The Move to Coeducation (1980–1989)
In 1989, SI became the first (and still the only) coeducational Jesuit high school in the California Province, and much of the history of SI in the 1980s concerns that historic event. However, life continued routinely for the boys of SI. In fact, with the transition to the new school complete, the school was enjoying some of its best years. Ironically, with families moving to the suburbs and having fewer children, the number of students applying to SI was slowly diminishing. Those low figures weren’t the only factors prompting administrators here to re-examine the school’s mission. Alumni with daughters were also interested in a Jesuit education for their girls, and the school responded to their needs.
Academically, SI continued to excel with a steady growth in the Advanced Placement Program, and it was recognized as one of the 60 best prep schools in the nation by the U.S. Department of Education in 1984.
SI athletes also excelled, with the boys basketball team winning the league four straight years and taking two CCS crowns and the Northern California Championship (1984). Swimmers took six league championships, soccer won the WCAL in 1981, and the track team won two league crowns. Ray Calcagno ’64 and Jim Dekker ’68 continued to coach successful football and baseball teams, and new sports began making their marks.
Leading SI throughout the 1980s were Principal Mario Prietto, SJ, and President Tony Sauer, SJ. Together, this duo from Southern California prepared SI for coeducation and launched a $16 million building campaign that, by 1994, would lead SI to new heights.
Fr. Mario Prietto, SJ
Fr. Prietto first came to SI in 1968 as a scholastic. He taught Spanish and Latin, coached golf and helped SI move from the old school to the new Sunset District campus. Those years were hard ones for the Jesuit community, he said, and he watched five brother Jesuits leave the order. “There were people who were resisting the changes called for by Vatican II and others who wanted change now.” He recalled the older Jesuits keeping him and the other scholastics “on a tight leash. We had to be back by 10 p.m. and had to get permission to go out in the evening with lay friends. At one point, we didn’t have house keys. If you came back after doors were locked, you had to go through a window in Welch Hall, which we called Squelch Hall.”
Though he liked blowing off steam in the recreation room with the other scholastics, he was glad to leave Welch Hall for new quarters on 37th Avenue. But even in these new quarters, Prietto’s superiors made it clear that they still ran the show. “There was a real us-versus-them mentality, with the governance of the community being very authoritarian, with no dialog, no question of young people having a voice. The Jesuit community continued to be old school.”
He left SI, was ordained in 1973 and worked for five years at Loyola High School before entering Fordham’s Jesuit Secondary Administrator’s Program. When he returned in 1980 as the assistant principal for student affairs, he found an SI changed for the better. By the end of that year, Fr. McCurdy was forced to step down for health reasons, and the job was offered to Fr. Prietto. At 37, he became the youngest principal in the history of the school when he took office in August 1981. (“Although I was 37, I looked as if I were 24,” he wrote inHeadmaster/Heartmaster, his memoir of his years as principal. “Here I was, the principal of the oldest high school in the San Francisco Bay Area, with teachers on the faculty who were old enough to be my parents.”)
At the graduation that June, Dick McCurdy took off his ring and handed it to Mario in a symbolic passing of the torch as they sat at the altar. Prietto, in turn, passed on his job as assistant principal for student activities to Charlie Dullea.
From the start, Fr. Prietto made it clear to the teachers and students that he was, first and foremost, a priest and a minister. Whether hiring a new chemistry teacher, preparing for a WASC accreditation or chatting with a student, Mario knew that his most important badge of office was the collar around his neck.
He credited Fr. McCurdy with laying the foundations in the 1970s for the work that took place in the 1980s. “Dick McCurdy was the one who really connected us to the JSEA,” said Fr. Prietto. “Some people made fun of SI by calling it ‘Preamble Prep,’ but McCurdy never wavered in his commitment to the initiatives that came out of the JSEA, which included the Colloquium and the Curriculum Improvement Process. SI benefited profoundly because the lay faculty were well instructed in the Jesuit foundations. This, for me, was the beginning of colleagueship. I inherited a school and a faculty committed to advancing SI’s Jesuit mission.”
Fr. Prietto also wielded a sharp axe, and he did not renew the contracts for several teachers he felt were not doing their jobs. He credits Steve Lovette ’63, the assistant principal for academics, and the department chairs, with helping him make the faculty more professional through the hiring of a number of excellent teachers. With the new renewable tenure system, SI’s teachers had a chance every five years to come up for scrutiny and be challenged to continue growing in their professions.
He also reinstated the admissions test, which the admissions department had earlier dropped in favor of an interview process. That had mixed success, and, in an effort to return to a more traditional and rigorous application process, Fr. Prietto ended the interviews altogether.
In his second year as principal, Fr. Prietto and the SI community faced several tragedies in the deaths of two faculty wives, senior Chuck Simon, former faculty member Carolyn Rocca (who had retired the previous June) and a student’s father. Then, on April 4, 1983, 33-year-old Katie Robinson, a member of the counseling department, died after a brief illness. Fr. Prietto describes that year as one of “unbelievable pain. We somehow not only got through it but also emerged with a deeper, closer bond. The young principal did a lot of growing up as well.” Longtime SI counselor Phyllis Molinelli described that year as feeling like “the end of Camelot.”
A Top 60 School
Fr. Prietto’s efforts paid off in 1984 when SI was named one of the top-60 private schools from among the 6,000 in the country. Of the 60 schools receiving the award, given through the Exemplary Private School Recognition Project, half were Catholic and five were Jesuit. The award recognized SI’s commitment to excellence in education, supporting a diverse student body, and the help it gave needy students through financial aid. On August 27, 1984, Frs. Sauer and Prietto traveled to Washington, D.C., to receive a banner (which Fr. Prietto hung above the door to his office), and a plaque from President Reagan and Secretary of Education Terrell H. Bell. (Fr. Sauer recalls that their luggage was lost on the flight over and they had to borrow black suits from brother Jesuits in Washington, D.C.)
The award on the plaque reads:
To Saint Ignatius College Preparatory,
San Francisco, California
For Recognition by its Peers in Education
As an Exemplary Secondary School
For the Exemplary Private School Recognition Project
Council for American Private Education
SI Becomes a Regional School
Starting in the 1970s when San Franciscans began moving to the suburbs, SI’s demographics began changing, with more and more students coming from Marin and San Mateo Counties. SI struggled to find a way to afford a bus service, but each time it ran the numbers, the program proved too costly. Then, in 1984, the Youth Activities Department of the Catholic Youth Organization called SI with the offer of an affordable chartered bus service. The school subsidized the service, charging students $3 per day for round-trip service and $2 for one-way travel. On August 23, 1984, one bus left the parking lot at the Hillsdale Shopping Center in San Mateo and another left Terra Linda to pick up a total of 60 students on their way to SI, and those buses have continued making their runs for the past 20 years.
The bus service helped SI respond to its growing popularity among students from outside San Francisco. As home prices in San Francisco rose in the 1980s, many alumni moved to the suburbs but still wanted their children to attend SI. In 1988, for instance, 225 freshmen came to SI from San Francisco schools, while only 150 city students entered in 2004. The number of freshmen between 1988 and 2004 coming to SI from Marin County rose from 16 to 59, with similar increases for San Mateo County (66 to 126) and the East Bay (4 to 14) over that same time period.
The Move Towards Coeducation
Just as SI in the 1960s and 1970s reflected the turbulence of the society that surrounded it, SI in the 1980s enjoyed a period of stability along with the rest of the nation. SI’s boat didn’t start rocking until June 5, 1985, when, after an end-of-the-year debriefing, the subject of coeducation arose. Someone asked, “What will SI be like in five years?” recalled Fr. Prietto. Another staffer said that, inevitably, SI would be coed by then. Thus, just as the meeting was about to end, a new discussion arose concerning SI’s future. Because the school was doing well, the administrative staff concluded that they should “take the bull by the horns and be pro-active rather than reactive,” said Prietto. If SI were to go coed, “we should do it the right way and for the right reasons.”1
Fr. Prietto felt “in a state of shock after that discussion…. To have this radical consideration at that particular time was for me both disconcerting and exhilarating.” The staff agreed that for discussion to continue, Frs. Prietto, Carlin and Sauer would have to be on board. “It was decided that I would approach Fr. Carlin, who was not at the meeting,” said Prietto. (At the time, before the formation of the Board of Trustees, these three men, and later Fr. Raymond Allender, SJ, who became rector of the Jesuit community in June 1985, constituted the ownership body of the school and made all the major decisions.)
A week later, walking into Fr. Carlin’s office, Mario expected Fr. Carlin to dismiss the idea out of hand. “After I carefully reviewed our staff discussion and recommendation, [Fr. Carlin] looked at me from behind those thick glasses and very calmly responded, ‘That seems like a good thing to consider. Let’s see where it goes.’ You could have knocked me over with a feather!”
Also, the all-boys’ school Sacred Heart had just announced it was considering a merger with the all-girls’ Cathedral School, and Br. Philip Clarke, principal of SH, had noted in his alumni magazine that, after the merger, “Sacred Heart would be the College Prep of San Francisco.” (The two schools eventually merged in 1987.) This made Fr. Prietto more determined than ever to pursue the idea of SI going coed, though he ruled out the idea of merging with one of the city’s Catholic girls’ schools for fear that SI might lose its Jesuit identity.
In September 1985, Mario asked Steve Lovette to be a part of the deliberations. Lovette, who had been student body president in 1963 and a tight end on the ’61–’63 football teams, came to SI in 1969 as a teacher and counselor. He rose through the ranks to become assistant principal for academics after earning a doctoral degree in administration from his alma mater, UC Berkeley. “Steve is a person of great intelligence and deep loyalty to SI,” said Mario. “Through all the ups and down of SI going coed, Steve was a consistent voice of reason and innovation.” (Since 1988, Lovette has served SI as Vice President for Development and has guided the school through two successful fund-raising campaigns — Genesis III: Building for the Future and Genesis IV: Endow SI.)
Spurring the move toward coeducation was a sudden shift in demographics over the next few years. The number of non-Catholic students had risen from 16 percent for the class of 1986 to 24 percent for the class of 1989. Coupled with that were declining numbers of students applying for admission to SI. On March 22, 1986, a week and a half after the admissions letters went out, SI invited all those accepted to come to school for registration. Both Mario and Art Cecchin, then admissions director, were shocked at how many no-shows they had. After the third tally, “we looked at one another with a feeling of dread and shock,” says Mario. “It was as if someone had taken the wind out of our sails on a hot day in the middle of the ocean.”2 Cecchin, who had earlier stated in the faculty room, “Better dead than coed,” started rethinking his position and eventually came around to support the move. (His daughter, Meredith Cecchin ’97, enrolled in the fifth coed class and now teaches dance at SI.) But for Mario and Steve Lovette, those low numbers made them “more and more convinced that coeducation was inevitable and [we] felt the urgency to move things forward expeditiously.”3
Fr. Sauer, however, was less enthused by the idea and asked Mario and Steve to write a Five-Year Plan for SI to examine the various ramifications of such a drastic change. “It is a credit to Tony’s shrewdness and sagacity that we did this,” said Mario. Steve Lovette began that study in September 1986, and Mario, in the ensuing months, told several people in confidence about the study and the possibility of SI going coed, including the head of the California Province of the Society of Jesus, the principal at Mercy High School, the superintendent of schools for the San Francisco Archdiocese and Archbishop John Quinn.
In April 1987, that Five-Year Plan was complete. It recommended that “the best way to ensure a solid market for our services for the next 15 years would be to begin coeducation as soon as possible” and that coeducation should be undertaken while the school was “in a strong and stable posture” and not “as a last resort.”
Frs. Prietto and Sauer discussed the Five-Year Plan with the Board of Regents in May 1987 and soon after publicly announced in Genesis II that SI was considering the coed question and planned to make a decision by November 1, 1987. In his letter to the alumni, Fr. Sauer asked for comments. He received a flurry of letters from parents, alumni and others with 74 opposed to and 49 in favor of admitting girls to SI.
The most heated responses came from the administrators of the girls’ schools. On May 29, a meeting was held at SI with the archdiocesan officials and principals from St. Rose and Mercy, two of the schools that would be most affected by a coed SI. Fr. Sauer, in a letter to Archbishop Quinn, described the meeting as “a quite frank interchange [that took] place [over] a good two hours, which was continued over lunch for those who could stay.” Clearly the girls’ schools were not happy with the prospect of competing for students with SI. As Fr. Sauer noted, “Dr. McLeod (principal of St. Rose) expressed the view that any SI coeducation would have a deleterious effect on St. Rose applications. Her view that admitting girls in all four years at SI would harm St. Rose admissions [was] listened to closely and sympathetically.” He then suggested to the Archbishop a compromise: “Perhaps a gradual transitional phase-in, if SI were to go coed.” The group agreed to reconvene in September, but in June, several of the principals wrote to the Archbishop complaining that “appropriate consultation [had] not taken place.”4
In September, Mario met privately with the Jesuit community, which offered an 11–8 vote (with 5 undecided) in favor of coeducation. The faculty, too, met in the fall to discuss the issue and they generally favored the transition. “Over the years, I learned never to underestimate the insight and perspicacity of a Jesuit high school faculty,” wrote Prietto. “They would drive me crazy from time to time, but when it came to SI going coed, they were on the forefront of the battle lines, right at my side.”
The English Department’s report particularly impressed Prietto with its insightfulness. In it, the department noted that “segregation of the sexes no longer fits the social matrix of our world. When SI was founded, and in the subsequent decades, the world was segregated socially. That situation simply has passed; we must assume our place in that new situation, and we must prepare men and women to work in that world with skills and attitudes that can foster Christian and reflective social values.”5
At the first faculty meeting, Mario was touched by Tony Sauer’s candor in explaining how he had at first been opposed to coeducation, but was doing his best — in true Jesuit fashion — to discern the right course. He encouraged the faculty to be open to the process and told them “to this minute I have not made up my mind, but we’re all trying to stretch and do the right thing for SI vis-à-visthe Archdiocese…. I trust the process as I trust you.” Mario was moved by Tony’s words and noted that SI “was blessed with a courageous and holy leader during those crucial times of fundamental change.”
Students also met to discuss the issue. The Student Council took a straw poll. The results: 2 in favor, 18 opposed and 7 undecided. Members of the senior liturgy group also discussed the issue. At the end, they were split 15–15 with six undecided. At a parents’ meeting, most of those who came expressed their opposition to the move, though one parent noted that she “came into this meeting opposed to going coed. After listening to the weak arguments against it, I’ve changed my mind.”6
In mid-October 1987, SI received word that the California Province approved theFive-Year Plan and “expressed support for whatever decision the SI trustees made.” Then Sr. Glenn Anne McPhee, OP, the new superintendent of schools for the Archdiocese, called for an October 26 meeting of all the principals of the Catholic high schools, major superiors and directors of education. Those individuals met with Archbishop Quinn to begin a “collaborative planning process to insure quality Catholic education for the archdiocese.” As Fr. Prietto recalled, “the atmosphere was tense. SI was definitely on the hot seat…. That very day the Archbishop had received a letter signed by 150 students at St. Rose imploring him not to let SI go coed.” At the meeting the group discussed the “grim picture” regarding declining enrollment and demographics facing all archdiocesan schools. Later, Fr. Prietto wrote to the SI faculty that the discussion at the meeting was “candid, frank and charitable. Certainly there are strong feelings about our coed decision, but people were reasonable and open….”
The next day, at an October 27 Board of Regents meeting, with 33 of the 36 regents in attendance, the group discussed coeducation and then voted on the issue. The result: 27–5 in favor of the change. (The group, at that time, included only four women regents, and, of those, three voted for the change.)
Then, on November 1, the four SI Trustees — Frs. Sauer, Carlin, Prietto and Allender — met at their Villa (the Jesuit term for a vacation home) in Novato for a day of “prayer, discernment and decision.”7 The group went over all the reasons for and against going coeducational and soon found themselves split 2–2, with Frs. Prietto and Allender for the change and Frs. Carlin and Sauer opposed. “I wasn’t really for it at first,” Fr. Sauer noted. “But after much prayer and reflection, I came to think it was the best thing to do.” Fr. Carlin followed suit and the vote became unanimous. SI, they hoped, would go coed by September 1989. The four decided to wait that extra year “because of the possible adverse effects on the admissions pools of the local Catholic girls’ high schools.” On November 2, Fr. Prietto alerted the SI faculty of the vote and of the school’s desire to seek approval from the Archbishop.8
The following night, November 3, Fr. John Murphy, SJ (chairman of the SI English Department), and Fr. Ed Malatesta, SJ (a professor at USF), had dinner with the Archbishop where they informed him of the trustees’ vote. The Archbishop was not pleased and asked SI to delay its decision and to continue collaborating with the girls’ schools. In the spirit of Jesuit obedience, the trustees agreed, and on November 4, published this document: “In the past year, the Saint Ignatius College Preparatory school community … has decided to delay any decision on coeducation until further dialogue with the other Catholic high schools can take place.” The following day Archbishop Quinn met with all archdiocesan clergy to announce that he was taking a six-month sabbatical for health reasons.9
Nearly everyone at SI who had been in favor of coeducation felt battered and beaten and that the years and months of discernment had come to a disappointing end. Fr. Sauer, however, was not among this group. In a memo, he noted that “SI must go coed for itself, but I felt myself we must delay to help the sisters…. The change the Archbishop made in the proposal we trustees presented to him was essentially making it more open-ended, less definitive as to time.”10
The girls’ schools responded with relief and gratitude, and Fr. Prietto received letter after letter thanking him for the delayed decision. He also received a November 6 letter from Sr. Glenn Anne McPhee inviting SI and 16 other schools to attend a December 10 meeting at USF. That meeting would be the first of many held over a five-month period. Sr. Glenn Anne, a member of the San Rafael Dominicans (the same order that administered St. Rose Academy), proved to be a stellar moderator of these meetings. “We could not have gotten through the trying times … were it not for the patience, wisdom and foresight of this wonderful educator,” wrote Fr. Prietto. (SI showed its appreciation to Sr. Glenn Anne during the commencement exercises for the first coed class in 1993 when it bestowed upon her the President’s Award.)11
The December 10 meeting ended with the decision that each school would submit a statement of its plans for the next two years. At the January 20, 1988, meeting, Fr. Prietto addressed those assembled explaining the reasons for SI’s decision to go coed, noting that he “cherished many fond memories of the camaraderie, bonding, spirit and deep friendships that are made [at an all-male high school]…. I’ve also become aware of certain attitudes towards women that seem to be endemic to an all-male environment. Too often women are looked upon as inferior, that they are threats or simply objects as distinct from a viewpoint that sees them as equals, friends and colleagues.” He told the group of principals that he had come to the conclusion that “maleness is not the essence of Jesuit education” and told them of Mike Shaughnessy’s daughter, Martha, asking why she couldn’t attend SI and his inability to give her a convincing answer. “Finally, I cited the example of an alumnus of the school, who was a lawyer downtown and a graduate of a prestigious eastern law school. He had called to tell me why he would advise against going coed. He told me about the ‘pushy, aggressive female lawyers and how difficult they were to deal with. And I shared my response: ‘Maybe your inability to deal with your female colleagues might have something to do with the all-male high school you attended…. I’m not saying that women need SI or Jesuit education, for that matter. If anything, SI needs women.” The group offered a mixed (sometimes combative) response to Fr. Prietto’s talk, and the meeting ended with a call for two studies — one short-term, looking at the effects of SI admitting girls, and one long-term examining the future of secondary education in the archdiocese. But for Fr. Prietto, this meeting proved a decisive turning point thanks to support from Sr. Glenn Anne and Assistant Superintendent Paul Bergez ’64.12
At subsequent meetings, SI heard requests from the girls’ schools not to accept transfer students from their high schools, but only freshmen. SI had planned to accept as many as 100 older girls, who would be role models for the younger coeds, but the girls’ schools argued that even this small number, taken from their ranks, would hurt them. SI agreed to this request at a March 29 meeting, and Sr. Glenn Anne asked that SI make public its decision to go coed no later than June 2. After that meeting, Fr. Prietto went “back to my car in the parking lot of the Chancery…. I remember sitting in my car, unbuttoning my collar and saying to myself: ‘My God! We are actually going to go coed. I can’t believe it!’ A feeling of quiet relief came upon me. The next week would be Holy Week. The joy and freedom of the Resurrection was on the horizon!”13
That April, SI formed a Transition Team to prepare for the move to coeducation. Then, on May 10, Sr. Glenn Anne met with Archbishop Quinn, who had just returned from his sabbatical, informing him of the meetings. Sr. Glenn Anne told the Archbishop that she supported SI’s decision, and the Archbishop gave his blessing. (The previous week, the Archbishop had attended SI’s spring musical,My Fair Lady.) In a May 13 letter to the Archbishop, Fr. Prietto thanked the Archbishop for his support and offered this reflection: “Needless to say, the past seven months have not been without their difficulties. However, as I look back upon it all, it is clear to me that the decision to delay our announcement was providential. A new working relationship has been established among all the Catholic high schools, and, I believe, the religious communities that staff them. This augurs well for the future of secondary education in our archdiocese.” The Archbishop wrote back on May 17 thanking Fr. Prietto “for the collaborative effort in which this final decision was made.”14 SI made the announcement to go coed May 26 to the faculty, May 27 to the regents and Archdiocesan principals, and in July to the general public through the summer 1988 Genesis II. In that magazine, Fr. Sauer wrote the following: “We commit the school’s significant resources to the development of programs, facilities and staff that will ensure the same quality of education for young women as that presently available for young men.” Over the next academic year, SI made good its promise, preparing teachers with in-services and drawing up plans to remodel the school with the help of the $16 million Genesis III capital campaign.
Preparing for the Girls
In a very real sense, the door closed on the last all-male class with the retirement of J.B. Murphy, who left after 50 years of service. The last all-male student body honored him at the Awards Assembly in May 1989 by leaping to their feet for a standing ovation after Fr. Prietto introduced him. At the end of his speech he lifted his arm and shouted: “Go SI! Go coed!” His legacy continued both through his son, Chuck Murphy ’61, who represented SI at the archdiocesan coed discussion meetings, and through his grandchildren who attended SI — Matt ’87 and Marielle ’93, a member of the first coed class.
The girls arrived (175 in a class of 375 in a student body of 1225) for their frosh orientation August 22, 1989. Accompanying them were TV reporters and cameras to cover the historic event. “As long as I live, I shall never forget watching the Class of 1993 file into Orradre Chapel the next morning,” said Prietto. “Steve Lovette was standing next to me, and I told him: ‘Doctor, I can’t believe my eyes. They’re actually here.’ Then I thought about all the work that lay ahead of us and added, ‘I sure wish it were four years from now.’”
To prepare for that first class, Prietto had formed a Task Force among the faculty and administrators that included Phyllis Molinelli, the chair of the counseling department. The group met for the first time on April 21, 1988, and debated issues big and small, from dress code to off-campus lunch privileges. The school decided not to require uniforms for either boys or girls but did revoke off-campus lunch privileges. “The boys blamed the girls for the rule changes,” said Molinelli. “They were furious about losing their off-campus privileges and about having to wear, and tuck in, shirts with collars. And the girls tested every rule there was. Years later, we had to go to polo shirts for both boys and girls.”
Molinelli added that “there was a little fear before the girls came, but when they finally arrived, the tension was gone. Teachers who had never taught girls realized that it wasn’t that much different from teaching boys.”
The school also looked to hire women as administrators, teachers and coaches. In the years leading up to and immediately following the move to coeducation, the school gave leadership roles to the following women: Donna Ravetti Murphy (assistant admissions director and later assistant dean and activities coordinator), Teresa Mullin Garrett (associate athletic director), Kathleen Purcell (head of the campus ministry team), Karen Cota (associate dean) and Kate Kelly Kodros (assistant principal for academics). “If women were truly to be part of the formerly all-male bastion, they had to have positions of real power and authority,” wrote Prietto.
Many others at SI proved instrumental to the success of coeducation among the faculty, counselors and staff. In addition, the school brought in outside experts to help prepare the faculty for the girls. In the spring of 1989 three women spoke to the faculty including Phyllis Molinelli’s daughter Cathy Molinelli (then dean of students at Notre Dame High School in Southern California); Mary Lamia, a clinical psychologist; and Rita Dollard O’Malley, the former director of campus ministry at St. Ignatius College Prep in Chicago. O’Malley had helped St. Ignatius in Chicago go coed in the early 1980s, and she answered questions from a wary faculty. “I thought it was an engaging dialogue,” said O’Malley. “They asked serious questions and were honest about their concerns. They wondered if girls’ needs were different from boys’ needs. They showed a great deal of respect and a little healthy fear. They wanted the school to become coed the right way. They did ask some unrealistic questions, such as ‘Am I going to be as effective a teacher of girls as I am with boys?’”
O’Malley was among seven women hired in 1989 to teach at SI, extending the total number of female faculty from 11 to 18. They now constituted nearly a quarter of the faculty, and that figure, over the next few years, would almost double. (Currently, SI employs 66 men and 55 women who work directly with students, including faculty, counselors, administrators and librarians, not counting off-campus coaches.) O’Malley recalls the “energy and investment put into making the freshman class feel welcome. It was a healthy transition despite the fact that these freshman girls had no older girls to serve as mentors.” She recalls the excitement of the early days. “We all had a sense that we were entering into a new era. The students had a great deal of confidence about being pioneers. They knew they were special, and we showed them a great deal of care and concern with focus groups for the girls and boys to talk about how they felt being in this new environment.”
Not everyone was happy with the change, including some of the older boys who felt that the focus had shifted from the upperclassmen to the freshmen. A handful of students reacted badly, vandalizing one female teacher’s classroom while she was away at the faculty retreat and writing “we don’t want women” on papers in her file cabinet.
To aid in their transition to SI, the girls were divided into 10 support groups, each led by a female faculty member. Erika Drous ’93, a member of that first coed class, praised her group’s leader, Donna Murphy “who did a great job making sure the girls felt welcomed.” (Drous, by the way, made SI history by being the first girl to be handed a detention slip for the offense of not having her book in English class. She never served detention, however, as that infraction wasn’t one punishable by detention.) Drous enjoyed the fact that her class was the only coed one in the school. “Everyone wanted to accommodate us and attend to our needs.”
Molinelli and others felt, however, that SI’s eagerness to accommodate the girls was a mistake. “From the moment they walked through the doors, we treated those girls as if they were seniors. We tried to be inclusive, but I think we gave them too much too soon. Still, I think the transition was a success. All the fears proved false — that girls would prove a distraction or that athletic participation would decrease. The opposite proved true. The SAT scores, AP results and GPAs all rose thanks to coeducation and our teams continued to excel.”
Teresa Mullin Garrett, who served as assistant (and then associate) athletic director, helped the first girls’ teams get started. The freshmen girls competed on the JV level in their first year and on the varsity as sophomores in volleyball, cross country, tennis, basketball, soccer, softball and track. In later years would they compete in swimming, field hockey, lacrosse, crew, golf, water polo and diving.
O’Malley left the faculty after two years and returned eight years later to direct the Adult Ministry Program. “When I returned, no one was talking about coeducation. That was a sign of progress. Instead of talking about it, we were doing it.” Mario Prietto knew that the school had made the right decision. “I myself am a ’62 graduate of [the all-male] Loyola High School in Los Angeles. I cherish the time I had there and wouldn’t change it for the world. But I am convinced more than ever of the rightness of our decision.” SI went coed, in part, because of demographic reasons. “But … it is far better to go coed for the best reason. That is, because it is the right thing to do. We claim that we are in the business of educating leaders for the future, which has to include the other half of the human race.”
Molinelli has also seen the fruits of coeducation: “Some people worried that a coed SI would never have the camaraderie it enjoyed as an all-male institution. I see a different kind of camaraderie. They keep in touch all the time, and close friends remain close. Some of the best friendships are between men and women. The men have learned to look at women differently, and they are called to task when they don’t.”
One symbol of SI’s successful transition to coeducation can be found in the ranks of the student body officers for the 1996–1997 school year. They included Laura Jones as student body president, Katie Watson as vice president, Sally Prowitt as treasurer, Emily Dunn as sergeant-at-arms and Rowena Ocampo as secretary, forming the first all-female collection of student body officers in the school’s history.
By Emily Behr ’93
I’ll never forget August 22, 1989. I was a member of the first co-ed class at SI, one of 175 girls in a school of 1,225 students. On our first day of orientation, we were greeted by nervous yet expectant teachers, excited juniors and seniors and the news media. They literally greeted us — they stood on the front steps of school and watched us arrive that first morning. After 134 years of single-sex education, everyone was ready to get a good look at us. As I reflect back, I also recognize God’s welcoming presence. He was in the face of Fr. Mario Prietto, SJ, SI’s principal, who welcomed us that first day in Orradre Chapel and did everything in his power to make us feel comfortable. He was in the face of our teachers who banded together to form female ’support groups’ to make sure that we were able to adjust and integrate into the historically male-dominated school environment and support us through a difficult school transition. He was even there in the very pink walls of our brand new locker room — such a well-intentioned (yet slightly misguided) gesture by the school administration to ‘rebrand’ facilities for girls — to let us know they had planned for our arrival and were welcoming us with open arms. All girls must love pink, right?
Last March, I had the opportunity to lead a Kairos retreat for some of our seniors, and I shared the above reflection with them about my first day at SI. As a naïve and oblivious eighth grader living in Marin County, I had no idea what I was getting into when I accepted a place in SI’s “pioneer” class of 1993. Today I feel incredibly grateful, blessed and proud that I was able to be a part of this incredible class.
At our 10-year reunion in October 2003, Genesis IV editor Paul Totah interviewed several of my classmates about their experiences at SI. As one would expect, our class experienced our share of challenges and struggles as we lived through SI’s growing pains. Amber Clisura, now a textile and fashion designer, recalled, “It was a trial by fire. The faculty wasn’t sure how to handle 175 girls, and we weren’t sure how to handle the faculty.”
During our first few years, the school paid so much attention to the female members of our class that, at times, the boys in our class lived in the shadows. David Ciappara, who today works as a paramedic, remembered, “As a guy, you melted into the background. With so many guys there, the girls paid attention to the older guys. You were like a number almost unless you played sports.” For MelissAnne Gallo, “it was eye opening to see that not all of us were welcomed at first. On my freshman retreat, a senior admitted that he [at first] didn’t want us to be there and that he agreed with all the alumni [who also protested SI’s decision to go coed], but he now saw that it was a good thing.”
For the most part, our experiences were overwhelmingly positive. Adversity that we faced made us stronger as individuals and as a class. Attorney Tiffany Cheung reflected that being at SI “taught me to be a stronger woman. As a freshman, I was surrounded by men, so I learned to speak out for myself and to be independent.” Despite her trial by fire, Amber Clisura believes that her teachers “prepared me for the world in unexpected ways. I received an education in finding my principles and sticking to them. My teachers taught me not to be afraid to do that, and I’m thankful for them.” Jean-Paul Bergez, who owns his own landscape design business, was grateful for the extra attention we received. “People warned us that being a freshman is rough, but it was easy [for us] because people treated us so well. No one gave us an initiation process. Everyone patted us on the back telling us we were special, instead of knocking us down because we were freshmen.”
For me, the most incredible thing about being part of this historic class was the myriad opportunities that we were offered. Erica Drous noted that “we had a better high school experience because we never had to be the youngest girls.” For four years, our class, particularly the girls, served as the school’s guiding force. We served on varsity sports teams as underclassmen, gaining valuable experience that earned our teams championships during our final two years. As freshmen, Blair Wilde and I were the only two girls admitted to Service Club for our sophomore year. Because there was no female representation on student council (made up primarily of seniors), we were invited to attend the student council retreat as sophomores.
Cross country standout Alicia Stanfill and track star Lorelei Suarez were the first girls selected for the Block Club. At times Stanfill felt the pressure of being the first to break tradition. “I knew I was setting precedent and that I couldn’t screw up and ruin it for everyone else,” but she also knew that she was consistently “supported and given all of the coaching and equal opportunities” afforded older students.
I fondly recall having Fr. John Murphy, SJ ’59, as my English teacher freshman year. For years, the brilliant and dedicated Fr. Murphy only taught juniors and seniors. As department chair in 1989, he added one freshman English class to his own schedule because he wanted to see what it was like to teach a coed class. The 30 of us in his class had been blessed with unparalleled intellectual challenges coupled with Fr. Murphy’s caring, generous and loving spirit.
Our class was a class of firsts, but our experiences were much like every other graduating class at the Prep. We studied as much as necessary, immersed ourselves in theater, athletics and other activities, celebrated liturgies, prayed together, laughed together, cried together and made lasting friendships. Bryan Giraudo, now an investment banker, marvels at how typical our experience was. “There was beauty in what Fr. Prietto and Fr. Sauer did. They did not make [co-education] an exception, other than the speech on the first day. As I recall, the first day there were TV cameras and then class. It didn’t matter the next day.”
Emily Behr is a member of SI’s first coed class and the first one from that class to work full time for SI. A Stanford graduate, Behr first worked in the school’s admission’s office and now directs the SI Magis Program.
By Lorelei Suarez ’93
As a member of SI’s first coed class, I had the good fortune of having Fr. John Murphy, SJ, as an English teacher for three of my four years of English at SI. I enjoyed his rigorous lessons, and he taught us how to write far better than any of my professors at UC Berkeley. I treasure this memory, among others, from my four years at SI — years that changed my life and formed me in ways that I will never forget. My time at SI, I am certain, made me the woman I am today.
My closest friends remain the girls I met those first weeks as a freshman Wildcat. Moira O’Neil is working on her Ph.D. in Santa Barbara, Alicia Thomas just celebrated her one-year wedding anniversary, Monette Benitez is a mom, and Dina Calvin is engaged. When we get together to celebrate one of our life’s great moments, as we do to this day, in many ways we are still those 14- and 15-year-old girls who played basketball, danced in 3 Shades, monopolized talent shows, pulled all-nighters writing term papers, and, most importantly, created the first generation of female Wildcats.
I am one of very few women in my occupation. I am by far the youngest employee and the only minority in my office. I am also successful. Ask me where I learned how to succeed, how to lead, how to rise above, and my answer will always be: the halls of SI. Corporate America isn’t the first time I demanded to be accepted by a male-dominated organization. Until Alicia Stanfill and I joined SI’s Block Club, it was the only all-male club left at SI. She and I made the cut, and the rest is history. We were given an extraordinary opportunity (just as we were in Fr. Murphy’s English class) by being in the right place at the right time to own a special place in the SI memoirs.
We started as eighth graders by answering the call to be part of a pioneer class. As freshmen, we found ourselves outnumbered seven to one by the boys. As sophomores, we paved a path for those who would follow, redefining the school’s identity while honoring its past. How many chances does someone really get to change history and to do it as part of one’s high school experience?
I know how blessed I was for being a part of the Class of ’93. Like all teenagers, my high school years were filled with angst, peer pressure, doubt, fear and pain. Some of my experiences were perhaps even more painful than they might have been elsewhere. But as the years continue to pass, and as I face the world and everything it throws my way, I am convinced that my time at SI was close to perfect. Without those heartaches and tears, along with the joys and triumphs, I might not be the confident and strong person I am today.
My time at SI provided me with rare opportunities to be a leader, to set new standards, to create new paradigms and to discover new frontiers. At SI I learned that I could transform the world in limitless ways because I was the magic wand. SI generously gave me the gifts of self-reliance, self-sufficiency and self-esteem. As a result of molding us into such strong individuals, our educators succeeded in shaping us into young adults with the experience, faith and conviction to change the world, just as Ignatius hoped we would and just as we prayed each day when we asked: “Lord, teach me to be generous. Teach me to serve You as You deserve; to give and not to count the cost; to fight and not to heed the wounds; to toil and not to seek for rest; to labor and not to seek reward; save that of knowing that I do Your will, O God.”
SI, you taught me well.
Lorelei Suarez is a business consultant in human resources, employment practices and employer liabilities. She also is the founder of Emerging Professionals In Collaboration, a networking organization for young professionals supported by the San Francisco Chamber of Commerce.
Genesis II Campaign
As Hugh O’Donnell ’37, finance chairman for the Board of Regents, wrote in the October 1979 issue of Genesis, “though the debt on our beautiful campus is nearly retired, this is no time to retreat from the task of providing excellent educational opportunities in the SI tradition…. Shortly, SI will announce a new program, Genesis II, that will enable our school to enhance its reputation, solidify its financial position and keep the devastations of inflation from sending tuition costs out of sight.”
SI liquidated its debt for the new school on December 31, 1980, and then launched the Genesis II campaign to raise SI’s endowment from $1.1 million to $4.5 million by 1985. The school would use the interest from the fund for “scholarships, facilities maintenance and to offset rising salaries.” In addition, the school hoped to raise an additional $250,000 each year to help keep pace with inflation.15
The Alumni Association pitched in by launching the first annual Golf and Tennis Tournament on June 6, 1983. The event is still held and is now billed as the All Class Reunion and Sports Day, bringing alumni from all eras back to SI.
Key to the success of the Genesis II campaign was William McDonnell ’42, Chairman of the Board of Regents from 1980 through 1991. After graduating from SI and USF, he and Gene McAteer became partners in Tarantino’s and The Spinnaker restaurants. (William’s son, Tim McDonnell ’71, now manages those businesses.) McDonnell joined the Board of Regents in 1973, chaired then by the Hon. Eugene Lynch ’49. When Fr. Sauer asked McDonnell to serve as chairman, he and regent Hugh O’Donnell tried to assess the school’s financial situation — not an easy task given the accounting practices at the time. He then worked with Fr. Sauer to bring people to the board who had a variety of talents that could serve the school over the years including Bill McInerney, a talented lawyer; Paul Hazen, president of Wells Fargo Bank; and Martin D. “Pete” Murphy, senior partner of Tobin & Tobin, who would succeed McDonnell as chairman.
McDonnell praises Steve Lovette and Frs. Prietto, Carlin and Sauer for the success of the Genesis II, III and IV campaigns. “They made an amazing team. They understood the problems and suffered through many meetings to arrive at creative answers.” He also encouraged the business office to adopt modern accounting procedures, and Michael Silvestri ’67 was made business manager in 1985.
SI Goes High Tech
SI received its first computers in the 1970s for a summer session computer science class. According to an Inside SI article, “The students struggled with four Heathkits (made by Zenith and a gift of Don Ruder) and one Apple II computer in the back room of the library.”16
An anonymous gift of $50,000 to the Genesis II campaign helped SI purchase its first computer lab in 1982, made up of 30 Apple II Plus computers linked by a Corvus server. Biology teacher William Love ’59 set up the $100,000 lab and began teaching a computer course. “We are at the onset of a major revolution in education,” he wrote in Genesis II. “The computer will be the instrument of this revolution.” In 1987, thanks to a grant from the E.L. Wiegand Foundation, SI created a second lab comprising 28 Macintosh SE computers. By the end of the decade, all the offices had personal computers to supplement the VAX server the school used for its primary database.
Those early computers at SI allowed Inside SI to switch to desktop publishing in 1986 using a Macintosh Plus and Apple’s first laser printer. Over the years, computers would become ubiquitous around campus. In 2001, the school issued laptops to nearly every faculty member, and the campus network went wireless in 2003. Currently, SI has two computer labs, with more computers available in the Wilsey Library and in various classrooms to help prepare students for the realities of the new millennium.
In the 1980s and 1990s, many SI grads found themselves working for Silicon Valley’s biggest computer firms. Charlie Jadallah ’77 and Mike Homer ’76 were key players in the early days of Netscape, and and Gary Roberts ’75 worked his way up the ranks at Oracle. In 2002, Paul Otellini ’68 was named president and chief operating officer of Intel after 27 years working for that company, and in 2004 he became the company’s CEO.
The Graduate at Graduation
Between 1980 and 1983, the SI faculty met from time to time to hammer out a document that, over the years, has become known as the “Grad-at-Grad.” The JSEA asked each of the Jesuit high schools in the nation to create a “Profile of the Graduate at Graduation,” and Fr. McCurdy made this a part of SI’s Curriculum Improvement Process.
Teachers met to discuss what qualities a student would have upon graduation from SI. Each student, according to the document would be open to growth, intellectually competent, religious, loving and committed to doing justice and to the pursuit of leadership. For each of these topics, the faculty wrote 10 or so descriptors. That document became the cornerstone of education at SI for many years, shaping curricular and extracurricular decisions.
“This process asked the faculty to examine the bigger picture of Jesuit education,” said Fr. Prietto. “It resembled the accreditation process, but we looked at SI through the lens of Jesuit secondary education to see how we fared as a Jesuit school. It is an important document, and I’m quite proud of it.”
After a 3-year hiatus, Jim Dekker ’68 returned as head coach of the varsity baseball team in 1983. The team that year finished 13-10 and included such standouts as Chris Gaggero ’83, who led the league in strikeouts, and Duffy Aceret ’83, who was the team’s leading hitter. Tim Reardon ’86 and Arnie Sambel ’86 were outstanding players three years later. Sambel, according to Dekker, was the best player of that decade, a strong pitcher and outfielder. He earned a four-year scholarship to USF where he still holds many university records. Also, Jun Dasalla ’87 had a great senior year and still holds the record for batting average and the most doubles in the triple-round format. (In 1987 the WCAL went from a double round-robin format to a triple round-robin, meaning that SI played each rival three times.)
The basketball team would win the WCAL title four straight times between 1981 and 1984, culminating in the greatest victory in modern times for any SI hoops team since the school won the state title in 1926.
In 1981, the team earned the nickname the “Cardiac ’Cats” after clawing their way to co-champion status in the WCAL. Seniors Jeff Thilgen, Frank Byrne, Tom Feeney, Rob Mascheroni, Hugh Campbell and Dean Klisura were seasoned veterans, having played varsity the previous year. Joining them were senior Ray Arata and juniors Mike Radonovich, Gino Cerchiai, David Hamilton, Damien Haitsuka, Rob Ennis and Paul Fortier. They led SI to an 11–1 pre-season finish and an 11–1 round-robin finish before beating Bellarmine (57–50). A 39–38 loss to Riordan forced one more game against the Crusaders. SI won that match 64–44 for the league crown before heading to Stanford’s Maples Pavilion for the final two CCS games. There, SI beat Fremont 58–49 and followed with a 54–52 win over Gunn High School for the school’s first CCS crown. Fortier, Thilgen and Mascheroni made the All-Tournament Team for their efforts.
The next year, Bob Drucker and assistant coach Shel Zatkin again led the ’Cats to a WCAL title, with Drucker winning his 300th game along the way by defeating Riordan 54–47. Drucker and Zatkin won again in 1983 after a 9–3 round-robin finish and a 50–44 victory over SH in the playoffs. The team won the first two CCS games but lost 46–45 to Fremont of Sunnyvale for the sectional championship.
In 1984, SI’s starting-five included standouts Levy Middlebrooks, David Wilson, Dan Oyharcabal, Paul La Rocca and Joe Vollert who helped SI to a 10–2 pre-league record. The league games included a triple-overtime cliffhanger against St. Francis that SI won thanks to the inside domination of Middlebrooks. SI lost its final league game to SH to spoil an otherwise undefeated season, but the team had its revenge in the first playoff game against the Irish. It was déjà vu all over again when SI lost to Riordan and then came back to beat the Crusaders for the league crown. In CCS competition, SI beat Milpitas and Cupertino before besting Riordan once again for the sectional title.
At the Oakland Coliseum, SI won the Northern California Championship (formerly named the Tournament of Champions) by beating Rancho Cordova, St. Elizabeth’s and Amador Valley. It was the first TOC win since Rene Herrerias led the Wildcats to that victory 29 years previous. Even though SI fell 65–45 to Long Beach Poly at the Oakland Coliseum on March 17 for the state title, it enjoyed a remarkable run and a phenomenal season to which future teams would aspire but never quite achieve.
The Man Who Helps SI Play by the Numbers
By King Thompson, San Francisco Examiner
(Dr. Robert Jeffrey served as statistician and Sports Information Director for SI between 1969 and 1994. He received the President’s Award in 1986 and continued to serve the school until his death. The following article appeared in 1981 in The San Francisco Examiner.)
The world’s most organized high school sports information director sits hunched in the stands, his black felt pen poised for action over the book of lined binder paper that rests in his lap.
As the referee tosses the basketball in the air for the opening tip-off, the pen begins to squeak across the page, noting such things as who received the tip and whether the team on defense opens with a man-to-man or zone configuration.
For the next 90 minutes or so, Dr. Robert A. Jeffrey, Jr., head of the pathology department at St. Mary’s Hospital, is a man avidly pursuing his chosen avocation. Some men play golf or go fishing; Dr. Jeffrey spends his free time chronicling the exploits of the St. Ignatius High football and basketball teams.
All professional sports franchises have statisticians and publicity men, and almost all universities employ sports information directors. But none of them has anything over Dr. Jeffrey when it comes to detailed information.
You want statistics? Dr. Jeffrey has statistics. Lots of them.
He can tell you the usual stuff — average points per game, field goal percentages, rebounds, and so forth. But he doesn’t stop there.
Besides a roster and list of probable starters for each team, there is a breakdown — non-league, league and totals for the season — of how every SI player rates in 12 separate categories. Not only can Dr. Jeffrey tell you each player’s scoring average or shooting percentage, but also available is such esoterica as how many times a team member has forced a jump ball, how many times he has controlled a tip, how many times he has deflected a pass and how many times he has taken an offensive foul. As if that weren’t enough, there is also a rundown on the opposition players, which Dr. Jeffrey labels “Coach Drucker’s Pocket Guide” to whatever team he happens to be playing. At the bottom of this sheet there is a list entitled, “Pecking Order for Fouls.” It is divided into two categories: “Worst Men to Foul” and “Best Men to Foul.” In an instant, you can tell which opposing players are good free-throw shooters and which are not.
Are these mounds of numbers really valuable in terms of winning and losing games? Drucker doesn’t think there is any question about it.
“I’ll say this much: Our success in athletics can be traced directly to this man’s tireless work,” he said in 1976.
Things haven’t changed in the interim. The Wildcats won the WCAL and CCS Championships and finished 29–5 overall (in 1981).
Reprinted with permission from the San Francisco Examiner.
Though SI failed to win a league championship in the 1980s or 1990s, most athletes from those years would say they played for a winning team. They would point to Ray Calcagno ’64 as the reason why.
Calcagno was a star on SI’s number-one ranked football team as a junior and senior. In 1963, he completed 75 of 117 passes for 1,290 yards and 18 touchdowns, making him the top Northern California high school quarterback for passing percentage. He went to SCU, graduating in 1972 with a degree in business, though his college career was interrupted by a stint in Vietnam, where he served with the Army’s 101st Airborne Division. Upon returning to the U.S., he coached at USF, finished his degree at SCU and then coached at St. Francis High School for seven years alongside his brother, Ron Calcagno ’60.
He led the varsity Wildcats at SI between 1979 and 1986 and then again from 1989 until 1992. He took SI to its first CCS appearance in 1983 after a 7–2–1 record. Selected as a Division I at-large team, SI upset Los Gatos 18–14 led by sophomore quarterback Dan Vaughn who ran for one touchdown and threw a 74-yard touchdown pass to junior tailback Tyrone Taylor. In CCS quarterfinal action against Saratoga, SI lost with 2 seconds remaining after Saratoga scored a field goal to win 10–7.
Another favorite memory for Calcagno was the reopening of Kezar Stadium, which had closed in 1989 for remodeling and opened one year later. SI played the first day game and first night game in that newly remodeled stadium, with the Wildcats walking through the same tunnel trod on by generations of ’49ers.
His best memories, he says, are of the boys he coached and the men he coached with. A resident of Mountain View, he decided to leave SI to avoid the grueling commute. He coached football at Mountain View High School between 1992 and 1996 and still works there teaching PE.
SI competed in crew beginning in 1932 and continuing through the 1940s before the school dropped the sport. In 1979, SI took up crew once again with coach Mark Bruneman ’73 at the helm. More than 200 students came to try out for 17 slots. The team began practicing at Lake Merced, the Oakland Estuary and Lexington Reservoir alongside the SCU crew. In its first years, crew competed as a club sport, sponsored by the Dolphin Club, which provided boats and equipment. Early members included Boat House Captain Pat Bennett, Morgan Petiti, Kevin O’Kelly, Ed Navarrete and Ben Harrison. SI competed against such teams as the Oakland Strokes and the Pacific Rowing Club through the California Junior Rowing Association. Matt Carrado and Greg Bonfiglio, SJ (now president of Jesuit High School in Sacramento), teammates on SCU’s 1982 nationally-ranked lightweight eight shell, began coaching in 1985, leading their boys in 5:30 a.m. practices on the lake. The 1980s proved growth years for the sport, with SI crew rising to state and national prominence in the 1990s.
The varsity swim team stopped competing in 1980 due, in part, to the lack of a nearby pool in which to practice and compete. (The 1979 OceanSIder reported in its October 31, 1979, issue that the league nearly decided not to hold finals as only four teams — Serra, Bellarmine, SI and St. Francis — had teams; of those, SI was the only school that did not have its own pool.) In 1982, the sport picked up again thanks, in large measure, to the late Bill Schuppel ’83. SI’s natatorium was years away, so the squad practiced at Hamilton Pool each Thursday and at facilities closer to team members’ homes. The team proceeded to win the league championship each year between 1984 and 1991, propelled, perhaps, by a name change. The team first called itself the Catfish but “the title was changed because, according to team captain Conor O’Kelly ’85, catfish are ‘low-life fish who suck sludge off the bottom.’” The team changed its name to the Aqualads based on the comic book hero Aquaman. (Aqualad was his trusty young assistant.) “He fit the image we wanted,” said Kelly in a Spring 1985 Genesis II interview.
National Championship in Debate
In 1986, SI’s Speech and Debate Program won the National Championship Sweepstakes Trophy from the National Forensic League in Tulsa, Oklahoma, recognizing SI as the top school in the country in legislative debate in a field of 1,500 competitors. The award paid tribute to a dozen years of excellence by past members of SI debate teams.
To win the award, SI sent debaters to 10 of the 13 national tournaments between 1974 and 1986 and eight Wildcats captured individual awards at those events, placing in the top 10 of the best debaters from the U.S. Those winners included Timothy Murphy (1974), Brian McCaffery (1975), Fred Schluep (1976), James Fazackerley (1977), Michael Schwartz (1977), Anthony Cistaro (1981), Michael Boro (1982), Clayton Chan (1983), Jonathan Nicolas (1984), James Farrell (1985 and 1986) and Jeffrey Bryan (1986).
In 1987, SI continued the winning tradition in speech and debate when high school students from 21 states met in Philadelphia to compete in the National Bicentennial Constitutional Student Congress to commemorate the original signing of the Constitution in 1787. California sent two representatives, both from SI — Janar Wasito ’87 and Robert Forni ’88. After two days of competitive speaking on 10 legislative topics, Wasito took second place honors and Forni earned third place.
The national trophy and other awards are on permanent display in the Speech and Debate display case at SI. They are a testament to the students who earned these honors and to David Mezzera ’64, who coached debate at SI between 1970 and 1986 and who retired in 2002.
David Mezzera ’64
David Mezzera is the author of Student Congress and Lincoln–Douglas Debate, published by the National Textbook Company. That book and Mezzera’s passion for student congress competition helped re-establish the credibility of that competitive speech event in California. Because of his many years helping students hone their public speaking and debate skills, the California High School Speech Association inducted Mezzera April 30, 2000, into its Coaches’ Hall of Fame.
Mezzera began his auspicious career by attending, as a sophomore, the state speech and debate finals, and he made repeat appearances there as a junior and senior while he was president of the SI Forum. In his senior year, he competed in a national invitational debate tournament in Washington, DC, taking 10th place.
While studying at USF, he helped SI speech coach Charles Henry ’38 (then Fr. Henry), and joined the SI faculty in 1970. In 1973, when Henry left SI, Mezzera inherited the program and helped students prepare for debates and congresses while also teaching public speaking and American government. He left those duties in 1986 when he became director of the Community Service Program.
During Mezzera’s 17-year tenure as speech coach, SI students qualified for the national debate tournament in 14 of those years, and these students enjoyed their greatest success in student congress — the category for which Mezzera wrote the rules.
California Hall of Fame President John Cardoza wrote the following to Mezzera: “Your concern for your students, the success they have realized because of your tutelage, the mentoring you have provided, the growth of quality speech education programs in your league and throughout the state — these are just a few of the reasons for the high esteem with which you are regarded by your friends and fellow teachers.”
Cardoza isn’t alone in his praise of Mezzera. Simon Chiu ’88, a former SI English teacher who coached speech and debate for seven years and who debated for Mezzera, also sang the virtues of his former mentor.
“Besides being my high school speech coach, Dave has quietly and unassumingly mentored me over many years,” said Chiu. “I know that he left coaching because he was tired of the weekly grind of going to tournaments and being away from his own family so often, but he has never lost his enthusiasm and passion for competitive public speaking. Dave never forgot why a coach does what he does — for the kids. He has never let the ethos of competition distract him from ministering to his students and teaching the skills they need to succeed not only in a contest but also in life. His success as a coach is commendable; his success as a teacher and educator is admirable.”
Mezzera sees the Hall of Fame honor as an affirmation of the importance not only of speech programs in high schools but also of public speaking classes. “When I see high school students (SI and others) struggling with having to speak in public, I’m reminded of the value of taking a public speaking class or participating in a debate program. When I encounter former students (which is rather frequently), most will provide me with anecdotes about how the ability to feel comfortable with speaking in public has helped them as a person and as a professional.”
Mezzera continues to stay active in the field, serving as clerk for the San Francisco Bay’s District Student Congress, teaching parliamentary procedure professionally and administering congressional workshop debates during June and July for the Junior Statesmen of America’s summer schools.
The school newspaper went through several incarnations in the 1970s and 1980s. In 1979, the 2001 changed its name to the OceanSIder and in 1982 back to Inside SI and appeared in both magazine and tabloid formats. SI also launched a video yearbook in 1989 called ’Cat’s Eye ’89, produced by the SI Video Yearbook Club and moderated by Br. Thomas Koller, SJ. The videotape sold for $34.95 and featured video clips of games, rallies, fine arts activities, graduation and other gatherings, all set to music. The Ignatian continued producing quality yearbooks throughout the 1980s, and a few attempts were made to establish a new literary magazine. When English teachers began publishing one in the 1990s, they called it The Quill after the literary magazine of the 1950s.
Much has already been written about the Drama Department at SI. For many students, however, the thrill of working in theatre did not lie in the glare of the spotlights, but behind them working on the lighting crew or hammering away as part of the stage crew. Kevin Quattrin ’78 made his theatrical debut as a page-turner for a pianist in his junior year. As a junior, he worked with Tony Remedios ’77 building roof sets for The King and I, the last musical SI would stage with Mercy.
He liked the backstage atmosphere “because these were down-to-earth guys who treated each other well. I was a newcomer, and they welcomed me right away.” Quattrin, who played football as a student (and who served as a football coach at SI from 1978–2004), likened the backstage crew to the offensive line. “We didn’t get any recognition and were perfectly happy that way.” He credits theatre veterans Bill Raffetto ’69, Mark Roos ’75 and Phil Bailey ’76 with helping to establish that esprit de corps and to train the next generation of technicians and carpenters. Colleges knew they could rely on SI for reliable people for their theatre programs, and many of these people ended up in the profession, such as Dan Michalske ’72, Ken Ryan ’78 and Brendan Quigley ’78.
“Peter Devine encouraged us to learn the traditions of the backstage,” added Quattrin. “You treat new people well, and you train them to take your place. He taught us that the theatre was there before us and that it would be there after we left. It was our job to leave it in better shape for the next crew. His philosophy fit right in to the Ignatian mission and vision. He encouraged us to give everything we had to something bigger than us. It’s not about glory or about needing people to tell you how important you are.”
The crew did enjoy playing pranks during the shows. During The King and I, actors portray a scene from Uncle Tom’s Cabin where Eliza runs away from Simon Legree. “The music sounded just like the music from Jaws,” recalled Quattrin. “We built a shark fin and ran it across the stage just as Eliza runs across the ice. Only 10 of us knew of the prank, including the lighting people, who put a spotlight on the fin as it raced along the stage. The orchestra burst into laughter, and even Pete Devine loved it.”
Quattrin returned to SI’s back stage in 1981 as the technical director for Oliverand worked the following year on Bells Are Ringing. In 1983 he helped Bart Sher ’77 with Working and later, in 1984, he assisted with 110 in the Shade. He also worked as a lighting designer, set designer and sound designer over the years, and he teaches students how to hang and focus lights and how to build sets. “There have been so many kids who have moved me with how much they have grown,” he added. “Peter had a way of guiding kids to us who needed a place to belong.” Quattrin did his part, too, asking his football players to help with the spring musical to move sets. “They would discover how much fun it is and stay.”
Jean Wolf, mother of SI Grad Steve Wolf ’63 and Katie Wolf (SI faculty since 1978), headed the SI costume department for 19 years, starting in 1961 with High Button Shoes, directed by Fr. Fred Tollini, SJ ’52. She began designing for Fr. Richard McCurdy’s productions of HMS Pinafore, Journey’s End, and Little Mary Sunshine when SI boys still played the women’s roles. When SI received permission for girls to be in the productions, Jean continued designing the costumes, and her daughter, Katie, was in the first coed cast of Charley’s Aunt in the fall of 1964. Her final production was for the fall 1979 production of Death of a Salesman. Some of her most notable shows include Fiddler on the Roof, Oklahoma, Teahouse of the August Moon, Carnival, Hello, Dolly! The King and I, Rainmaker and Luther.
Nelia Schubert, the mother of Sergio Schubert ’81, began costume design with SI’s first production of My Fair Lady to celebrate the school’s 125th anniversary. She continued designing costumes from 1980 thru 1999. Nelia was born and raised in Italy, but moved to Brazil after WWII where she met and married her husband, a refugee from Communist Czechoslovakia. She worked in semi-professional theatre costumes there for several years before she and her husband came to San Francisco where their son was born. When he became involved in theatre through the stage crew, she decided to assist Jean and then became the designer for the next 19 years. She especially enjoyed designing period costumes and designed and constructed more than 100 medieval costumes for SI’s production of Camelot — each designed and sewn by her hands alone. Among her most notable productions were Camelot, My Fair Lady, Adventures of Nicholas Nickelby, Cyrano de Bergerac, Cabaret, Man for All Seasons, Secret Garden, 1776, Mack and Mabel, Man of La Mancha and Evita.
California Scholarship Federation
In the 1980s CSF turned into one of the more dynamic organizations on the SI campus thanks, in large measure, to its adviser, Rod Arriaga, who took charge of the organization at the start of the decade. In 1980, a group of students approached Arriaga wanting to become more involved in the school. Arriaga and a delegation of students soon began attending meetings with other San Francisco CSF chapters, which led, in turn, to field trips, college visits and student exchanges.
At SI, the group kept active by tutoring students both at school and at the adjacent A.P. Giannini Middle School, and members raised funds through Candygrams, car washes and dances for scholarships given to graduating Life Members. CSF members also organized blanket and clothing drives for St. Anthony’s and started an end-of-the-year awards-night that featured a guest speaker to honor Life Members. By the end of the decade, between 40 and 50 percent of the student body qualified as members and more than 90 percent of those enrolled in the club.
“CSF’s motto is ‘Scholarship for Service,’” said Arriaga. “It’s a secular organization, but its aim is wonderfully consistent with what we do as Jesuit educators and with Ignatian philosophy. We take those who are academically distinguished, acknowledge accomplishments and encourage them to give back to their communities. Promoting all of this in a place such as SI was a natural.”
State CSF officials were so impressed by Arriaga’s achievements that, in 1985, they asked him to serve as a member (and later chairman) of the Seymour Memorial Awards Committee, and in 1989 he began a 6-year stint as CSF state president (two years as president elect, two years as president and two years as past president). From 1995 to 1997, he served as the group’s historian and archivist and then retired as CSF adviser at SI in 2001 and from teaching in 2005. Carol Quattrin now serves as moderator, carrying on the traditions established by her predecessor.
And All the Rest
Aside from all the activities already mentioned, students could join a host of other clubs. The roster from the 1980s included all the traditional ones previously mentioned as well as ethnic clubs (AAAS, ALAS, ASC & the Irish Club), Amnesty International, Art and Publicity, the Dance Committee, the CB Club, the Sci-Fi/Fantasy Club, Dungeons and Dragons, the Pro Life Club, Sailing, Bowling, the Surf Club, Musical Theatre Workshop, Cheerleaders, Pep Band, the Movie Club, the TV Club, the Computer Club, Peace and Social Justice, the Rally Committee, the Liturgy Group, the Military Service Club, the Pep Band, Big Brothers, Junior Statesmen of America, the Model UN, the Young Republicans, the Democratic Youth Rally, the Hockey Club, 8-Ball Society, Club Med, the Dart Club, the Chess Club, the Spirit Club, the Card Club, the Ski Club, the Young Entrepreneur Club, Wrestling, the Bike Team, the French Club, the Italian Club, the Wilderness Club, the Hiking Club, the Science Club and a few others of limited duration, such as the Film Makers’ Club, the Pun and Hibachi Club, the Backgammon Club, the Dred Society, the Python Club (made up of wrestling fans), the Elvis is King Club and the Deep Club whose origins and purpose are a mystery.
SI set aside one day each year from 1985 to 1987 and again in 1995 as an Awareness Day, with each event dedicated to one issue. They focused on, in order, the arms race, drug abuse, racism, and tolerance. The days proved popular with students who, aside from appreciating the break from classes, spent the day listening to speakers and talking about issues that went to the heart of their Jesuit education.
The Pope Comes to Town
On September 17 and 18, 1987, Pope John Paul II made a historic visit to San Francisco and celebrated Mass at Candlestick Park. More than 120 SI students and a host of faculty served as volunteers for the event as ushers, traffic directors, security assistants, schedule coordinators, resident experts and entertainers during the two-day visit.
Two weeks before the event, Msgr. Jim McKay called Block Club moderator Robert Vergara asking for 40 student volunteers to help direct traffic. A week later, Vergara received a request for an additional 12 students to assist police at six security stations. Vergara, with only 28 members in his club, solicited help from the freshmen class and “in no time, I had twice as many volunteers as I needed.”17
An additional 75 students served as ushers as part of a 324-member team made up of local Catholic high school students, organized by SI’s Art Cecchin. Br. Draper also helped by leading a 70-member team of priests, nuns and brothers (including a dozen SI priests) who also worked as ushers, helping to seat 3,000 priests and religious for a prayer service in the Cathedral. In addition, SI faculty David Mezzera and Michael Shaughnessy acted as experts for media covering the event, and one SI student and two alumni (Dan Guiney ’88, Dan Linehan ’83 and Brendan Kenneally ’82) performed Irish dance for the Pope at the Candlestick Park Mass.
The night before this performance, the Pope celebrated a liturgy at the cathedral for diocesan priests and members of religious orders. Br. Draper spent six hours before the event as head usher, and before the Mass, he and a friend went downstairs for a quick smoke. (He has since quit smoking.)
As they chatted and smoked, they saw a lone figure round the corner of the room they were in. It was Pope John Paul II. “He looked at us and said, ‘Fuma! Fuma!’” recalled Br. Draper. “My friend quickly put out his cigarette. However, I knew he smoked, so I went up to him and asked him if he wanted a cigarette. He nodded, and I offered him one of mine. Then he said, ‘I only smoke Camels,’ and left us there. Later, after Mass, the Archbishop introduced me to him as the prefect of discipline at SI. He told me, ‘Stay with it. The children are our future.’”
On Tuesday, October 17, 1989, at 5:04 p.m., a 7.1 earthquake hit the Santa Cruz area, sending shockwaves through the Bay Area and killing 63 people. Fr. Prietto was jogging at the time and recalls that “the jolt of the earthquake was so strong it literally knocked me off my feet.” Power went out all over the city, including SI, which was spared significant damage. (A few books fell from bookshelves in the library and several glass beakers broke in the labs.) Three high-rise towers in Parkmerced did not prove as fortunate, and residents had to be evacuated. Capt. Michael Yalon ’66, then in charge of the Taraval Police Station, told Sgt. Matthew Perez to find shelter for these residents. He told him, “Try SI.”
Sgt. Perez drove to SI, and Br. Draper spoke to him from the balcony of McGucken Hall. “I asked him if we could house 150 people at SI,” said Perez. “Br. Draper said, ‘Of course.’ With that, my dispatcher radioed in and asked if we had any power out there. I looked up at Brother and he looked back at me. Just then the lights went on all over the school and the neighborhood. It was absolutely amazing. It was like a miracle.”18
“I can’t believe how SI bent over backwards to help these people,” said Sgt. Perez. “We thought they would open their hearts to the homeless, and they did.” For Br. Dan Peterson, SJ, the minister of the Jesuit community, the decision to close the school to help these people was an easy one. “People needed the shelter, and we had the facility. Of course we were going to open up to them. I didn’t have to think twice about it.”
When Sgt. Perez went to the Parkmerced towers, he faced a new problem: They elderly residents there did not want to leave. Because many of them played Bingo at SI, the police asked Br. Draper to drive to Parkmerced. “When I arrived there, the police introduced me as the Bingo Brother from SI. They told the Parkmerced residents that they would sleep in the same place where they played Bingo. Only then did they agree to leave.”19
School was suspended for one week while students and faculty aided the Red Cross and St. Vincent de Paul over the next four days to shelter and feed 200 Parkmerced residents in the Carlin Commons. (The Commons was one of three shelters used by city residents in the aftermath of the Loma Prieta Earthquake.)
Br. Peterson drove through darkened streets to bring cots from the Red Cross and St. Vincent de Paul offices back to SI, and he directed student volunteers to make all parts of the SI campus available to SI’s newest residents. Community Service Director David Mezzera ’64 and Fr. Robert Walsh, SJ ’68, in residence at SI, spent the night with the homeless, offering support and comfort. Also, members of SI’s Bread Connection made runs that night to local food markets that opened their shelves and sent donated items to the McGucken Hall kitchen to feed the temporary residents for the next week.
SI students Mike Cogliandro ’93, John Vito ’90, Rob Newsom ’91, Andrew Nielsen ’92, John McConneloug ’91, Benny Wong ’92 and Mark Beering ’92 were among dozens of students who mopped floors, folded blankets, sorted food and clothing donations and ran errands for the Parkmerced residents. Alumni also pitched in, including Ken Ross ’79, George Torassa ’77 and Jeff McDonnell ’84.
Among the many faculty who came to SI to help was Jim McGarry, who rushed back to SI Tuesday night from a senior retreat. He and Assistant Campus Minister Peter Devine returned to call the parents of the retreatants to tell them their boys were fine.
By Thursday, the number of people needing shelter fell to 80, and by Friday at noon, the Parkmerced residents began moving back into their apartments after city engineers ruled them structurally safe. By 3 p.m., the last SI guest, an elderly woman, boarded the MUNI bus used to shuttle residents back to their apartments. “I helped her get on the bus,” Br. Draper recalled. “She said to me, ‘If we’re still here on Monday, I’ll see you at Bingo, Bingo priest.’ Then she kissed me. I was weary but happy that it was finally over.”20
The Murder of the Priests
On November 16, 1989, Salvadoran soldiers murdered six Jesuits and their two co-workers at the University of Central America during that country’s civil war. Dick Howard ’67, then a Jesuit priest, was one of the first on the scene the morning after the shooting. “I couldn’t believe it,” he said in a Genesis IIinterview.21 “I knew all of them…. I went to see the bodies and identified them. Then the provincial asked me to tell the archbishop.” One of the first reporters on scene was Phil Bennett ’77, who, at the time, was the Latin-American correspondent for The Boston Globe. (He is now the managing editor of The Washington Post.) Bennett recalls running into another journalist who had heard “a report that eight people had been killed overnight. I drove up to UCA and walked through the back gate to the Jesuit residence, probably the same gate the killers had come through. There I saw five bodies lying on the lawn by the back of the study center where the rectory was, and I saw the other three bodies inside. After four years of working in war zones, this was the most gruesome scene I had ever witnessed. There was a sense of real desecration.”
Two of the six priests, Ignacio Ellacuría, SJ (rector of the Jesuit community at UCA), and Ignacio Martín-Baró, SJ, were among “the smartest people in the country, and their killers silenced two of the strongest voices in El Salvador,” said Bennett. “These were powerful intellects, and their murder left us all feeling vulnerable.”22
The SI community reacted with shock and sadness to these killings. The Friday after the murder, Fr. Andrew Sotelo, SJ, dedicated the Friday Morning Liturgy at SI to the slain men and women. The next Monday, a busload of SI students and teachers went to San Francisco’s Federal Building to participate in a prayer vigil. At the end of the school year, SI presented the President’s Award to Fr. Jon Sobrino, SJ, a colleague of the slain priests, who was also targeted for assassination. He survived only because he was out of the country that night.
Fr. Sobrino returned to SI on November 30, 1992, to speak to the student body. Fr. Sauer, who had studied philosophy under him in St. Louis in the 1960s, introduced him as the “living embodiment of the hopes and aspirations of the 80,000 El Salvadoran people killed in a decade of civil war, and of a nation’s poor, striving for a just society.” Sobrino’s talk, according to Fr. Prietto, was one of the most powerful statements on justice ever offered at SI.
In 1999, SI students and faculty began taking part in protests first at the Pentagon in Washington, D.C., and later at the U.S. Army School of the Americas, based in Fort Benning, Georgia, which trained some of the officers responsible for the deaths of the Jesuits and thousands of other innocent people. Each year, the Jesuit Assistancy in the U.S. asks that every Jesuit high school and college send a delegation to participate in the protest, held in November on the anniversary of the martyrdom of the Jesuits. A highlight of this protest is the Ignatian Family Teach-In, which draws a crowd of 2,000 to listen to speakers address human rights concerns. SI, to this day, continues to attend these gatherings to urge Congress to close the school, and, since 2003, the SI student-faculty contingent has met with a dozen SI alumni who attend the event as representatives from their colleges. “Our students see the legacy of Ignatian education here,” said SI religious studies teacher Mary Ahlbach, who helps to organize the SI delegation. “This event tells me that there is reason to hope and that our efforts are worth it.”
Fr. Kolvenbach Visits SI
For the second time in SI’s history, the Superior General of the Society of Jesus came to visit. (The first was a 1971 visit by Fr. Pedro Arrupe, SJ.) Fr. Peter-Hans Kolvenbach, SJ, Fr. General of the Jesuits, toured high schools and colleges in the California Province between November 28 and December 2, 1989, stopping by SI on December 1 where he spoke about the school’s move to coeducation, the martyrdom of the priests in El Salvador and the rich diversity of the SI student body. Among the dignitaries who came to SI for the event were San Francisco Archbishop John Quinn, Auxiliary Bishop Carlos Sevilla, SJ ’53, and California Provincial Paul Belcher, SJ.
As Fr. Kolvenbach entered the Commons, he was greeted by an 8-foot-by-6-foot mural-collage painted by students in Katie Wolf’s art class, made up of 48 1-square-foot sections, with each section painted by a different student. That piece is now on permanent display at SI in the walkway between the Commons and the Jesuit residence.
In his address, Fr. Kolvenbach told the students that he was impressed by the cheer, “We are SI.” “In loss it asks you to look beyond the defeat to your greater unity, and in victory — which I hope is often — it reminds you more than a win of any individual team, your genuine spirit is found again in your spiritual unity and in the rich diversity of your many clubs, sports and activities. Indeed, with the recent, welcome move to coeducation, diversity is ever more the hallmark of your school.”
The Fight Against AIDS
In the 1980s, the AIDS epidemic struck the U.S. with a vengeance, with ground zero in San Francisco. Two SI grads, over the years, have led the fight against this terrible disease — Dr. Eric Goosby ’70 and Dr. Joseph O’Neill ’71 — as AIDS Czars in the Clinton and Bush administrations.
In the 1980s, Dr. Goosby worked as an assistant professor at UCSF and in the AIDS Oncology Division at San Francisco General Hospital as Director of the Human Immunodeficiency Virus/Intravenous Drug Using Clinic. He discovered new methods for treating HIV-infected intravenous drug users before becoming, in 1991, director of HIV Services at the U.S. Public Health Service/Health Resources and Service Administration. Three years later, he became director of the Office of HIV/AIDS Policy in the Department of Health and Human Services where he fought for HIV/AIDS prevention, treatment and research. In 1997, while still with the HHS, he acted as interim director of the National AIDS Policy Office at the White House, reporting directly to President Clinton as his senior advisor on HIV-related issues. He later served as deputy director of the National AIDS Policy Office in the White House before moving back to the Bay Area where he now works as CEO of the Pangaea Global AIDS Foundation.
Dr. O’Neill took on the job of Director of the Office of National AIDS Policy in July 2002, and he has worked to influence President Bush’s agenda in the fight against this disease. He helped to secure $15 billion to combat AIDS in African and Caribbean countries. This desire to stem the pandemic abroad came after O’Neill visited Africa in 1996, seeing firsthand the effects of this disease. In addition, he spends his Fridays treating HIV infected patients at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine’s free clinic. He does this, in part, to draw attention to the fact that the disease targets the poorest Americans who make up the majority of the 40,000 people who contract this disease each year in the U.S.
O’Neill’s two brothers are both Jesuit priests and SI grads: Fr. Tom O’Neill, SJ ’74, who teaches fine arts at USF and is chairman of SI’s Board of Trustees, and Fr. William O’Neill ’70, who teaches theology at the Jesuit School of Theology in Berkeley. Also, Dr. O’Neill’s parents, Margaret and Bill, are members of SI’s Heritage Society.
The Old School Comes Down
Some SI alumni cringed in disbelief and others were first in line on March 13, 1987, when USF announced the Wrecker’s Ball to demolish Loyola Hall, the site of the fifth SI campus on Stanyan Street. The college wanted to tear down the old school to make way for the Koret Health and Recreation Center. USF sent out invitations offering a “sledgehammer concession outside the old building for those of you who would like to take one last swipe at the former SI.” The evening also offered a silent auction of building memorabilia, though the most valuable item, the bench that graced the outside of the dean’s office (on which many penitent Ignatians sat waiting for an ominous interview) went to SI, thanks to a winning bid by Board Chairman Bill McDonnell ’42, who donated it to the school.
Fr. Paul Capitolo, SJ, and Bob Vergara also managed to salvage a door with a frosted glass window featuring an etched cross, stained glass windows and an altar triptych oil painting from the old school. The first item became the entrance to the Jesuit community chapel in McGucken Hall and the latter two were used to decorate the faculty dining room in the Jesuit residence.
Chalk-Dust Memories: The 1980s
Phyllis Molinelli started working at SI in 1978 as a secretary for counseling, campus ministry and student activities. In 1983 she became a sophomore counselor and has, over the years, served as department chair and head of various counseling task forces. She retired in 2005.
When I first started working at SI, I felt like a mother to all the students. I was in heaven because I am a mother, and boys have a tendency to invite you to mother them. I used to bake cakes for kids when they had birthdays. It was a smaller school then, and the teachers knew every student.
The atmosphere was also more relaxed than today. We used to string popcorn and cranberries for the school Christmas tree. The faculty used to play practical jokes on each other. Frank Corwin and Bill Love used to put frogs in the detention box to scare whoever was doing detention. One day Katie Robinson and I rearranged furniture in the faculty lounge to resemble an airplane, with Frank Corwin and J.B. Murphy as pilots, with their chairs in the front.
Adding women to the faculty has tempered the male energy and has calmed the storm. Students are more comfortable expressing affection for one another. People hug each other and hold hands, and the guys don’t hesitate to offer a hug at Mass during the sign of peace. When we were an all-male school, that just wasn’t done.
By Mike Menaster, MD ’82
I was in Steve Phelps social sciences/history class as a freshman (1978-1979). Steve was talking about guerilla warfare, and I asked if that had anything to do with monkeys. That question got me a detention.
I took Fr. Dodd for Homeric Greek, and one of my classmates, who was not doing well in the class, tried to bribe him with a bottle of Greek wine. I reminded Fr. Dodd, “Never trust a Greek bearing gifts.”
I attended college at Loyola Marymount University with a pre-med and chemistry major. One of the required courses was a physics laboratory. Predictably, the midterm test was very difficult. A couple of days later, classmates in another section came up to me and congratulated me. I asked them to explain. The instructor said that I earned the high score on the exam. He explained that people criticize American education, but that I was an exception because I had attended SI and studied Latin and Greek.
Latin is actually very useful in the medical profession, despite being a “dead language.” During a pre-med course in alcohol/drug studies, the instructor asked what NPO meant. I reflexively responded, “Nihil per orum.” After observing a puzzled look on her face, I translated, “the patient can’t eat or drink anything.”
Fr. Harrington taught me the classical pronunciation of Latin (1978–1979). We learned it so well that I cringed when I heard Ecclesiastical Latin pronounced. During medical school, we studied myasthenia gravis, a neurological disorder. Classmates didn’t understand me when I pronounced the letter “v” in gravis as a “w.” We proceeded to have a discussion about the merits of classical Latin as opposed to Ecclesiatical Latin. I still pronounce the disorder as “myasthenia grawis.”