Mullen through the Years - From Orphans to Ipads

At the age when most ninth graders are preparing for the challenges of high school, John Kernan Mullen became a businessman. Those who knew Mullen when he was a teenager sensed that his drive and ambition would lead him to great things. Who would have ever imagined that a young man possessed of such dreams and goals would one day be counted as one of the most important people in Colorado educational history? Eighty-three years later we continue to celebrate his legacy. When our students cheer in unison, “We are Mullen!” his memory is celebrated as is his vision.  

A native of Ballinasloe, County Galway, Ireland, Mullen came to America with his parents when he was nine years old.  At the age of 14 he entered the business world, going to work in a flourmill in New York.  He stayed in the flour industry throughout his life.  He was the founder of the Colorado Milling and Elevator Company, which developed the famous Hungarian brand of flour. Although he had a head for business, Mullen was also possessed of a strong and giving heart. A highly revered philanthropist, Mullen would parlay his business acumen with his philanthropic efforts and ultimately establish a school that so many of us have come to see as our home and an extension of our own family. In 1928, Mullen, working with Denver Bishop Henry Tihen, opened negotiations with the Christian Brothers of the New Orleans-Santa Fe province with the intent of establishing an orphanage for teenage boys.  Unfortunately, Mullen died in 1929 before he could complete the project.  His daughters and their husbands assumed his plans and purchased a large farm called the Shirley Dairy Farm located southwest of Denver.  Originally called J.K. Mullen Home for Boys, the orphanage opened with eighteen boys and three Christian Brothers in 1931. 

The history of Mullen High School is rich and diverse.  From 1931-1950, the school was home to 50 orphans coming mostly from St. Vincent’s and St.Clara’s in Denver and Sacred Heart in Pueblo.  The orphans worked on the farm while attending school.  1950-1966, ushered in the addition of paying boarders and day students.  In 1953, the school name was changed from J.K. Mullen Home for Boys to J.K. Mullen High School.  Orphans and boarders were phased out of the school, the last of them graduating in 1966. Mullen was a day school for boys only from 1966-1989.  Brother Adrian Pfarr was principal from 1962-68.  During Brother Adrian’s time, the 300 hall and the administration building were added.  The old cafeteria was remodeled to become the present day Student Life Center.  The very popular Brother Bernard Kinneavy arrived at Mullen in 1964 and was Chair of the English Department until his appointment to principal from 1968 –1976.  During Brother Bernard’s enthusiastic tenure as principal, he was responsible for initiating restoration of the lake, introduction of the auction to the Mardi Gras Gala, support of well-equipped science labs, sending the basketball team to State and speech teams to Nationals.  In 1978 Brother Bernard became the Development Director and served in that capacity until 1998 when he became President of Mullen High School until his death in 2002.  Brother John Burke was principal from 1976-77.  Brother Michael Sharkey was principal from 1977-83.  Brother Wayne Viguerie served as principal from 1983-85.  Brother Marvin Richter was principal until 1986. Brother William Giddings assumed responsibilities as principal until 1992, serving as the last Christian Brother in that capacity. The 1990’s saw J.K. Mullen’s first lay principal with Vince Greco taking over the position until Linda Brady made history with her appointment as Mullen’s first female lay principal after Greco’s retirement. Presently, Mullen is led by Janell Kloosterman who was appointed to the position two years ago.       

J.K. Mullen High School is now in its twenty-second year as a coeducational day school.  The “Mullen 2000” Building Campaign expansion saw the completion of the Christian Brothers Fine Arts Hall, and Hutchison Field House gymnasium in 1995.  The Rilko Events Center and Chapel were dedicated 
in January of 1998.  The Mullen Legacy Capital Campaign continues this strong tradition with the Sferra Library and Resource Center completed in 2001, and the newest building opened in 2004, the Spirit Center, housing classrooms and a 10,000 square foot multipurpose space. More recently the school has sought to advance the Lasallian charism of its lay teachers through national and international formation. In the spring of 2013, Janell Kloosterman was asked to be a part of the international assembly in Rome, Italy. Our current staff boasts eleven Lasallian educators and administrators who have participated in Lasallian formation programs. To be sure, our expansive campus is beautiful but is made whole by the educators, 
students and staff who inhabit it each day.   

It has been the Christian Brothers’ goal to pass onto their lay partners the Lasallian tradition that has distinguished the Christian Brothers’ schools since Saint John Baptist de La Salle established the Order in 1680.  This mission is directed toward providing a human and Christian education to the young, with attention to those most in need, that all may achieve personal fulfillment and redemption.  To accomplish this mission, the school aims to promote the five core principals of: Faith in the Presence of God, Concern for the Poor and Social Justice, Inclusive Community, Quality Education and Respect for all Persons. To anyone who visits our campus or spends time with our Mullen family it is readily apparent that these hallmark ideals are much more than words.

Mullen continues to serve as a leader in Catholic, Lasallian, and college preparatory education. Under the leadership of President Carl Unrein and Principal Janell Kloosterman, Mullen High School is blazing the trail in cutting edge, technological instruction. The school’s i Pad initiative, now in its second year, expands the Core Principle of Quality Education in a fresh and inspiring way. Our students enjoy instruction that melds traditional teaching methods with 
the new direction that the i Pad education affords. Without question, this is an exciting time to celebrate our school’s academic mission. From our humble inception to our exciting future we maintain our faith and zeal as we work on behalf of our students as we celebrate the legacy of Saint John Baptist de La Salle. Daily, we remind each other that we are in the holy presence of God and the term, “Live Jesus in our hearts…forever”  is a keen and constant testament that the vision of Saint la Salle and a once driven fourteen year old named John Kernan Mullen will never be forgotten.

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Marie Adamson
Assistant Director of
Special Events
303.761.1764, ext. 3332


Upcoming Events

Golf Tournament - Saturday, September 15th
 shotgun start -  Arrowhead Golf Club - This event raises funds for Mullen Athletics! Everyone welcome

Bocce Ball Tournament in support of Mullen's Mardi Gras Gala - Saturday, August 25th
The tournament is held right here at Mullen High School outside at Brother Bernard Kinneavy De La Salle Stadium. The event begins at 6:00pm and provides dinner and beverages in the spirit of Italy. Everyone can play Bocce or one of the other activities (wine toss and corn hole) or have fun watching. Adults only.
59th Annual Mardi Gras Gala
Saturday, March 2nd | 5:00pm
Dance to Denver's favorite live band Thumpin! 
onoring Frank Cawley as this years captain! 


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