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The next crusade

Patrick McGonigal, a 1981 Father Judge graduate, is the school’s new president.

There’s a sign on the wall of the president’s office at Father Judge High School, a cloth banner resembling one of the championship pennants that dangle from the rafters in the school’s gymnasium. But this one doesn’t proclaim a sports victory. It professes an idea, an ideology, an attitude.

“Be who you are and be that well,” it says, echoing the famous words of St. Francis de Sales, patron of the religious order, the Oblates, who founded Judge in 1954.

It was with that mantra in mind that the school’s longtime president, the Rev. Joseph Campellone, realized this spring that he should leave his post to undertake a year-long, national study of Catholic education that might benefit all of the Philadelphia area’s parochial high schools. Campellone, a gregarious figure and Mayfair native who amusingly quips about his own less-than-stellar academic performance as a youth, revealed his intentions in a personal letter earlier this month to the Judge community.

While the message may have come as a surprise to some, it also delivered optimism as Campellone simultaneously announced the appointment of his successor, Patrick McGonigal, a 1981 graduate, board member, financial adviser and major donor of the school.

“It’s been 20 years. I came in 1996, was chaplain for five years and president for 15,” Campellone told the Northeast Times in a recent interview. “I’m still passionate about Judge, but I’m also passionate about education. I preach about being a lifetime learner. After 20 years, maybe it’s time for me to go out and learn.”

Campellone said he reached the decision after a period of discernment leading up to Holy Week and Easter. The Oblates’ Wilmington-based provincial, led by the Very Rev. James J. Greenfield, granted him a one-year sabbatical to pursue his research, through which he aspires to propose a new model of Catholic education for the Archdiocese of Philadelphia.

The archdiocese has endorsed the project, which gained momentum with the involvement of the archdiocesan secretary for Catholic education, Christopher Mominey; leadership consultant and former chief executive of Nazareth Hospital, Patricia DeAngelis; and Dr. Bridget Sweeney, a professor in Drexel University’s master’s program in applied behavior analysis; among other leading education experts.

Campellone said the research team will analyze best practices for schools in the areas of motivation (for administrators, faculty and students), engagement, culture, climate and leadership. They will review prior academic studies and examine individual schools throughout the country. Campellone will personally visit seven high-performing schools.

“I think a lot of people were shocked because I’ve been (at Judge) so long,” he said. “They needed to understand what we’re doing.”

The Father Judge community can rest assured that McGonigal will bring a natural continuation of the programs and policies adopted and nurtured by the prior administration. The transition will occur officially on July 1.

“Anybody who knows Pat knows his passion for Judge and what he has done here over the last five years,” Campellone said.

McGonigal’s roots in the community run much deeper than that, of course. He was the second youngest of seven siblings from Mayfair and attended St. Timothy School before enrolling at Judge, where he graduated 20th in his class.

“I was a good student, not because I was necessarily the smartest kid, but I worked pretty hard,” he said.

When not studying, he delivered newspapers to earn some extra bucks and spent his summers working at Mr. D’s Steaks in Wildwood. After high school, he studied in Drexel University’s co-op program, earning degrees in finance and accounting. He worked for Price Waterhouse as a CPA then transitioned into the healthcare industry in the early 1990s. While living in Atlanta, he co-founded iHelp Technologies, which marketed technology services to healthcare companies. As chief financial officer, he helped the firm grow to 400 employees before he stepped down in 2009, when he returned to Philadelphia to spend more time with family.

He was appointed to Judge’s advisory board that year. In 2012, Campellone appointed him as the school’s part-time CFO, a volunteer role. He has had a hand in major fundraising, strategic planning and other functions. He has also been a major benefactor, pledging $2.5 million to the school last year.

His professional experience and expertise reflect a trend in recent parochial high school appointees in the archdiocese.

“I spoke to Chris (Mominey) and he said since he’s been here, they’ve replaced 12 out of 17 presidents and they’re getting people with business backgrounds,” McGonigal said. “Father Joe would say to me, ‘You’re the kind of guy they’re looking for.’ ”

He looks forward to leading the school into a new era when it will work on building long-term financial stability; growing its science, technology, engineering and math curriculum; integrating technology; and serving an increasingly diverse community.

“The student body has changed tremendously. Northeast Philly has changed,” McGonigal said. “Kids have more economic challenges and a lot more diversity, which serves kids well because that’s the world they are going into.”

“Our task here has always been character development, to create leaders,” Campellone said, “We want to develop (a student’s) mind and his soul so he can go out and make the world a better place.”

Of his own departure, Campellone views it as a graduation of sorts, a very emotion-packed one.

“I get choked up, but when you think about education, it’s always future-oriented,” he said. “To be that person who was not allowed to come here as a student and to be able to come back here as president, that has made me a better person, a better priest and a better student.” ••

A better tomorrow: Rev. Joseph Campellone was granted a one-year sabbatical to research a new model of Catholic education for the Archdiocese of Philadelphia. He will study best practices in the areas of motivation, engagement, culture, climate and leadership.

Passing the sword: Rev. Joseph Campellone (left) announced the appointment of his successor, Patrick McGonigal, earlier this month in a personal letter to the Father Judge community. MARIA POUCHNIKOVA / TIMES PHOTOS

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