Kristy Jacobson '98 to serve as SI admissions director
Posted 06/07/2018 09:38AM

Kristy (Cahill) Jacobson '98, who is taking over as SI's director of admissions when John Grealish '79 steps down July 1, seems a perfect fit for the job, as she is steeped in SI tradition.

Her grandfather Jerome Cahill '34 and father, Dan Cahill '66, are both SI grads, as are her siblings, Kevin Cahill '94 and Kerrie (Cahill) LaRosa '96. Her husband, Sean Jacobson '96, and his siblings Brendan Jacobson '94 and Nora (Jacobson) Parente '98 are also grads.

Jacobson credits her Jesuit education and SI experience with prompting her desire to return and give back to the school and future generations of Ignatians. Still, despite her family tradition at the school, SI was not always the sure destination for her or her siblings. "Growing up in Mill Valley, SI was not always on our radar, but my father took my brother to an open house here when he was in seventh grade," she noted. "If my dad had not invited him, none of us would have gone to SI. My brother fell in love with the school, and then it was natural for my sister and I to go too."

Jacobson has also made a name for herself as a trailblazer when she was the only girl to play on a baseball team in her third and fourth grades. Later, as a senior at SI, she became the first girl to serve as vice president of the Block Club. Now, 20 years later, she will become the first female director of admissions at SI.

She was a star athlete in her Mill Valley grade school, where she played soccer, basketball, volleyball and track. At SI, she continued playing volleyball, basketball and track, earning three varsity blocks.

She played for coaches Karen Cota, Steve Bluford '84, Jim Dekker '68, Steve Phelps, Tim Reardon '86 and Julius Yap '74. "You could tell that they had a lot of love for SI as well as a ton of energy," said Jacobson. "They really related to the students they coached."

At Boston College, she earned a degree in psychology and minored in education. She also ran the Boston Marathon twice, once with her sister. After college, she spent a year with the Jesuit Volunteer Corps in the nation's capital helping people find jobs and housing and working with children in after-school programs while advocating for them in their schools.

She spent nine years working in the corporate field, including many years at Williams Sonoma, but left to accept the admissions associate position shortly after her daughter Kaitlin (now 7) was born. (Son Tommy, almost 5, later joined their family.)

"While I met many strong women whom I admired while working in corporate jobs, I struggled to see a future for myself with a good work-life balance. If I had stayed, I knew I would have spent too much time away from my family. Working at SI has also allowed me to work with students again, which I am passionate about."

She came to SI in 2011 to serve as an admissions associate after Grealish hired her. "I'm grateful that John brought me in and taught me so much over the years. He is both passionate about SI and knows a tremendous amount about our history. He had left teaching to serve as an administrator the year I graduated from SI, and now he's returning to the classroom. I'm excited for him, as he's coming full circle. I think he will be happy to be back in the classroom, where the students will really benefit from his energy and experience."

Since coming to SI, Jacobson has served as a leader for a freshman Cura Group and has moderated the Youth Learning About Business Club for three years, taking students to companies such as Facebook, Google and Amazon's Lab 126 to help them learn what working in corporate America is like.

As admissions director, Jacobson hopes to respond to the changing demographics of the city and the Bay Area, especially the flight of families away from San Francisco. She also hopes to add to existing marketing efforts to help parents and students know why SI may be a good choice for them. "We have an amazing school, so we need to make sure to tell our story in order to let prospective students know who we are and all that we have to offer. People who know SI praise us, but people new to the Bay Area or new to the high school admissions process need to know more. Given the number of applicants and increasing competition, we need to focus on how to talk about Ignatian education to 13-year-olds and let them know all that we have to offer during their four years of high school. More importantly, we can remind them how a Jesuit education will help form them into men and women with and for others."

Jacobson grew up in Marin and attended high school in the city, and she now makes her home on the Peninsula. "Broadening your horizons makes you a better person, as does interacting with diverse parts of the Bay Area. SI taught me to see the world as others see it. That's the real value of having a school that stresses ethnic, geographic and socio-economic diversity."

She will continue to work with Lori Yap and Kareem Guilbeaux '01 in the admissions office as well as with Samantha Recinos '14, a Gonzaga grad who will start in August. "I'm excited to continue working with Lori and Kareem, as both have been instrumental over the years. Samantha will also add a fresh perspective to the office when she joins in August. I'm also excited to make some subtle changes that will help us do our job even better than before."

John Grealish steps down from admissions to return to the classroom

Admissions Director John Grealish, who came to SI in 1985 to teach math, is stepping down as admissions director after eight years in that role and 20 years in administration in all, making him the school's longest-serving administrator. He will return to the math classroom in the fall.

Before serving as admissions director, Grealish had served as assistant principal of student affairs and as business manager.

"Every job has a life cycle," he noted. "There was an opportunity to return to the classroom this fall, and I wasn't sure when that would come again."

He leaves the admissions office in the hands of Kristy Jacobson '98, the new director, as well as former colleagues Kareem Guilbeaux and Lori Yap.

"The office is in great hands with these three as they are highly talented colleagues," he added. "Kristy has been outstanding from the moment she started seven years ago. She is motivated, organized and very smart."

SI, he added, was an easy school to represent "because so many good things happen here. SI is also so woven into the fabric of the Bay Area, that I didn't have that much explaining to do. We have been blessed to have had so many qualified applicants. The main challenge was selecting from among them, as we could have filled two schools with qualified students."

Grealish most enjoyed speaking with parents who came to SI with their sons and daughter on shadow visit days. "It was important for me to help them feel relaxed and give them an accurate view of the school and the application process. I also loved speaking to eighth graders in their classrooms. My background as a teacher helped, as I tried my best to keep them engaged for 45 minutes with the message of what SI is all about. That's one reason my transition back to the classroom will be so enjoyable."

St. Ignatius College Preparatory

Courage to Lead; Passion to Serve

2001 37th Avenue San Francisco, CA 94116
(415) 731-7500
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