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Saint Ignatius High School

A Master Class

We take a look at the immeasurable impact of our 13 retiring faculty and staff. Join us in celebrating and saying thanks to these men and women who together have given 440 years of service to the students, families and community of Saint Ignatius High School.

The magic number is 440.

That’s the number of years of service this year’s retirees have given to Saint Ignatius High School—an average of 34 per person.
 
That number does not reflect the total number of years working full-time in education for this group, which is 499.
 
It does not include the years of part-time teaching and coaching that many of these folks gave to Saint Ignatius before they were hired.
 
A number of this size only begins to reflect the order of magnitude by which these folks have affected our famed Alma Mater. What’s that thing they use to measure earthquakes? We need something like that to gauge their enormous impact.
 
This 2020 class of retirees has not yet received the farewell they deserve, the individual goodbyes we crave, nor the traditional odes and cheers to their many lasting contributions to our school.
 
Those celebrations will come as time and restrictions allow. I trust in my heart that we will get that opportunity, but these farewells will be a process. In the interim, we can prayerfully reflect on what great gifts these teachers and staff have been to us and to our school. We can reach out with an email, a phone call or thank-you note. We can celebrate, congratulate and appreciate—there’s no need to wait.
 
I’ll get us started.

Tony Antonelli Hon. ’19

“Goooin’ to the market and we’re gooonna buys some dooo-nuts.”
 
This simple song, which goes to the tune of “Chapel of Love,” has the power to transport alumni back to math class with their beloved teacher. A fixture on campus since 1974, Tony Antonelli has been cherished for his signature brand of old-school teaching, sense of humor, and unmatched preparation.
 
“Kids like him because he’s a personality,” says Math Department Chair Dave Sabol ’99. “They also like him because he is so predictable. He is not going to pull a curveball. Kids can count on that they know exactly what to expect when they walk into his room, because it’s comforting.”
 
Indeed, having Mr. A as your classroom teacher occasionally meant surprise trips to Dave’s or the West Side Market to get donuts. But it also meant having a math teacher whose classroom was an OK place to take risks, make mistakes and have fun.
 
“He’s old-school, but kids love him,” Sabol says. “First off, he’s the most organized and preplanned teacher you’ve ever met. The department joke is if Tony is making copies and it’s January, he’s making the copies for the second semester exams.”
 
Of course, Antonelli’s legacy stretches beyond the classroom. He has coached football for decades, most recently working with the freshman team. Furthermore, he directed and built the Summer Enrichment Program during summer months, creating the premiere opportunity for rising eighth graders to have a fun and engaging summer experience at Saint Ignatius.
 
Together with Jean, his wife and fellow Math department teacher, the Antonellis are an incredible team who practically raised their family on campus. Both Tony and Jean received honorary diplomas with last year’s Class of 2019.
 
After serving as department chair for many years, Tony remains an example for what being a good teacher is all about.
 
“I look at him and remember that we are providing something for students that is safe and secure and leaves them with confidence. He’s a good balancing factor in the way that I plan and the way that I proceed as a teacher and as a chair,” Sabol says.
 
Antonelli won’t leave a donut-shaped hole on campus quite yet. He plans to continue teaching part-time next school year.

Dan Baron

On Holy Thursday this year Theology teacher Dan Baron stood alone at Cleveland’s burial ground for the poor and abandoned, known colloquially as Potter’s Field. With an iPhone in one hand and a large bell in the other, he led the members of the Saint Joseph of Arimathea Pallbearer Ministry in their semiannual prayer service for the deceased via Zoom call.

For 32 years at Saint Ignatius, Mr. Baron has guided students in their faith. Initially it was in Campus Ministry, where he helped give shape to the department as it exists today. In leading retreats, liturgies and setting up mission trips, he created spaces for students to have personal encounters with God.
 
“There were just these golden moments where it was a privilege to be in that spot in that time with that kid,” he says. “There were a million of those that were privileged encounters with kids.”
 
A dozen years ago, he transitioned into the Theology department, where he found himself reinvigorated by classroom teaching. His favorite course was one he taught every year: Freshman Theology.
 
“I really enjoyed the brand new freshmen and the whole life of Ignatius and Jesuit spirituality and then kind of the school legacy and folklore and urban legends,” he says. A favorite assignment from the beginning of the school year was a scavenger hunt around campus, or sneaking his classes into the tower conference room six stories up.
 
Along the way, his friend and colleague Jim Skerl ’74 tapped him as a partner in leading the pallbearer ministry, which at the time was still in its infancy. Even after Skerl died in 2014, Baron was essential in ensuring that the ministry and the Christian Action Team remained true to the spirit of Christian service that Skerl created.
 
“I’m proud that we’ve at least been able to continue on the programs and the kids were still involved, and we’re still practicing the Corporal Works of Mercy with the right spirit,” he says. He plans to continue assisting with the pallbearers during the transition period of COVID-19.
 
Baron is kind, easy-going and earnest in sharing his faith with the young men at Saint Ignatius. When he tells stories (and boy, does he have many!), or talks about the call of Christ, it is impossible not to be drawn in.
 
Through all his work, it is certain he brought students closer to God.

Brian Becker ’77

Tucked away in the back corner of the math wing, Brian Becker was quietly at work, making a difference. Known widely for his success as the Head Basketball and Golf coach for many years, “B-squared” also coached up students in the classroom.
 
“I began as a wide-eyed 10-year-old watching games and hoping to attend Saint Ignatius,” he wrote in an April letter to his colleagues. “Then, my own graduation and my own games. And, on to teaching and coaching for the past 38 years.”
 
“So many … managed to recognize something deep within me by carefully guiding and encouraging me in how to care for and inspire the students academically, but more importantly spiritually.”
 
It seems that the ways in which he was taught informed how he approached his vocation as teacher and coach. No wonder he consistently ranks as one of the most impactful people on campus.
 
Sabol says, “If you talk to kids or alumni or if I meet somebody and tell them I’m a Math teacher at Ignatius, Brian has the highest hitting percentage of, ‘He was my favorite teacher.’”
 
Becker often taught classes without “honors” or “AP” in their names, and so connected with a huge portion of the student body that was not necessarily the students trying to use math class to boost their GPA.
 
“I really think that he finds a great way of getting to know students personally, of working one on one, of forming relationships,” Sabol says. “He has a really good way of making students feel safe in the classroom and confident in what they’re going to do.”
 
Of course, Becker has the most wins as basketball coach in school history, with 22 years at the helm, including a historic state title in 2001. He also led the golf program for 17 years.
 
When he retired from the hardwood in 2019, he explained his philosophy as follows: “You have to look on the bright side all of the time. Sometimes the ball doesn’t go into the basket; sometimes kids don’t solve the equations correctly. But they’re learning and they’re maturing. They’re learning how to interact and how to become good people.”
 
Wherever his classroom was, Becker showed his students how to become good men by simply being one himself.

John Cooney ’67

Before he taught at Saint Ignatius, even before his seven years of teaching at St. Edward, John Cooney taught at Our Lady of the Angels grade school in West Park. In his first couple of years, he actually taught both of my parents.
 
“Walters, don’t worry if you don’t know the answer,” Mr. Cooney would say when he taught me sophomore year. “Your parents didn’t have a very good junior high science teacher.”
 
Perhaps that’s true, but I can say with certainty that I had a remarkable high school biology teacher, and anyone who learned from Mr. Cooney during his 47 years in the classroom (34 at Saint Ignatius) is bound to say the same thing.
 
Retired Science teacher Ed Nolan Hon. ’19 taught with Cooney both at St. Edward and at Saint Ignatius. Since their earliest days teaching together in the 1980s, Nolan has held Cooney in high regard.
 
“He was incredible. The energy that he put into teaching was incredibly infectious. He was amazing. We did all these wild labs, and we had this huge end-of-the-year biology practical exam that we put together, and he was all about the kids.”
 
That Cooney was dedicated to his students goes without saying. In addition to serving as a basketball coach for many years, he was moderator of many extracurricular clubs, including Golfers for Others, the “Scrubs” Club and the nascent Fishing Club. In fact, his love for the outdoors led him to take students to the Cleveland Metroparks for an experience of electrofishing.
 
He put everyone at ease around him, and persevered through a battle with cancer in the late 2000s. His wife, Janet Lehane, helped build the foundation for the Spirituality Program for Adults until she retired from Saint Ignatius last year. Their daughters were fixtures on campus over the past three decades, often at Wildcat basketball games.
 
“He loves kids,” Nolan says. “He was an incredible role model as a teacher. The energy he put into teaching, and the care he put into teaching—he was really my first example of Jesuit education, of living a Jesuit-influenced lifestyle.”
 
As for his legacy at Saint Ignatius, Nolan points to the massive numbers taught by Cooney during his 47 years.
 
“You can’t go anywhere without someone knowing who John Cooney is,” he says. “And when you say the name ‘John Cooney,’ there’s love and respect there. He is a giant. If you wanted to go to the moon, he’d help you get there.”

Jennifer Fight

Perhaps no person on campus has to be as versatile and unshakeable as Jennifer Fight. When she could be dealing with a confused freshman student one minute and former Ohio State Head Football Coach Urban Meyer the next minute, Fight is called on to meet people’s important needs that truly run the gamut.
 
And yet, through it all, she puts forth a genuine cheer and kindness during each day of her 13 years as the administrative assistant for athletics. With 16 varsity sports teams that virtually run all year-round, Fight has handled scheduling, uniforms, physicals, transportation, invoices, recruiting visits, student questions and more with unequaled aplomb.
 
“One of the really important parts of the job is being a good person, and being a good communicator and being the face of our athletic department,” says Athletic Director Rory Fitzpatrick ’88. “In Jennifer we couldn’t possibly have asked for somebody nicer, somebody better, somebody more in tune with what our mission was. She’s just been an absolute blessing to have around.”
 
The reality is that, in her role, Fight is almost always on call. Practically everyone who has worked with her can attest that she always answers that call.
 
“She has cemented herself with the alumni and the supporters of Saint Ignatius athletics, and I know there are a lot of people whose only communication with our athletic department goes through Jennifer’s office, and I couldn’t feel more comfortable about that,” Fitzpatrick says.
 
In addition to fulfilling her role with unquestionable dedication, Fight has endeared herself with student-athletes and adults alike through her friendship—to say nothing of her excellent baking.
 
“We could probably put a mini couch in front of her desk because she’s a part-time psychiatrist for a lot of the guys,” Fitzpatrick says. “When we talk about cura personalis around here, it doesn’t matter who the person is that our students connect with, just that they connect with somebody. And there are a lot of kids who just connected with Jennifer and the way she listened to people. You can’t really quantify it, but you know how special it is when you see it.”
 
The phrase “service with a smile” doesn’t quite do Fight justice, true though it may be. She has made Saint Ignatius athletics better in innumerable, unquantifiable ways.

Dale Gabor ’66

Alongside the names of the most important and legendary people in the proud history of Saint Ignatius Athletics, Dale Gabor’s name ranks as high as any other. He has shared tremendous talents as an administrator, teacher and coach with the school community ever since he graduated from John Carroll University in 1970. Do the math: That’s a half-century of work.
 
Gabor has been teaching Latin at Saint Ignatius in various capacities throughout that time, but he is perhaps best known for his 25 years as athletic director, a role he held from 1983 to 2008. During that time, Saint Ignatius ascended state and national rankings across all sports and expanded its athletic offerings.
 
“The way I do my job is what I learned from Dale, working with him for eight-plus years,” says Fitzpatrick. He taught me what it means to do the job the right way. That means trying to be up front with people and trying to help people.”
 
Gabor’s accolades include induction into the Saint Ignatius Athletic Hall of Fame in 2016 and the OHSAA Officials Hall of Fame in 2019. And yet, he continues to serve Ohio high school athletes as the track and field administrator for OHSAA.
 
More importantly, he has continued to teach. Gabor oversaw the summer school program for a number of years, helping current students to catch up or incoming freshmen to receive the remediation they needed. Gabor also served the Languages department as a Latin teacher, often working with smaller classes of students who needed more structure.
 
Through all of his work and dedication to his Alma Mater, Gabor has done so quietly, never seeking the attention that might come with his many achievements. One example: He and his wife, Linda, an honorary member of the Class of 2019 and Chair of College Counseling, coordinated efforts with a few other families to provide monthly meals to the Saint Benedict Joseph Labre Ministry to the Homeless for many years. Together, Linda and Dale regularly attend the Friday morning community Masses in St. Mary of the Assumption Chapel.
 
“He holds himself to an ethic—there are certain things that we would not want to do even though it might temporarily get us ahead in the game,” said former Principal Fr. Ken Styles, S.J. “He refuses to go that route.”
 
By humbly holding himself and those around him to the highest of standards, Gabor has elevated his students, high school sports, and the spirit of Men for Others that infuses the entire school.

Dan Galla

Week after week, the linens in St. Mary of the Assumption Chapel would be washed and folded and prepared for the next liturgy or prayer service. It’s a simple task, but an important one, and Deacon Dan Galla of the Theology Department made it happen.
 
“That sort of thing, that’s so Dan,” says longtime friend and fellow department member Tom Healey ’77. “Do things in a quiet subtle way that make people better at doing what they do. Dan’s the one who enables that stuff to be there for us, clean and ready to use.”
 
A Third Order Franciscan and ordained deacon, Galla’s remarkable humility and spiritual grounding made themselves known throughout Saint Ignatius High School—in the classroom, in service, at Masses and in one-on-one interactions with students and colleagues.
 
One need look no further than to watch Galla pray. The conversation that takes place is so natural and sincere and earnest; no doubt God is communicating through his servant, who spent 27 years teaching at Saint Ignatius.
 
In the classroom, Galla would assign certain jobs to students and started each lesson with a word jumble pulled from The Plain Dealer. He understood the importance of routine. A lesser teacher might have been received with strange looks by his young charges, but students knew right away that Mr. Galla was quite special.
 
“They saw a genuineness to him that he was so sincere,” Healey says. “He never put on a show. If you got Dan Galla in class, this is a guy who really cared about his faith and passed it on to that next generation.”
 
His dry sense of humor made fellow Theology teachers look forward to Galla’s contributions in department meetings. His involvement in deepening the faith life of the school spans generations—from when he ran Sophomore Service, to serving as a spiritual director to fellow faculty, to most recently taking on the role of C.A.T. Chaplain.
 
In fact, one of Jim Skerl’s last requests before his death was for Galla to become the spiritual leader of the Christian Action Team. He filled the role brilliantly, guiding students to deeper understanding of the connections between faith and service.
 
Since then, he has moderated the Saint Aloysius Gonzaga Society of Prayer every week on Tuesday mornings. Together with his small cadre of students, they prayed for the sick.
 
Who knows how his work and prayer has impacted us? We don’t—we just know that it has.

Hank Gaughan Hon. ’19

Shortly after the end of this school year, the members of the Health & Physical Education Department gathered in their office on the north end of Murphy Gym to clean things out for summer.
 
“Hank brought donuts for the clean-out,” says Department Chair Holly Woytek. "The Health department likes donuts. Watching him sit there watching us move, I almost wanted to cry because he almost had this look about his face that was like, ‘I’m going to miss this group.’”
 
And who won’t miss Mr. G?
 
Gaughan has been on campus for 35 years, beginning part-time as an athletic trainer in 1985. The Navy vet wrapped up his career as the head athletic trainer in 2018 but has spent the last two years capping off 28 years of teaching young men by sharing his own life experiences.
 
“He teaches a lot through stories and his experiences in life, which the kids love—they love that,” Woytek says. “They’ll talk about Mr. Gaughan stories. He’s an exceptional teacher in that way because I think both as a student and as a teacher learning through someone else’s experiences is important.”
 
Certainly Gaughan got to know thousands of students while taping ankles, icing sore muscles and responding to any number of injuries occurring during athletic practices and games.
 
“He has the gift of helping young men get past pitfalls,” said Head Football and Track & Field Coach Chuck Kyle ’69 after Gaughan stepped away from his training role. “You never count on injuries. He's helped our students get over obstacles.”
 
But as Woytek says, Gaughan was a teacher who connected with all students, not just those who played sports.
 
“He likes each and every one of his students. He really knows them, even if they’re not in athletics,” Woytek says. “I could see that in the last two years even since he’s not the athletic trainer.”
 
“Hank’s a good ear,” she adds. “Not only for myself, but for the other members of the department. We’ll miss that about him, too. Especially when working with teenagers, that’s often what they need is just for somebody to hear them.”
 
It goes without saying that Gaughan has listened to generations of Wildcats. But no doubt they heard him, too, and they’ll be telling Mr. Gaughan stories for many years to come.

Mike Howard Hon. ’19

The walls of his classroom are filled with student drawings—maps and pieces of architecture carefully sketched and colored. The enormous white boards of his classroom feature the same—detailed depictions of trade routes, accompanied by a precise set of notes for class.
 
But if you think what makes Mike Howard a legendary History teacher at Saint Ignatius is his artwork, you’ve missed the magic of a truly special educator. His 51 years of teaching include 42 at Saint Ignatius and 39 in the same classroom on the southwest corner of the third floor of Loyola Hall.
 
“Not long after I got here I realized this is a place from which you would retire,” Howard says.
 
His whiteboard presentations aside, Howard is a master at creating conversations of learning. The result, as evidenced by year after year of positive course evaluations, was happy and informed students. But how did he become so talented?
 
“Fr. Ober and I came the exact same night back in 1978, and we learned quickly that the best way to get through to guys that age is with trafficking in the bizarre,” he says. “You want to find things that are spectacular and strange that you can relate to the meat and potatoes of what you have to teach, and they’ll pay attention to that. And they like that.”
 
Strong as his legacy at the front of the classroom may be, Howard also chaired his department for a stunning 25 years. He hired excellent teachers, they stuck around, and thus there was always stability in History.
 
Howard’s reverence for his fellow faculty was only equaled by their respect and admiration for him. He served as president of the Faculty Association five times and wrote roughly 150 faculty member of the month award announcements by hand. He served on countless school committees, sharing his expertise and experience in ways that affected the direction of the school.
 
While those contributions are important, Howard’s legacy is certainly in the classroom, especially with his favorite class: freshmen.
 
“Freshmen were finally getting to spread their wings a little bit and you get to be part of that,” he says. “And so you could create a culture in the classroom that freshmen will just absolutely latch onto.”
 
After more than a half century of teaching, almost all of it at Saint Ignatius, Howard’s affection for the school runs deep. For him, the classroom, the department, and the campus are where he will always feel at home.
 
“There’s nothing like being out in the middle of your students in the classroom, just walking down the aisle when you’ve got some conversation and they’re getting into it because you’ve provoked them into it,” he says. “You can’t really beat that in education.”
 
“It’s more than I can ever convey how much I love this place,” he adds. “I’ve been happy to come here every day.”

MJ Kyle

Special moments. That’s the end result of the magical work of MJ Kyle. Making each student’s experience one shared by the whole family has been her mission since 2002, and she has fulfilled it brilliantly.
 
In her work as the Coordinator of Parent Programs, Kyle is unmatched in devotion, kindness and execution. She greets everyone with a smile.
 
“She is an awesome person who is personable and organized,” says Mary Kolick, former President of the Loyola Society Mothers’ Club. “I am amazed by her ability to stay calm.”
 
Kyle is often one of the most forward-facing members of the Advancement team, interacting with hundreds of parents each year. She works closely with the Loyola Society as well as the Fathers’ Club to host family events and fundraisers—emphasis on the fun. Photos taken throughout the year reveal universal enjoyment of the special events that Kyle helps to oversee.
 
For as much as she must focus on the big picture of the two parent clubs and their many events, Kyle knows quite well that the small touches are just as important. She makes time to write thank-you notes or take coworkers out for coffee to show her appreciation for their work. It’s sincerity no matter the circumstance.
 
“She’s more than just a Saint Ignatius employee,” says Kolick. “You end up becoming one of her best friends.”
 
Kyle actually started working at Saint Ignatius in 2000 as the Executive Assistant to the Principal. Her nearly two decades of service in her role working with parents have included growing the opportunities for all parents to become involved with the life of the school.
 
“The parents are generous and giving people,” she says. “The events bring them to the school to see what their sons are experiencing firsthand. It builds a community of friends and service.”
 
Kyle understands that community to her core, and the value she brings to the school community at-large is immense. For every mom who cried at the Mother-Son Eucharist, for every dad who played tug-of-war against his son, for every way in which parents grew to love and participate in the mission of Saint Ignatius High School, MJ Kyle deserves equally immense thanks.

Pat Kyle

In the grotto of the Marian Mall, eight bronze depictions of the Corporal Works of Mercy are embedded in the stone wall and Fine Arts teacher Pat Kyle’s hands are all over them—literally. Envisioned by students in her class, Kyle worked with local artist John Ranally to produce the final pieces, and her hands were the models for those that appear in the finished product.
 
It’s one of the many ways in which Saint Ignatius’s first 3-D arts teacher has made her mark after 26 years teaching.
 
“I’m proud of how the kids did in those early years,” she says. “The boys just loved hands-on stuff and my class was probably the only real hands-on, gettin’ dirty class.”
 
The entirety of what Saint Ignatius offers by way of 3-D art or clay and sculpture is Kyle’s creation. One need not look very far across campus to see the fruits of her students’ time in class. Mobiles have hung from the windowed atrium ceiling, enormous line sculptures have adorned hallways, and various pottery projects have filled shelves and display cases.
 
Beyond her own expertise as a trained artist, Kyle brought the resources of the Ohio City community into her coursework.
 
“One thing that I think was really different from any other class is I have a relationship with John Ranally,” she says. “He would give us wax and the students would make bronze sculptures. Or we’d go down to the glass blower and they’d blow glass, just to take advantage of some of the professional artists in our neighborhood. That was a really fun part of the class.”
 
Thus was born the idea to have the art in the new grotto created in partnership with Kyle’s students. And when Pope Francis added an eighth Work of Mercy late in the creation of the mall, Kyle herself designed the ultimate bronze plaque.
 
Long before she became a full-time teacher, Kyle taught art for the Summer Enrichment Program for decades. Additionally, throughout her tenure she helped moderate Students Against Destructive Decisions, and the Green Team.
 
Saint Ignatius has long been part of Kyle’s life. She started dating English teacher Chuck Kyle ’69 when he was a student, and her brothers were students as well. Even as she looks forward to retirement, and some painting and drawing projects of her own, Pat Kyle will be no stranger to the friends and family she has on campus.
 
“Ignatius has always been part of our lives,” she says. “And it always will be.”

Tom Pasko Hon. ’96

The English classroom that is Main Building 413 serves as a veritable Saint Ignatius history exhibit, with plaques, pictures and banners decorating the walls. The curator of this collection is a man with a deep history of the school and an energy that’s irresistible.
 
Tom Pasko remains the legendary teacher that he is even after 55 years of teaching at Saint Ignatius.
 
“He’s funny,” says English Department Chair Pat Gallagher ’04. “He knows that the work that he’s doing is important but he also doesn’t take himself too seriously. He’s the most tenured teacher on faculty. He’s still got the charisma, the energy, the good wit about him to just make the experience really fun.”
 
His classroom tables are set up in the shape of an oval as Pasko guides his students in conversation about English literature—sometimes with students in the class reading two different books simultaneously.
 
“It’s a best practice in literature class to give students some choice in what they’re reading. Somehow Tom Pasko always gets it done,” Gallagher says. “I’ve seen him teach at the same time two different Cormac McCarthy novels. He takes students and he’s able to transport them into worlds that were previously unknown to them.”
 
Given his tenure, Pasko has often taught fathers and their sons, and the odds are good that he remembers the elder student even though he might have taught him decades ago. He has also taught History and even some Chinese long before it was a permanent part of the languages offerings. His knowledge is remarkable and his classroom manner is infectious.
 
Pasko is fun and creative—and his students succeed. For years he has treated his AP Literature students to dinner if they earn a score of 5 on their AP exam. Pictures of these gatherings fill the walls, showing large tables of kids crammed together smiling alongside their teacher.
 
In the English Department, Pasko’s catch-phrase of “team player” applies wholeheartedly, says Gallagher. “He’s willing to do as the department does. He certainly puts out his great ideas and those have been part of the fiber of our work together. When he knows somebody else has got something to run with, he’ll get on board.”
 
Retirement for the first person ever to receive an honorary Saint Ignatius diploma couldn’t possibly mean a disappearance from campus. He is the magic of the Saint Ignatius classroom personified. He plans to continue teaching a few classes at least into next year, attending Saint Ignatius events and welcoming Wildcats for a Day.
 
“He really feels a deep responsibility to help students come to a better understanding of what it means to be a human being in all of its complexity and ugliness at times,” Gallagher says. “One of the prime motivators is he continues to do what he does. He loves the students.”

Christine Piatak

Every year a loyal group of students gathers periodically for lessons in French life and culture. Whether it’s for crepes at Le Petit Triangle or a game of petanque on the back quad, these students could not have a better teacher and guide than Christine Piatak.
 
As a 29-year veteran of the faculty, Piatak has shared her tremendous knowledge and skill in French (and occasionally Latin) with students in the classroom and beyond. Part of her giftedness comes from her own excellent training in French.
 
“I’ll tell you what, she knows her stuff,” says longtime colleague and friend Bill Kelley ’62, with whom Piatak previously taught at Cleveland Central Catholic. “Her French is really good.”
 
Piatak studied at Notre Dame College for undergrad and then at the world-renowned L’Sorbonne and L’Institut Catholique, both in Paris. That gave her an unmatched pedigree in the language that she shared with all her students.
 
“She has great care for students, she really does,” Kelley says. “She gets to know some students very well. She’s got a great passion for the culture and the language.”
 
Her passion has run over into countless out-of-the-classroom programs over the years.
 
In a letter to her colleagues, she wrote, “When I think back on some of the highlights such as singing ‘Laudate Dominum’ from Mozart’s Solemn Vespers with the chorus, to the Food Extravaganzas, to serving on the chapel committee, to exploring Italy, France and Spain on the student trips and the Ignatian Pilgrimage, my heart sings!
 
“But it is in that everyday challenge of gently nudging students to do their best while being careful not to trample on tender egos, it is in that delightful moment when you discover your students are starting to think in the target language, that your Sophomores are actually starting to consider someone other than themselves that we educators feel our greatest fulfillment.”
 
Between CCC and Saint Ignatius, Piatak has spent 47 years in the classroom. And while taking French doesn’t quite stir up the fanfare that Latin does on campus, Piatak’s students no doubt receive some of the best foreign language instruction around—and then some.
 
Just ask any of the members of the French Club. They’ll tell you that learning from Madame Piatak c'est magnifique.

We’ll See You Soon

As we go through the process of saying “See you later” to these great men and women, I am reminded of how the famed poet and writer Kahlil Gibran described a departure of friends:
 
“Let not the waves of the sea separate us now, and the years you have spent in our midst become a memory. You have walked among us a spirit, and your shadow has been a light upon our faces.”
 
We know from experience that the memories will live on and the stories will be retold for years and years to come. The immeasurable ripples in thousands of lives that these people have created will continue to ripple onward.
 
Our friends will be back on campus again—some already have been!
 
And so let us all say: Congratulations, best wishes, thank you.
 
We will see you soon.

- Connor Walters '09
 

To make a gift in honor of a retiring faculty member, visit www.ignatius.edu/give_now and enter their name and the impact he/she had on your life in the Tribute Gift section.