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Our History

For over a century, St. Mary School has had an outstanding tradition of providing quality, God-centered education to young people throughout the Leelanau Peninsula. The school exhibits an extremely positive image in the community and is a source of great pride to both current students and alumni.

1887– Mother Benedicta, a cousin of the Schaub’s from Chicago, sent Fr. Bauer three of her most able Benedictine nuns to staff his school.

1888 – The Benedictine Sisters were replaced by three Dominican Sisters from Grand Rapids. After the Catholic pupils transferred to St. Mary School from the public school, there was only one pupil remaining at the public school. An arrangement was quickly worked out to allow non-Catholics to attend St. Mary School too.The Dominican sisters advertised their school as a day and boarding school, attracting students from miles away. The entire twelve grades were gradually added to the program and as time went on students from the surrounding areas of Leland, Suttons Bay, Gills Pier, and Glen Arbor attended this, the nearest high school.

1907 to 1921 – St. Mary’s did not have a graduating class. Apparently the sisters did not have the credentials to teach advanced subjects. Also, they were not able to offer all the classes that the students needed to graduate from an approved high school. Students who wished to attend college transferred to St. Francis in Traverse City to complete their high school education.

1908 – An east wing was added including two classrooms, a larger chapel, and more living space for the sisters whose previous living space had been classrooms by day.

1924 – The village of Provemont changed its name to Lake Leelanau.

1925 -  A stone convent was built on the site of the old church to give the sisters a private residence and supply more classroom space. (The current rectory and Parish Offices)

1938 - School Building


1948 – St. Mary School became strictly a parochial school (i.e. supported by a parish).

1970 – Through the Dominican community’s decision, the sisters withdrew from the high school which continued with an all lay staff.

1970s – Improvements included lowered ceilings, fluorescent lighting, gas-fired boilers to replace the heating plant, and smaller insulated windows to replace the old, large, single paned windows.

1982-1986 – Sr. Lynn Tilson came to St. Mary to teach science and religion, and to coach girls’ basketball and girls’ softball. Since her departure, the school has had an all lay staff.

2003 – Ground was broken on a $1.5 million building campaign. Additions to the existing 1938 school building included a gymnasium, kitchen/cafeteria, administrative offices, and large lobby area complete with trophy cases.

Addition of gymnasium, kitchen, cafeteria & administrative offices.

2004 – Completion of an up-to-date computer lab.

2005 – A state-of-the-art science lab replaces the 1938 science lab.


2007 – Library remodeled/refurbished.

2009 – Chapel refurbished.

2014 – Generator installed in parish office to supply relief to the  church, rectory and school in the event of a power outage.