The Vision of Henry Waldhaus

St. Rita was built on 237 acres of fertile land and the dream of a young priest. The dream began when Father Henry J. Waldhaus was challenged by Archbishop Henry Moeller to provide for the deaf in the Diocese of Cincinnati. With the help of the Knights of del'Epee and the Saints Mary and Joseph Society, Father Waldhaus was able to raise the funds necessary to purchase land which would become St. Rita School in 1915. Beginning with only eleven students and a staff of three Sisters of Charity, Father Waldhaus embarked on a mission which would produce the first accredited high school for the deaf in Ohio.

As construction workers were breaking ground for new buildings, Father Waldhaus and the Sisters of Charity were breaking ground in their education of deaf children. They offered an atmosphere of learning and growing which was unique to deaf students in the Cincinnati area. The available technical equipment of the day enabled teachers to communicate with students who existed in a silent world. Religious and social training exposed the children to ways of life essential to functioning in the real world. Academic and vocational training helped the children become productive members of society. The homelike atmosphere offered camaraderie and a chance to grow and share with other deaf children.

Those first graduates of St. Rita took their dreams with them into the world, bolstered by the care and attention they received from Father Waldhaus and his staff.

Father Klenke Carries on Tradition

In 1967, Father Waldhaus died, and the dream was entrusted to his assistant, Father Paul Klenke. With twenty-seven years experience as teacher, principal and coach to help him, Father Klenke guided the school into the modern world. His passion for education inspired him to seek ways to provide improved equipment and facilities for the students. He supported students' efforts in the areas of athletics and the arts. He served as their devoted, and perhaps best, friend.

Most importantly, during his tenure as director, Father Klenke developed many friendships with people who contributed to the welfare of the school, friendships which have continued to this day, and which enable St. Rita to continue its mission. Many of the fundraising projects developed during Father Klenke's fourteen years as director still provide funds for the school and the volunteers who worked with Father Klenke to initiate these projects still offer their assistance.

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