This weekend’s graduating seniors weren’t even born when the president of their future alma mater took office 20 years ago.
Despite the decades of differences between the Class of 2016 and its priestly leader, they have something in common: their days of routinely roaming the same high school campus are numbered. Jesuit Father Edward Reese is stepping down as president of Brophy College Preparatory shortly after the May 21 graduation.
Fr. Reese accepted a similar position at St. Ignatius College Preparatory in San Francisco. The move puts him in “Wildcat” territory and places the priest, who himself attended a Jesuit high school, on a co-ed campus for the first time since 1996.
“So it will be like having Xavier girls on campus all day long,” Fr. Reese quipped. In fact, Brophy’s outgoing president took office knowing more about the neighboring girls high school than his own because he had served on its accreditation team.
Fr. Reese has long made championing education a daily effort. He has spent all 43 years of priesthood enmeshed in it, largely at the high school level.
“You can see your impact so dramatically on the young people,” Fr. Reese told The Catholic Sun following a fundraiser to support education efforts for 90 largely Catholic junior high and high school students through Boys Hope Girls Hope of Arizona. The priest is a board member for the privately-funded nonprofit.
“You can see them physically grow, emotionally grow, intellectually grow and spiritually grow,” Fr. Reese continued. He recapped routine conversations with students as they reflected on their Brophy experience.
“I have never met with a kid at Brophy who hasn’t used the term ‘brother’ or ‘brotherhood.’ They talk about it in a very spiritual sense,” Fr. Reese said, noting that they also reflect on teachers being caring friends.
It all flows from a deep and abiding commitment to the Catholic, Jesuit mission, said Bob Ryan, principal. Brophy’s core purpose of leading students to a deeper relationship with God drives Fr. Reese’s decisions, he said.
Tradition via innovation
“We are a school steeped in a long tradition but without the sense that we are bound to that tradition. We are a school always leaning forward, looking to the future and I attribute this to Fr. Reese,” Ryan said.
He noted it fitting that Brophy launched Innovation Commons complete with a coding lab, 3-D printer and a computing workshop for robotics and drones, in the final year of Fr. Reese’s term as president. Its motto: “Commit. Then figure it out.”
Fr. Reese’s bold visions are noteworthy enough, Ryan said, but the priest’s “more lasting legacy will be his willingness to commit to this vision before every piece to the puzzle is laid out.”
The community saw this via a strategic plan that essentially defined Fr. Reese’s tenure, doubled the campus footprint, launched a 1:1 computing program as early as 2005 as an effective yet progressive way to renovate the library and quadrupled Brophy’s financial aid budget. The burrito-loving priest credits “marvelous” community support for such successes. Power breakfasts, featuring his favorite food staple, helped raise funds in recent years.
Campus administrators call Loyola Academy a prime example of Fr. Reese’s visionary leadership. The junior high school on Brophy’s campus enrolls 70 scholars who have proven themselves academically capable yet financially dependent. They receive everything from tuition to toothbrushes to tablets from their school. Families commit to an extended day, extended year model to prepare them for the academic rigor of high school.
“‘Pushing the frontiers’ could easily be his motto — always being open and looking for the ‘next’ thing in education…” but only if he sees it will stretch and grow our students and our faculty,” said Adria Renke, Brophy’s vice president for 19 years.
Loyola Academy’s first students are finishing their sophomore year with a B+ average that reflects many honors and Advanced Placement classes, Renke said. She will fill the interim role of president while a national search is conducted.
As for Brophy’s outgoing president, Renke said the list of what she’ll miss is endless. His sacramental and physical presence top it followed by Fr. Reese’s “fun-loving approach to work, his tireless work ethic, his joy in high school work, his wisdom, advice and great counsel.”
Finding an administrator who enjoys interacting with students at break and lunch time, like Fr. Reese did, or who doesn’t mind bringing his or her dog to work would be a feather in the cap.[quote_box_center]
Hear from Fr. Reese