Everyone’s tale of origin is different. Some come from the East, some from the South, some from the West. Some are born into it while others are drawn to it by a friend, a neighbor, a mentor.
Although my father graduated from St. Ignatius High School in 1952, and I had been on campus seemingly from birth for anything from basketball games to picking up and dropping off Scholarship Drive tickets, admission was never seen as a birth-right but as a goal toward which to strive.
Another alumnus told me earlier this week that his journey began in the sixth grade when he was a player for the West Side Stars soccer club and his coach was Mike McLaughlin ’85. So impressed was he with his coach that he started to look into Saint Ignatius as a real possibility for high school, even though he lived in Amherst. Once he “drank the Kool Aid” there was no turning back for young Anthony Fior ’02, and as of Monday, when he was presented as the next Principal of Saint Ignatius High School, the rest – literally – is history.
As Anthony and I chatted about his seemingly meteoric rise he recounted all of those steps that brought him to this place, steps that take on a new significance now that we see their trajectory. His time here as a student-athlete, his association with the Society of Jesus both here at Saint Ignatius and then at Saint Louis University and De Smet Jesuit High School, and his work in the classroom and in administration at both De Smet and Cristo Rey Columbus all prepared him for his return to his Alma Mater as a campus minister, theology teacher, and soccer coach.
It is also fitting that Anthony’s move to the second floor of Loyola Hall was precipitated by a need to take over the classes of Jim Skerl ’74. Jim was struggling with the effects of chemotherapy and needed to be out of school both to be at the Cleveland Clinic and to be home recovering. It should be no surprise to anyone who knows him that our first choice to help out was Anthony Fior. Because of Anthony’s love for Jim and for Saint Ignatius his decision to take over Jim’s Christian Manhood classes was a no-brainer. He slid in and flawlessly carried on Jim’s work throughout that semester, including the difficult task of carrying on after Jim’s death in late October.
When Anthony’s appointment was made public, I texted my long-time friend and Wildcat fan Fr. Tom Weber to pass on the good news. Since Fr. Weber has known Anthony’s family for decades – spanning all the way back to his time at St. Joseph Parish in Amherst in the mid-1970s, I knew that I would be the bearer of glad tidings. Unsurprisingly, Fr. Weber’s response was quick and informative. He reminded me of the help that Anthony had provided when he was handed the task – by Jim Skerl himself – of delivering the homily at Jim’s funeral Mass.
Anthony provided Fr. Weber with almost one hundred answers to the question “Who is Mr. Skerl?” written by students in what had become Mr. (now Dr.) Fior’s Christian Manhood classes. The responses spanned the gamut from thoughtful to emotional to downright profound. Among them were statements like: “the Little Prince and each of us were his rose;” “the closest resemblance to Jesus that I may ever see in my whole lifetime;” “my only father-figure;” and “the main reason why I believe there is a God.”
The love that students had for Jim was mirrored by that of Anthony as he guided those students through those rough weeks between Jim’s death and the end of the semester. Anthony’s work with those seniors, and all of the students who have been in his classes or on his teams, has been informed by the influence of Jim Skerl as well as Anthony’s other classroom mentor, Dr. Michael Pennock ’64, and his first Ignatius influence and coach Mike McLaughlin. The way that Anthony approaches the discipline of religious education; his work in the classroom and on the field; his relationships with his students, players, and colleagues; his leadership in the Theology Department; all can be traced back to those giants of Saint Ignatius.
We all come to 1911 West 30th Street by different paths, and we never know what our lives here will bring. As one who was “born” to be a Wildcat, I can’t begin to express how happy I am with Anthony’s appointment. I know that all in the Saint Ignatius family wish him well in his new role, and I also know that he will benefit from the guidance of great Ignatians, several of whom he can pray to as he begins this most noble and important work.