Maryville Academy

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Maryville Academy's original building as it appeared c. 1951.  At the time of this photograph, this building was used for administrative purposes and included an infirmary for sick residents.

Maryville Academy is a Roman Catholic institution for the treatment of physically, sexually, and emotional abused children, located in Des Plaines, Illinois.  Founded in 1883 and originally known as St. Mary's Training School for Boys, the facility was the vision of Chicago archbishop Patrick A. Feehan and served as an orphanage for many decades.  Following a rebuild after a massive fire in 1899, St. Mary's new director, Reverend James Doran, opened the facility to girls in an effort to reunite orphaned brothers and sisters.  Separate dormitories were built to accommodate this change.

Renamed Maryville Academy in 1950, the shift from orphanage to a facility for abused children was gradual over a period of approximately 25 years, starting shortly after the close of World War II, a time when many orphanages in the USA transitioned to being boarding schools.  Under Monsignor George Halpin's leadership, who directed Maryville from 1954 to 1970, the original massive dormitories were razed and replaced by more modern structures, a change that reflected the declining population of Maryville at the time.  Despite all the generally positive changes, Maryville was soon facing significant operating deficits and was threatened with closure.[citation needed]

The appointment in 1970 of Father John P. Smyth, a former All-American basketball player at Notre Dame University, as director was significant, as he overhauled the way in Maryville was managed, reduced costs and changed the facility to a more home-like setting that was conducive to the facility's newly-acquired role as a home for abused and neglected children.  Father Smyth presided over Maryville until 2004.[citation needed]

Shortly before the end of Father Smyth's tenure, Maryville was adversely affected by a resident's suicide, reports of physical and sexual assaults among residents and charges of poor accounting.  Subsequently, the State of Illinois removed residents from the facility, a move which almost resulted in Maryville being permanently closed.[citation needed]

Following the appointment of Sister Catherine Ryan as executive director 2004, sweeping changes were made in how residents were cared for, and in 2007, the state returned residents to Maryville.[1]

Pete Townshend became involved with the academy, and between 1997 and 2002, Townshend played five benefit shows, raising at least $1,600,000.  His 1998 album A Benefit for Maryville Academy was produced to support the activities of the academy.


  1. ^ Martin, Michelle (August 17, 2008). "Maryville Academy celebrates 125 years". Catholic New World. Retrieved December 3, 2008. 

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