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Jesuit education 'transformed' school's next president Tom Arndorfer

Arndorfer credits another Jesuit High School with setting stage for success

TIMES PHOTO: JAIME VALDEZ - Incoming President Tom Arndorfer stands by the Alumni Quad on the campus of Jesuit High School.  Tom Arndorfer rose into the upper echelons of management at one of the world’s best-known companies during his two-decade career at Nike.

But he never forgot where he came from — which is, in a sense, where he’s returning.

On Friday, Arndorfer takes over as the 12th president of Jesuit High School in Beaverton.

He succeeds the retiring John Gladstone, who led Jesuit for 11 years. Arndorfer was named president in late February.

It was his years at another Jesuit High School, however, when Arndorfer was a teenager in Sacramento, that “really set me on the path of where I am today,” he said.

“My Jesuit education transformed my life,” he said. “My life has been a series of blessings and gifts since I found the Jesuit world. That’s why I am where I am today. I wanted to be a part of it.”

Arndorfer, 52, said he was raised Catholic but that his family had fallen away from the church around the time they relocated from Washington, D.C., to Sacramento in the 1970s.

Given the opportunity to attend Catholic schools in California, Arndorfer was challenged and he excelled.

He went on to the University of Notre Dame, where he earned an accounting degree, and later to Harvard Business School for a master’s degree in business before becoming an investment banker.

Arndorfer switched gears in 1996 when he was hired at Nike and worked his way into upper management positions in several Nike divisions. When he retired in March to begin preparing for his role at Jesuit, he was vice president and international general manager of Nike Golf.

Arndorfer and his wife, Julie, have been active at Jesuit for the past seven years, starting about the time their daughter Katie began classes there. Katie is now finishing her own degree at Notre Dame, but sons John and David will be members of the next two graduating classes.TIMES PHOTO: JAIME VALDEZ - Incoming President Tom Arndorfer looks at coach Gene Potter's basketball teams' accolades in Potter's math classroom at Jesuit High School.

Tom Arndorfer was well-known to the Board of Trustees who selected him earlier this year because he had served on the board for a half dozen years, including two as its chairman. He and his wife also have served on a variety of school committees.

“I think he’ll really be a great blessing for the school,” Gladstone said. “They (the Arndorfers) know what Jesuit is about. I don’t think they’ll ever let that mission go sideways.”

Arndorfer praised Gladstone for strengthening the school, making it more ethnically diverse, more accessible to people of all income levels, and stronger than ever across the spectrum of academics, arts and athletics offered at the private college preparatory school.

Arndorfer said Jesuit already is on the right path, and his role will be to help it remain focused on its mission and build upon its success.

“I’m looking forward to rolling up my sleeves,” he said. “I don’t see any massive changes.”

Arndorfer has poured himself into Catholic causes, both at Jesuit and beyond.

He also serves on the University of Portland’s Board of Regents and on Catholic Relief Services’ Board of Directors. He said he plans to continue to work closely with the region’s other Catholic schools, whose missions align with each other.

“If I hadn’t gone to Jesuit, I wouldn’t be a Catholic today,” he said. “The Catholic church has changed my life. I always wanted to dedicate myself to the Catholic church.”

The Arndorfers live in Lake Oswego, where they also are active in Our Lady of the Lake Parish.

He said he is particularly focused on helping those who are less fortunate.

In Gladstone’s tenure, Jesuit increased its financial assistance nearly three-fold to more than $2.7 million during this last year, helping more than one in four of its students.

Arndorfer said he plans to continue down that path.

“We want to make sure that anyone who is interested in a Jesuit education can get it,” he said.

Arndorfer also has an eye on the future. While he was chairman of Jesuit’s board, the school parlayed a large private donation and other funding into the purchase of Valley Plaza to its west.

The shopping center tenants have long-term leases that will support Jesuit for at least a decade. But one day into the future — possibly during what Arndorfer hopes will be his own long tenure — that land may help expand the Jesuit campus.

Arndorfer said such large-scale changes won’t come until long after his own children have graduated, but just maybe, his future grandchildren will attend a larger Jesuit High School.

If so, they will know that their grandfather was a large part of it.