Serving as a Dean of Students in a Jesuit school is a tough but vital job. It is not easy being the enforcer of the rules, even when we agree that clear boundaries are part of what makes a Jesuit school different.
Our Deans, Elaine Forde and Khalid Maxie, are indeed special, as we have been reminded again over the last week. On Thursday, February 16, Mr. Maxie offered the student body a brutally honest, challenging, and ultimately uplifting glimpse of his own high school experience.
On Friday, February 17, Mrs. Forde announced to the faculty and staff that after four decades as an educator, she plans to retire this June.
So let us take a moment to pay tribute to these two fine Ignatian educators.
Khalid Maxie escaped poverty in the North End of Palm Desert, using his own internal moral compass and intense will to climb out of a crack-riddled neighborhood to the University of San Diego and beyond. Khalid realized that education was the key to unlocking the cage of family addiction and dysfunction, and he found God along the way. After marrying Theresa Schommer (JHS ’97), Khalid was destined to bring his unique combination of high expectations and amazing empathy to Jesuit High. That he has become a father (twice!) and a Catholic during his 4 ½ years at Jesuit makes his story all the more compelling.
To get a glimpse of the gifts Khalid brings to our students every day, ask your child about Mr. Maxie’s presentation. My guess is that your student will remember several salient details, as well as Mr. Maxie’s main message. Ask your son or daughter if they remember anything specific about Mr. Maxie’s family, his neighborhood, his response to the crack epidemic, the color of his letterman’s jacket, or his first reaction to USD, and you will be sure to spur a response.
The other half of our Dynamic Dean Duo, Elaine Forde, was born into a German-Catholic family in the farmlands of St. Paul, Oregon. She grew up picking hops in the summer heat, driving tractors and shepherding wayward sheep (perhaps a metaphor for her current job??).
Elaine Forde has been an educator for 40 years, having spent her career in two very different educational worlds: 17 years in public schools and 23 years at Jesuit High. After graduating with a teaching license from Oregon State, Elaine started her career as a home economics and math teacher, before moving on to become a counselor at Clackamas High. In her pre-Jesuit years, Elaine coached volleyball, track, basketball and cheerleading. Elaine was even elected to the Oregon Cheerleading Hall of Fame as a coach! It took only three short years at Jesuit for Elaine to be named Educator of the Year at Jesuit High in 1997.
Over the past 23 years, Elaine has served Jesuit as a counselor, then Activities Director, then our first full-time Diversity Director, and finally in her current role as Dean of Students and Activities. She has led Encounters and organized Orientation days. Says Elaine, “The ride has been wild, bumpy, fulfilling, and one I have loved. I have no idea how many students I have taught, coached, or counseled along the way, or how many assemblies I have planned, or how many dances or diversity conferences I have organized and chaperoned.”
Having started my tenure at Jesuit High the same year as Elaine (1994-95), I can tell you how many JHS lives Elaine has touched: 6674. That is the number of students who have graduated during Elaine’s time here. Each of her jobs at Jesuit has allowed Elaine to positively impact every student’s experience. As our Activities Director, Diversity Director, and Dean of Students, Elaine has instituted programs that we now take for granted, including dances (can you say “Father-Daughter”?!), Coffeehouse, Robotics, Mock Trial, and dozens of clubs. There were no African-American, Asian, or Latino summits before Elaine. She was our Diversity Director when our first students from St. Andrew Nativity School arrived in 2004. With determination and grace, Elaine helped bend the arc of justice as Jesuit’s percentage of students of color climbed from 12% in 1995 to over 30% today.
As a colleague, Elaine has no peer. For many on our staff, Elaine is the member of the administrative team with whom they can keep it real. “Mama Forde" has been the listening ear not only to students who have found Jesuit a tough row to hoe, but also to generations of faculty who need a shoulder to lean on.
That Elaine willingly moved from positions where she was everyone’s friend to Dean of Students says much about her selfless devotion to Jesuit High. Her unique combination of experience, insight, steel, sugar, managerial skill and counselor’s compassion has raised the bar for all of us in administration.
By the way, we are opening the job of Dean of Students today, so if you know of any worthy candidates, please send them our way! We all know how important this position is to the students and staff of JHS. See the job posting here.
Mrs. Forde’s post-graduation plans include hanging out with husband Chuck, working on the family farm, becoming a master gardener, and studying viticulture. She promises to jump on an occasional midweek ski bus to the mountain. The Forde home is often filled with Elaine’s relatives from Germany; she plans to return to Germany so that her father’s side of the family can reciprocate. Having recently joined the board of her Breast Cancer Survivor’s Dragon Boat organization, Elaine is aiming for the International Breast Cancer Survivors competition in Florence, Italy in 2018!
Elaine Forde’s heroic journey will continue. Meanwhile, we pause to say thanks for your service, Queen Dean. We love you, we are deeply grateful, and we will forever be honored and humbled by your service.
Paul J. Hogan