This year, the Magis Award will be presented to Arthur L. Thomas and Richard D. Fujimoto '66 at the 33rd Annual Christmas Concert with the Cleveland Orchestra and Chorus on Sunday, December 3. Art and Rich are two men whose very names embody the contributions they have made to Saint Ignatius. Through the Circus Company, Harlequins, Speech and Debate, The Breen Center for the Performing Arts, and their work as Speech and English teachers in the classroom, this year's Magis Award recipients have made our campus and school community both art-filled and rich.
“As teachers, there’s a spiritual element that develops in us,” says Art. “It’s not just a place where you work – it’s a place where lay people have a vocation.”
Born and raised in Cleveland, Art attended St. Ignatius of Antioch grade school and St. Edward High School. His teaching career began in 1974 after graduating from Baldwin Wallace University with a degree in English and theater. He taught at West Tech and Brooklyn high schools before Rev. Robert Welsh, S.J. ‘54 hired him as an English teacher at Saint Ignatius in 1984. He remained at Saint Ignatius High School for 33 years.
In 2008, Art was part of the Fine Arts faculty involved in planning The Breen Center for the Performing Arts and was surprised to be asked to work as Facility Manager when it opened in 2009. As a gift to the school, Art created “Home Grown,” a performing arts series of local talent with national reputations, including the Cleveland Pops Orchestra, Verb Ballet and an original “Cleveland Cirque.”
Remaining single, Art often arrived to campus early and stayed late, working as producer on the Saint Ignatius High School Harlequins’ theatrical shows. He built a lasting friendship with Rich Fujimoto ‘66 as they traded directing roles for the plays and musicals over 25 years.
In 1990 Rich returned home to Cleveland from Cincinnati to teach English and Speech at Saint Ignatius. Quickly nailed to coach the speech team and help with drama club, he’s embraced those roles ever since. “I believe school can inhibit creativity. The arts give kids an outlet for creativity and imagination,” he says. “I am most proud of my association with the Harlequins and the number of kids who’ve gone into theatre professionally,” says Rich. “But also, those who learned confidence just being on stage.”
Rich grew professionally, with freedom to develop new classes, including Television Production and Cinema Lit. When he was inducted into the Ohio Speech & Debate Hall of Fame in 2015, Rich’s students responded with messages like, “He sets standards high and helps us get there.”
Rich describes the Jesuit community and spirituality as “an integral part of who I am. Less of an epiphany and more a way of life. Relationships with God and with people are all interrelated.”
With a reputation for classes that are engaging and entertaining, Rich simply says, “Being a teacher is being a presenter and cheerleader. My classes are never filled with tension. I like to be light. That’s an extension of me.”
The Christmas Concert being held on Sunday, December 3 at 7:30 p.m. is now SOLD OUT. To be placed on the waiting list, please contact Mary Beth Flynn at (216) 651-0222 ext. 212.