Today we gathered as a school community to be recognized as an affiliated member of Mercy Education System of the Americas. This momentous occasion continues our long legacy of education inspired by Mercy!

We welcomed Sister Lisa Griffith and Sister Regina Ward, of the Mercy Education organization, for a special prayer service, signing of our relational covenant and celebration of our new partnership. As Sister Regina so eloquently stated in her remarks to the SBA community, “it is very clear, SBA is Mercy.”

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Mr. Sabo pictured with Sally and Tony Hoffman during a dedication of the Nalley Bell in 2018.

Mr. Sabo pictured with Sally and Tony Hoffman during a dedication of the Nalley Bell in 2018.

We’re excited to begin a new tradition here at St. Bernard Academy: The Ringing of the Nalley Bell.

Donated in 2018 by SBA past parents Tony and Sally Hoffman, the Nalley Bell is named in honor of Sally’s mother, Frances Moore Nalley. 

We will begin the tradition of ringing the bell on the playground at the end of each week, signaling the end of the school/work week. The bell will also be rung on the first and last days of the school year, on Mercy Day and Founders Day, and on 8th Level Graduation Day. We will designate special bell ringers for each occasion – students, faculty, staff, Board members, etc.

The ringing of the bell on these special school occasions is a lasting tribute to the bell’s namesake. 

“Frances’ bell is a fitting memorial to a woman who loved being with children, and was a strong believer in the power of education,” said the Hoffmans.

Widowed at a young age, Frances sacrificed in many ways to afford her youngest daughter, Sally, the finest possible education. Frances worked for many years in the office of Sally's private high school in order to support the tuition. That school, which had been founded over Frances’ kitchen table with other community members, has now grown to an enrollment of 525 students in Pre K through 12th Grade.

After moving to Nashville to live with Sally and Tony during the last years of her life, Frances enjoyed hearing tales of the school day’s events from her grandchildren at St. Bernard and St. Cecilia Academy. Jordan Hoffman ’00, and Anna Claire Hoffman ’04, treasure those memories.

“It is an honor to begin this new tradition and incorporate the Hoffman/Nalley family story into our own school’s narrative,” said Chuck Sabo, Head of School. “We are blessed to have been part of Jordan and Anna Claire’s educational journey, and we look forward to this continued partnership with the Hoffman family.”


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Taking “first day of school” photos in front of the historic St. Bernard Academy sign is a rite of passage for many SBA families. 

The sign was originally installed in 1905 when the Sisters of Mercy convent was built along 21st Avenue South. Now, situated at the corner of Bernard Avenue and 24th Avenue South, it is often one of first sights upon arrival to campus.

Like many others, posing for photos in front of the sign was a tradition for Austin Philp ‘19, and his family. Over the last few years, however, Austin noticed the sign was not as prominent as it had once been.

“When it came time for me to choose my Eagle Scout project, I knew I wanted to do something at SBA because SBA has helped shape me into who I am,” he said. “Fixing the sign and surrounding area felt like a great way to give back.”

For several months, Austin planned out his project, then presented his ideas to Head of School Chuck Sabo. With Mr. Sabo’s blessing, Austin got to work. He enlisted the help of BSA Troop 87, which includes many current and former SBA students, as part of their community engagement. He also secured many donations, including mulch from The Compost Company, founded by current SBA parent Edward Wansing and plants from former SBA parent, Todd Estepp of Creekside Garden Center.

The project took three weekends of physical labor, starting with taking out the overgrown bushes in front of the sign. Once the bushes were removed, two historic limestone capstones reading “St. Bernard” and “A.D. 1866” were revealed. Next, he sandblasted, primed and painted the sign. He even found a metal fabricator to refurbish the sign, which was originally made with the incorrect year on it – 1867 instead of 1866. Then, he updated the landscaping by trimming the remaining bushes, placing new concrete pavers, planting new low-growing plants and adding new mulch.

The updates transformed the area into a more beautiful and welcoming entrance to campus.

“We are so proud of Austin for his great work in managing this project and organizing volunteers to make it a success,” Mr. Sabo said. “The sign is a symbol of our institution that dates back to the turn of the 20th Century, and I am especially grateful for the care and respect shown for it. He was able to take something a little dull and make it shine again.”

SBA sends out a special thanks to Austin, Troop 87 and all the donors for their collaboration and effort of this campus beautification project!


Donors included:

Jason Brouillette – Landscape Architect, SME
Hillsboro Hardware
Mick Savatovic – Rustoleum
Ryan Monaghan – Belgard pavers
Valley Rubber LLC
Ed Wansing – The Compost Company
Todd Estepp – Creekside Garden Center
Bates Nursery

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