Spencer Gayles
McGill-Toolen Class of 2011

Spencer Gayles is the epitome of a well-rounded student. He excels in the academic arena with an all Honors and AP curriculum. He is a member of the National Honor Society and has a 3.63 GPA. He received full scholarships to LSU and Springhill College and received the Spirit of Auburn Foundation Scholarship. He has chosen to attend LSU where he will march in the Tiger Marching Band.

Spencer is also dedicated to serving the community and living his Catholic faith. He is an active member of the Servants of the Poor, Pro-Life Club and Campus Ministry. He volunteers much of his time to community service. He was recently awarded the Development Office “Jacket Jubilation Meritorious Award” for his countless hours of service which are often done behind-the-scenes for no other reward or recognition other than helping and serving others. He is also a Student Ambassador and is a favorite on the McT Road Shows at his alma mater, St. Ignatius. He is the perfect student to speak on the topic of extracurricular involvement since he is involved in so much at McT!

But the thing Spencer is most passionate about is his music. He plays the violin, the guitar, and saxophone. He is a member of the McT Marching Band, Jazz Band and Symphoic Band. He attributes his self-motivation and persistence to his being a self-taught musician. “Regardless of whether it is learning an instrument or climbing the corporate ladder, it is ultimately up to one’s self to decide whether or not success is plausible.” Spencer feels he learned the importance of teamwork and self –discipline through being a part of the McT marching band. He says, “You have to have a lot of trust in your teammates when you have eighty band members walking backwards and anticipating being in the correct spot at the correct time”. He is also a member of the Chamber Singers, utilizing his musical talents in even another medium.

Spencer is a student who can “do it all and do it well”. His dedication to academics, service to others and his music will take him far in life.

The History of McGill-Toolen High School

The roots of Catholic education in Mobile go deep. From the 1800’s until the consolidation of the two remaining high schools in 1973, thousands of young men and women received an education unparalleled by today’s standards.

Before 1927, most parishes had their own high schools, staffed by religious. Small classes and the example set by the devotion and dedication of the religious were a powerful combination for transmitting knowledge and the values that prompted those men and women to give their lives to God in the service of others.


The earliest Catholic academic institution in Mobile was staffed initially by missionary priests. In 1847, the Fathers of the Society of Jesus took over its permanent administration. In the early days there was no distinct designation of "high school" or "college" levels. When Spring Hill College closed its high school in 1935, McGill Institute was the only remaining boys’ high school in the city.


At the invitation of Bishop Portier, the Visitation Nuns established a school for girls. Like so many of Mobile’s early schools, it was a boarding school that also enrolled day students.

ST. VINCENT’S (1847-1935)

An outgrowth of the boys’ orphan asylum operated by the Brothers of the Sacred Heart, St. Vincent’s prospered until the Civil War. Then Reconstruction and severe epidemics of yellow fever brought hard times. The school closed twice before it became a parochial school, and the Brothers stayed on until 1919, when the school was turned over to the Daughters of Charity, who continued its operation until 1935.


The Brothers of the Sacred Heart operated Cathedral School from 1848 until its first closing in 1875. They resumed its operation from 1886 to 1895, at which time the school was placed under the management of the Sisters of St. Joseph, who operated it until 1940 when it closed permanently.

ST. PATRICK’S (1868-1927)

The Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet staffed this academy located in the Grove (today’s Beauregard Street area). Although the elementary school enrolled boys and girls, the nuns offered a high school curriculum only for the girls. The high school was discontinued in 1928 when Bishop Toolen High School was built.

ST. JOSEPH’S (1884-1928)

The Sisters of Mercy of the Union opened St. Joseph’s in 1884. It was one of several schools that discontinued the high school portion of their curriculum when Bishop Toolen High School was built.

CONVENT OF MERCY (1895-1968)

The Sisters of Mercy of the Union operated this girls’ school which was called at different times Convent of Mercy Academy and Mercy High School.

McGILL INSTITUTE (1896-1973)

The old Chandler residence on Government Street was the site chosen by Felix McGill to found the free school for boys that his brother Arthur intended to endow. When McGill opened in 1897, the faculty consisted of a priest teacher and lay teachers. The Brothers of the Sacred Heart took over the operation of the school in 1928, moved with it to its new location on Old Shell Road, and continue to serve on the faculty.

ST. MARY’S (1898-1927)

Like Spring Hill College, St. Mary’s School still exists, but the high school portion of its curriculum was abandoned long ago. The Sisters of Mercy of the Union discontinued the high school when Bishop Toolen High School was built and centralization of the school system began


The Josephite priests established Most Pure Heart of Mary in the early 1900’s, and the Holy Ghost Sisters from San Antonio began the high school in 1917. The Dominican Sisters of the Congregation of the Most Holy Rosary from Sinsinawa, WI, assumed operation of the high school in 1943 until it closed in 1968.

ST. MARGARET’S (1927-1931); (1943-1960)

The Sisters of Mercy of the Union established St. Margaret’s in Bayou La Batre in 1927, but discontinued the high school a few years later. When the Sisters of St. Dominic from Caldwell, NJ assumed operation of the school in 1943, they reinstated the high school and kept it open until 1960.


The Sisters of Loretto at the Foot of the Cross operated this girls’ school from its founding by Bishop Thomas J. Toolen in 1928 until it was merged with McGill Institute in 1973.


After McGill Institute moved to its Old Shell Road location, merging it with the last remaining girls’ high school seemed a natural consequence. In 1958, the bands combined. The schools began sharing science, math, home ec, and World Literature classes in 1968. In 1971, the libraries, academic departments, business offices and the newspapers merged, so that by July of 1973 procedures were in place for the formation of a single co-educational institution that proudly carries on the tradition of Catholic education.

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