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Jesuit High School President John Gladstone makes the grade

Gladstone will step down next spring after a decade leading the Catholic school in Raleigh Hills

TIMES PHOTO: JONATHAN HOUSE - Jesuit High School president John Gladstone is retiring after heading the school for 10 years.John Gladstone avoids Facebook and would rather put a stamp on a letter than send an email, but he might be one of the best-connected people in Beaverton.

When the president of Jesuit High School encounters students, staff, parents or anyone else, he’s all high-fives and handshakes and how’s your families.

“He’s so good about knowing names, he even knows the name of your dog,” said Sandy Satterberg, a longtime teacher and principal at Jesuit who recently retired. “He’s a real people person.”

Gladstone, 68, has led the Catholic school for the past decade but announced earlier this year that he will retire after this coming school year.

“I want to go five days straight sleeping in until 6:30,” he joked.

“I couldn’t imagine a better president,” said incoming senior Amber Grimmer, who leads the school’s Crusaders for Kindness club. “I don’t think anyone can live up to Mr. Gladstone ­— but I hope they do.”

TIMES PHOTO: JONATHAN HOUSE - Jesuit High president John Gladstone talks about the improvements that the school has made over his 10-year tenure.By next June, Gladstone will have spent nearly a half century in Catholic education, starting as a full-time Latin teacher even while still taking college courses during the 1960s.

“That just shows how bright he is,” said his brother, Kevin Gladstone.

John Gladstone then worked his way through a variety of teaching, coaching and administrative positions at high schools and colleges. Most of those jobs — except for an early post in Tacoma — were in Gladstone’s native Ohio, including his previous position as a dean at John Carroll University in the suburbs of Cleveland, where he grew up.

Gladstone thought he would retire at Carroll and remain in Cleveland until several people contacted him about the opportunity at Jesuit. He earlier had worked at several Jesuit high schools elsewhere and felt a strong connection to high schooler students. His wife Gina’s family also lives in the region.

“After about the fifth or sixth phone call, I thought I’d at least take a look,” he said, adding that he’s never regretted the decision. “I’ve worked at some great schools, but never at a school where kids and faculty care about each other and believe so much in each other.”

He said his mission has been “to turn out young graduates who were prepared to change the world.”

Gladstone’s role as president is roughly comparable to a public school district’s superintendent, with additional focus on fundraising to support the privately funded institution.

Students, faculty and parents said Gladstone’s legacy will carry on long after he retires and is deeply rooted in his ability to connect with people.

“John is an excellent administrator but he’s way more than that. He is a good friend to everybody here,” said Father J.K. Adams. “I’ve never seen anyone quite so engaged with the students. He loves these kids.”

Gladstone is “the most genuinely caring person I’ve ever met,” said current principal Paul Hogan. “Anybody who’s with him feels like they have his entire attention.”

Satterberg, who preceded Hogan as president and then remained as a teacher through last spring, said “You can’t not like John.”

“He is probably the best boss that anyone could ever work for,” Satterberg added. “John is by far the best president we’ve ever had.”

Tricia Heffernan, whose children graduated from Jesuit and remains involved in the school, said: “I don’t think that they could have picked a finer person with more character than John Gladstone.”

She appreciates that Gladstone works daily to make sure Jesuit students have a sense of gratitude for blessings in their lives. All Jesuit students are required to give back to their communities, and on average most donate twice the number of hours required.

Gladstone also is well-known for reaching out to students, staff and families when illness or other hardships touch their lives, often sending cards or flowers or touching hand-written notes.

Indigo Irving, an incoming senior, said Gladstone sent flowers when her own mother was diagnosed with cancer.

“It was awesome to have that support system back at school,” she said. “He’s just an all-around incredible person.”

“He’s a giving, loving person,” added senior Alzena Henry. “You don’t meet people like that very often. I feel like he genuinely cares.”

“In today’s society, in today’s culture, that’s not always celebrated,” said Heffernan, who recently had similar support from Gladstone when a family member fell ill. “He is authentic, he really is.”

He also has deliberately worked to make Jesuit’s student body a more diverse place, with students from a variety of backgrounds better reflecting the broader society.

When he arrived, fewer than one in six students received financial aid to help pay tuition. Today, more than a quarter of the students share $2.8 million in assistance based on need.

Similarly, about a third of incoming students are now kids of color, making the school nearly twice as diverse as Jesuit was just 10 years ago. While almost three-fourths of the student body is Catholic, there also are students who practice a variety of other religions, including Muslims, Hindus, Jews and a variety of Protestant Christian traditions.

“They’ve changed the landscape of our school,” Glad-stone said. “It’s been a huge growth.”

Gladstone is credited with being a skilled fundraiser, which in turn boosts Jesuit’s endowment and provides money for student tuition and equitable wages and benefits for staff.

In Gladstone’s biggest financial success, he worked with a couple of key donors who gave $10 million toward Jesuit’s $17.2 million purchase of most of neighboring Valley Plaza shopping center.

Today, that site is generating enough income to repay a loan the school also used to buy the land, which in the future will provide space for additional parking and possibly academic and athletic facilities that support Jesuit. The investment should help sustain Jesuit for another 50 years, Gladstone said.

“It’s really guaranteed the school’s future,” he said.

Gladstone said the campus’ future growth onto at least part of the Valley Plaza property will not likely be aimed at increasing the size of Jesuit’s student body, now at 1,260.

“We are concerned that if we grow larger, we would lose that personal touch,” he said. “We work very hard to make sure kids fit in here.”

Part of the Jesuit touch is maintaining close ties with the Society of Jesuits and their mission, which has been part of Gladstone’s upbringing since early childhood. The Jesuits operate more than 60 high schools in the U.S., with Beaverton’s campus the only one in Oregon.

Gladstone is a man of deep faith, starting prayer early each day and returning to it often.

He also carries a medal of Mary, the Mother of God, in his pocket at all times, 60 years after his grandfather gave it to him. He has lost it in the Midwest snow, in beach sand, in a grassy field and even on a cross-country flight, but somehow the medal has always come back to him.

“I’ve always had a great devotion to Mary,” he said. “It’s something I use to meditate.”

“He lives all that stuff,” Father Adams said.

Beyond his faith, he has maintained a strong devotion to Cleveland, including his family and his passion for its sports teams. Despite that, he said he plans to remain in Portland while traveling to see the far-flung children and grandchildren from his and Gina’s blended family. He also plans to indulge in more reading.

“We miss him. He’s such a big part of our family,” said his brother, Kevin Gladstone. “We’re so proud of what he’s accomplished.”

“We got him from Cleveland,” Heffernan said. “I don’t want to give him back to Cleveland.”

Selecting a new president

Jesuit High School is in the process of selecting President John Gladstone’s successor.

The application period is open until Oct. 9.

Jesuit's selection committee will begin choosing finalists and interviewing top candidates during the fall and winter and are likely to make their selection in early 2016, spokeswoman Erika Tuenge said.

The next president will begin July 1.

By Eric Apalategui
Beaverton Reporter
email: eapalategui@commnewspapers.com
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