David Gonsalves, founding principal of Notre Dame Preparatory, is retiring after 12 years of service. (Courtesy Notre Dame Preparatory)
David Gonsalves, founding principal of Notre Dame Preparatory, is retiring after 12 years of service. (Courtesy Notre Dame Preparatory)

Founding Notre Dame Preparatory principal David Gonsalves is retiring after 12 years at the helm of the Scottsdale Catholic high school.

Before the walls ever went up, Gonsalves spent the first year helping to choose the crest, school colors and the mascot, all the while developing curriculum.

What started with a student body of 220 freshmen and sophomores has grown to 865 freshmen, sophomores, juniors and seniors.

“The strength of any Catholic school is the ability to build community. It’s a partnership between parents, students and the school,” Gonsalves said. “We build on that, continue that and prepare kids for heaven as well as Harvard.”

In total, Gonsalves has been in education for the past 46 years. He has worked nearly every possible position from a coach and teacher to a department head.

He has made it his life’s work to bring the very best in education to as many students as possible without sacrificing quality.

“Dave’s strong leadership, deep faith, and knowledge of education were key to NDP’s success,” said Carolyn Rock, who worked with him for 10 years. “His ability to interact well with faculty, students, and parents while not comprising on principle earned him great respect. From the beginning, he set very high academic requirements for NDP.”

Most notable, however, is Gonsalves’ big heart.

Rock said there are numerous students who succeeded and have gone on to college and careers because of Gonsalves’ willingness “to give them a chance,” academically or financially.

When Joe Fernandez could not afford tuition for his son’s senior year of high school in 2008, he received a scholarship.

His son, Michael Fernandez, is graduating from the University of Arizona this month.

“I have met so many generous people at this school,” Gonsalves said. “They give and don’t expect anything in return. It astounds me.”

As he reflected on the goodness of people, from his staff to parents and other colleagues, Gonsalves quoted Winston Churchill as saying, “You make a living by what you earn; you make a life by what you give.”

He said he cherishes the letters and calls he receives from students like Michael, and they are the reason he has stayed in education for nearly five decades.

Gonsalves said his journey at Notre Dame was filled with both smiles and sadness. Starting a new school was exciting, as was being crowned football champs and having a former quarterback drafted by the Atlanta Falcons, but they suffered a profound loss when their football coach died last year from cancer.

“It was so heartening the way the community came together,” he said. “I was so proud of the way they responded.”

The philosophy at Notre Dame is God, family and school, and Gonsalves has spent the better part of his life instilling faith-filled values and morals into the lives of thousands of students.

He is now looking forward to spending more time with his wife, Barbara, and their four children, all of whom are located throughout the United States.

Gonsalves said he is especially grateful to the Diocese of Phoenix for taking a chance on a new school, and for all the support and cooperation from MaryBeth Mueller, diocesan superintendent of schools.

“I tell teachers if they want to make money they are in the wrong profession. They are going to work long hours and not get adequately paid, but they don’t do it for that. They want to work with kids,” Gonsalves said. “What keeps us here are the kids.”

Thank you, Dr. Gonsalves

Note Dame is hosting a party in honor of Gonsalves, 4-8 p.m., June 7, in the Dale Jensen gymnasium, 9701 E. Bell Road, Scottsdale.

RSVP by May 31: NDPSpecialEvents@notredamepreparatory.org.