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A Brief History of Privatgymnasium St. Dymphna

Originally established as an all-boys Catholic school, Privatgymnasium St. Dymphna (formerly known as the Ignatian College of St. Dymphna) was established in 1858 as means to cultivate the talents of young, but troubled, youth. Jesuit educators started by taking over an old, yet otherwise abandoned, Baroque monastery situated outside of Vienna and converted it into a boarding school. Victims of wars, survivors of tragic accidents, and orphans were often taken in as students as a means to help them heal from whatever afflicted them, as well as give them a quality education. By the mid-1880s, the rising popularity of psychological analysis led to the college begin admitting more psychologically troubled students and hiring interested professionals who would offer to study and help treat their students alongside their schooling. Soon after, it was decided that the college take in female students as well, creating one of the first co-ed elite boarding schools in Europe. The school functioned like this for quite some time, with hundreds of wealthy families coming from all over Europe to seek treatment for their children. Due to increasing demands, St. Dymphna's began to incorporate higher education into the curriculum at the turn of the century, with courses in Latin, German, and English being taught to cover the wide variety of students.

Unfortunately, this prosperity was not meant to last long. The outbreak of two consecutive world wars in nearby Germany lead to a significant decrease in both local and international students over the next 40 years. Evacuations of students during war were, thankfully, very successful, with the staff tirelessly working to ensure all of the students were sent back home safely. This proved to be incredibly vital during World War II, where such students would have been sent to concentration camps or euthanized.

After World War Two, Austria worked hard to restore their country to its former glory, which included its educational systems. Allied authorities took great interest in state-sponsored education post-WWII, and significant funds went to re-establishing St. Dymphna as a proper school. The Jesuits were invited back to help administer students once more, and the school was renamed as Privatgymnasium St. Dymphna in 1947. While the school is still Catholic in terms of doctrine and values, the increase in more secular teachers and doctors decreased their overall influence. More modern psychiatric facilities were installed in the early 1950s in order to better treat the severely mentally ill. By this time, the University of Vienna engaged the school in more cooperative psychological studies in order to help train prospective doctors and educators for special needs students.

In 1955, Austria re-established sovereignty and declared itself a state of perpetual neutrality, welcoming international students once again. By 1974, over 35% of students were from other countries, with a large majority of those students coming from nearby France. With such a large percentage of French students, the school board added French to the list of foreign languages taught at St. Dymphna's in 1994.

In 1958, a new chapel was dedicated as part of St. Dymphna's centennial anniversary, including a small shrine to the school's patron saint. Built in a style evocative of the Baroque monastery it emerged from, the chapel is hailed as a "hidden gem" of the country's architectural wonders. As part of the opening of the new chapel, it was decided that a yearly festival take place in order to celebrate the school's accomplishments in giving children a place to thrive. Dubbed "Saint Dymphna's Erntedankfest", the festival showcases the many student organizations on campus, as well as allowing parents to come and visit the school grounds with their children. Similar to the actual Erntedankfest, there is also a lavish dinner as part of the festivities, filled with a variety of foodstuffs for all students to enjoy.

By 1996, funds from both wealthy parents and investors were enough to establish a new wing for a modernized library. Taking a portion of the main building that held the pre-WWII chapel, the library was installed in the main hall. With a large vaulted ceiling, it's one of the more unique areas of the campus. Additional multipurpose rooms for computer labs, private study rooms, and student art exhibitions were also installed for students to use.

St. Dymphna's Today

Today, the school maintains a specialized curriculum for special needs students of all varieties, as approved by the Austrian Ministry for Education. Director Benjamin Bosworth currently leads the school in implementing more advanced therapies and high-quality education for students. Thanks to his careful guidance, the school became an International Baccalaureate school in 2003, offering advanced programs to gifted students, including physics, chemistry, and calculus.

Dr. Karl Faber leads St. Dymphna's psychology department with innovative treatments for troubled students. While he is also a licenced psychiatrist, Dr. Faber's focus on providing therapeutic care without resorting to heavy doses of medication has been met with praise from others in the field. Thanks to St. Dymphna's continued collaboration with the University of Vienna, several university students have recently been hired as full-time therapists, adding to the school's sizable staff. 

While the religious aspects of the school have been largely set aside in pursuit of effective student treatments, Fr. Maximillian Steinhof still oversees the school's overall doctrine and assists with staffing new teachers. In addition, he manages the school choir and chapel, hosting regular Sunday mass and concerts for the past 30 years of his career. He is frequently seen interacting with students on campus during the week. While students are not required to attend mass, many often come on Sundays just to see what "Father Max" has to say during his homilies.

The campus has been recently upgraded with a 1.5km nature trail surrounding campus, RFID-enabled doors for student access, greenhouses for the school's Natural Sciences program, and a small observation deck for the school's nature and astronomy clubs. More renovations to the student dorms are scheduled in the next three years.