EST. 1987

Nestled against the Saddleback Mountains, Santa Margarita Catholic High School’s campus provides a beautiful environment for students to worship, learn and thrive. The school began as a dream of the late Bishop William R. Johnson, who saw the need and potential for a Catholic high school in South Orange County. In 1985, Bishop Johnson’s enthusiasm caught the attention of religious and business leaders and soon plans were under way to fund and build an extraordinary school. With God’s blessing, dedicated community and church leaders and the generosity of donors, Santa Margarita Catholic High School established its roots. The school opened its doors in the fall of 1987 and the charter class of 216 students graduated in June of 1991. Now home to more than 1,700 students each year, Santa Margarita boasts dedicated faculty and staff, unmatched academic programs, faith-filled activities and competitive athletics. With more than 10,000 alumni, Santa Margarita Catholic High School continues to produce exceptional graduates – spiritually, intellectually, physically, socially and morally – just as Bishop Johnson envisioned.


1986 - 1989


  • April 18, 1986 - Ground is broken for Santa Margarita Catholic High School.
  • September 2, 1987 - Santa Margarita Catholic High School opens to 216 charter class freshmen.
  • The SMCHS Girls Cross Country team wins the school's first league title. To date, the school has won 64 CIF championships, 203 league championships and six state championships


  • Santa Margarita's Talon Theatre performs its first production "The Sound of Music."
  • The "Notre Dame Victory March" is adopted as the official school fight song.

1990 - 1991


  • The schools “G” building is completed, serving as the largest building on campus.
  • Santa Margarita crowns its first individual CIF Champion when Kevin Henricks wins the 100m breast stroke.


  • The school’s Model United Nation’s program (MUN) launches in 1991 under the direction of then Social Studies teacher Mr. Richard Voelkel.
  • Santa Margarita holds its first Valentasia gala, raising $22,000 for the school and its students.
  • Senior Dana Lueders becomes the school’s first National Merit Scholarship finalist.
  • In June of 1991, 216 charter class students become the first graduates of Santa Margarita Catholic High School. At graduation, the alma mater is performed for the first time.


  • The Boys Cross Country and Soccer teams capture the school’s first CIF championship. Later that school year, the golf team wins the school’s first state championship.


  • Santa Margarita launches its Auxiliary Studies Program (ASP) with the mission to provide a high-quality educational experience which takes into account a student’s learning differences, allowing each student to reach his/her potential.
  • The school’s ID (Interdisciplinary) program is introduced catering to hands-on learners and weaving together disciplines.
  • The Strader Family gifts Santa Margarita with the beautiful Strader Grotto.


  • The Harry A. Brittingham all-weather track was dedicated and opened on March 7, 1996.
  • The very first Kairos retreat was held, providing an opportunity for seniors to get in touch with themselves and deepen their relationship with God, family, and friends.


  • SMCHS is certified as an International Baccalaureate (IB) World School and is the only Catholic school in the county to offer the academically-rigorous IB track.
  • The Santa Margarita choir visits New York performing at Carnegie Hall.


  • The United States Department of Education awards Santa Margarita its highest honor, the Blue Ribbon. Santa Margarita also receives recognition for “Distinction of Arts” from the National Endowment for the Arts.
  • Student-run Eagle Television (ETV) airs for the first time in classrooms.
  • Santa Margarita Catholic High School then principal, Dr. Merritt V. Hemenway, is named Principal of the Year for the State of California.


  • Tennis courts are added to Santa Margarita's campus.


  • SMCHS upgrades its grass football field installing state-of-the-art FieldTurf.


  • The Aquatic Center opened boasting an Olympic-sized 755,550 gallon, 50-meter by 25-yard (18 lanes) competition pool and stadium seating for 450 spectators.


  • The Sacred Heart Chapel was renovated through the generosity of Mr. and Mrs. Arthur B. Birtcher.


  • Students in the Interdisciplinary Program attend President Barack Obama's Inauguration.


  • The Eagle Athletic Center becomes the first LEED-certified, green building in the city of Rancho Santa Margarita and the Diocese of Orange. The materials used to construct the athletic center are environmentally friendly, contain renewable resources and conserve energy.


  • The Academic Services Center opens, also a LEED-certified building. The center includes 10 smart classrooms equipped with interactive white boards, academic offices and a 3,700 square-foot Digital Media Studio.
  • Santa Margarita partners with the Sisters of the Sacred Heart.
  • Santa Margarita offers blended online learning classes beginning in the summer of 2011. Blended learning combines online delivery of educational content with the best features of classroom interaction.
  • The charter class gathers to celebrate their 20th class reunion, a school first.


  • Santa Margarita is ranked No. 21 in the nation for private schools by the Washington Post.
  • Students with the school choir sing for mass at St. Peter’s Basilica in the Vatican.
  • Santa Margarita welcomes a growing number of international students to the school’s campus and a designated staff member is hired to oversee international student admission to the school.


  • Santa Margarita's Thespian Troop is chosen to represent the state of California at the International Thespian Festival.
  • The SMCHS Varsity Song Pom team claims an undefeated season including a national championship.
  • Santa Margarita's ice hockey team wins both a state championship and national championship in the same season


  • SMCHS welcomes back alumnus Andy Sulick '91 as new president.
  • SMCHS has most successful athletic year in school history with a record setting six CIF team championships and 9 CIF individual championships.
  • Talon Theatre brings home the school's first MACY Award for Best Musical of the Year for their production of PIPPIN.
  • SMCHS welcomes Fr. Randy Sampinto as school's first full-time campus chaplain.
  • Santa Margarita holds the first annual Blue and Gold gala, moving the school’s signature fundraising event back to campus.
  • The Eagles Edge program is established to provide real-world opportunities for students to develop their life skills.


  • Katie McLaughlin set a national record in the 100-yard butterfly and Grant Shoults set a national private school record in the 200-yard freestyle
  • SMCHS saw the full implementation of the One-to-One Tablet PC Program.
  • Six SMCHS students attend the PANAMUN XXII in Panama City and were able to meet President of Panama, Juan Carlos Varela.
  • The school’s choir tours Ireland including the opportunity to sing at St. Patrick’s Cathedral.
  • The Pursuing Excellence Monument is added to the school’s Strader Grotto. The monument honors the legacy of philanthropy established at Santa Margarita recognizing lead contributors with lifetime gifts of $25,000 or more since Santa Margarita’s beginnings.
  • Santa Margarita brought in a new food service provider with a focus on whole foods and fresh, local ingredients.


  • The school’s robotics team earned a trip to the 2016 FIRST Robotics Competition World Championship. The team finished as the second-ranked rookie team in their division.
  • The inaugural Grandparents and Special Friends Day is held with 260 grandparents welcomed to campus.
  • Water refill stations are installed on campus offering students purified, chilled water.


  • Klay Thompson '08 returns to SMCHS for a special jersey retirement ceremony becoming the first basketball player in SMCHS history to have their jersey retired.
  • Santa Margarita's ice hockey team earns a state title and the national silver medal
  • A new dance opens in the school's Eagle Athletic Center. The move frees up space in the Eagle Dome providing Talon Theatre with devoted theatre space.
  • Santa Margarita adds broadcast journalism courses to the curriculum.