural class was five students on December 1, 1856.

By the end of 1857 the growing institution needed larger facilities; Seton Hall President Rt. Rev. Bernard McQuaid purchased an estate in South Orange, to which the school moved in 1860. The Prep subsequently would spend the next 125 years on the institution’s South Orange campus.

Until 1928 the President of Seton Hall College was also the head of the Preparatory Division. At that time, Rev. D.A. Mulcahy became the high school’s first director. The following year Rev. William Bradley was named director, then principal and ultimately the school’s first headmaster in 1938.

The Prep school’s population grew further over the next decades, with booms during World War II and in the mid 70’s and with a significant portion of the student body boarding on campus. The school occupied three main buildings on the university campus— Mooney Hall, Duffy Hall and Stafford Hall. The last of the boarding students graduated in the mid-50’s.

In the early and mid twentieth century Prep drew its students principally from Essex and Union counties, but as the state’s transportation system expanded in the sixties and seventies, the Prep began to draw students from further afield, with growing  contingents from Morris, Bergen, Passaic and Middlesex counties. 

In 1980 Rev. Michael E. Kelly became the first alumnus headmaster. Five years later The Prep acquired an eleven-acre campus of its own in nearby West Orange, and became self incorporated in that location.

In 1993, the school purchased a 44-acre tract of land on nearby Prospect Avenue, overlooking the New York City skyline. Beginning in 1993 The Prep began construction on the Edward D. and Helen M. Kelly Athletic Complex there.

In 2005 the school celebrated two milestones, marking The Prep’s 150th anniversary, as well as the 25th anniversary of Msgr. Kelly’s headmastership.

1914- in front of President's Hall on the South Orange Campus

1928- the main drive through the campus, the front of what was then known as The Prep Building

In the late 1930s, in the Mooney Hall Chem Lab.

Through the years...

1856: Bishop James Roosevelt Bayley, first Bishop of Newark and nephew of Elizabeth Ann Seton, begins to plan and organize Seton Hall. Bayley purchases an estate in Madison, NJ, using money donated by Catholic Charities. A Board of Directors is chosen, consisting of five priests and eight laymen, who transform the site into a Catholic preparatory school, college and seminary.

1856: The inaugural class of five students begins work on December 1, 1856.

1856-1857 & 1859-1868: President is Rt. Rev. Bernard J. McQuaid. In 1857 enrollment rises to 40. Bishop Bayley asks McQuaid to seek a larger, more convenient site.

1856-1868: The Preparatory School and the College share a curriculum.

1860: McQuaid purchases an estate with two mansions in South Orange for $35,000. The Madison site is sold to the Sisters of Charity.

1861: March 8, 1861, Seton Hall is granted a charter by State of New Jersey. Seton Hall joins the ranks of fewer than 40 preparatory schools in the country before the Civil War.

1866 [to 1909]:  Three fires destroy several buildings on the campus.

1868-1876: College President is Rev Dr. Michael A. Corrigan.

1870: Prep curriculum becomes distinct from that of the College.

1876-1888: College President is Rev. James H. Corrigan.

1888-1897: College President is Rev. William F. Marshall.The Preparatory School prepares for New York and New Jersey High School Certification.

1889: The Preparatory School is organized as a distinct education unit, maintaining its close association with the College by using the same campus facilities.

1897-1899: College President is Rev. Joseph J. Synott.

1899-1907: College President is Rt. Rev. John A Stafford.

1907-1922: College President is Rt. Rev. James F. Mooney.

1909: Mooney Hall is completed, named in honor of Rev. James F. Mooney, President of Seton Hall College. The building serves as the main Prep building for 76 years.

1922-1933: College President is Rt. Rev. Thomas H. McLaughlin. The Prep and College separate facilities, services, discipline and faculty. President of College remains Principal of The Prep School.

1927-1928: Rev. D.A. Mulcahy is [First] Director of the High School Program.

1928-1946: Rev. William N. Bradley is Director, 1928-1933; Principal, 1933-1937; Headmaster, 1937-1946

1940: The state-of-the-art gymnasium/auditorium is completed, named Walsh Auditorium, in honor of the first Archbishop of Newark, Most Reverend Thomas J. Walsh.

1946-1953: Headmaster is Rev. William J. Duffy.

1953-1968: Headmaster is Rt. Rev. Thomas J. Tuohy.

1954: Newly completed building is named for Rev. William Duffy following his departure for parish work.

1968-1980: Headmaster is Rev. William M. Giblin.

1969: First female faculty member is hired, Sr. Regina Cordis Conboy, SC, in the Chemistry Department.

1972: New wing of Duffy Hall opens to accommodate a rapidly growing Prep School student body.

1975: Prep enrollment surpasses 1100.

1980- 2014: Headmaster is Msgr. Michael E. Kelly ‘57, the first alumnus Headmaster. Msgr. Kelly is later named School President in 2014.

1985: After 128 years and a century and a quarter in South Orange, Seton Hall Prep re-locates its campus to a 9-acre site on Northfield Avenue in West Orange, purchased by Seton Hall University for $1.6 million.

1986: Seton Hall Prep becomes separately incorporated. First meeting of the Seton Hall Prep Board of Trustees.

1993: Seton Hall Prep purchases a 44-acre tract of land on Prospect Avenue, a short distance from the Northfield campus, the site of the former Carteret School.

1999: Seton Hall Prep breaks ground for construction of the Edward D. and Helen M. Kelly Athletic Complex on the Prospect Avenue site, overlooking the the New York skyline.

2004: Seton Hall Prep dedicates the Bill Persichetty Track, the Charlie Lorenzo Training Facility and the Frank Gagliano Running Course at the Kelly Athletic Complex.

2005: Msgr. Kelly celebrates his 25th anniversary as Headmaster. Seton Hall Prep begins the celebration of its 150th anniversary.

2010: Seton Hall Prep celebrates the 25th anniversary of its move to West Orange.

2013: The new science wing opens— The John J. Murphy ‘52 Science Center.

2014: Msgr. Kelly becomes President; Msgr. Robert Harahan becomes Headmaster. Construction begins on the 20-acre final phase of the Kelly Athletic Complex.

2015: Seton Hall Prep begins the celebration of its 160th anniversary.

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SETON HALL Preparatory School

120 Northfield Ave, West Orange, NJ 07052     |     Main Phone:  973.325.PREP [7737]

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