In the mid 1830s, the Most Reverend Joseph Rosati, C.M., bishop of St. Louis, requested teachers from the Sisters of St. Joseph in Le Puy-en-Valle, France. In response to his invitation, Mother St. John Fontbonne sent eight sisters from France. Some came to teach the deaf and others to open a Catholic school in the village of Carondelet in the spring of 1836. Mother Celestine’s School, later named St. Joseph’s Academy, began in a log cabin where the children used wooden stumps for chairs.
The meager cabin could not hold the number of students who sought the solid educational programs offered by the Sisters. Success forced the Sisters to build. In 1840 the first wing of St. Joseph’s Academy was constructed at 6400 Minnesota Avenue and the Sisters opened a combined boarding and day school for young women with an enrollment of ninety-four students.
The Academy was chartered as an approved educational institution in 1843 and in 1913 was affiliated with the University of Missouri. In 1922 it was fully accredited with the North Central Association of College and Secondary Schools. In 1925 the Academy moved to the newly constructed Fontbonne College campus located at Wydown and Big Bend Boulevard and remained there for thirty years.
By 1954 the number of students attending St. Joseph’s Academy had outgrown the space available on the Fontbonne campus and relocated to its present 35 acre site on Lindbergh Boulevard in Frontenac. These facilities were enlarged in 1985 with the construction of a four-story addition to the original building.
In 1993 St. Joseph’s Academy was recognized by the U.S. Department of Education as a Blue Ribbon School of Excellence. This award was granted based on measurements of effective schooling that included leadership, teaching environment, curriculum and instruction, student government, parent and community support and organizational vitality.
With continued enrollment growth, in 2000 it again became apparent that the school needed to be updated, and there was clearly a need to provide common spaces for the student body. Following a comprehensive feasibility study and construction, new facilities opened for use in 2004 which include a state of the art gym and physical training center, a 700 seat fine arts theater, a new guidance department complex, four additional classrooms, and a student commons.
Through its years of continuous growth, the St. Joe community has exhibited that same vigor and vitality that motivated its founders in 1840, and it has deepened its traditions which are rooted in commitment to academic excellence, to moral and ethical values, to a strong parental involvement, and a commitment to serve where ever there is a need. These qualities are reflected in the school philosophy and in the school motto, "Not I, But We."