Scholars Program

The Brother James McDonnell, C.S.C. Scholars Program

The story of the Brother James McDonnell Scholars Program began with a group of eager sophomore boys, excited about their accomplishments as students and ready to take on whatever academic challenge might come their way.  The boys could only be described as “fearless.”


That would change dramatically on a warm August morning, after running across campus to make the climb to the fourth floor to their English III Honors class.  It was only fitting that they would breathlessly take their seats and be addressed by a man in the familiar garb of black slacks and a black shirt with the white Roman collar. The moment he introduced himself, “Good morning, I am Brother James McDonnell,” they knew that this would be an extraordinary experience.


Brother James spent the year challenging the boys to become scholars. They would be pushed to learn where to look for information and to never relent in their pursuit.  He made sure that they thought and wrote about what they perceived.  It was impossible to sit quietly in class because he would demand that they express themselves. Of course, he would challenge whatever they said. Soon the school year ended. English IV Honors would mean a new teacher for the boys, and Brother James would have a new group to cajole.


Thirty years have passed since that group of students graduated from Holy Cross. If you asked them about Brother James’ class today, it is likely that they will be divided as to whether they believed all the stories he told, or if they loved or hated him. They are likely to agree, however, that he was a powerful figure in their intellectual growth and still influences their approach to scholarship and intellectual pursuit today.


In recognition of the passion of this great teacher, Holy Cross is proud to offer the Brother James McDonell, C.S.C. Scholars Program, an interdisciplinary program rooted in the humanities.


Why offer this challenging program?

The McDonnell Scholars Program is designed to give students an opportunity to explore a number of disciplines through courses placing an emphasis upon written and spoken expression. Teachers in the program will demand that students think critically, write cogently, and express their ideas respectfully but without apology.


By the time the program is completed, the McDonnell Scholar will:

  • have a sense of the interdisciplinary nature of knowledge
  • exhibit superior oral and written communication skills
  • display superior research skills in many media
  • possess an awareness and appreciation of the fine arts
  • have an acquaintance with the great thinkers of western civilization, and will appreciate cultures other than his own
  • understand and critically assess current events
  • function intellectually at higher levels of thought
  • internalize and act upon a sense of moral and social responsibility
  • master and apply leadership skills to help his community solve problems.

What courses will my son take?

While the Scholars program presents a number of unique opportunities for our students, Holy Cross remains cognizant of the need to meet course requirements of the State of Louisiana.


9th Grade

10th Grade

11th Grade

12th Grade

English II H*

English III H*

English IV H/AP

English V H/AP

Algebra I H / Geometry H

Geometry H / Algebra II H

Algebra II H / Pre-Calculus H

Prob. & Stat. H / Calculus H

Physical Science H

Biology H

Chemistry H


Theology II

Theology III

Theology IV

Theology V

World History H/AP*

Sophomore Seminar*

U.S. History H/AP

Civics H / US. Govt. AP

Latin II H*

Latin III H*

Health / P.E. / Elective**

Health / P.E. / Elective**

Speech III H*

Speech IV H*

AP Capstone – Research*

AP Capstone – Seminar*

The overall academic program for McDonnell Scholars will be as follows:

*Denotes a separate Scholars section

** Elective can replace one year of Health/P.E. if taken in the student’s 8th Grade year.


Requirements for Completion

In order for the McDonnell Scholar to carry that distinction at the time of graduation, he must:

  • complete a minimum of 15 courses designated as Honors or AP;
  • take three years of Latin at Holy Cross;
  • maintain honor roll status each year;
  • complete 140 hours of approved community service over the course of four years; and
  • complete an approved Senior Thesis
How does my son secure a place in the program?

The Scholars Program has a competitive admissions process. Minimum requirements for an application to the program include:

  • completion of 8th grade year at Holy Cross
  • a satisfactory disciplinary history
  • a minimum GPA of 3.0
Factors to be considered in determining admission:
  • grade point average
  • standardized test scores
  • discipline record
  • recommendations from teachers
  • interviews with the Program Director
The applications will be reviewed by a faculty committee that will make recommendations to the Director, who will make the final decision on each application.


Application Timeline

  • Parent Information Night (parents of 6th through 8th graders) –Spring Semester
  • Application deadline - March 31
  • Applicant interviews - April 1-14
  • Acceptance announcements – April 30

Is your son ready for a unique challenge?

The McDonnell Scholar will be offered an experience with challenges that will augment his AP/Honors curriculum.

  • Seminar courses with intensive readings and discussions in a variety of areas including public policy, philosophy, theology, ethics, history, and constitutional rights will challenge the scholars to read and analyze scholarly articles from a variety of thinkers. Students will be asked to write a series of short papers and complete a research paper each semester.
  • Exposure to Classical Languages will be an additional benefit for the scholar. Latin II and III will be required of the scholars during the program.
  • Speech III and IV will be required of each scholar during their first two years. The students will learn research, debate and argumentation, rhetoric, oratory, elocution, logic, and performance.
  • Each Scholar’s career will culminate with the Senior Thesis where he will be required to work with an expert/mentor on an area of interest and complete a thesis in April of his senior year. Each thesis will be submitted as their AP Capstone final project.

Brother James McDonnell, C.S.C Scholars Program Advisory Board

  • Tom Evison – Director of Brother James McDonnell, C.S.C. Scholars Program
  • Bayo Tojoula – Physician of Urology – Houston Methodist Hospital, Houston, TX
  • Tom Frazel – Associate Professor of Classical Studies – Tulane University, New Orleans, LA
  • Mark Sullivan – Systems Engineer – Lockheed Martin, Washington, D.C.
  • Ralph Etienne – Director Tax Technology – DuCharme McMillen and Associates, Inc., Fort Lauderdale, FL
  • Brian Utz – Director of Digital HM – Health Solutions, Pittsburgh, PA