|Barat College ~ Lake Forest, IL|
To many the announcement made this week that anonymous donors plan to purchase the former Barat College campus and then donate the property to Woodlands Academy located next door was met with both gratitude and trepidation. The Religious of the Sacred Heart purchased the property in Lake Forest in 1901 and in September 1904 the Academy of the Sacred Heart in Lake Forest, Illinois was opened to 66 boarding students. By August 29, 1918 Barat College received its charter from the State of Illinois. The college remained single sex until 1982 when the Board of Trustees made the decision to matriculate male students. February 2001 Barat College Board of Trustees formalized an educational alliance with DePaul University to ensure long-term growth and increase educational opportunities for its students. In February 2004, DePaul University announced its decision to discontinue operating Barat College after the June 2005 graduation. In light of DePaul's decision to close the school, the city of Lake Forest created a task force (Barat Community Planning Team) to evaluate the potential reuse of the 23 acre property. DePaul sold the campus later that year to developer Robert Shaw. In the midst of plans to transform the property for residential use the economy and many other delays forced the developer into foreclosure. Harris Bank was the sole bidder of the former Barat College property in an auction May 4, 2010 and the property has remained vacant ever since.
Gerald Grossman, head of Woodlands Academy, called the donation “an unprecedented gift to the school.”
Grossman said the donors wrote: “We have seen the benefits of an all-girls, Catholic high school that pushed each student to reach her potential in both academics and citizenship. We believe in the mission of Woodlands Academy. We believe in the girls. We believe in the Administration, the faculty and staff and we believe in the Board of Trustees.”
“This most generous gift is a profound affirmation of our mission as expressed in the Sacred Heart goals and criteria, and our determination to be faithful to our heritage while always looking forward to ways we will continue to respond to the needs of the world in which we live and serve,” he said. Grossman said that while the parties work to remove contingencies and consummate the transfer to Woodlands Academy, the school board and administration will undertake “a thorough process to identify the best use of the property in keeping with Woodlands’ academic mission and taking into consideration the interests of the various constituencies within Woodlands Academy and the surrounding communities.”