On February 5, 2021, the Saint Ignatius Wildcats took to the hardwood to take on the state's No. 1 ranked team, the St. Edward Eagles. The Wildcats toppled the Eagles, 52-44, on a special night for Saint Ignatius High School. The night was much more than a basketball game happening in Sullivan Gym; it was also a celebration of diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) for a man who has dedicated his life to service, as Rev. Raymond P. Guiao S.J. '82 received the third annual Trailblazer Award.
Fr. Guiao is the 26th President of Saint Ignatius High School and the first person of color to serve in this position. He has led the charge to launch The Welsh Academy, the middle school for 6-8th grade boys, in 2019. Taking an opportunity to advance the dream of the late Rev. Robert J. Welsh S.J. '54, he says, "This was Fr. Welsh's dream of greater education equity for students from the city to have the opportunity to have a college preparatory education.”
Fr. Guiao was recognized with the award during halftime of the rivalry basketball game. He said, "For me, the work of diversity, equity and inclusion does not feel like work. It was a touching evening to be recognized for not just tasks I accomplish, but for the vision and movement for the school, which ultimately is Jesus Christ's vision."
"Father has taken what are courageous steps to be one of the first presidents of a Jesuit high school to talk intentionally about issues of diversity," says Mary Ann Vogel, Ed.D., Founding Principal of The Welsh Academy.
Fr. Guiao brings a passion for DEI to the Saint Ignatius community and sees it as an opportunity to advance the school’s mission.
"Fr. Ray's actions demonstrate the gospel conviction that all are welcome at the Eucharistic table," says Principal Anthony Fior '02. "The vision, fortitude, and will to get The Welsh Academy off the ground; an elevation of the importance of DEI in the high school is truly a blessing."
Assistant Director of DEI Christian Sanders '10 admires Fr. Guiao’s attention to inclusion.
"I have yet to witness Fr. Ray walk past a person here and not be able to engage them personally, being a living example of inclusion," says Sanders. “As our school has grown in size and diversity, it is important to him that everyone not just exists here but can thrive and have a formative experience."
Fr. Guiao ties DEI work to the Gospel. "Jesus was sent as the incarnation of God himself, not to be with any certain group of people, instead, being a person for the people," he explains, quoting the Gospel of Matthew 25: "What you do for and to the least of my brothers and sisters, you do to and for me."
"Diversity will be the fruit and result of a culture that is equitable and inclusive," says Fr. Guiao. "Once students, no matter what their background, really feel they belong here, the diversity will come."
Fr. Guiao credits a significant amount of his service to his coworkers and quickly gave thanks. "Mary Ann Vogel has dedicated her entire career to the pursuit of DEI," says Fr. Guiao. "Her work with The Welsh Academy proves to me how valuable of a person she is for our mission at Saint Ignatius."
Fr. Guiao's vision also led to the creation of the role of Vice President of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion.
"We took a chance by doing a national search for someone who had experience transforming a culture," says Fr. Guiao. Dr. Deborale Richardson-Phillips is the Vice President of DEI, making her the first African-American female member of the senior leadership team. "We hit a gold mine with her; she is someone who has made her way into the community and identified ways to expand DEI."
"Christian [Sanders] has been in this work for quite some time; he was a student that benefited from being a Magis student in the early 2000s," Fr. Guiao noted. "He can speak from direct experience of being a student of color and teach the benefits of being a student of color at Saint Ignatius High School."
Since Fr. Guiao was named President of Saint Ignatius High School, those who work alongside him have noticed a positive change in the culture.
"He has listened to the challenges. He is willing to make big decisions. He leads from a collaborative and pastoral center,” says Vogel. “Fr. Guiao is helping to form a culture in which we are proud of our traditions while also able to review parts of the community that need to be amended."
"Father listens well, takes ideas to heart, and is open to change, "says Fior. "He has heard the community, made changes as necessary while also keeping strong to the mission of the school."
When honoring Fr. Guiao at halftime on Friday, Sanders said, "Fr. Ray has furthered the community to resemble Christ's richness. When looking at what this award entails, it is evident that Fr. Ray embodies what it means to be a trailblazer."
Fr. Guiao continues to make strides to better Saint Ignatius High School and expand the openness of his famed Alma Mater. We are grateful for his continued work within our community and the vision to make diversity, equity and inclusion some of the lived values of our school.