Locals honored for Catholic Schools Week

FAIRMONT – When John and Darlene Eisenmenger moved to Fairmont in 1965 from Sherburn, they knew they wanted their kids to go to St. John Vianney School.

Forty-eight years later, the couple is still involved with the school.

St. John Vianney School in Fairmont announced their 2013 Friends of Education and honored alumni as part of Catholic Schools Week festivities this week.

Named SJV’s Friends of Education, the Eisenmengers see the value a private school education gives a student.

“It was so important to our forefathers to separate church and state,” Darlene said. “At SJV they get to mix it up, pray and pledge allegiance to the flag. And that is a good thing.”

John served the school as a member of the SJV School Endowment board, and still serves on the finance committee.

All the funds raised in the endowment go to support the school.

Those funds help to keep tuition reasonable for families, something the Eisenmengers are aware of, since they only paid tuition for one of their five children.

“It was very inexpensive,” Darlene said. “Some people don’t believe this, but there was no tuition. There was only a $30 book fee.”

By the time their youngest child was finishing her career at SJV, the school started charging tuition.

At the time, nuns living on site taught the students, which is no longer the case.

Since teachers are paid differently than nuns, charging tuition became necessary to pay staff, John said.

“We have had the endowment for 25, 26 years,” John said. “We have given them more money than we have in the endowment, by only giving the interest.”

The endowment helps families who need assistance or to cover other educational costs.

Despite changes in fees and teachers, the Eisenmengers feel there are benefits to the education at SJV that have stood the test of time.

“(Students) are taught to love and care for each other,” Darlene said.

She said she appreciates that student take turns reading scripture at Mass from the time they are able to read, and the older students are assigned younger students to help throughout the year.

John is impressed with the academic standards of the school.

Students from the parochial schools usually continue to succeed academically once they enter the public school system at the end of elementary school.

“I feel they really teach them how to study,” said John.

“If you are going to give to anything, you should give to the youth,” Darlene said. “They are the future.”

Pat Garry, SJV’s honored alumni, attended the school with the Eisenmenger’s children, and has gone on to an illustrious teaching career.

After leaving SJV in 1969, Garry graduated from Fairmont High School in 1973, followed by St. John’s University in 1977, and the University of Minnesota Law School in 1980.

He earned his doctorate in constitutional history from the University of Minnesota six years later.

Currently teaching at the University of South Dakota Law School, Garry has written 12 non-fiction books and eight novels. He regularly lectures and gives commentary to major news outlets, such as CBS News and the Wall Street Journal.

Current SJV students will celebrate the week with special activities, including a prayer service and ribbon cutting, faculty flip, and a variety show fundraiser.