JSerra Announces Appointment of Robert Dolan as Interim President

JSerra Catholic High School announced today that the high school has hired Robert Dolan, Jr. as Interim President.

Having attended Catholic school from elementary to graduate school, Dolan, is committed to Catholic education.  He holds a Masters of Business Administration from the University of San Diego, and spent ten years in the family insurance business honing his management and operations skills.

After growing the company five-fold in ten years, including the startup of two offices and a related finance company, Dolan is ready and anxious to take the helm of the 9-year-old school beginning immediately. He has been appointed to the position for a three-month term with month-to-month commitment thereafter.

“Mr. Dolan has served on our Board of Directors for the past year and through this role, has made significant contributions to the school community in just a few months,” said Tim Busch, JSerra’s Chairman and Co-Founder. “JSerra is blessed to have him in this interim position where he will undoubtedly help the school to grow until a permanent candidate is appointed. Robert has an extraordinary background in management and a thorough understanding of the needs of the JSerra community.”

Dolan was recommended for the interim position by several of his colleagues on the JSerra Board of Directors, approved by the President Search Committee and confirmed by the Board and Trustees.

With Dolan signed on as Interim President, Dr. John Freeh as Principal, and Fr. Robert Spitzer as Rector, JSerra’s leadership is set and ready to make the 2012-2013 school year the best in school history.

Dr. Freeh will take over Principal duties officially on July 9, and has already spent countless hours with administration and faculty to prepare for the coming year. Dr. Freeh, who holds a doctorate in English Renaissance Literature from Oxford University, brings unparalleled academic prowess to the Principal position.

Fr. Spitzer is the former President of Gonzaga University and founder and President of the Magis Institute for Faith & Reason. As JSerra’s Rector for most of the past school year, Fr. Spitzer has been very involved in defining the school’s Catholic identity and setting policies and procedures to ensure our Catholicity is always upheld.

The President Search Committee will continue its search for a permanent President.

Thanksgiving Message from Fr. Robert Spitzer

Dear JSerra Community,

As we approach Thanksgiving Day we think naturally of family, celebration, community, and of course too much good food.  I thought I would reflect on yet another joy of Thanksgiving – the sometimes forgotten joy of giving thanks. 

My father had an expression which summed up a large part of his philosophy of life, “I never knew a person who was grateful and unhappy or a person who was ungrateful and happy.”  Thanksgiving or gratitude is central to our happiness and even our efficacy, for when we are ungrateful and take things for granted, we never see how fortunate we really are.  Instead our minds are occupied with the opposite – how unfortunate we are – what other people have that we don’t have – their wealth, talents, intelligence, appearance, position in society, status, and the like.  No matter how much we have it always seems that it can never be enough because all we see is our misfortune rather than our “fortune.” 

Alternatively, if we don’t take things for granted, we can truly see how fortunate we are.  Instead of counting the curses, we count the blessings – the blessings of our families (at least most of the time), the blessing of our faith which has lead us to God and to our eternal life with Him, the blessing of the friendships, jobs, talents, insights, opportunities, and loves that we really do have.  When we focus on these blessings, we tend to put misfortunes in their place, pursue opportunities, and develop our relationships.  In short we find ourselves happy, and also we become a source of happiness for others, and a source of good for our families, organizations, and society.  Thus, thanksgiving is a recipe for sanity, effectiveness, friendship, and the deepest forms of love. 

In view of all this, it should not surprise us that thanksgiving is also central to the spiritual life.  The founder of the Jesuits, St. Ignatius Loyola believed that humble gratitude lies at the center of contemplation.  As many of you know, contemplatives seek to know the unconditionally loving heart of God – not only in thought, but in imagination and feelings.  The awareness of this love causes us to love in return and this loving relationship with God is truly happiness – or as the contemplatives say, “sublime joy.”  This joy moves us to serve the Kingdom, inspires us to give hope to others, deepens our humility and love, and makes us conscience of God’s continuous loving presence.  All of which transforms us into apostles for Christ and agents of the Holy Spirit.  I must admit that this has made me happy for thirty-six years of Jesuit life. 

But what does this have to do with gratitude or Thanksgiving?  Everything!  For as St. Ignatius noticed, the grateful person sees blessing, and the awareness of this blessing leads to an even deeper awareness of being loved by the Lord.  The awareness of this love, in turn, leads to trust and hope in Him, and above all, to love of Him.  This trust, hope, and love frees us to love one another with greater humility, compassion, and empathy; for when our center and strength is the Lord, we don’t have to be better than everyone, smarter than everyone, more talented than everyone, more powerful than everyone, more beautiful than everyone, more athletic than everyone – all we need is to be is loved by God and inspired to love others and to serve the Kingdom.  We can then concentrate on developing and using every talent and resource we have to make the optimal positive difference to our families, friends, communities, institutions, organizations, churches, and God’s Kingdom.  What could be better than a life filled with good friends, supportive families, inspiration, and optimal contribution to the world and the Kingdom?

I have learned from experience that my father was right.  Thanksgiving and happiness are inextricably intertwined and complementary, and this is the source of grace and eternal love – true happiness.

May all of you have a very joyous Thanksgiving.     

God bless you through your acts of “giving thanks.”

Fr. Robert J. Spitzer, S.J.

Senior Sarah David Presents a Q&A with Rector Fr. Spitzer

JSerra is truly blessed to have Interim Rector Father Spitzer

By: Sarah David for the Paw Print

Mr. Talarico, President and Interim Principal recently announced that Father Spitzer has accepted the Interim Rector position at JSerra Catholic High School. “We are truly blessed to have somebody with Fr. Spitzer’s deep knowledge and vast experience as our Interim Rector. His decision to lead our campus’ rich spiritual life serves as influential testimony of JSerra’s place as one of the finest and most well rounded educational institutions in the region. I encourage students to introduce themselves to him – and take every possible opportunity to glean everything they possibly can from him.”

Father Spitzer comes to JSerra with an impressive background. He was born in Honolulu, Hawaii on May 16, 1952. He is a Catholic Priest of the Society of Jesus. He entered the Jesuits on August 17, 1974, took his first vows on August 21, 1976 and was ordained a priest on June 11, 1983, with final vows on April 4, 1992. His educational background is equally impressive; Ph.D. Catholic University of America, 1984-88. Philosophy , Summa cum Laude; Th.M. Weston School (Cambridge), 1983-84. Theology Scripture, Summa cum Laude; M.Div. Gregorian University (Rome), 1980-83. Theology,  Summa cum Laude.  M.A. St. Louis University, 1976-78. Philosophy.  (Research) Magna cum Laude; B.B.A.  Gonzaga University, 1970-74. Public Accounting and Finance, Magna Cum Laude; High School Punahou High School (Honolulu, Hawaii), 1970 National Honors Society. He is currently the President of the Magis Center of Reason and Faith, the Spitzer Center on Catholic Organizations and the Chief Educational Officer for the Ethics and Performance Institute. He was President of Gonzaga University in Spokane, Washington from 1998-2008. During his time at Gonzaga University, he increased the student population by 75% and increased the faith, leadership, and service programs. He also raised millions of dollars in scholarships. He has published five books and is currently working on three new books.

I had the honor of sitting down for a one-on-one with Father Spitzer to discuss his experiences and ideas as well as plans for our JSerra community.

Question Sarah David: As our new Rector, what goals and plans do you have for the faith formation of the JSerra student body, freshman to senior?

Father Spitzer: First of course is to continue the good work that the Norbertines have already been doing in conjunction with our board. We have a goal statement for our religious faith that has been submitted to the board. It has all the various areas outlined and my job will be to try to implement it. They are already in great part implemented we will just moving to the next level both on an intellectual level and spiritual level and also to try and make the religious identity of our school very central to its general identity. In other words, our religious identity takes on the same force as our other identities like sports etc.

Question Sarah David: With your vast spiritual and academic experience at Gonzaga, do you have programs, plans, and goals in mind to meet the spiritual needs of our students, faculty, staff, and families?

Father Spitzer: My experience is at the university level but I see it as similar to this level because I want to listen and not reinvent the wheel. At mass today the students very clearly participate and they were attentive so there are a lot of things going well at the school. Alternatively, I can see some opportunities especially in the intellectual, school identity and academic development areas where I can make a difference. I had a huge role at Gonzaga in these areas and I want to allow the faculty’s great strength to come out. I also want to use my experience and background in the academic discussion of Faith and Reason, the evidence for GOD from physics and philosophy, and the historical study of the New Testament to benefit the faculty and students as we pursue making religion central to our purpose and our identity.

Question Sarah David: As our Rector, what is your measure of success for the spiritual growth of a JSerra student?

Father Spitzer: Measure success in many ways, number of programs or service opportunities. I do not feel these are the most important but rather how are our students relating more and more deeply to GOD!  Are they aware of the presence of GOD in their daily lives…the unconditional love of GOD for them…the many ways in which GOD guides them and how to discern this…but above all is the they have confidence in GOD’s love ever more deeply and their interior life of each student and the life of the school is measured by Faith, Hope and Love as they become faith leaders in their church and schools. We can anecdotally measure trends now in the importance of faith in a student’s life, their awareness and confidence in GOD’s love and even how drawn they are to live a faith filled life as the school retreats bring these traits out. . If the JSerra alumni are not faith leaders of the future we have got a problem because who will the leaders be…? These are good signs but I will see the success in 12 years as they write books, serve on parish boards and become heads of ethics boards at universities as well as emerge front and center for our hopes as Catholic leaders of the future. I will assume the fruits will be good!

Question Sarah David: As a graduating senior, what advice would you give a potential graduate who is completing their faith walk at a safe environment and beginning a journey in the adult world of higher education?

Father Spitzer: I say definitely pick a school where your faith will be allowed to be nourished. Make a campus visit. Do not just go to the best academic school for undergraduate…maybe for graduate work… but if you have a chance to go to a top school like Gonzaga or Notre Dame, the presence of GOD will knock you right over on your campus visit. You will see these kids really BELIEVE and more importantly, they will be very supportive of your faith…at Gonzaga, a freshman student told me after a mass of 700-800 students …”what I like best about Gonzaga is that it is not uncool to be religious here.” It is a message of faith support and safety among the students.  Faith nourishment is a vital part of campus life. In other non-faith based schools, you must step up and join activities like the catholic student center but they are automatic at faith centered schools. I often wonder …if I had not gone to Gonzaga… I am not sure what I would have done or where I would be today but now I believe I have the best possible life because of that experience. That is why it is so important to make that choice of higher education centered on faith nourishment.