In September of 1944, Junípero Serra High School opened its doors with a faculty of five and a student body of 86 freshman and sophomore boys. Established by Archbishop Mitty as a college-preparatory high school for boys in San Mateo County, Serra was named in honor of Padre Junípero Serra. It was the first Catholic high school west of the Mississippi to be staffed entirely by diocesan priests. The Reverend Vincent I. Breen was the first principal of Serra, which was originally located at Columbia Drive and the Alameda de las Pulgas in San Mateo (the current site of St. Bartholomew's Parish).
A notable increase in enrollment during the 1940s and early 1950s made it imperative to expand the facilities on the old site or to find a new location and build a larger school. In 1952, the present 12-and-a-half-acre site was purchased by the Archdiocese from the San Mateo Gymkhana Club. Reverend Edward R. Allen became the new principal to guide the school during this time of rapid expansion.
There were 576 students and a faculty of 21 in 1955, when classes began at the new campus on West 20th Avenue in San Mateo. As principal from 1955 to 1961, Reverend Thomas I. Kennedy helped to meet the needs of a massive population increase in San Mateo County. Monsignor James F. Maher, who was the principal from 1961 to 1967, made sure that Serra continued to be recognized as an academic leader. As the number of laity on the faculty and staff increased, a greater effort was made to try to meet their financial and retirement needs - thus enabling the school to retain a stable and qualified faculty.
In the years after the Second Vatican Council, when society struggled to deal with the upheavals of the late 1960s and 1970s, Serra maintained its commitment to the Catholic community of San Mateo County. Reverend Harold J. O'Donnell succeeded Monsignor Maher as principal in September of 1967. He guided the Serra community during those turbulent years, until Reverend Ludwig M. Andre became principal in 1970.
The next principal was Reverend Carl A. Schipper, who took the helm for the 1975-1976 school year. He responded to the ever-growing academic and spiritual requirements of the school community by restructuring the school's administrative staff, expanding the curriculum, converting the role of chaplain to a Campus Ministry position, and implementing numerous campus improvements.
In 1978, Michael Peterson became the first lay person to serve as principal. Reverend Stephen H. Howell was simultaneously appointed to serve as Serra's first president. Under this new model, Serra's reputation as a Catholic school with a strong college preparatory focus flourished. Those who led the school during this period ensured that the school "developed the gifts and talents of each student and fostered Gospel values in an environment of academic excellence and mutual respect."
During the 1980s and 1990s, several development efforts successfully raised funds that led to the renovation of school facilities. In addition, new advances in technology were introduced to the faculty and students. In 1999, a new campaign began to provide Serra with state-of-the-art facilities and an endowment that will enable Serra to continue its important mission well into the 21st century.
From 2002 to 2004, Reverend Joseph P. Bradley '73 served as Serra's president. Under his leadership, the school continued to provide excellent programs that emphasized developing each student's spiritual and intellectual growth. Lars J. Lund was appointed principal of Serra in 2003. Following the successful principal-president leadership model, Barry Thornton, Ed.D. became principal in 2005 and Lars Lund assumed the role of president.
Today, Serra continues to thrive as a well-respected, college-preparatory high school for young men who reside all over the Bay Area. Although times have changed and the world has evolved, the Serra community remains true to its core mission of developing young men of "faith, wisdom, service, community and leadership" who live their lives with integrity and care about making a difference in the lives of others.