SIOUX CITY | While The Rev. Patrick Walsh’s name adorns the new Bishop Heelan administration building, the past president of the school tips his cap to those that laid the foundation before him.
“There are so many people it could’ve been named after,” he said. “But it was an honor.”
Walsh retired as Heelan’s president in 2012, ending a 43-year career in Catholic education.
Years after Walsh’s exit, his influence remains in the form of a growing campus across Grandview Boulevard from the existing one. The new additions include a Fine Arts wing that opened in 2014 and new high school academic wing under construction and expected to debut in 2018.
Heelan Director of Advancement Tom Betz said it was Walsh’s leadership that led to the decision to name the administrative building in his honor.
“It’s not often we put somebody’s name on a building,” he said. “But I think the building itself really says…thank you for everything you’ve done for Heelan.”
Information provided by Heelan said Walsh helped unify the school system, renaming it Bishop Heelan Catholic Schools. He also led efforts to open Kiddie Crusaders preschools and launched the Pride Campaign to help build a new high school.
“He took over as president of Heelan when we needed it most,” he said. “He came in and he had to make some tough decisions.”
The Father Patrick Walsh Administration Offices, 50 13th St., opened this year. Betz said the new renovated offices are a welcome change from the former administrative offices, located in an aging building that once served as a convent. Staff and visitors had to traverse three flights of stairs to access the offices.
Betz said the steps were hazardous, and complaints of bats and mold were frequent. Now administrators have a clean office with plenty of space, private meeting rooms and a basement. Betz said it’s also a warm place for parents and other customers to come and deal with school-related business.
“It’s been a big blessing,” he said.
That blessing started with generosity from Ho-Chunk, Inc. and its CEO Lance Morgan. The new administration building originally housed Liberty National Bank at 205 Pearl St., across the street from the Tyson Events Center.
Ho-Chunk, the economic development corporation for the Winnebago Tribe of Nebraska, had purchased the structure from the city of Sioux City for $7,500 and wanted to move it Ho-Chunk's headquarters in Winnebago, Nebraska. However, the high cost of moving the structure across the Siouxland Veterans Memorial Bridge snuffed out those plans.
So, Ho-Chunk offered the building to Heelan, a step that Betz and Walsh said showed an understanding of the importance of education in Sioux City. Bishop Heelan acquired the structure from Ho-Chunk, Inc. for $1 in October 2015.
“If Lance and his team weren’t nice enough to help us here, we’d be still putting band-aids on our situation,” Betz said. “It was a perfect solution at a perfect time.
What Lance did and what this community is all about is really helping each other and with what he did symbolizes what this community is about,” he added.
Betz estimated that with the contribution of the building, the cost to renovate and bring the new office to life was less than $300,000.
Walsh added that the gift of the building, along with the community’s support to add new building projects such as the Fine Arts facility and new high school academic wing help Heelan’s mission to serve Sioux City.
“It’s very important for a lot of reasons. It’s a sign that we intend to be an educational presence for quite a while and we are here to stay,” he said.