The Beginning of Alverno Heights Academy



Marion Brooks Barlow made the decision to sell the Villa del Sol d’Oro to the Sisters of St. Francis.

Five years after the death of her husband, Marion Brooks Barlow made the difficult decision to sell the Villa del Sol d’Oro to the Sisters of St. Francis who planned to use the property as a convent and novitiate for their growing order.

Founded on the principles of St. Francis of Assisi, the Sisters of St. Francis of Penance and Charity sought to be a beacon of hope and inspiration to immigrant families living in the San Gabriel Valley. With the Villa serving as their Provincial Center, the Sisters of St. Francis provided education, childcare, and health care to the Catholic immigrant communities that surrounded Sierra Madre. They found that these were the greatest needs of these families as they adjusted to life in California.

“We are women with wilderness in us and we have often turned to journeys.” ~ Sisters of St. Francis.

Recognizing the need for more opportunities for young women, the Sisters of St. Francis began construction of an all-girls high school on the Provincial Center property just north of the convent house. The school, originally named Alverno Heights Academy, welcomed its first students in 1960 and the first class graduated from the Alverno terrace, as they do today, in 1964.

With a renewed vision of the church expressed in the Second Vatican Council and the struggles in the United States for human and economic rights, the Sisters of St. Francis sought to create an academic environment where young women could be empowered to create communities based on the values and teachings of St. Francis. Students were encouraged to participate in athletics, activities, and community service that broadened their worldview.

By the middle of the 1970s, the Sisters of St. Francis sought another religious order to become the legal sponsors of Alverno High School, as the school Immaculate Heart Communitywas now known. In 1978, the Sisters of St. Francis formally turned the school and property over to the Board of the recently created Immaculate Heart Community. The Immaculate Heart Community, previously the Sisters of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, is made up of dedicated men and women with a mission to create community, to work as advocates for the marginalized, for social and economic justice and peace, and for the integrity of creation. Today, Alverno remains committed to the spirit and philosophy of the Immaculate Heart Community while acting as an independent school. 

“What really matters is not length of life, but fidelity to our goals and the deepening of our relationship with the living God.” ~ Anita Caspary, First President of the Immaculate Heart Community

ALVERNO2015-84In 2016, under the leadership of current Head of School, Julia V. Fanara, Alverno High School announced that the school would return to its original name of Alverno Heights Academy.

Today, Alverno Heights Academy is an independent, progressive, Catholic, college preparatory, high school enlivened by the spirit of our Immaculate Heart Community sponsors, and mindful of the Franciscan roots of our founders, Alverno’s program– academic, spiritual, aesthetic, social and physical– is shaped by the staff, trustees, and students in light of the world for which the students are being educated.


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