March 19, 1871: IWA opened its doors.
The IWBS Sisters prepared their modest home to function as a school. Just two weeks after the sisters arrived in Corpus Christi, Incarnate Word Academy, a fine arts school, was established. The curriculum for girls elementary through high school, included the basic academics, sacramental preparation, and domestic arts.
The good news of Incarnate Word Academy came about through the faith, courage, and dedication of the Sisters of the Incarnate Word and Blessed Sacrament (IWBS). Coming to Texas with a great love of God in their hearts, a commitment to the teaching mission of the Church, and a willingness to share in a new venture, the Sisters forged a path in the rugged land of South Texas. With their determination and vision they brought Jesus, the Incarnate Word, to the children of this area through their ministry of Catholic education.
Despite struggles and hardships, Incarnate Word Academy opened its doors in 1871. The first buildings were poor and inadequate; but the support of benefactors and friends made possible a new building, which served students from 1885-1926. A new building was completed in 1926 to fulfill requirements for a first-class, state-affiliated high school. It included grammar grade classrooms and boarding accommodations.
In 1955, the high school students moved from the building on Carancahua Street to a beautiful new building on the present site at 2910 South Alameda. A three-room kindergarten also opened. Ten years later, the Sisters opened Incarnate Word Elementary Academy Elementary Level with kindergarten through third grade, adding a class each year. In that same year, 1965, the Montessori program began, providing an innovative, individualized, child-oriented education for children from the ages of two and a half through five years. The Montessori program was expanded in the early 1990’s at the request of parents to include students through grade five. Today Incarnate Word Academy offers two tracks of elementary education, traditional and Montessori, for children through the fifth grade.
In 1970, at the request of the area Catholic School Board, the Sisters funded the construction of Incarnate Word Academy Junior High to provide Catholic education for seventh and eighth grade students in the city. In 1975, Incarnate Word Academy High School was opened to boys; this expansion required adjustments to curriculum and facilities.
Sister Martha Ann Snapka, IWBS, was named as the first Incarnate Word Academy president in 1988.
In 1989, the conversion of the junior high into an innovative Middle School for grades six, seven, and eight, provided a developmental environment to meet the needs of the "child in the middle."
In recent decades, significant changes have advanced the school's mission. Governing bodies were created with the establishment of the Office of the President in 1988 and the initiation of the Incarnate Word Academy School Board of Directors in 1994. The Board serves as a policy-making body to enhance Incarnate Word Academy’s viability, visibility, and solvency. Our school board has twice been awarded the prestigious National Outstanding Board commendation, in 2000 and in 2008, by the National Catholic Educational Association (NCEA). Aware of the changing roles of the founding congregation, parents, and other members of the Incarnate Word Academy community, the Board commissioned the first strategic plan that was adopted in 1996. This plan focused on six key areas with specific detail for implementation: the greater community, relationships, resources, communication, decision making and policy, and accountability and evaluation. The effectiveness of this plan was largely due to the commitment to implement the goals set and to provide for continued evaluation of the performance of the plan. The 1996 Strategic Plan set the precedent for subsequent strategic plans that followed every three to four years thereafter, thus making the strategic plans living documents.
Blending respect for the original strategic plan with great vision for the future, a new plan was adopted in 2000. This second plan added new goals to address challenges and opportunities for implementation; these included mission effectiveness, curriculum, development, marketing, personnel, and plant and facilities.
The generosity and support by the Incarnate Word Academy community and the South Texas community at large is an integral component of the school’s heritage and has continually helped to further the mission of the school, making quality Catholic education available to more students in the area. In 2002, a comprehensive planned giving program was established in response to the interests for financial planning by alumni, parents, and friends. To promote the Incarnate Word Academy Foundation, Living Stones Building the Mission, a major gift recognition society, was created in 2003, recognizing the support of the school's mission by loyal and generous donors.
To offer students the opportunity to experience missionary service, the Mission Effectiveness Committee of the Incarnate Word Academy School Board, initiated the Missions Program in 2003. High school students were given the opportunity to spread the Gospel message and to strengthen their faith. From 2003 to 2008, the team traveled to villages and towns in Mexico. In 2009, students served the communities of Galveston, which were devastated by Hurricane Ike and the following year the team traveled to New Mexico to serve on a Native American reservation. Today, the team travels to various communities in need of evangelization and a helping hand.
Continuing its proactive tradition of effective planning, the Incarnate Word Academy administration and Board engaged in a strategic planning process during the 2003-2004 school year. The 2004 plan addressed the areas of enrollment, marketing and student recruitment, educational programs, staffing, development, facilities, finances, and governance.
Curriculum enhancement and renovation and reallocation of facilities in response to the needs of students have always been a part of the Incarnate Word Academy story. This was punctuated in the years 2005 through 2007, when all three levels experienced increased enrollment numbers. This increase resulted in a resourceful shift in the use of campus space. To meet the increase, facilities were renovated and reallocated while curriculum programs were advanced.
In 2007, the fourth strategic plan was adopted by the Incarnate Word Academy School Board. Based on the needs of the school and projected trends in population and school enrollments, the Board identified three major priorities. These included construction of Middle Level facilities, the needs of the Montessori program, and the expansion of athletic fields.
As a means of communicating more effectively with students and parents, a web-based student information management system, ParentsWeb, was initiated in the 2006-2007 school year. In keeping with the Incarnate Word Academy mission and to enhance the spiritual development of students at all levels, a campus ministry program was established in 2007. During that same school year, the “The Catechesis of the Good Shepherd” for the Elementary Level received national recognition.
On March 25, 2009, the Kenedy Center for Math and Science building was dedicated. The facility served to accommodate increased enrollment and the growing focus in academic programs for math and science.
In 2010, a generous grant from an anonymous benefactor funded the Angel eBrary program, which catapulted the technological resources available to faculty and students. The Angel eBrary benefits all levels as a college preparatory tool. Students use the databases for research, assignment management, and testing.
After serving nine years as the second Incarnate Word Academy President, Sr. Anna Marie Espinosa, IWBS, ended her term in 2010. She passed the torch of leadership to Charles D. Imbergamo, the school’s first lay president.
Construction on the renovation of the Austin Street Athletic Complex began in 2012 as part of the school's Enlighten, Inspire, and Strengthen campaign. On February 1, 2013, the campus held a blessing and dedication ceremony for the complex. Students, faculty, staff, parents, and friends were in attendance. Honored guests included Bishop Wm. Michael Mulvey, Congressman Blake Farenthold, and Ret. Lt. Gen. Marc Cisneros, CEO of the John G. and Marie Stella Kenedy Memorial Foundation.The Austin Street Athletic Complex provides student-athletes a state-of-the-art facility which includes an all-weather track, batting and golf cages, storage facility for equipment, turf soccer field, zones for track and field events, and new fencing.
In 2015, Incarnate Word Academy announced Sammie H. Grunwald as its fourth president and CEO in the school's 144-year history.
In May of 2017, Phase II of the Enlighten, Inspire, and Strengthen Campaign began with a groundbreaking ceremony celebrating the construction of a new 14,000 square-foot Montessori building. More than 125 guests gathered in support of the Montessori program's extension, which will provide seven new classrooms, a Prayer Garden, an Atrium for the Catechesis of the Good Shepard Program, and much more for students. A shining beacon of hard work, dedication, and vision, the building is designed to fully orchestrate and enhance the Elementary Level's beloved Montessori curriculum. The construction of the new Montessori building is scheduled to be completed by the 2018-2019 school year.
Since 1871, Incarnate Word Academy has served the teaching mission of the Church. The first four Sisters journeyed from France to settle in the region with little more than the great love of Christ in their hearts and a burning desire to teach children. The school continues to make its difference upon the lives of hundreds of children today. With courage, imagination, and hard work — always guided by the power of God’s providence — Incarnate Word Academy has made a lasting difference in partnership with the Corpus Christi community.