John Paul College was formed in 1979 by the merging of two previous colleges, Stella Maris College (girls) and Marianist College (boys).
Stella Maris began in 1968 in the old clubhouse on property purchased from the Peninsula Golf Club in 1965 by the Sisters, Faithful Companions of Jesus. The Order took possession of the property in June 1967 and the Sisters took up residence in December of that year. The original two-storey house (the "Tower House‟) on the site had been erected and occupied by the Parer family in the second half of the 19th century, and after changing hands several times, had been in the possession of the Peninsula Golf Club since 1922. Many extensions and alterations had taken place over the years, and further conversions were required to prepare the building for the opening of the school in 1968.
In that first year, four Sisters taught the initial enrolment of ninety-nine girls. Numbers had increased to 169 by the next year and two lay teachers joined the staff. Each succeeding year saw an increase in numbers of students and staff. New classrooms, science rooms and a library were built. From 1968 until 1976, Stella Maris accepted boarders, who were housed in the residential wing of the old clubhouse.
In 1969, a Committee was formed to assess the secondary education needs of Frankston. This committee, under the direction of Father Joseph Kealy, recommended that a boys' college be established. Mrs Mary Turner of Seaford had previously bequeathed some land in Seaford for the establishment of such a boys' college. This land was subsequently sold, with the approval of the Trustees of the Turner estate, and the proceeds used to purchase seventeen acres of the land belonging to Stella Maris College.
The Society of Mary (Marianists) who had established a boys' college in Altona in 1968 were invited to establish a boys' college in Frankston for Years 7 to 12. Marianist College opened in February 1973 with 166 boys and a staff of six under the direction of Brother Don Neff, SM. Since the school building had not been completed, classes were held in St John's Church (East Frankston) and in the basement of St John's Primary School. During 1974 some classes were accommodated at St Anne's Church and Holy Family Church. Eventually, all classes were brought back to the McMahons Road site with the completion of adequate facilities. The college continued to grow rapidly in both numbers of students and buildings to accommodate them.
After preliminary discussions in 1976, it was announced in 1977 that the two colleges would merge. During 1978, detailed planning was carried out for the merger at the beginning of 1979. During 1979, Years 7 to 10 girls remained at the Stella Maris section of the college and all other students came to the former Marianist section.
Due to the merger it was recommended that Marianist College and Stella Maris officially close down and a new regional coeducational college be established. After consultation with the Archbishop of Melbourne, parents and students, the College Board determined that "John Paul College" would be the official name of the school. "John Paul College" was chosen in a desire to express the changes which had been happening in the Catholic Church as a result of the 2nd Vatican Council, (1964-68). Four popes had led the Church during this period; John XXIII, Paul VI, John Paul I and John Paul II.
In 1980 the former Stella Maris section became the Junior School for the college, catering for 420 girls and boys in Years 7 and 8. The old golf club building had become unsuitable and the construction of a new building for the Junior School was completed in 1982. Finance for this project came principally from the Olsen Estate. O.J. Olsen, a prominent Frankston resident, had left an estate to the Church for use in the Frankston area. This estate came to John Paul College, and in remembrance of this gift, the college incorporated the name of the donor into its name: John Paul College - the O.J. Olsen Memorial.
The Marianist brothers returned to the USA...
The Marianist brothers returned to the USA in 1984. They bequeathed a tradition of Marian spirituality, hospitality, endeavour to succeed and commitment to the equality of all. The John Paul College chapel dedicated to Our Lady Help of Christians is a permanent memorial to their faith witness. The Sisters fcJ continued their presence at the College until 1997. Their legacy encapsulated 'Hope in God' (Stella Maris College motto), hospitality, devotion to Mary, Jesuit spirituality and academic excellence. Both congregations had a strong commitment to social justice and freedom of the individual. The legacy of these two congregations is found in the ongoing spirit of John Paul College. Both congregations maintain an ongoing interest in the success of the College.
Lay leadership and the growth of the college...
Dr Liam Davison was appointed the first lay principal in 1985. His vision, that all who are baptised, as the People of God, are called to bring Christ to the world, brought the College into the third millennium. It also nurtured the spirit of the College Founders. He fostered the identity of John Paul College as a regional college for all the children in the neighbouring parishes. In 1997, the College took possession of a set of new and refurbished facilities which have enabled the whole school to operate on one integrated campus, thus bringing to a conclusion the capital development begun in 1968. The College was now able to operate as a Year 7-12 school, on one site, arranged as a faculty based campus. The new facilities included the innovative Resource Centre. This was expanded in 2005 to include the Marianist Reading room. In the middle of 2006 Jane Tibb became the third principal of the College. The Stewart Centre for Individual Learning was opened in 2007. It was named after the first principal of Stella Maris College, Sr Honor Mary Stewart fcJ. The enlarged Food Technology Centre was opened in 2009. In 2010 the refurbished Science laboratories complex was completed and named the Neff Science Centre, in honour of Br Donald Neff SM, founding principal of Marianist College and first principal of John Paul College.
In early 2016 the Ngargee Centre was completed. This facility is a state of the art centre for the study of performing and fine arts as well as media and visual communication studies. It includes a theatre with a capacity of over 200 people.
In January 2017, Mr John Visentin, was appointed the fourth principal of John Paul College. His aim is to continue to foster the community values inherent in the college while encouraging growth and development through energy and innovation.
In 2018 the new Stewart Centre for Individual Learning was opened along with a dedicated VCAL multipurpose building to support student learning and pathways.
The real, and ongoing, story of John Paul College is about the students, their families and teachers, and their joint commitment to the College motto.