Mercy High School in Farmington Hills will be celebrating its 75th anniversary this year and the 15,000-plus women who have passed through its doors.
"We interview our alums and they always talk about how empowering it was to come here," said Cheryl Kreger, the school's president. "So you think about every office, every club is headed by girls because there are no boys. That makes the experience unique."
Kreger, like all former presidents of the school, is an alumna and graduated in 1966. She remembers the all-female environment being something special.
"The all-women, all-girl experience makes Mercy special," she said. "The fact that the Sisters of Mercy, who have been educating women for over 200 years, and the spirit of how they do their work is very different."
Mercy's patron saint is Our Lady of Mercy, one of many names for the Virgin Mary. The school also looks up to the Venerable Catherine McAuley, who left behind a life of luxury to support education.
"She decided that she was going to educate the women of Ireland," Kreger said. "At that time, women and Catholics had no status in Ireland. This is in the late 1700s and 1800s. She was an heiress and decided that she was going to use her inheritance to begin this work."
With that history in mind, Kreger said the school tries to instill the values of mercy, justice, helping the poor, service and human dignity into students.
"We always say success in that worldly sense, but our women are expected to lead from wherever they are," Kreger said. "So, if you are a homemaker, a volunteer, a mother, wherever you serve you are expected to be a leader. That's kind of how we approach things."
But, alumnae do reach success in the "worldly" sense, too. Kreger said among the alumnae are six judges, five hospital executives, a Quicken Loans executive and more.
"I always laugh and say that we're everywhere," Kreger said. "And we are with 15,000 alums. Many of them are successful women."
The school is also known to claim awards in performing arts, music, art, yearbook, journalism and athletics. All of that is led by what Kreger repeatedly called a stellar staff, which is also mostly female.
Most recently, the Mercy Marlins gained recognition when they won their first state title in volleyball.
But, Kreger said most of what makes the school special aren't things people can really see from the outside. She noted one of the strengths in the classroom is diversity.
"We're very diverse which means not only races, cultures, etc. but we're diverse as far as religion, socioeconomic background," Kreger said.
That vast alumnae network is always stepping up to bat for the current Mercy girls, too.
"They support the school with donations and by supporting events, networking, mentoring our students and more," Kreger said.
Many of those alums will come back to the school for events surrounding its 75th birthday. Kreger said the school will host reunions, tours of the current facility and of the old one in Detroit, add to a time capsule, a Mass and dedicate an athletic hall of fame.
But it won't all be about the past. In 2020, the school will add an indoor sports facility that can be adapted to any sport, a Catherine McAuley tea room for students to enjoy during free periods and a new spirit store.
"Everybody is always learning and moving forward," Kreger said.