Focus on the Faculty
The decade of the 1990s could be split into two halves. For the first half, the school worked to smooth the transition from a single-sex to a coeducational institution, with the last all-male class graduating in June 1992. Students and faculty saw change everywhere — from the new buildings rising up on the south end of the campus to changes in program and personnel. In the latter half, the faculty found new opportunities for growth in the Professional Development Program that has become a model for schools in California and for the 47 Jesuit high schools across the nation.
The ’90s also saw a change in leadership with the departure of Fr. Prietto, the arrival of Steve Nejasmich ’65 and the promotion of SI’s first lay principal, Charlie Dullea ’65.
Academically, the school enjoyed remarkable success, especially with Advanced Placement tests. SI ranked among the top 20 schools in the nation in terms of the number of tests students took and passed, and students continued to find entry into the nation’s top colleges.
They found success in other venues, too. Campus Ministry flourished in the 1990s with the creation of the Immersion Program, which sent juniors all over the world to experience life in Third World communities. The senior retreat program changed formats to a Kairos experience, and the retreat program grew at every class level.
Thanks to coeducation, new athletic traditions began at SI with the creation of the field hockey and softball teams and with girls forming volleyball, soccer, basketball, tennis, swimming, water polo, lacrosse, track and field, cross country, crew and golf teams. The decade also saw SI’s first athletic national championship when the boys’ crew took gold medals in Cincinnati in 1997 and three state championships. The girls’ crew also excelled, winning two state titles.
The boys’ cross country team brought home a state championship in 1996 — only the second time any SI team had ever done so. The boys also won the league title four times and the CCS title three times. The girls’ cross country team turned in 10 straight league victories between 1991 and 2000 and six sectional titles, a remarkable achievement.
The boys’ lacrosse team won the state championship three years running, from 1999 to 2001 as well as league titles in 1990 through 1992, and the girls’ team won its league five straight years, from 1997 through 2001. Basketball continued to generate excitement with the boys earning league crowns and a CCS championship in 1998. A young girls’ program proved its strength from the start, taking two CCS titles. A host of other sports also enjoyed tremendous success, from basketball, softball, tennis, swimming, soccer, field hockey and volleyball, each winning league or sectional championships.
Genesis III Capital Campaign
Before SI went coed, it had a student body of around 1,100 boys. After coeducation began, enrollment soared to 1,450 boys and girls. When the trustees voted to allow girls, they knew they would have to build to accommodate the larger and more diverse population.
In planning for the construction, the development office hired a consulting firm to help determine the scope of the project. That firm advised the school against aiming for the $16 million mark, believing it was too high. Fortunately, the development staff ignored the advice and went ahead, launching, on December 1, 1990, the Genesis III: Building for the Future capital campaign — a $16 million fund-raising drive to pay for a new theatre, pool, garage, tennis courts and gym and to remodel the Student Activities Center, the first and third floors of the school and the campus ministry center.
The school hired the architecture firm of Corlett, Skaer and DeVoto Architects and put much of the planning in the hands of Randy DeVoto ’68. DeVoto’s firm had designed the Glen Park and Balboa Park BART stations, the 1960 Winter Olympics facility at Squaw Valley and educational and government buildings throughout California.
DeVoto had to figure out a way to allow for construction with minimal disruption to classes and extracurricular events. He split the project into three phases, the first involving the construction of a parking garage at the southern end of the campus with four rooftop tennis courts, with work beginning in 1989. The second phase included the remodeling of the first and third floors of the school building, the student activities center and the campus ministry center. For the final and largest phase, the school hoped to build a second gym, a pool and a black box theatre. The project also involved updating the library, science labs, energy conservation system and the interior corridor.
DeVoto hoped his redesign would reorient the campus around an interior pedestrian circulation spine that would allow students to reach every part of the campus without having to go outside the school. “We accomplished this by demolishing a classroom at the south end of the first floor of the academic building and extending the existing corridor through it,” said DeVoto. “This new extended corridor, which connected to the new student center, served as a hub for students to gather.”
To raise funds for this project, the school asked Steve Lovette ’63 to make a move from the south end of the campus, where he served as assistant principal for academics, to a new office at the north end of campus as the school’s vice president for development. In his 15 years in the Development Office, Lovette has led the school through two successful campaigns including Genesis IV: Endow SI, which brought the school’s endowment to the $50 million mark. Both Fr. Prietto and Fr. Sauer praise him for his unfailing loyalty to the school, the professionalism with which he performs his job and the intelligence and foresight he has shown in preparing SI for the challenges of the new millennium.
Assisting Lovette and Fr. Sauer was a new Development team that formed in the late 1980s. In 1987, Paul Totah ’75 (the author of this book) began editing theGenesis magazine, and two years later Jim Dekker ’68 took over as Alumni Director. Bob Graby, a foreign language teacher and counselor, joined the staff to write grants, and Stella Muscat was hired to oversee all special events, such as the auction and President’s Cabinet Dinner. Shirley Minger, Katie Kohmann and Concie Tarantino continue to do a remarkable job helping as part of the Development staff.
Leading the drive for funds was Martin D. “Pete” Murphy ’52, senior partner of Tobin & Tobin and president of the law firm. As chairman of the Board of Regents between 1991 and 1996, he made sure that SI would earn enough money to pay for the facilities it needed. Murphy, who served as chairman of the Genesis III: Building for the Future capital campaign, was aided by assistant chairman Jay Fritz, honorary chairman Al Wilsey and the entire Board of Regents. Before the school announced the $16 million campaign, these men raised $2.5 million from the members of the Board of Regents in 1989. “The regents came through because they believed in the school,” said Murphy. “They made fund-raising easier when people saw the level of support coming from those regents.”
Key to financing the project was a $7 million line of credit from Wells Fargo, secured thanks to Wells’ Chairman Carl Reichardt, President Paul Hazen and Senior Vice President Paul Watson ’57. Fortunately, too, for SI, the construction industry was in a lull. For the largest and final phase, seven companies bid, with Webcor turning in the lowest figure at $7 million, a full $2 million under the architect’s estimate. Webcor finished on time and with no cost overruns. “We couldn’t have built at a better time,” said Murphy.
“When we started, the $16 million figure seemed like $600 million,” Murphy added. “The school had never raised that much money that quickly. But we finished with only a small amount of disruption to the school, and we ended up raising close to $20 million, giving us a jump start on the next campaign to increase the endowment. I’ve run four capital campaigns in my life, and this was the best. We had a real spirit of optimism. Much of that credit goes to the SI community. People really care about the school.”
Murphy could have stayed on longer as board chairman, but he believed the regents needed new blood and stepped down in 1996. The school, grateful for his counsel and leadership, asked him in 1998 to become one of the first lay members of a reorganized Board of Trustees, and he has served the school in that capacity and as a lifetime member of the Board of Regents since then.
Assisting Murphy through his years at SI was his wife, Joanne, who served as chairwoman of an Ignatian Guild fashion show, created the first International Food Faire and chaired the groundbreaking ceremony in 1989. Murphy is also proud of his long association with the Jesuits. He spent 11 years in Jesuit schools — four at SI, four at SCU and three at USF law school — and his three sons (Martin ’84, John ’86 and Pat ’91) are all SI grads.
From Groundbreaking to Christening
April 22, 1990, was a landmark day at SI for several reasons. First, the Ignatian world celebrated the 500th anniversary of the birth of St. Ignatius Loyola and the 450th anniversary of the founding of the Society of Jesus. And at SI, a steam shovel broke ground in the parking lot to begin the first phase of the Genesis III building project. The day began with a procession of students, faculty and administrators down 37th Avenue. Comedian Bob Sarlatte ’68 served as emcee and offered humorous commentary as each dignitary took a golden shovel and broke ground. After the backhoe dug up the first shovelful of dirt, Archbishop John Quinn, flanked by Frs. Sauer and Carlin, blessed the site, and Frank Corwin, who would retire that June, spoke at the ceremony. The success of the event foreshadowed the success of the entire building project.
By October 1990, the $1.4 million four-court tennis facility, built by the Amoroso Corporation, sat atop the new student parking complex, completing the first phase of the project. (The four courts were named for the Brusati, Christen, Kelleher and Kitt families.) Work then progressed to the second phase, which included a newly remodeled campus ministry center (named for the Nejasmich family) on the north end of the campus. Most of the first floor of the school enjoyed a makeover, with a new Fine Arts Wing (named for the Barbara and Jay Fritz Family) emerging on the southwest corner of the campus complete with a sculpture studio and display cases. Workers built a roof over the student activities center, where the bookstore, yearbook and athletic offices were, and created one of the most attractive centers in the school, complete with skylights and arches. To remake this center, the Herrera Bros. Construction Company had to tear down a load-bearing wall between the school and the center, opening up the campus and allowing for one long breezeway between the southern and northern ends (now called the Ann Eve and Paul Hazen Student Concourse). Workers completed this $2.2 million project in 1992. That year also marked the graduation of the last all-male class, the beginning of a completely coeducational school, and the start of the third and final phase of the building project.
For years, SI students joked about a rooftop swimming pool. (A typical senior prank was to sell fourth floor pool passes to freshmen to this fabled oasis.) In September 1992, work began in earnest on a pool, one named for the Herbst Foundation. It would serve the SI and San Francisco communities as both a school facility and a public natatorium. Webcor Builders also began construction on a new gym (later named for Barbara and Robert McCullough ’48) that would seat 2,650 and allow for two full-court practice sessions. That third phase, costing $12.3 million, also included a theatre (named for the E.L. Wiegand Foundation), a fine arts pavilion (named for Mr. & Mrs. Martin D. “Pete” Murphy) and a remodeled library (named for Alfred S. Wilsey).
The SI administration also decided to spend an additional $1.2 million to remodel the third floor science labs (later named the Spohn Science Center in honor of famed physics teacher Fr. Richard Spohn, SJ) to double the space available for labs. The school then repaved the track and named it in honor of Jack Wilsey ’34, who had captained his high school track team.
The school formally dedicated the new buildings and the newly remodeled science labs at the President’s Cabinet Dinner on December 11, 1993, though the pool and gym would not formally open until March 30, 1994. At the spring ceremony, Matt McCabe ’67, a former SI swimmer, brought a 5-gallon glass jug containing water from Fleishhacker Pool that he collected shortly before that pool was demolished. Over the years, he filled that container with $100 in silver coins and gave it to Fr. Sauer to pour into SI’s new pool. At a rally before the entire student body, Fr. Sauer showed off that bottle and announced that he would unite two Sunset district pools, one long past and one quite present. He asked a swim team captain James Fussell ’94 to carry that bottle to the pool. A tad out of breath, Fussell put the bottle down a little too quickly, shattering the glass and sending the water and coins slipping, rather unceremoniously, into the pool. Buildings and grounds workers quickly gathered the broken glass, and thus the new pool was christened, marking the end of the Genesis III building project, but not the end of the capital campaign, which still had to raise $4.4 million to pay for the new structures. In what the Development Office termed its “full-court press,” the school raised enough funds to pay for Genesis III in full by December 1995. In all, the school raised $15,980,240 in five years to ready the Sunset District campus to meet the challenges of the new millennium.
The Legacy of Fr. Prietto
After 13 years at the helm, Fr. Prietto stepped down as principal of SI in June 1994 and received the President’s Award at the commencement ceremony. The citation praised him for being “first and foremost, a priest and minister.”
Fr. Prietto could look back with pride on how far SI rose in the ranks regarding Advanced Placement testing. In the 1970s and early 1980s, SI did not emphasize those exams. In 1980, for example, only 139 students took an AP exam and, of those, 54 percent passed. When he came into office, Fr. Prietto asked counselor Andy Dworak to serve as AP Coordinator and to place a new emphasis on the program. By 1994, SI’s numbers had risen dramatically, with students taking 567 tests and achieving an 88 percent pass rate. Those numbers put SI in the top 50 high schools in the country regarding the number of AP exams offered. In 1999, boys and girls at SI passed 813 tests, ranking SI 19th in the nation in terms of number of tests given and 16th for the number of tests passed. “What made this ranking even more extraordinary is the fact that SI competes with 25,000 schools in the country, some of which have student bodies as large as 4,000,” said AP Coordinator Andy Dworak. To this day, the school can point to the AP program as an objective measure of its academic success, and parents can breathe a sigh of relief as students earn college credit while in high school and save thousands of dollars on college tuition.
Genesis IV: Endow SI
The SI Development staff rested one year after finishing the Genesis III campaign and launched its most ambitious fund-raising effort in December 1996 — the Genesis IV: Endow SI campaign, which sought to raise the endowment fund to $50 million over 10 years.
By 1996, the endowment stood at $11 million. The school, which depended on interest of that investment to fund the scholarship program, needed to raise the endowment substantially. Fr. Sauer and Steve Lovette did not need a crystal ball to tell them that costs were going up. SI would have to raise salaries to help teachers afford to buy homes in one of the most expensive markets in the nation, and SI would have to offer far more in the way of scholarships to keep SI a school for all students.
Initially, the program sought to increase the endowment for four funds. SI declared a goal to bring the Tuition Assistance Fund to $31.8 million, the Curriculum and Program Fund to $3.7 million, the Excellence in Teaching Fund to $5 million and the Campus Maintenance Fund to $4.5 million. In 2001, the Board of Regents approved the creation of an additional Faculty Housing Fund, with a $5 million goal, making for a grand total of $50 million.
Leading the charge for this new campaign were two men dedicated to SI: John Christen III ’61, who succeeded Pete Murphy in 1996, and Mark Cleary ’64, who succeeded Christen as chairman of the Board of Regents in 2002. (Read more about Mark Cleary in the next chapter.)
Christen, a one-time math teacher and longtime realtor in San Francisco, joined the Board of Regents in 1989 and served on the finance and executive committees. He also served as president of the Alumni Association. “The motivation for the campaign was simple,” Christen said. “We needed to make sure everyone could afford an SI education, we needed to ensure that the older teachers could retire with dignity, and we needed to help young faculty in a difficult housing market. Based on the success of the Genesis III campaign, we knew we could reach our goal.”
That earlier campaign, he added, “planted many seeds that later bore fruit. People seemed happy to donate to the school. Genesis IV was never a hard sell. People understand the value of an endowment fund. In many ways, the sale had already been made.” He also praised the Development Office for working “like a well-oiled machine” and the school for offering a top-notch Jesuit education. “SI was in great demand because people know that it is a wonderful institution that is always seeking to better itself. I’m happy to be associated with the school just for that reason.” (Christen’s sons — John ’89, Anthony ’91, Paul ’92 and Matthew ’94 — all went to SI. He and his late wife, Marilyn, who served as Ignatian Guild president and helped SI in innumerable ways, also have a daughter, Jennifer, who graduated from Convent of the Sacred Heart in 1987.)
Christen praised the efforts of his predecessor, Pete Murphy, as well as Al Wilsey and Bill Barulich. “Bill isn’t an SI alumnus, and he sits on the board of another school. But he has done so much for the Jesuits, including helping to sponsor SI’s Comedy Night. He, like so many other donors, appreciates what SI has done for his children.” After Al Wilsey died, Christen joined the Board of Trustees, the ownership body of the school. “As I grow older, I appreciate even more what SI does. I am proud that the institution is growing and is vibrant.”
The Board of Trustees
As part of a worldwide effort by the Society of Jesus to put an indelible Jesuit stamp on its secondary schools and, at the same time, to invite lay people to help run these schools, SI changed in 1998 the make-up and role of its two governing bodies — the Board of Trustees (the ownership body, which oversees the president) and the Board of Regents (which oversees matters pertaining to the principal and his staff).
This change came as a result of the 34th General Congregation — a worldwide gathering of Jesuits — that took place in 1995. At that meeting, the Jesuit delegates, together with Father General Peter-Hans Kolvenbach, SJ, emphasized the importance of maintaining the Jesuit character of the order’s high schools and increasing cooperation with laity. Fr. John Privett, SJ, the head of the California Province at the time, asked the administrators at SI and the other four schools in California and Arizona to consider these priorities in the make-up of their boards of trustees. Toward that end, SI’s four-man Board of Trustees voted May 12, 1998, to expand to include lay people.
The board, as of 2005, includes Fr. Thomas O’Neill, SJ ’74, as chairman, and Fr. Harry Carlin, SJ, Fr. Michael Gilson, SJ, Fr. Anthony P. Sauer, SJ, and Fr. Michael Turnacliff, SJ, as well as two past regent chairmen — Martin D. “Pete” Murphy and John Christen — and Board of Regents Chairman, Mark Cleary. Fr. Greg Goethals, SJ, who had served on the board since its inception, left the board when he went on sabbatical in 2005.
Before the change, Fr. Kolvenbach voiced his support of the new trustees. “I commend you,” he wrote, “for this move towards a greater involvement of lay people in this dimension of our schools.” The formation of a Board of Trustees did not in any way diminish the necessary work of the Board of Regents with its myriad committees on which the school’s operations depend.
New Opportunities to be Part of SI
In 1995, Principal Steve Nejasmich, SJ, asked English teacher Simon Chiu ’88 to resurrect the Uplift Program that Steve Phelps had created in the 1970s to encourage students from underrepresented areas of the city to apply to SI by offering them a summer school program in their 7th and 8th grade years. That program’s goals shifted in the 1980s when it became Summer Prep. Chiu brought back the name and the original purpose. Dozens of students from this program matriculated to SI as this program continued to grow and succeed.
In 2000, Principal Charlie Dullea hired Emily Behr ’93 to head the program, now called Magis. It continues to work with low-income and first-generation college bound middle-school students to provide year-round support and preparation for a college prep high school. It supports Magis graduates who attend SI, providing them with tutoring, social and cultural events, positive mentors and role models and individual advocacy. The program helps SI achieve its goal of offering “a preferential option for the poor,” which is an intrinsic goal of the Society of Jesus. It also helps provide SI with a richness that comes from ethnic and socio-economic diversity.
As a way of reaching out to SI grads who work downtown, the school’s Development Office began sponsoring the Annual Downtown Business Lunchon September 26, 1990. State Court of Appeals Judge William Newsom ’51 spoke before 130 alumni and friends in the Bank of America building. Later speakers included Wells Fargo President Paul Hazen, author Jerry Posner ’72, San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom (then a supervisor) and NFL Hall of Famer Dan Fouts ’69.
On June 21, 1996, the Alumni Association, under the leadership of John Christen, turned its annual golf tournament into an All-Class Reunion and Sports Day. About 170 alumni took part in golf, tennis, basketball or swimming and came to a dinner at the SI Commons. The event has grown each year, with the 2004 event drawing more than 400 for golf, basketball and dinner and the annual bestowing of the “honorary alumnus” status to a worthy recipient.
Alumni and parents also could take part in the school in a new way by visiting SI’s Prep Shop, inaugurated in 1996 by the Ignatian Guild. The shop offers clothing, buttons, water bottles and decals with SI insignia, and the operation, run entirely by Guild volunteers, has grown over the years. It now sells through the SI bookstore and website and at the various Ignatian Guild and school functions.
That same year, SI launched the Heritage Society, made up of individuals who have named the school as a beneficiary in their wills or estates. SI honored the first 30 members of this group with a reception at the Pacific Heights home of Dorothy and Ted Kitt ’50 on June 9, 1996. At the gathering, Steve Lovette thanked the members for “discovering dynamic ways to memorialize family members or to perpetuate their own memories. These people, rather than building monuments to themselves, offer the gift of education to others — one that endures like no other gift and is passed on through the families. Education is the best preventative medicine for society’s ills, and these generous people understand that.” The group has grown since then and now includes more than 80 families and individuals.
The International Food Faire, sponsored by the Ignatian Guild, has, since 1993, become one of the most popular events of the year. More than 1,000 students, parents and siblings attend this celebration of the diverse cultures of SI with food and entertainment. Each year young Irish dancers perform jigs and reels, Chinese lion dancers amaze audiences with intricate costumes and choreography, and many other performers celebrate their cultures through dance and song.
The PAAAS (the Parents of the Association of African American Students) began in early 1990s as a way of helping SI better support African American students. The group exists to assist SI in recruiting students of color and to help them stay and succeed at SI once they enroll. In 2002, under the leadership of executive board members Carmen Jordan-Cox, Anthony Rawls, Lynetta Johnson and Manny Fortes, the group began holding monthly meetings for parents and students to hear speakers, discuss issues or just have fun.
The Immersion Program
In 1990, SI Principal Mario Prietto, SJ, asked the campus ministry staff to intensify its focus on issues of social justice. The campus ministry team responded with an innovative program in the summer of 1992 that sent students and teachers to El Salvador, Mexico and inner-city San Francisco for what would prove to be the first steps of the fledgling Immersion Program. The brainchild of Spanish teacher Susan Ackerman and campus minister Kathleen Purcell, the trips took students to live in community with the poor to expose them to the injustices that cause poverty. Ackerman, a native of Peru, argued that “our students need to accompany people who live in oppression so that we can allow them to teach us, to transform us, to open us to rethinking what are our priorities and responsibilities towards each other.”
Since that first summer, hundreds of SI students have spent the summer between their junior and senior years in places such as Peru, Mexico, Guatemala, El Salvador, Appalachia, New Mexico, South-Central Los Angeles, Quebec and Northern Ireland. Fr. Prietto, who went to Guaymas, Mexico, that first year, saw the program as broadening SI’s response to issues of civil rights and social justice outside the city of San Francisco. “We needed to become aware of the world outside the U.S.,” said Fr. Prietto. “In past years, we had taught our students about the injustice that exists in our borders concerning women, immigrants, minorities, handicapped, homosexuals and the homeless. Thanks to the Immersion Program, we were able to show our students the substandard conditions that exist in the Third World and have given them the opportunity to learn and serve.”
Up until the 1960s, only priests served as retreat directors, giving talks and leading discussions. “We never had lay people talk during my senior retreat,” said Charlie Dullea. “It was a silent retreat, with a talk by an older priest that we would reflect on. We never had time to discuss our reflections with classmates or other priests. This regimented program was probably the same retreat my father went on in 1937.”
In the 1970s, lay faculty, including Dullea, began planning and directing retreats. He recalled trying “to reach kids by talking about their feelings and trying to understand them rather than just preaching to them. We told ‘Christ-in-my-life’ stories, and many of the students connected more with the young faculty.”
The retreat program continued to evolve in the 1990s with the advent of student-led retreats for freshmen, sophomores and juniors. Adults directed senior retreats until 1997 when the school adopted the Kairos retreat structure. By February 2002, the senior retreat grew to comprise four days. (No matter the length or form, the senior retreat continues to be a peak experience for most SI students.) Shaping the retreat program throughout the latter part of the 1990s and the early part of the next decade were Michael Shaughnessy, Michael Gilson, SJ, Rita O’Malley and Sarah Curran.
The End of Sunday Night Liturgies
On March 21, 1996, Bishop Carlos Sevilla, SJ (himself an SI grad), called Fr. Sauer to pass along a request from Archbishop Levada that SI discontinue its Sunday Night Liturgy program. The Archbishop hoped that teenagers would celebrate Mass with their families in their home parishes. Fr. Sauer, who celebrated the March 24 SNL, announced the Archbishop’s request to those in attendance and added that SI would comply with the request, thus ending a 25-year tradition. Students continue to attend Friday Morning Liturgies at SI and also have the option of attending 8 a.m. Mass at Jensen Chapel during weekdays.
Owen, Julio & Adam
The first coed Class of 1993 attended three funerals for members of the class, the first following the November 28, 1990, death of sophomore Owen Fitzgerald, who suffered a cardiac arrhythmia after collapsing in front of the school. A gifted athlete on the track and basketball teams, Owen was a personable young man, and his death stunned the school.
Then, on November 8, 1992, seniors Adam Powers and Julio Calvo-Perez were killed in a traffic accident on Monterey Boulevard. Alcohol contributed to the accident, and the tragedy served as a heart-breaking wake-up call to the SI community. The counseling department soon began a series of programs designed to educate students and parents about the dangers of drinking. As the school mourned the early deaths of these good men, it also turned a critical eye on itself to see how it could prevent future accidents from occurring. In the years that followed, SI would create a Drug and Alcohol Taskforce, a Community of Concern comprising 43 Northern California schools, an in-house program for drug education and testing, and a breathalyzer policy for school dances. “These programs have been a godsend,” said SI counselor Phyllis Molinelli. “For a long time, we did not focus our efforts in these areas, hoping alcohol abuse wouldn’t be a problem. But these deaths brought the issue to the surface. We are trying to address these issues as matters concerning health, instead of using fear, and students are helping us by telling us what works.”
The First Lay Principal: Charlie Dullea
Steven Nejasmich ’65 (then a Jesuit priest) arrived in the fall of 1994 to replace Fr. Prietto as principal. In his three years on the job, he instituted several innovative programs and traditions, including the Fine Arts Assembly, which gave the entire school the opportunity to see student singers, dancers and musicians perform in the McCullough Gymnasium. He also created the position of Director of Professional Development and gave his support to Steve Phelps in that office. He instituted the Transition Liturgy to honor the senior class and mark the junior class’s new status as leaders of the school, and he fine-tuned the way department chairs were trained. In November 1997, however, he announced a leave of absence from the Jesuits to revisit his vocation and asked assistant principal for student affairs Charlie Dullea to serve as acting principal.
Dullea had an open-door policy with the students as assistant principal, and that continued after he moved offices. “I think my secretary had a hard time dealing with all the seniors sitting in my office.” Dullea formally applied for the job that February and was chosen from among three finalists to lead SI as the first lay principal in the school’s 143-year history.
On May 1, before the assembled faculty, Fr. Anthony P. Sauer, SJ, announced Dullea’s appointment and praised him for his 26 years at SI where he had worked as chairman of the English department, director of the summer school and assistant principal for student activities.
Dullea, a fifth-generation San Franciscan and a resident of San Carlos, graduated from SI in 1965. Dullea’s grandfather, Charles Dullea, served as San Francisco’s chief of police in the 1940s, and two of his uncles were Jesuit priests: the late Fr. Charles W. Dullea, SJ ’34, served as president and chancellor of USF in the 1960s, and Fr. John Dullea ’46, is a college counselor at Verbum Dei in Los Angeles. Dullea’s father, Edward, graduated from SI in 1937 and worked in San Francisco as an attorney in private practice.
While the appointment of a lay person marked an historic first for the Sunset District campus, the move was not unusual among the nation’s 47 Jesuit high schools. Of those schools, 38 had, at the time, lay principals and three had lay presidents.
After graduating from SI, Dullea received his bachelor’s degree from USF in 1969 and then received a commission in the U.S. Army where he served for two years, earning the rank of captain. After his discharge, he received his teaching credential in 1972 and started working at SI that year.
Since the founding of SI, the Jesuit provincial for California had determined who would be principal at the school. In December 1997, Fr. Sauer, in conjunction with the school’s Board of Regents, appointed an 11-member search committee, chaired by Mark Cleary ’64, that interviewed several candidates for the job. Eventually, the search committee selected three candidates, all of whom met with faculty and students. The search committee then gave the three candidates’ names to Fr. Sauer, and he made the final selection.
“I believe Charlie Dullea has the vision, the wisdom and the goodness to continue the good programs of our school and introduce new programs to forward our mission,” said Fr. Sauer in his remarks to the faculty.
After his appointment, Dullea said he was “delighted by the new challenge. I know the community well, having come up through the ranks. I’ve grown up with the institution not only educationally but also spiritually. It will be a wonderful challenge to serve as principal of my alma mater and of a community in which I’ve invested the majority of my adult life.”
His job as principal, he said, “is to keep alive the rich traditions of a school such as St. Ignatius but also to incorporate the innovations that will take us into the 21st century. To do this, my primary focus will be to serve the teachers at SI and to challenge them to be the best in their ministerial profession that they can be.”
Dullea’s wife, Pattie, is the assistant principal at La Entrada Middle School in Menlo Park, and their daughter, Jennifer, works in human resources for the Gap Corporation. Dullea also has a brother who graduated from SI — Edward Dullea ’62 who is retired from the San Francisco Police Department.
Dullea, early on, challenged his teachers not to rest on their laurels but to continue to improve. He started the Excellence in Teaching Program and asked teachers to set and meet a new goal each year while continuing to learn better ways of teaching. “There are more than 100 teachers at SI, and they are in the front line dealing with kids. We expect them to have mastery of their subject, be involved in extracurriculars and develop their spiritual lives.” To help them towards the first two of these goals, he asked Steve Phelps to continue in his role as Director of Professional Development. For the third goal, he asked Fr. Greg Goethals, SJ, and Rita O’Malley to form the Adult Ministry Office in 2000.
In the spring of 1995, SI promoted Kate Kodros from senior counselor to assistant principal for academics, making her the first woman assistant principal in the California Province high schools. A native of Los Angeles, Kodros attended Immaculate Heart High School and Santa Clara University where she earned her Bachelor’s degree in history. She taught at St. Rose Academy from 1976 to 1988 before coming to SI and took over the assistant principal’s job when Tom Murphy ’76 moved to Rockhurst High School in Kansas City, Missouri, to serve as principal there.
“She has been the right person in the right job for SI,” said Steve Phelps, the director of SI’s professional development office. “She has modeled professionalism, emotional maturity, confidentiality and collaborative leadership skills. She, as much as anyone, has been responsible for the strong and effective voice of women in every area of the school. Her goal has been that every single teacher and curriculum be excellent for every student. It is no accident that under her watch curriculum, instruction and professional development at SI have earned local, national and international respect.”
Kodros had a direct hand in helping teachers develop curriculum and translate that coursework into better teaching. She has helped teachers understand that lecturing for 50 minutes no longer works, and that students learn best when teachers incorporate data from research regarding the functioning of the human brain into their classrooms. “Students remember best what they hear at the beginning and end of a class,” said Kodros. “Teachers know the value of making connections between current and past lessons and of personalizing the material for their students.”
Kodros is proud of the SI faculty for their collaboration. “Teaching used to be a very isolated job,” she noted. “Thanks to increased collaboration, the curriculum and lesson plans are better. Teachers are looking ahead to the skills students need to survive in college and beyond, and they are offering those skills. They are teaching critical thinking, communication and technology skills. And much of this is due to the advent of professional development at SI and to Steve Phelps.”
Steve Phelps, who came to SI in 1972, accepted the first sabbatical the school ever offered in 1994. He taught halftime and spent the remaining time visiting high schools around the country looking for examples of programs and practices that would support the SI faculty in meeting the needs of a new generation of students.
He discovered a rich depository of literature and coursework in the area of professional development, and he brought back to SI the idea of starting a professional development office. In 1995 Steve Nejasmich asked him to do just that and continue to teach two psychology classes to seniors.
“We weren’t a school in crisis,” said Phelps. “We were an excellent school that could be better.” He first determined what sorts of credentials and degrees the faculty had, and he then encouraged young teachers to earn credentials and advanced degrees that would deepen their expertise in curriculum and instruction. He worked with USF and San Francisco State University to offer a number of credential and Master’s classes at SI, and many teachers — from SI and other Catholic high schools — enrolled and went on to earn advanced degrees thanks to those evening and Saturday classes.
He also set up workshops to train SI faculty in the best ways to use technology in their classrooms, and, along with Charlie Dullea, Kate Kodros and Fr. Ed Fassett, SJ, he helped develop the Excellence in Teaching program. He organized Skillful Teacher classes and, with the Board of Regents, established a summer grant program for teachers working collaboratively to develop new and relevant curriculum.
In 1999 he and Kodros helped Charlie Dullea put into place the Five to Four program, lessening the teaching load by asking faculty to teach four, rather than five, classes, and to use their time for continually improving curriculum and instruction and for collaborative and interdepartmental projects. Because of the cost to the school, that program was phased in over four years, beginning with the English and Language departments.
He also worked with representatives from the Jesuit Secondary Education Association to bring leadership training seminars and academies to SI, and he has arranged for dozens of professional workshops for teachers to attend both on and off campus. In short, he has supported the SI teachers in their quest to learn more about their craft and to excel. And it has worked.
“All of this has contributed to a culture at SI where people are eager to learn, from the president to the youngest teacher,” said Phelps. “In years past, some teachers may have thought they knew it all. Now we’re learning so much that we don’t even question the process. It’s part of the culture. The process has both improved our relationship with other schools and given SI a national reputation for excellence. Administrators from all over the country come here because we have become a school that seeks both to learn from others and to share freely.”
It did not take long for those efforts to bear fruit. In 1998–99, SAT scores climbed to record highs, with students scoring, on average, 602 on the verbal section and 592 on math, for a total of 1194, up 14 points from the previous year. In contrast, the average among all Jesuit schools that year was 1174, and the national and state averages were 1016 and 1005 respectively. In 2004, those numbers climbed to 1207 for SI students, nearly 200 points higher than the national (1026) and state (1020) averages.
Steve Phelps likes these numbers, but he tests their accuracy by conducting a simple poll. Each year he walks down the halls of SI and asks students how many of their teachers are excellent. To qualify, he explains, teachers must know their subject well and be gifted at teaching that information. “On average, students tell me that four of their six teachers are excellent. Some say all six. I ask that question to students in other schools, and I’ll hear from zero to four. Simply put, we have superb teachers at SI because we work hard to support and reward excellence.”
Those rewards come in all shapes and sizes, from a reduced workload and fair pay to help with housing. At SI, a first-year teacher with 30 units beyond a Bachelor’s degree earned more than $50,000 in the 2004–2005 school year. A teacher with 60 units beyond a Bachelor’s degree and 13 years’ experience earned nearly $84,000 that year. In comparison, the average salary for high school teachers in California during the 2002–2003 school year was $55,000.
Phelps also has been rewarded for his efforts. Today’s Catholic Teacher magazine named SI as one of 12 schools nationwide honored for excellence and innovation in education. The magazine praised SI for “embarking on a unique approach to forming a school that learns,” for “rooting professional growth in every aspect of school culture,” and for “learning from the best models available, both locally and nationally.” Phelps was also individually honored by the National Catholic Educational Association, which gave him its Secondary School Department Award, citing his “significant contribution to American Catholic secondary education.”
Celebrating a Legacy of Scholarship & Creativity
In the 1980s and 1990s, Br. Dan Peterson, SJ, the former archivist and librarian at SI, compiled a collection of 92 SI authors who, as of 2000, had published 435 books. (The complete list is available on the SI web site.) Below are some of the more prominent scholars, novelists, non-fiction authors and poets on that list, followed by just one of their best-known works. The list is a testament to the legacy of scholarship and creativity that has always been a part of SI.
Fr. Austin Fagothy, SJ ’17, author of Right and Reason, a landmark textbook on ethics used in many universities that has gone through 9 editions since 1953.
Robert T. Orr ’25, senior scientist with the California Academy of Sciences; former professor of biology at USF and the author of The Animal Kingdom.
Robert A. Graham ’29, a writer and researcher in Church history and the co-editor of the Actes et Documents du Saint Siège Relatifs à la Seconde Guerre Mondiale, the primary sources concerning the Church and the Axis powers.
Harold Harper ’29, editor of Harper’s Review of Biochemistry, a popular medical school textbook that has sold more than a million copies since its introduction in 1939. (Harper started editing it in 1951, marking the date the text changed its name.)
Fr. JohnMcGloin, SJ ’29, history professor at USF until his death and the author ofJesuits by the Golden Gate (a primary source for this book).
Fr. Robert Ignatius Burns, SJ ’39, a preeminent scholar on medieval Spain at UCLA and the author of The Crusader Kingdom of Valencia.
Robert J. Brophy ’46, Professor of English, California State University, Long Beach and the author of numerous texts on the poet Robinson Jeffers.
Eugene C. Bianchi ’48, Professor of Religion, Emory University, Atlanta, the author of Aging as a Spiritual Journey.
David Herlihy ’48, a prominent Renaissance historian, who taught during his career at the University of Wisconsin, Harvard University, and Brown University. He is the author of The Black Death and the Transformation of the West.
Peter Raven ’53, director of the Missouri Botanical Garden and the author ofBiology, a popular textbook used at SI and at numerous schools around the country.
Fr. John A. Coleman, SJ ’54, professor at Loyola-Marymount University and editor of One Hundred Years of Catholic Social Thought.
James J. Sheehan ’54, professor of history at Stanford University and the co-editor of The Boundaries of Humanity.
Dudley L. Poston ’58, professor at the University of Texas and the author of The Population of Modern China.
Ted Wurm ’37, The Crookedest Railroad in the World
Gerald Posner ’72 Case Closed
John Van der Zee ’53, The Gate
Laurence Yep ’66 Dragonwings
Phillip O’Connor ’50, Stealing Home
John Savant ’48, Brendan’s Voyage and Other Poems
Fr. James Torrens, SJ ’48, The Run of the City
Fr. Robert Fabing, SJ ’60, Be Like the Sun
Robert M. Carson ’63 The Waterfront Writers
Paul Vangelisti ’63, The Extravagant Room
Robert Thomas ’68, Door to Door
Vince Gotera ’71, Dragonfly
Eugene Gloria ’77, Drivers at the Short-Time Motel
Women on the Front Lines
Everyone knows that the people who make any company work smoothly are the secretaries. While that is also true at SI, the secretaries, especially in the days before coeducation, provided other essential services. For many of the boys, they were surrogate mothers, bandaging skinned knees, offering support and making the school a friendlier place.
Eda Bottini is the dean of these women. She began her career at SI on June 28, 1966, to help her sister, Emma Basso (then secretary to Principal Ed McFadden) work on the accreditation report. She and a young Mr. Sauer worked together on that document. In 1969, she went to work in the Dean’s office for Br. Draper. She left SI for one year, in 1977, and returned the following year to work for Fr. Carlin in the Development Office. She stayed there until 1984 when she returned to assist Br. Draper.
In 2004, Mrs. Bottini turned 81 and continued to commute to SI five days a week from her Redwood City home. “I always enjoy coming to work,” she noted. “If I ever retire, I think I’d be lost without SI.” She loves her job, she added, because “the students need mothering. I love working with them. They treat me with such respect, and I appreciate them.”
She also praised her colleagues on the clerical staff for working hard and as “fun to be with. I enjoy them all.” Br. Draper, with whom she has worked for 37 years, “is like a member of my family. I can always talk to Brother and confide in him. He has always been very kind to me.” Br. Draper and Fr. Carlin were among the Jesuits who consoled Eda when her husband died in 1990.
Mrs. Bottini loves working with the two deans — Br. Draper and Karen Cota — and with Fr. Warren Wright, SJ, who also assists in that office. While that office is among the busiest at SI, dealing with attendance and discipline, Mrs. Bottini never seems frazzled. She is the calm eye in the center of the hurricane, sitting quietly at her desk, getting her job done, helping, along with all the other secretaries, in the behind-the-scenes running of the school.
“Eda is surely the mother of SI,” said her good friend and secretary to the principal Karen Fisher. “She is a warm and welcoming face to students and parents, an antidote to the fear of being called down by Br. Draper to the Deans’ Office. Her mind and wit are sharp, and her stamina is amazing to continue to commute from Redwood City and work a full day.”
In 1996, religious studies teacher Paul Hanley ’63 created and published SI’s first web site. In its first year, 4,000 people visited it. While that figure may not seem great, back in the mid-’90s, those numbers were respectable. Hanley, who taught himself HTML editing, used animation and music to enhance the site, and he gathered students in the first web club and gave them a chance to have a hand in the web design. Europe Online ASBL honored Hanley for another of his web sites that offered information on Gaelic folklore and culture, giving it a “Best of Europe” designation. Thanks to Hanley, SI became one of the first Jesuit schools with a web presence and laid the groundwork for the www.siprep.org, now used by nearly every teacher and student to extend learning beyond the classroom.
Computer Coordinator Janet Reid and Fr. Ed Fassett, SJ, assistant to the principal, also worked in 1997 to modernize the school’s computer and phone network, adding fiber optic cables to bring the Internet to all the computers at SI, to create email accounts for all faculty, and to install a modern voice mail system. Reid spent much of her time training students and faculty to understand how best to integrate computers and the Internet into their curriculum.
Independent Science Learning
During the summer of 1998, physics and computer science teacher Mike Ugawa developed the curriculum for a Science Research program, expanding on the work begun by Tom Murphy ’76, the former science department chairman. Ugawa received the Spohn Excellence in Teaching Award and used the award funds to purchase state-of-the art apparatus used to perform experiments in quantum theory and relativity. These experiments formed the core of the curriculum, representing a unique opportunity for high school students to perform experiments in areas of science normally not accessible until college.
“The traditional physics curriculum is based upon the work of Galileo, Newton, Maxwell and others representing ideas developed in the 16th through 19th Centuries,” said Ugawa. “The scientific revolution of the 20th Century — work that was done by Plank, Bohr, Schrödinger, Einstein and others — is largely neglected in traditional high school physics programs though it forms the basis for modern technology such as solid state electronics and computers. The Science Research program represents a step toward integrating these exciting topics into our science curriculum.”
Ugawa designed the course to help students develop skills necessary for research in any discipline. The students review research literature, develop a protocol, collect and analyze data and present their findings by writing a journal-style article and by giving an oral presentation in the semi-annual Science Research Seminar. “All of these skills are useful in any field of academic or industrial research that the student may pursue in the future,” Ugawa added.
SI has offered the Science Research program every semester since its inception; the program has expanded the curriculum beyond the sciences to include projects from various fields of engineering. The Science Research program has distinguished SI as one of the few schools in the nation where students have the opportunity to demonstrate research experience at the high school level.
For his Science Research work, as well as his general leadership in the local physics education community, Ugawa was able to make SI a center for the advancement of physics education in the Bay Area beginning in the summer of 2000 when he was named Physics Teaching Resource Agent for the American Association of Physics Teachers. As one of only 18 teachers selected for the honor from across the nation that year, Ugawa is now among the top 200 physics teachers in the U.S. and works to improve the quality of physics education by offering training and support to teachers in urban centers throughout the country. The U.S. Congress praised this program as one of the few educational reform projects producing substantial results.
“Students in inner-city schools are typically among the most disadvantaged in the nation,” noted Ugawa. “This is an opportunity to make a significant contribution toward the improvement of the quality of education received by these students and to increase their chances of success.” From 2000 through 2004, Ugawa continued to offer workshops on weekends at SI for teachers from urban schools in the Bay Area. During this time, he was one of the region’s leading science educators, serving as the President of the Northern California/Nevada Section of the American Association of Physics Teachers.
The Rise of Girls’ Sports
Girls at SI began competing in sports as early as fall 1989 in volleyball, cross country and tennis. The winter season saw the rise of girls’ basketball and soccer, and in the spring of 1990, competition began in softball and track. In later years, girls participated in swimming, lacrosse, crew, golf, water polo, diving and field hockey. Three of those sports were new to SI: field hockey, water polo and softball.
Mrs. Trish Intemann, mother of Fergus ’93 and Conor ’96, helped form the first SI field hockey team as a club sport in 1993. Intemann, a veteran of the sport, played in high school in Dublin and in nursing school in London. She gained her coaching experience at two Marin County grammar schools and in 1982 started a women’s league for the Marin Field Hockey Club. In 1992, while watching her son Conor play lacrosse, she was approached by students who had heard of her enthusiasm for the sport and who asked her to coach an SI team. In 1993, 22 girls formed an unofficial “hackers team,” as Intemann called them for their tendency to hit their opponents’ sticks rather than the ball. That team won two of its three games and inspired more students to try out for the sport and to petition the school to make it an official team. That happened in 1995, and two first-year Spanish teachers, Shelley Tucker and Linda Neilan, took over coaching duties. In 1997, SI finished first in an informal four-school league. In 1998, the girls joined the Blossom Valley Athletic League in San Jose — the nearest league that offered the sport — winning the league championship that year.
Girls’ softball began in the spring of 1990 coached by English teacher Elizabeth (Sheehan) Swarthout. The team, made up entirely of freshmen, formed a varsity squad, playing against seniors and juniors in the Catholic Girls Athletic League, which only offered competition on the varsity level. Despite being younger than all their competitors, SI’s girls finished 9–5, taking second place.
The SI diving team made its debut in the spring of 1994 when coach David Bispiel took four boys to league competition. The following fall saw the start of the Girls’ Diving Team; those girls made a splash by winning their league and taking fourth in CCS competition. The team included Lisa Wilson, who placed first in the GPSL meet and fifth in CCS competition, Sabrina Soulis ’95 (who placed third in the league meet), Nicole Larramendi ’95 (who placed fourth), Megan Terheyden ’98 and Dawn Matsui ’97.
Water polo began first with a boys’ program in the fall of 1994 with 11 boys on the varsity and 11 on JVs, with both teams coached by Stephen Psomas. The spring of 1995 saw the start of the girls’ water polo team, also coached by Psomas. At the start of the season, 30 girls tried out for this new sport, with half joining the varsity and half the JV team. The varsity finished a surprising second in the Blossom Valley Athletic League after losing 13–12 in sudden death triple overtime to league champion Leland High School. Standouts on the girls’ squad included Kirsten Filak ’96, Jamie Chavez ’96, Christine Caurant ’96 and Kimiko Nakai ’96.
Cross Country & Track and Field
The 1990s proved a powerhouse decade for SI’s cross country and track and field teams. The boys’ cross country team won CCS championships four times in that decade and one state championship in 1996. Long before that state victory, Coach Brian Richter knew he had a talented squad early in the season when, at the Stanford Invitational, all five runners crossed the finish line within 12 seconds of each other to help SI take first at that event. The team went on to win the league and CCS and was ranked number one the entire season. Runners who led SI to that state title included seniors Brad Hansen, Brendan Fitzgibbon, Derek Drummond and Brian Mulry, juniors Brendan Wells and Matt Chen and frosh phenom Neil McDonagh, who finished fourth in the CCS. The victory marked the second time that SI won a state title in a California Interscholastic Federation sport. (The first victory occurred in basketball in 1926. SI did win the state title in crew in 1995, but crew was not administered by CIF at that time.)
The girls’ cross country team also made history by winning six straight CCS titles between 1993 and 1998, the first for any school in the section. Many of these runners crossed over into track and field in the spring where the girls took first place in their league between 1991 and 2002 and brought home two sectional championships.
Boys’ track took first in the WCAL five times in the 1990s and made history in 1991 by taking the CCS title. This victory, coupled with the cross country CCS title in the fall of 1990, marked the first time SI had captured two CCS crowns in the same year, a feat no other school had ever accomplished. Between 1994 and 1997, the boy’s track team finished four undefeated seasons, a first for the school. Much of the credit goes to a talented line-up of coaches that included Julius Yap ’74, Brian Richter, Aldo Congi ’72, Steve Bluford ’84, James Quanico ’86, Charles Taylor ’88, Martin Logue ’92 and Tom Fendyan ’83. Yap, who served as head coach for many of those teams over the decade, amassed 29 league and CCS titles in five sports (boys’ and girls’ track, boys’ and girls’ cross country and girls’ golf), more than any other coach in SI history. In 2005 the city of Pacifica inducted him into its Sports Hall of Fame.
SI senior Chris DeMartini ’94 achieved a status no other Wildcat had ever earned: individual honors as a state champion. Earlier in the season, he had been ranked first in the nation in discus, but he finished first in shot put at the California Track and Field State Championships at Cerritos College in Norwalk on June 4, 1994, with a throw of 58-feet, 11.5 inches on the last of his six throws. He also finished second in discus after having an “off day,” according to his coach, Brian Richter.
In 1992, Ray Calcagno ’64 left SI and Joe Vollert ’84 became one of the youngest men, at 26, ever to serve as varsity football coach. Vollert had played under Calcagno and at SCU under Pat Malley ’49 and his son Terry Malley. As a senior at SI, Vollert earned both the Brophy Award and the General Excellence Award. He made a name for himself early on as a new kind of coach, one who taught Ignatian values both indirectly, through example, and directly, by stressing them to his athletes. When he retired in 2004, he had earned the respect of hundreds of athletes and of all of his coaching staff who admired the calm attitude and healthy values he brought to each game.
One of Vollert’s early tests came in his first year as coach. SI and SH marked the 100th anniversary (albeit one year early due to a typographical error in one newspaper story) of the first time the two schools met back in 1893 for a St. Patrick’s Day rugby game. The Irish of Sacred Heart came decked out just for the event with special jerseys reading “Beat SI” on the fronts and “Mahoney” on the backs in memory of their deceased alumnus Jerry Mahoney of Bruce-Mahoney fame. SI may have lost that first match-up in 1893, but the special jerseys didn’t provide the Irish with luck this time around. SI beat SH 7–3 before a crowd of 7,000 at Kezar Stadium and kept the Bruce-Mahoney Trophy at SI that year.
Vollert’s favorite memories of that decade include Joe Dekker ’98 carrying 33 times against St. Francis when SI won 19–0, Joe Lourdeaux ’98 kicking four field goals in that game, Alex Buich ’98 playing a great game to beat Bellarmine at Kezar in 1996, Drew Virk ’99 and Tripp Jones ’99 stopping Bellarmine on the goal line to seal a 21–14 win, Anthony Devora ’99 returning a punt to ignite SI against San Lorenzo Valley, and Sean Pailhe ’97 catching a fake punt for a key play against Del Mar in the CCS playoffs.
“I’m also very proud of some of the teams that struggled,” Vollert said in aGenesis IV interview. “One of the best teams had guys who stuck together despite a 1–8–1 season. No one wants to lose games, but I was proud of how those players took care of one another and of how hard they practiced and played. I was just as proud of them as teams that went 8–4.”
Vollert also took pride in how well his players combined scholarship with athletics. With the exception of one year, he had one or more players named as scholar athletes by the National Football Hall of Fame in each year he coached. “We preach all the time about integrity: If you’re going to work hard on the field, it’s a matter of integrity to work hard in the classroom. Our scholar-athletes represented that success.”
In 2004 Joe Vollert retired from the varsity coaching job after a dozen years as head coach, the longest anyone has ever held that job in the school’s history. Steve Bluford ’84, who served with Vollert as co-captain in his senior year at SI, took over the job. When Vollert received the head-coaching job, the first call he made was to Bluford to convince him to leave a career in physical therapy to teach and coach at his alma mater.
Bluford, the school’s first African-American varsity coach, also ran track at SI and played football at UC Santa Barbara where he received his Bachelor’s degree in psychology. A longtime psychology teacher, PE teacher and department chairman — as well as moderator of the Association of African American Students — Bluford also served as head JV coach from 1994 to 2001, leading his team to the WCAL championship in 1995. He proved his ability to lead the varsity Wildcats in 2004 by beating Sacred Heart 34–0 at the September Bruce-Mahoney game and finishing the league 4–2, including a 61–26 drubbing of St. Francis, setting a school record for the most points scored in a varsity football game.
“Steve cares deeply for his players because he blends teaching, motivation and discipline better than any coach I’ve ever worked with,” said Vollert. “He demands the most out of the kids, and they really respond. I’ve seen over the years that he has a way of getting their hearts. They really love him.”
Baseball between 1990 and 2005 had its share of magic moments. In 1991, senior Tony Rhein pitched the Bruce-Mahoney game with rain threatening throughout the day. Earlier that day, Tony had attended his grandfather’s funeral, and he was determined to pitch the game in his honor. SI went on to beat SH 5–2 on a 3-run homer by Joe Donnelly ’91 before a crowd of thousands at West Sunset Field.
Jim Dekker retired as head varsity baseball coach in 1993 after 16 years leading the Wildcats to more than 200 victories, including a second-place finish in CCS that year and a 25–7 season. No team from San Francisco ever went as far in the CCS as the Wildcats of 1993. John Grealish ’79, who played for Dekker in his senior year, would follow in his stead until 1998, when he was appointed assistant principal for student activities. Veteran English teacher Jim Bjorkquist ’65, who coached alongside Dekker and Grealish, then took over the team for two years.
In 2000, Bjorkquist’s team won the league, the first championship since 1967 and SI’s first WCAL baseball championship ever. That team also went on to the final game of the CCS championships, losing 6–5 to Leigh of San Jose to take second in the section. The victory came despite several setbacks, including the loss of several key players due to injuries. “We had to regroup time and time again to rebuild the team,” said Bjorkquist. Standouts included Joe Jacobitz ’00, who went on to play at USF and be drafted by the Seattle Mariners; Dave McMonigle ’00, who hit .395; Brent Sullivan ’00, who had 4 homeruns and 17 RBIs; Paolo Lucchesi ’00; Jim Goethals ’00; Chris Watters ’01; and Michael Tursi ’00. As well as the team did in the league, Bjorkquist was just as proud of the team earning CCS Scholastic Championship honors with the highest collective GPA (3.35) of any team in the region.
In the 1990s, SI boys’ and girls’ lacrosse became the dominant program in the Bay Area and in the state. Between 1990 and 2004, the boys’ varsity won nine league titles and three state championships, with the girls’ program, under Coach Colleen Niklaus, winning eight league championships and becoming the top team in Northern California between 1997 and 2004. Much of the credit belongs to boys’ head coach David Giarrusso, who came to SI in 1996 to teach history and who became a local legend for his passion for the sport and prowess as a coach. Thanks to his regional leadership, the number of lacrosse teams in the Bay Area rose from eight to 40 in his six years as varsity lacrosse coach between 1996 and 2002, with many of those players learning the game at one of his summer SI lacrosse camps.
Over a six-year period, Giarrusso’s teams won 90 games and lost 9. His program became so strong that in his last year coaching, SI’s four teams — the varsity and JV girls’ and boys’ teams — each won the Northern California championship. U.S. Lacrosse named Giarrusso Coach of the Year in Northern California in 1997, 1999 and 2000 and as Man of the Year in 2002. Giarrusso also served as president of the California Junior Lacrosse Association from 1999 to 2001. When he and his wife, Suzanne Abell (who also coached field hockey and lacrosse at SI) moved to the East Coast to be closer to their families, the SI lacrosse community mourned, but honored Giarrusso’s legacy by continuing to excel. In 2004, for example, the boys’ team finished 8–0 in the league under the able leadership of head coach Greg Angilly. Niklaus led the varsity girls to a 25–4–1 season in 2003 and helped junior Katie McGovern earn All American First Team honors.
SI lacrosse players excelled in college athletics in both the boys’ and girls’ programs. In 2002 and 2003, Bridget Mulhern ’00, a Cal Poly San Luis Obispo student, was named the U.S. Lacrosse Intercollegiate Associates’ Player of the Year and was featured in Sports Illustrated. In 2004 she led her team to its fourth national championship, earning first team All-American honors and MVP status of the national championship tournament. Elsa Beyer ’01, who played for UCLA, earned second team All American honors in 2004.
SI grads on UC Santa Barbara’s lacrosse team helped that school win the U.S. Lacrosse Men’s Division Intercollegiate Associates National Championships in 2004. Players included team co-captain Tycho Suter ’00 (first team All-American defenseman) Luke Wilson ’01 (first team All-American attack honors), Hank Caulkins ’00, Ryan Brittain ’01, Damon Conklin-Moragne ’02 (each an All American), Matt Wagner ’00, and Alex Wilson ’99. Other college standouts include Chris Bauman ’01, Matt Selig ’99, Eric Dahm ’00, Peter Langkammerer ’01, Brian Bianchi ’00, Kevin Clifford ’02 and Ben Horn ’01, a star on the Naval Academy’s lacrosse team.
Both Jan Mullen and Rob Hickox ’72, the coaches for the girls’ and boys’ varsity soccer teams, earned more than mere victories for their teams. Each earned the distinction of being named Honor Coach by the Central Coast Section, Hickox in 1994 and Mullen in 1996. The award recognizes coaches “who have made contributions to the growth and development of their sport and their athletes within the school, community and section.” Both Hickox and Mullen have dedicated themselves not only to SI soccer but also to a host of community soccer programs, and that dedication has earned them the respect of their peers throughout the state. Mullen’s teams did remarkably well, taking league championships in 1992–1996 and 1998–1999. In the past five years, the boys’ varsity soccer team made it to CCS competition four times, to the semifinals twice and to the finals once in 2000 after a 16–5–4 season. Then, on February 10, 2005, the Varsity Boys’ Soccer Team became WCAL co-champions for the first since 1981 by beating Bellarmine 2–1 in San Jose.
John Stiegeler ’74, a talented history teacher at SI, is a 20-year veteran of the soccer program and Hickox’s assistant varsity coach. Hickox praised Stiegeler both for his talented defensive coaching and for helping to support alumni who played soccer at SI and who gather once a year for an alumni soccer game on the Saturday after Thanksgiving. Stiegeler also sends an e-mail report of each game to all alumni soccer players. (Other alumni sporting events include the alumni basketball game the Wednesday before Thanksgiving, the alumni baseball game in April and the alumni lacrosse game in May.)
The volleyball program was the first sport to include SI’s girls. Coached by Teresa (Mullin) Garrett, the team grew in ability over its first four years. By the fall of 1992, the team faced its greatest moment when it took on the girls of Mitty, beating them in four games. Playing for the Monarchs was sophomore Kerry Walsh, who, in 2004 in Athens, went on to win an Olympic gold medal in beach volleyball with her partner, Misty May. “We were an unknown team, and Mitty was a powerhouse,” said Garrett. “Our victory shocked everyone and put us on the map. Stars of that team included Chrissy Drucker ’93 and Robin Harvey ’93, who helped their team finish second in the league and make it to the quarterfinals of CCS play. In 1998, under head coaches Karen Cota and Louie Valiao, the team won its first league championship. The girls came in second place in 1999 and recaptured the crown in 2000.
Cota praised Valiao as being one of the most respected coaches in the league and Aimee Castro and Chris Goethals for developing players, leading the JV program since the 1990s, and taking their team to the championship in 2001. Many players have gone on to compete at the collegiate level, including Julie Guevara ’94, Karen Chen ’96, Allison Cota ’99, Lindsey Cope ’01, Monica Charlton ’01 and Kelly Kramer ’02.
Chris Goethals, who joined the program in 1999 as JV coach and who led her team to a league championship in 2001 along with Aimee Castro, noted that the team has come “a long way over the years under Karen Cota’s helm, and the girls now play a high-powered, specialized game.” Goethals also praised coach Valiao, who joined the team in 1998 and whose “extensive background in volleyball helped SI compete at a higher level, taking its first league championship in 1999 against the Gators of Sacred Heart Prep.” Goethals praised outside hitters Natalie Charlton and Gina Sigillo and setter Allison Cota for leading that team to victory.
In 2000, SI joined the WCAL and found itself against Mitty, St. Francis, Presentation of San Jose and Valley Christian. “We were now competing against nationally-ranked teams,” said Goethals. “At first it was a shock to be up against the likes of these schools, but our program hung tough and continued to improve. Through it all, Karen Cota’s leadership encouraged a Christian spirit among players and coaches. Trying to go to new heights as a competitive volleyball program was not going to be done at the expense of losing our Ignatian values.” In 2004 Cota stepped down as varsity girls’ coach but continued to head the program, and Teresa Garrett, the first girls’ volleyball coach, returned to lead the team.
The boys’ volleyball team had its genesis in 1976 when English teacher Bob Grady, while refereeing a girls’ volleyball game at University High School, spoke with the coach there about forming a boys’ league for the city. Grady called the coach at Lick Wilmerding and at Athenian High School in Danville to form the first unofficial league, borrowing uniforms from the JV basketball team. Grady paid for all the volleyballs himself, started practicing in February 1977, and held competitions March through May. The next year Washington High School joined the league. Star players over the years have included Steve McFeely ’87 and John DeBenedetti ’83. In 1990, SI joined the SERVE league (Secondary Education Radical Volleyball Experiment), comprising five teams. Standouts Tom Kovats ’90, Jeff Spaulding ’91 and Sam Yen ’91 helped SI to finish first that year.
In the 1990s, SI’s crew reached unparalleled heights due, in large measure, to SI teacher and coach John Pescatore, who won the Olympic bronze medal in 1988 as a member of the U.S. 8-man boat. SI’s varsity 8 boys also won the state championship in 1994, 1995 and 1997.
In 1997, the boys’ varsity 8 went on to compete in the U.S. Rowing Junior Invitational Regatta in Cincinnati, Ohio, beating out the best crews from around the country and giving SI its only national championship. The boat featured Kevin Schmidt ’97, Alex Bea ’97, John Paul Sekulich ’97, Eric Tiret ’97, David Reynolds ’97, Patrick Reid ’98 and Greg Chiarella ’98, John Cranston ’99 and coxswain Franco Arieta ’97. Alternates were A.J. Hubner ’97, Chris Murphy ’98 and Joshua Stamer ’98. In 2004, the boy’s varsity 8 returned to Cincinnati where they finished third in the nation after a second-place state finish. That boat, coached by Tom O’Connell, featured senior coxswain Jesse Burdick and rowers Joe Dudley ’04, Mike Snyder ’05, Mike Gilson ’06, Derek Johnson ’06, Jim Terheyden ’04, Noel Castro ’04, Ryan McQuaid ’04 and Mike Tate ’05.
The girls’ varsity 8 brought home gold in 1995, 1999 and 2000, led by Coach Jen Hayden. In those last two years, they also traveled to Cincinnati to compete in the National Invitational Championships where they placed third in the nation both times. Star rowers on those boats included Betsy Dimalanta ’99, Patsy McGuire ’99, Katie Waller ’99, Giselle Talkoff ’99, Becky O’Neill ’00, Lauren Labagh ’00, Jenny Draxl ’00, Ellen Mulvanny ’01, Katie Yrazabal ’01, Mary Kate Sullivan ’01, Dinah Dimalanta ’01, Laura Terheyden ’01 and Mithu Tharayil ’00 with coxswains Marie Mahoney ’00 and Sheila Clifford ’99. Many of the women in the program went on to excel in college crews and have staged mini SI reunions at the various regattas.
Basketball fever seemed to grip the school in the 1990s with nationally-ranked players and teams taking SI to five league and two CCS championships between 1992 and 2004 for the boys’ program and one league and three CCS championships for the girls’ program. Don Lippi, who started coaching at St. Joseph’s High School in Alameda in 1978, came to SI in 1991 and developed an “in-your-face” philosophy, according to Tim Reardon ’86, who took over the program when Lippi left SI for St. Joseph’s in 2003. “Don forced other schools to make mistakes by having his team play harder than the opposition.” Thanks to Lippi, SI became one of the premiere high schools for basketball in the Bay Area. “Before Don took over the program, the team had a few tough seasons,” said Reardon. “After his first year, we were back to being one of the most respected programs in the Bay Area. For four years, I coached the varsity girls while he coached the varsity boys. In each of those years, the Chronicle ranked both SI teams in the top 10 in the Bay Area. SI was the place to go to play basketball.”
Lippi earned local and national news in 1999 when SI, with a 28–1 record and undefeated in league play, was ranked in the top 10 of all the high schools in the U.S. and number one in Northern California. Players such as Luke Whitehead (a star at University of Louisville and slated for the NBA draft at the time of this writing), Joe Skiffer, Robert Sayle, Anthony Devora and Nick Errico led the team to a second place CCS finish and to NorCal competition. In 2000, Lippi received the Boys’ Basketball Coach of the Year Award from the California Coaches Association for his “coaching excellence and professional contributions of time, service and dedication to the profession and athletics.”
Reardon stepped in as varsity boys’ coach after Lippi left, and led his team in 2004 to both the league and CCS championship — the first time that had happened since 1984. He finished second in NorCal play in a remarkable first year as the boys’ coach. He credits the team’s success to the combined efforts of the players. “Someone pointed out to me that The San Francisco Chronicle ran six stories on our team, highlighting a different player each time. This is a testament to how the athletes needed each other to be successful.” The Wildcats finished 11–6 in league play and 23–11 overall that year before going on to beat Mitty for the league championship; Evergreen Valley, North Monterey County, Pioneer and Burlingame for the CCS championship; and Northgate and Foothill in NorCal play before being stopped by Bishop O’Dowd for the NorCal crown. Jesse Lopez-Low ’04, a 6-7 senior, Max Mizono ’04, Brian Wilhelm ’04, Matt Jones ’06, Danny Zatkin ’04 and Tim Szarnicki ’04 were among the standouts on that team.
SI’s girls did not win a league championship until 2002, but because the top two teams go on to sectional competition, they did win the CCS championship both in 1996 and 1998. Their first CCS championship came with coach Steve Phelps and players Juliann Busch ’96, Kimiko Nakai ’96, Liz Lee ’97, Kristy Cahill ’98 and Maya Fok ’98. Tim Reardon, who coached in 1998, won another CCS crown despite having five players sidelined with injuries. Frosh Jacquelyn Hontalas ’01, who scored 17 points in her first game, Fok, Cahill, Julie Yap ’99, Kirsten Maciejewski ’00 and Jessica Libien ’99 helped establish the Wildcats as a dominant force in the GPSL with a 25–6 record.
In 2002, under head coach Jim Dekker, the ’Cats had their best season ever, taking both the league, with an 8–0 record, and the CCS championship. That year was the first that all three teams in the program (frosh, JV and varsity) won league championships, the first time league coaches voted unanimously on who should be the MVP (senior Katie Meinhardt), the first time an SI student (Meinhardt) received a full scholarship to a Division I college and the first time the San Jose Mercury News chose someone from SI as its girls’ basketball coach of the year. Dekker stepped down in favor of Julie Guevara ’94, a veteran SI player, who finished her third year as head coach in 2005.
Fifteen years since its inception, the girls’ program now has a strong base of alumnae players, many of whom return for the homecoming game the day before Thanksgiving each year to take on the varsity girls’ team. The alumnae women played their first game against the Wildcats in 2001, losing 56–23 against the varsity.
Both boys’ and girls’ tennis excelled in the 1990s and beyond, with the boys winning the WCAL in 1992, 1994, 1996, and 1998, and the girls’ taking first in 1993 and 2003. The boys won their first league meet in 1992 coached by Art Cecchin ’63 after an 18–3 season thanks to Elwyn Cababe ’92, Aaron White ’92, Derek Bertelsen ’92, Chris Zonnas ’93, Trevor Hewitt ’94, Martin Burke ’92, Aric Zurek ’92, Jon Weinstein ’94 and Chris Jew ’94.
The next year, Cecchin, now the girls’ head coach, led SI to its first GPSL tennis championship with Lisa Monfredini ’96, Sarah Warren ’96, Anne Warren ’94, Francesca Crisera ’95, Mimi Dang ’95, Jocelyn Sideco ’95 and Kacey Callinan ’94.
In 1994 Mike Thomas ’71 led the boys to another league title after a 12–0 league finish and a 21–2 overall finish with Jon Weinstein ’94, Trevor Hewitt ’94, Jason Horn ’94, Chris Jew ’94, Opara Green ’96, Adrian Gonzales ’96, Tomo Tom ’97, Wesley Chu ’96, Mark Kasprowicz ’96, Elliot Chun ’96, Riley Hurd ’95 and several of the players from the ’92 championship team. Thomas repeated that trick two years later, going 12–0 in league play and 18–2 overall with number one and two players Adrian Gonzales and Brad White ’97 along with doubles’ teams of Rob Estrella ’96 and Mark Kasprowicz and Elliot Chun and Mike Duffy ’97. He also praised Tomo Tom, Wesley Chu and Brandon Chu ’98 for helping SI finish among the top eight in CCS play.
In 1998 Thomas’ team once again took first in the league with Brandon Chu, Daniel Ho ’00, Jeff Curtiss ’98, Omid Talai ’98, Jeff Duerson ’99, Jason Buick ’98, Victor Santore ’99, James Shinbori ’98 and Scott Li ’00.
The girls won the WCAL championship in 2003 with Coach Hillary McKinney helping the ’Cats to a 13–1 season thanks to the power play of Stefanie Ordoveza ’04, Donna Verdiano ’05, Katy Kilgore ’05 and Maggie McAteer ’04. Bill Haardt, currently the boys’ head coach, led his team to a third-place WCAL finish in 2004 after an 11–3 season. Craig Law ’84 (who coaches JV girls and boys) and Br. Artie Lee, SJ, have also been instrumental to the success of the program.
The boys’ golf program enjoyed its last league championship in 1979, but continued to excel with star golfers such as Peter Andersen ’87, Tim O’Riordan ’88, Josh Levin ’94 and Mike Sica ’99 under coaches Fr. Roland Dodd, SJ, Bob Drucker ’58 and Julius Yap ’74.
A few girls, such as Judette Tobes ’98 and Annie Donnelly ’95, played on a coed golf team until 2001 when SI formed a separate girls’ team. Elaine Harris ’04 and her father, an All-American golfer at Stanford, along with Carolyn Thamkul ’03 encouraged Yap to start a girls’ team. On the first day of tryouts, 35 girls came out for the team and 24 stuck with it. That year, SI took second in the GPSL. Harris, then a sophomore, took first at the league championship and fourth in CCS play.
In 2002, SI left the GPSL for the WCAL and finished as co-champions with Notre Dame High School, Belmont, before taking third in CCS play and ninth in NorCal competition. The following year, the girls outdid themselves, taking first in league, first in CCS and first in Northern California competition before winding down a remarkable season with a fourth-place finish in the state thanks to the talented play of Harris, Ai Chen ’04, Katie Cavallero ’04, Dana Fisco ’04, Colleen McHugh ’05, Katie Moran ’05, Patti Pang ’05, Keiko Fukuda ’06 and frosh phenom Rosalie Tolentino ’07.
The Wall of Champions
After the homecoming football game of October 21, 1995, SI dedicated the Wall of Champions in the Martin D. Murphy Pavilion. The series of plaques honor each varsity team that won a league, sectional, state or national championship. Block Club Moderator Robert Vergara ’76 did the research for the wall and gave a stirring speech in which he noted that “in recognizing these champions, we honorall those who have worn the Red and Blue, whether their team finished in first place or last. For if winning championships were our only goal, our athletic program would be a richly decorated but empty shell. What we celebrate today, along with our championships, is the hard work, the self-sacrifice and the commitment to Ignatian values that are the mark of all truly great St. Ignatius teams.”
A Change of Leadership
Robert Vergara ’76, Leo La Rocca’s assistant AD, took over the job in June 1999 as SI’s fifth athletic director. As a student, Vergara served as manager for the baseball and football teams and as a basketball statistician. That began his long love with the SI sports tradition. “I used to go into Leo’s office before he knew who I was and look at all the great stuff in his room. I’d look up Dan Fouts in the 1969 yearbook and read about the 1926 basketball team that won the state championship. I loved learning about the great teams from the 1950s and ’60s.” Vergara returned to SI in 1982 after graduating with his bachelor’s degree in history from USF, and, since then, he has taught English, history and public speaking and served as scheduling director for 14 years and as associate athletic director since 1997. As AD, he now works with 96 coaches, 62 teams, 25 sports and 870 students — nearly 60 percent of the student body who play at least one sport. Perhaps Vergara’s greatest strength lies in his belief that coaches need to do more than win games. They need to instill Ignatian values in their students, extending the lessons of the classrooms onto the playing field. Helping him in this mission is John Mulkerrins ’89, who stepped into Vergara’s old job as assistant AD.
Several SI students and faculty members have competed in the Olympics over the years. John Pescatore, who taught math and coached crew at SI in the 1990s, won a bronze medal in 1988 in Seoul as part of the U.S. team’s 8-man boat. Four years later, in Barcelona, he finished sixth in the pairs event. Before the start of the 1996 games in Atlanta, Pescatore carried the Olympic torch 1 kilometer, down Haight Street from Masonic to Divisadero.
In Atlanta, Tom McGuirk ’89 raced in the 400-meter hurdles for Ireland — he holds dual citizenship — and he also competed four years later in the 2000 games in Sydney. He was not the only Wildcat there. Sebastian Bea ’95 won a silver medal in the pairs rowing event. His victory was all the more remarkable given how much pain he had suffered just three weeks prior. As his plane landed in Sydney, he was stretched out on the floor of the jet, all 6-foot, 6-inches of him, his face contorted in agony and his back on fire with muscle spasms. “The pain almost broke me in half. Passengers had to step over me to exit.” Thanks to muscle relaxants and a back brace, Bea healed enough to compete and bring home the only medal won by the U.S. men’s rowing team at those games. Bea’s coach, incidentally, was John Pescatore, who was part of the Olympic Training Center in Princeton, New Jersey. Both McGuirk and Bea have returned to SI often — Bea spoke at a Father-Son Dinner and McGuirk has helped out coaching track and field.
Past Olympians also include
- Dick Hyland (1918), who won gold with the U.S. Rugby Team in Paris in 1924;
- Jim Delaney, a math teacher at SI from 1946 to 1948, won silver in the 1948 London Olympics in shot put;
- Louie Nady ’59, who served as an alternate to the U.S. sailing team during the 1972 Olympic games,
- and Jackie Lee ’03 who was an alternate in table tennis in Beijing in 2008.
Other SI athletes made various Olympic teams. The Salvemini brothers — Len ’71 and Dan ’75 — both made the U.S. Olympic Soccer Team, though, for different reasons, neither competed in the Olympics. Only the best 25 soccer teams in the world make it to the Olympics. Len’s team was eliminated from the 1976 Montreal games when Mexico beat the U.S. in 1975, and Dan’s 1980 team boycotted the Moscow games along with all the other U.S. teams that year.
Also, Mike Gravelle ’83 became the U.S. national discus champion in 1994 at the USA-Mobil Outdoor Track and Field Championships in Knoxville, Tennessee, with a throw of 201 feet, 4 inches. Gravelle returned to SI to serve as the girls’ weight coach, offering his expertise in discus and shot to both boys and girls.
In 2000, Marc Bauman joined the Fine Arts faculty, teaching acting full time and directing the fall play, the spring musical and advising student directors during the Winter One-Act Festival. Bauman performed with Marcel Marceau on his 1999 North American tour and is one of four Americans to have ever received a diploma from his international theatre school in Paris — L’Ecole Internationale de Mimodrame de Paris Marcel Marceau, an MFA equivalent. A gifted actor and mime, Bauman has been featured on Entertainment Tonight (NBC) and Sunday Times on CBS. He has performed in many plays, including ACT’s production ofThe Tempest and the San Francisco Opera’s productions of The Fiery Angel and Ruslan and Ludmila.
Since 1983, Bauman has taught acting and movement throughout the U.S. and Europe, including UCLA, USC and ACT in San Francisco where he has also served as project director. Since his arrival at SI, he has produced and directed many plays and musicals, including The Miracle Worker, Guys and Dolls, Servant of Two Masters, The Pajama Game, Ascension Day, Chess, Rumors, The Music Man andThe Diary of Anne Frank as well as five winter one-act festivals.
By Meredith Cecchin ’97
Those who did not spend the majority of their high school years in the underground catacombs of SI Fine Arts might assume that SI did not dance until it went co-ed. Those who preferred the spotlight over daylight, however, might remember that SI students, like the fog, have danced on cat feet for decades.
SI hired its first choreographer, John Ellis, to join the farmers and the cowhands in friendship in 1966’s production of Oklahoma! From 1966 through the ’70s, student and faculty choreographers took on the task of choreographing the musicals and musical revues. Marianne Schwarz made a significant imprint on SI dance by choreographing musicals and Musical Theatre Workshops during the late ’70s and early ’80s including My Fair Lady, Carnival and Hello, Dolly! Around this time Schwarz was also the first choreographer hired to teach a formal dance class after school for the young men of St. Ignatius.
Ted Curry ’82 returned to SI in 1983 to choreograph 110 in the Shade, Cabaret,Mack and Mabel and several musical theatre revues. Curry was also the first to choreograph SI students as dancers in the Ignatian Guild Fashion Show in 1984, a tradition that continues to this day. Musical Theatre Workshop performances began to include dance numbers that stood apart from the musical scenes. The first year, dancers performed sections from A Chorus Line and Cats. (This would not be the last time that Wildcats would perform in ears and tails!) Michelle Stubbs began choreographing musicals and fashion shows in 1987 and took SI dancers into the coeducational transition. Stubbs began the tradition of Saturday morning dance classes, and for 15 years SI’s advanced dancers have shown their dedication by rising early to practice on weekends as well as after school.
In 1990, Julie Ferrari was hired after students lobbied for a dance class. When Ferrari (who also taught religious studies) joined the faculty, students finally had the opportunity to take dance classes during the school day. Beginning-level students were able to take classes to complete the Fine Arts portion of their graduation requirement, and Ferrari continued to teach more advanced classes on Saturdays. At this time, classes were held in Bannan Theatre or on the then-carpeted floor of the Band Room. Neither was an ideal space for dancers, so when construction began in the early 1990s, plans included the spacious Wiegand Theatre with its sprung floor and mirrors for the dancers. Wiegand Theatre opened in late 1993, but a swimming pool mishap soon flooded it, warping its floor. The room reopened in 1994, and finally, SI’s dancers had their own home.
1994 brought another milestone in SI dance. Julie Ferrari and her dance classes presented SI’s first dance concert titled Baseball, Broadway, and the Blues Brothers. This was the first dance performance that did not include dramatic performances as well (though it did include a reading of “Casey at the Bat” by faculty member Steve Kearney). Erik DeLong ’97 was a freshman dancer in the show and recalls being one of four or five boys in the class and performing numbers from Damn Yankees and 42nd Street.
Angela Brizuela Delphino joined the faculty as SI’s first full time dance teacher in the fall of 1994 and continued to develop the tradition of the annual dance concert with elaborate musical numbers and costumes. In both 1995 and 1999, SI dancers would again prowl and pounce to the music of Cats. Veronica Esmero ’03 recalls performing that Cats piece in front of the entire student body in the Fine Arts Assembly her freshman year wearing her “most embarrassing costume,” including fur, ears and tail. Delphino expanded the dance program to include two levels of dance classes during the school day and added an additional class after school. More and more SI students were getting the opportunity to dance.
Meredith Cecchin ’97 joined the faculty in 2001 and continued the expansion of SI dance. By 2003 the program offered two levels of dance to students during the school day and four levels after school and on weekends. SI Dance Alumni Ted Curry and Lizette Ortega ’94 both returned to their dance roots upon joining the faculty at SI. Over 100 students of varying levels participate annually in one or both of two annual dance concerts. SI dancers continue to perform in the Spring Musical and Fine Arts Assembly and continue to develop as choreographers as well as dancers. The dance program continued its feline tradition in 2005 with the January concert wildCATS, which featured pieces from Broadway musicals including, predictably, Cats.
Though some musical choices might remain the same, SI’s dance program has advanced and grown since that first choreographer was hired 40 years ago. Jesuit schools have always held the performing arts in high regard as important for student development. It is such thinking by administrators, faculty, parents and students that allows the dance program to continue to expand and excel. SI’s dancers live out the truth in Albert Einstein’s words when he proclaimed that “dancers are the athletes of God.”
And All the Rest
Ignatians showed creativity in organizing new clubs from 1990 through 2005. The following clubs made their debut (and some, their exit) in this period: Web Design, InSIgnis, Insignis Core, Wildcat Welcoming Club, Dance and Drill, United Cultures of St. Ignatius, the French Honor Society and Christmas Choir, Spanish Honor Society, Japanese Honor Society, Junior Statesmen of America, the Junior Classical League, Amnesty International, Social Justice, School of the Americas Protest, the Left, C is for Cookie, Martial Arts, Cycling, Animé, Donuts and Coffee, Teen Angel, Paint Ball, Rock and Roll, Diner’s Club, Bread Connection, Boys State, Girls State, San Francisco Exchange Program, Academic Decathlon, Ambassador Club, the Quill, Conservative Students’ Coalition, Guitar Club & Ensemble, Biology Club, Science Club, Big Sisters, Protosite, Ecology Club, Jewish Life Club, L’Chaim, Yoga, Film, SI Card Club, Mentoring, Pub Club, Interact, Armenian Students Association, Photo Club, Hackey Cats, SI Aquarium Society, Psychology Club, PCMUG, Polo Club, Pep Band and Student Trainers (an innovative program using students as athletic trainers, under the supervision of Marla Bottner and Robert Assadurian, to accompany teams to their games and help with first aid and conditioning).