How did NDA get its name?

Diego Mendoza, Staff Writer

Every day, hundreds of students enter the doors of Notre Dame Academy excited and determined to be a Triton. As they walk through the main entrance, they look up at the crest and are proud to represent it, but are unaware of the significance of their school’s name.

For over 20 years, NDA has provided a Catholic and college-preparatory  education for the young men and women of the Green Bay community. Yet the school has had a much longer history before the door’s even open, as biology teacher Ann Hollenback recalls.

“I’ve been teaching here (at NDA) since the very beginning. I was on the committee to pick our mascot and our nickname when all three schools were finally coming together,” Hollenback said.

Those three schools, St. Joseph Academy, Abbot Pennings High School and Our Lady of Premontre High School, were the three Catholic institutions that came together to form NDA.  A fourth school, Central Catholic High School, which was the precursor to Premontre high school served the Green Bay area from 1941 to 1955. NDA was finally opened in 1990 with a mixture of students from all three high schools.

“I remember the first couple of years the school was running, the alumni all wore their former school colors to their graduations,” Hollenback said. “Eventually, all the graduates who started at NDA as a freshman began wearing the green and blue Triton colors. It seems like it was just yesterday this was all happening.”

Even after many years, however, the naming of the school is still something of a mystery for many of the staff and students who attend NDA.

The actual naming of NDA goes back to the history of the three predecessor institutions. In 1955, when Central Catholic High School became Our Lady of Premontre High School, the new school was named as a dedication to Mary, the NDA Alumnae/Alumni Directory states. The Virgin Mary was chosen to represent the newly formed school because of the rich Catholic and French heritage found in Green Bay.

According to Christian history, Mary gifted Saint Norbert in the French valley of Premontre with the first white habit, a garment worn by members of a Christian religious order. Subsequently, St. Norbert founded the Premonstratensian Canon, whose legacy has spread all the way to Green Bay.

In the short time before NDA was opened, the founders agreed that all three schools needed to be actively represented within the new school community. It was decided that while all the schools would be represented in the school crest, the name of “Our Lady” would be used in representing the academy.

Because of the large heritage and tradition, the name “Notre Dame”  was chosen, which is the French equivalent of “Our Lady,” as former NDA English teacher, Roberta Mellberg, recalls.

“Green Bay is filled with French heritage!” Mellberg said. “The city was founded by Jean Nicolet, a French explorer, and the Norbertines have played a large role in developing the city.”

“Notre Dame,” is a very common name and used for several Christian foundations, so NDA needed another part to both compliment and distinguish the newly formed school. It was

in the city’s location next to the bay that they found the answer and changed the name to “Notre Dame de la Baie Academy,” the French equivalent of “Our Lady of the Bay.”

Many agree that the name “Notre Dame de la Baie Academy” holds a deeper significance that represents the school’s focus on strong academics and Catholicism. Robert Pauly, president of Notre Dame Academy, is particularly enthusiastic with the connections NDA makes within the country.

“Notre Dame doesn’t only stand out in the community, it represents who we are in this country,” Pauly said. “With significant institutions like Notre Dame University having a large influence in Catholic education, NDA follows in its footsteps by illustrating Our Blessed Mother. Notre Dame de la Baie Academy echoes this message and has its name fit elegantly with this message of a founding a Catholic institution.”

Today, Notre Dame de la Baie Academy receives much attention in the Green Bay community. Apart from being credited with being a college-preparatory school and having an outstanding athletic department, NDA is the largest Catholic high school in the area, and many students choose to attend to connect with their faith in a modern and exciting way, a quality Pauly is most proud of.

“People see NDA as a loving and warm environment. With Our Blessed Mother playing a large role in this community, I feel confident that people can come here and feel Mary looking over us with a passionate heart.”

Top Left: Our Lady of Premontre High School, Top Right: Abbot Pennings High School

Bottom: St. Joseph’s Academy (Courtesy of NDA official website)