After 33 years of service to Prep, beloved faculty member and Christian Service director Tom Sacerdote is retiring. Following is a tribute written by longtime friend and colleague John Szablewicz.
It is the beginning of third period and the sound of a Japanese Rin Gong “singing bowl” softly permeates the hall from Tom Sacerdote’s room. Tom is starting his class in true fashion, with a brief meditation, reaching for the experiential before the intellectual. That’s the way it is with Tom, always attending to the yin and yang, all within the Jesuit tradition of Cura personalis. It’s difficult to imagine a day without that gong and the presence of my dear friend and colleague, yet Tom has announced his retirement, effective at the end of this school year.
Tom Sacerdote began his days at Prep in September of 1986. His anticipated role was that of a theology teacher. When the position of Service Director unexpectedly became available, however, Tom was the natural choice for the job. After attending a PULSE seminar at Boston College, Tom determined that the program would be a great addition at Prep. The stated goal of PULSE is “to educate our students about social injustice by putting them into direct contact with marginalized populations.” The indefatigable Tom Sacerdote was the perfect person for that role.
Pioneer of the Christian Service Program
In that capacity Tom pioneered the service/reflection Social Ethics senior course and the first Urban Plunge. Additionally, he greatly expanded immersion programs at Prep, which before his arrival had Appalachia as its only destination. During Tom’s tenure, Ecuador, “Mustard Seed” in Jamaica, Border Links, the Dakota Rosebud reservation and the Ignatian Family Teach-In were added to the inventory. Of course, Tom personally visited each site and would later serve as the lead chaperone for many of the excursions. Additionally, he became heavily involved in the Freshman Retreat and Field Day, and many Kairos retreats. It is no exaggeration to say that no other member of the faculty has participated in more of these programs than has Tom Sacredote.
After years in his administrative post, Tom returned to the full-time classroom, where he has been teaching both theology and history for the last nine years. Tom’s move into the Asian studies courses, no easy task, was done with his usual flair and energy. He quickly filled the gap when sensei Dave Driscoll retired. Tom also made a journey to China in order to personally experience the culture. Fittingly, he is moderator of the Chinese culture club and his classroom has become a haven for many students of the Middle Kingdom.
Accolades and Praise for Tom Sacerdote
Over the decades, Tom has gained the respect and admiration of thousands of Prep students. His effects on them have transcended the classroom and have greatly aided them on their life journey. The same is true of Tom’s peers, especially those in the “breakfast club.” Evidence of this exists in the fact that Tom is the only member of the faculty to be named both “Most Inspirational Teacher,” as chosen by Prep seniors in 2017, and “Ignatian Educator of the Year” in 2014 as determined by the Prep faculty and administration.
It has been a distinct honor and pleasure working with Tom all these decades, and I wish him all the best in retirement, knowing full well that he will be enjoying many new adventures with his wife Mary Lynn, and his sons Tim ’03 and Tom ’06. In closing let me just mention that a role model from ancient China was the Duke of Zhou, always referred to as “a paragon of virtue.” Confucius was fond of saying, “In politics, I follow the Duke of Zhou.” At Prep, we should always say, “In teaching, we follow Tom Sacerdote.”
-John W. Szablewicz, Social Studies Teacher
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