At the forefront of Holy Cross education, Saint Francis has always relied not only on educators but also students to impart knowledge and skills useful inside and outside the classroom. Fifty years ago, Lancers could finally learn with peers of the opposite gender when Holy Cross, a girls-only high school, closed and sent students to Saint Francis. Ms. Cindy Leslie-Forbes (’76) attended Saint Francis during this important transition and was kind enough to sit down with us to reflect on her experience.
The Lancer: Why did you choose to attend Saint Francis?
Ms. Cindy Leslie-Forbes: This is a funny story, because I didn’t; my mother did. I grew up in Portola Valley and was raised Catholic. When I graduated from my middle school, which was Portola Valley Junior High, all of my friends were either going to Sequoia or Woodside, and that’s where I wanted to go. My mom insisted that I go to Saint Francis because it was the very first year that Saint Francis had gone co-ed. Otherwise, I would have gone to Holy Cross. So I wasn’t having any of it. I went kicking and screaming actually.
TL: You mentioned that you were part of the first co-ed graduating class at Saint Francis. What was that experience like for you?
CLF: It was really cool, and it was hard for me. When Holy Cross closed, and all the girls went to Saint Francis in 1972, which was my freshman year, they had all come from St. Joseph and St. Nicholas. They all knew each other, and they were already friends. I didn’t know anybody, so it was a little hard for me at first. But I got more into school; I tried out and became a freshman cheerleader. I just really started loving it and meeting new people and new friends.
It didn’t take me long to assimilate myself into the atmosphere, but being co-ed was really cool for me because I really would have hated going to Holy Cross. I did not want to go to an all-girls school. [Saint Francis] was really advantageous. It was a great experience. I loved it.
TL: What were some of your favorite classes and teachers at Saint Francis?
CLF: Well, I really liked my biology class, and I had Mr. Gugiere. I think he was one of the baseball coaches. I loved that class.
I also loved my typing class, and my teacher was Ray Calcagno. We had these great big electric typewriters. We had to learn to type on these huge things that were all over the classroom, and it was a lot of fun.
I loved Brother John Anthony; he taught Algebra I. He was a character.
Mr. Tuite—he was the track coach for a long time. He taught history, as well as Mr. Robert Urban, who passed away in a car accident some years later, but he taught American History. I just have a lot of really good memories of the teachers—the lay teachers and the Brothers.
TL: What sports and clubs were you involved in at Saint Francis?
CLF: Well, as I said, I was a freshman cheerleader, and then sophomore year I took the year off. I was going to try out for the drill team, but I decided not to. Then, in my junior and senior year, I was a song girl. My junior year, we came first or second in the state, I think. And then senior year as well. We did really well at cheerleading camp. We went to UC Santa Cruz to camp and stayed for five or six days down there during the summer, and it was really fun.
TL: What’s your current job and how did Saint Francis prepare you for your career?
CLF: I’m the regional training director for KFC and A&W here in the Sacramento area. I’m responsible for about 85 stores. I had a lot of really good friendships [at Saint Francis], and the social life there prepared me for my job because I’m basically in training and customer service. I’ve been in my job for 23 years now and just really love it.
TL: What is your favorite memory at Saint Francis?
CLF: My favorite Saint Francis memory? This may not be my favorite, but my most vivid. I was a senior, and I believe I was in my US history class. Mr. Tuite and [his] classroom faced the quad, and you know, how the drive is in a square and then the quad is all in the middle?
So some guys from Bellarmine were in a convertible, and they drove into the back by where the girls’ gym was. One of them jumped out of the car and streaked across the quad buck naked. The car kept going around the corner, and they picked him up at the front. They took off, and we found out later that it was Bellarmine. It was just before the big game—the Bellarmine versus Saint Francis game at homecoming—so it was just a stunt that they pulled, but all of us in the classroom were just busting up laughing. Mr. Tuite was horrified. It was my most vivid memory I guess.
My whole experience at Saint Francis—for having gone there under duress and just hating the fact that I was going to a private Catholic school when all of my friends were going to the public school—I really really enjoyed it, and I actually cried at graduation because I didn’t want to leave. The friends I made there and the relationships were amazing. I absolutely loved every minute of it.
TL: What advice would you give to current students at Saint Francis?
CLF: I would say, make the most of every opportunity that comes your way because your high school years are years that you’re going to remember for the rest of your life. Really make the most of it while you can.