St. Louis U. High welcomes Fr. Matthew Stewart S.J., ’98 back to the SLUH community as a priest, theology teacher, and Director of Campus Ministry.
Running of the Bills, homeroom competitions, class mass, bashball—each of these activities is part of a typical freshman year at SLUH. Because of the pandemic, the current sophomores—members of the class of 2024— have not yet experienced many of these traditions.
The formation of every St. Louis U. High graduate is based upon the principles outlined in the Grad at Grad profile. It is expected that every alumnus who lives out the five categories—being Open to Growth, Intellectually Competent, Religious, Loving, and Committed to Doing Justice—will find, in the long run, vast consolation, a vibrant relationship with God, and the “man for others” ideal that is instilled in every student. It is worth reflecting, especially 10 days before graduation and nine days after the anniversary of his death, on one of the most notable examples of a grad at grad: Michal Blassie ’66. Last Tuesday, Missouri Governor Mike Parson created Lt. Michael Blassie Day in the State of Missouri, to be observed every May 11.
ASC volunteer Matthew Fink is leaving St. Louis U. High this year to pursue his Ph.D in Biology at the University of Notre Dame in South Bend, Indiana. During his time at SLUH, Fink taught two sections of sophomore chemistry and helped with freshman service. Fink was excited to return to SLUH—his alma mater—even amidst a tumultuous pandemic, as he saw the challenges of Covid as ways to excel in his teaching and knowledge of science.
From his compassion on the PE floor as a teacher to his genuine attitude when he checks athletes in before they go to practice, Alum Service Corps volunteer Sam Glass has instilled a value of cura personalis in his interactions with students and faculty throughout the year. As his ASC year comes to a close, Glass will be remembered for the care that he lives out on a daily basis despite the challenges and stress of the pandemic.
After a year of service to the St. Louis U. High community, Alum Service Corps volunteer Giuseppe Vitellaro will be putting away the camera and media devices as his time at SLUH comes to a close. From helping out with videography or live-streaming Mass to proctoring the Commons after school to leading Sophomore Pastoral Team, despite Vitellaro’s time at SLUH being short, his impact on the SLUH community has been widespread, and the SLUH community will be sad to see him go.
Alum Service Corps member and St. Louis U. High Class of 2016 alum Jack Zimmerman will be departing SLUH with gratitude and an inspiring legacy as his time as a freshman English teacher comes to a close.
After spending a bit over one year at SLUH, lacrosse coach and geometry teacher Willie Evans will be leaving to work at Honeywell Aerospace to design plane engines. Evans was hired last spring to replace Dan Schuler, who departed for Cleveland. “It was not normal, but it wasn’t anything that wasn’t able to be a smooth transition. Everybody was very welcoming, and everybody was easy to work with,” said Evans.
Arabic teacher Eyad Oqlat will not be returning to SLUH next year due to family commitments. It has been a hard year for Oqlat, who had to alternate between being fully online and in person due to family matters. “It was challenging to have prepared lesson plans and face-to-face evaluating of the students to see where they were at being online,” said Oqlat.
Called by many names throughout the school—Flan-man, Captain Flanagan, Billiken man—math teacher and former cross country coach Tom Flanagan will be putting away the calculator and protractor for the foreseeable future as he retires from full-time teaching after 43 years of teaching and 30 years at St. Louis U. High. Flanagan began teaching at St. Raphael’s school in South City until he moved to DuBourg a year later, where he would teach for a full 13 years before arriving at SLUH.
Forty-eight years ago, when Assistant Principal for Academics Tom Becvar first stepped foot on Oakland Avenue, Richard Nixon was being investigated for his involvement in the Watergate scandal, the last American troops were leaving Vietnam, and the term ‘internet’ had not even been conceived. After a career that long, Becvar has served nearly 10,000 students and held a multitude of important titles at SLUH. Decades after the start of his career, though, Becvar announced this year that he will be retiring, leaving behind a SLUH community that is much better off because of his work.
Becvar has served as the Assistant Principal for Academics for the past 16 years, and before that he served as the Math Department Chair for 23 years. His arrival at SLUH in 1973, though, was not marked by much pomp or circumstance. Becvar himself describes it as a fairly straightforward affair.
“I had heard there was an opening here when I was teaching in the St. Louis Public Schools and I thought ‘this is something I really want to do,’” said Becvar. “I came over, applied, and the rest is history.”
What followed, though, was indeed history, as reported by the teachers and students who have known him. Myriad of teachers have come and gone in his tenure, including the vast array of Jesuits that used to occupy the majority of teaching positions at the school.
What does it mean to be loving? This question has baffled philosophers and theologians, has been the topic of plays and musicals, and has been the inspiration for this simple prayer accredited to Superior General Pedro Arrupe S.J. It is a simple question but becomes a lot more complicated when looking at how a spirit of love can cause immense joy, crippling sorrow, and sometimes, even a deep sense of kinship.
When asking the St. Louis U. High community what it meant to be loving, the answers varied. Some said that it meant putting others over oneself. Others said that to be loving meant coming in each day with a spirit of good-will and kindness, and still others saw loving as being compassionate and empathetic. Yet, all believed that they saw this year as being a year shaped by a spirit of love expressed by the students, faculty, and administration.
As the seniors end their last school week at SLUH and this wild year full of change and pivots comes to a close, the Prep News has decided to look back at the 2020-21 school year—formally themed on the grad at grad principle of loving, in hopes to celebrate that spirit of love that so marks the halls of SLUH.
Clothed in his unmistakable black outfit and white Roman Collar, Fr. Joseph Hill S.J. has spent the past six years ministering to the students of St. Louis U. High, but after this school year, he will continue on in his priestly ministry, becoming the vocations director for the Central-Southern Province based in Tampa Bay, Fla. Hill was assigned to SLUH in 2016 to lead the Campus Ministry team, help in the Theology Department, and provide the sacraments to the students and staff of SLUH. Coming into SLUH, Hill knew that his mission was simple, to fulfill the Jesuit mission and the vows he took when he was ordained.
Maybe you have seen him conducting the St. Louis U. High band or had him lead a retreat or traveled with him on a global service immersion trip? The involvement of this Louisiana-born Jesuit, Michael Mohr S.J., in the lives of SLUH students and faculty has seemed endless—but his time at SLUH is coming to an end.
Almost every Saint Louis U. High student has walked by the desk of receptionist Mimi Hartung in the theater lobby and heard her warm good-morning as they trudge into the school each morning. Almost every parent has spoken with Hartung over the phone or has dropped off a son’s lunchbox or an envelope to her at the switchboard—belovedly nicknamed ‘Mimi’s desk.’ And almost every SLUH faculty member has seen Hartung guide a freshman to their classroom. While Hartung moves on from the SLUH community to help care for her aging parents, the hospitality and unconditional love that she has shown these past years stays behind in the memories of the students, parents, and faculty members that she has touched.
With it being just two weeks from my last day as an active Jr. Bill, reflection on the past four years has become rampant. However, one peculiar thing keeps popping up in my mind: music. Music was an undiscovered passion of mine and it would take the skillful guidance of the SLUH Band program (under the direction of Mr. Pottinger) to help me realize that passion.
In the Tarter household, the Easter season means three things: 1) Easter Sunday Mass, 2) dressing up my golden doodle Billie in rabbit ears, and 3) Reese’s.
As we march forward into April, it seems like time is flying by faster and faster with the approach of Summer. It can be easy to get caught up in everything going on—spring break, Easter, retreats, college scholarships—and forget about what’s important. Here we at the Prep News hope to remind everyone of one of those important things: Women’s History Month.
Editor’s Note: In light of the recent shooting in Atlanta, Georgia which took the lives of eight Asian-Americans, Features Editor Sam Tarter sat down with senior Peter Pham to discuss Asian racism in America and the topic of the anti-Asian sentiment, which Pham wrote his Grande Project over.
With the Covid-19 pandemic preventing large social gatherings and adjusting every in-door area, the annual celebration of St. Patrick’s Day in St. Louis will be far from normal: no parades for the Irish community to gather and share in their culture, no bars open for adults to partake in a hefty pint of Guinness, and no safe way to have large Irish family dinners or other annual celebrations for the holiday. While many will see Wednesday, March 17 as yet another typical day due to the combination of spring break and quarantine, there is still one communal and accessible way to celebrate and share in Irish culture and pride: food.
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