The former Holy Angels Academy, located at 24 Shoshone Drive in North Buffalo, still stands, prominent as ever, among the Hertel Avenue landscape. On April 30, 2013, former Holy Angels principal Joan Thomas announced that the school would not be open in the fall. However, while the halls of Holy Angels are no longer occupied by students and teachers, the gym is still being used for yet another basketball season.
The Mary Lou Vogt Gymnasium, built in 2008, was a massive project undertaken by Holy Angels Academy. Navy bleachers lined both walls, and two giant scoreboards with the words “Home of the Angels” could be seen from the entryway. The new gym offered a fresh aspect to the 150-year-old school.
The Gators of Nardin Academy, located at 135 Cleveland Ave., are no strangers to playing in the Vogt athletic center of Holy Angels. Once Holy Angels’ main rival, Nardin basketball players had spent many hours in the Holy Angels’ gym. Meetings were known to be competitive and exciting, and many students would come to watch their classmates and cheer them on.
Nardin, which previously played its home games at Canisius High School – conveniently located down the street – saw an opportunity to capitalize on an open gym and still keep the memory of Holy Angels’ athletics alive.
Annie O’Brien, a senior at Nardin and varsity basketball player, understood the emotions involved by playing at the former Holy Angels gym. The closing of the school played out publicly for many months after the announcement was made, and she personally felt the effects, as her aunts and mother all attended Holy Angels.
Annie, who attended St. Mark’s School for elementary school, has been playing basketball since the fourth grade and has been on Nardin’s varsity team since her sophomore year. Many of her former classmates at St. Mark’s attended Holy Angels, and she used to play AAU basketball for Fran Snyder, the former Holy Angels varsity basketball coach.
“When we found out that we would be playing our games at Holy Angels, we were excited but couldn’t help to feel guilty,” Annie said. “However, Holy Angels is such a beautiful place that it would be a shame to let it go to waste.”
Joseph Dougherty, who has been the head coach of the Nardin varsity basketball team for the past four years, also shared his personal connection to Holy Angels. He had coached the junior varsity team years ago and has been friends with Snyder for just as long.
“We respected Holy Angels a lot. Our games were always well contested and guaranteed a good time,” Dougherty said. “It’s a nice gym and it’s great to have enough room to separate the girls at six baskets.”
Nardin’s games this season in the Vogt athletic center have drawn large crowds for matchups with Sacred Heart Academy and Mount St. Mary’s Academy – two schools where the majority of Holy Angels’ students went for the new school year.
Carolyn Hoffman, a former student and basketball player at Holy Angels Academy, is a junior at Nichols School.