The Women of Jesuit High

On Monday, October 15, the women of OWE returned to campus full of the Holy Spirit, singing and wearing their Encounter crosses and silver halos. Under bright blue skies, strong female energy flooded our campus and made Jesuit a better, more loving place. Again.

On October 10, a terrific trio of alumnae speakers headlined the Financial Aid Luncheon, one of this year's celebrations of a quarter-century of coeducation at Jesuit. Kate O'Scannlain Johnson '95 (center), Anarghya Vardhana '06 (right), and Chrisleine Temple '15 (left) enthralled the crowd with sacred, stirring tales of their experiences as students at Jesuit High.

Though they attended Jesuit in different decades, all three women are trailblazers. Kate, the youngest of the eight O'Scannlain children, is the first Jesuit grad to earn Senate confirmation as Solicitor of the US Department of Labor. Anarghya is an entrepreneur-for-others and one of Forbes magazine's "30 Under 30" stars of the US business community.

Chrisleine is simply one of the most inspiring people I have ever known. Chrisleine and her mom Madeleine escaped the civil war in Sierra Leone and came to the US as refugees. Chrisleine is the first in her family to attend college, thanks to an unparalleled work ethic during her years at Jesuit. That Chrisleine is now getting ready to graduate from Williams, one of the finest liberal arts colleges in the US, is a staggering achievement.

Along with these three remarkable women, we celebrate the thousands of other women-for-others who have graced our halls since that memorable first day of coeducation in 1993.

We give thanks to the thousands of Jesuit moms who have offered their service and wisdom at auctions and retreats and as lunch moms and library volunteers and Boosters and PART and PiP reps and parent board members and Trustees and...

Jesuit was already a terrific school before coeducation. The trustees, faculty, and administration could certainly have continued that tradition without taking on the arduous task of going coed, which was not without controversy and which required a monumental effort in fund-raising and culture-changing. I have seen that process up close.

I went to an all-boys Jesuit school called Loyola Academy, in Wilmette, IL and taught at Fairfield Prep, an all-boys Jesuit school in Connecticut. The cultures were positive and powerful, as it was at Jesuit prior to 1993. As strong as those schools were, filled with what Brian Doyle calls "exuberant youth... and itchy masculinity," clearly Jesuit is a more Ignatian and more humane school for having women grace our halls, fields, and classrooms.

Among my most treasured memories as an educator are the 15 years I served as academic vice principal for Principal Sandy Satterberg. Sandy was not only a superb Ignatian educator; she was also the first lay woman to serve as Principal of a Jesuit high school in the US and played an integral role as Jesuit High successfully transitioned to coeducation. "Jesuit still has the same foundation it had as a school for young men, but coeducation made that foundation much stronger," Sandy reflected. "Coeducation helped form a school that will stand the tests of time." Sandy was smart, tough, patient, and relentlessly committed to the Ignatian mission—and she helped to bring the feminine genius into our school, along with a cohort of legendary women faculty.

And yes, women have improved Jesuit. Our Christian Service programs and clubs and student government have been made immeasurably stronger by generations of female student leaders. Veterans of the coed transition like Erin DeKlotz, Elaine Kloser, and Teresa Zimmerlee still inspire our young women to lead, as ambassadors, artists, athletes, retreat leaders and community-builders.

In the 37 years before we went coed, Jesuit had won 19 state championships. Since 1993-94, we have won 130 more, about equally divided between men's and women's teams. Women's soccer and tennis became Oregon's best almost immediately upon the enrollment of the first women at Jesuit, helping to raise the bar for all of our sports programs. Those first young women just seemed to pick up the mantle of Age Quod Agis without hesitation, and they have never faltered. This fall, our volleyball, soccer, and women's cross-country teams are once again setting the pace in the state of Oregon (and in the case of our women's soccer team, in the nation).

At Jesuit, young women are academic stars and student government leaders and Eucharistic ministers and Mock Trial powerhouses and artists and encouragers and best friends to each other and to their male counterparts. More important than their achievements, our young women bring a vital perspective to our classrooms, a unique spirituality, compassion and a particular kind of feminine grit. Our young women help make Jesuit strong, and balanced, and healthy, offering a yin to what once was a Jesuit that was all yang.

Sandy Satterberg was right when she reminded us that Jesuit could achieve its full potential only when ALL students are allowed a seat at the table—in classrooms, on stage, in activities, on retreats and in service to the Kingdom. We may not be there yet, but the women of Jesuit High have brought us immensely closer. So let's celebrate!

Paul J. Hogan