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New President Renke hopes to push frontiers, retain identity

Photo by Bryce Owen ’17 | President Ms. Adria Renke speaks with Mr. Paul Fisko outside the Robson gymnasium March 6. Ms. Renke was named the first female President in Brophy’s history.
Photo by Bryce Owen ’17 | President Ms. Adria Renke speaks with Mr. Paul Fisko outside the Robson gymnasium March 6. Ms. Renke was named the first female President in Brophy’s history.

By Kaleb Lucero ’18

Brophy’s Board of Trustees announced Jan. 30 that they named Ms. Adria Renke as the 11th president of the school.

This comes after former president, the Rev. Edward Reese, S.J. stepped down last May to take the president’s job at St. Ignatius in San Francisco, Calif..

In the announcement, Ms. Renke, who served as the interim president this year, was said to have had a longtime commitment to Jesuit education, and, according to John Strittmatter, chairman of the Board of Trustees, “has a proven track record of 19 successful years of leadership at Brophy.”

The Rev. Phil Postell, S.J., Director of Alumni Relations and former president of Dallas Jesuit, said that her former experience during those 19 years as vice president to Fr. Reese would be a valuable asset in her new role.

“She’s very knowledgeable about the school, she has all kinds of contacts in the Phoenix community … she knows the legacy of Brophy, she knows the alumni, she’s very familiar with the faculty and well recognized among the parent community,” he said. “She will be able to keep up the momentum established by Fr. Reese.”

On the traits that she brings to the position, Fr. Postell said that her intelligence, drive, outgoing personality, fundraising skills and ability to recognize Brophy’s strengths are all going to be real benefits to the school.

Charles Gbekia 19’ has known Ms. Renke for a while, starting from when he was a student at Loyola, and said that he has gotten to know her pretty well over the years.

He said that Ms. Renke becoming president is great for the school, and that her personality made her easy to talk to and great to be around.

However, he said that he didn’t think other students know her too much right now, but that her pizza lunches and walks around campus were helping students become more familiar with her.

“Once students know about her, they’ll see how much of a great person she is,” Gbekia said. “She’s just so helpful, and I think students will really appreciate that.”

He also said that it was important to mention that she’s a female president at an all boys school, and how she was a “pioneer” for women.

Ms. Renke is believed to be the first female president of a Jesuit high school.

Transitioning from vice president to president, Fr. Postell said that she’ll be moving from being the primary advisor to accepting the ultimate responsibilities that come with the position.

As Ms. Renke put it, even though Fr. Reese had delegated work, “everyone knew the buck stopped with him.”

“So when he left, I went, ‘Oh! The buck’s gone!’” she said. “I loved being his wingman, I loved being his vice president, I knew my role, he knew my role, but when I had the responsibility … I liked it from the start.”

She said she has particularly enjoyed the diversity of the new job, and having to deal with different areas such as construction, raising money, talking to students and curriculum decisions.

Ms. Renke also said that she enjoyed being energized by students.

“I enjoy listening to you think. You energize me, and more importantly, you give me hope,” she said.

She said that the whole thing was a grace and a privilege. A grace, she said, to watch students develop, and a privilege to work with such professional people.

“Could there be a job that would make me happier than this? Probably not,” she said. “This is the pinnacle.”

Ms. Renke was chosen for this job after eight months of a nation-wide search by the Board of Trustees.

Fr. Postell said that she was able to and experienced in communicating the Jesuit identity of the school, citing her work with Jesuit spirituality and the organization of the Jesuit retreats.

“She’s done this for maybe 20 years, so it’s almost instinctive with her to articulate what I would call the Jesuit way,” he said.

As for her, Ms. Renke said that Jesuit identity was a “key pillar” for her.

“We’re known here at Brophy for pushing frontiers, that is a hallmark of Jesuit education, and we’re going to keep doing that,” she said.

“So it’s time for another strategic plan,” she said. “It’s time to get experts in, and parents, and teachers, and kids, and have us talk about where we want to be in 20 years.”

She said it was necessary to get people from different walks of life to create a “roadmap for the future.”

But she said that the one thing that will not change is the Jesuit identity. She said that the teaching that God is everywhere, and that students are expected to “go out there and do it,” would remain a part of Brophy.

“That’s not debatable, “ she said. “Everything around us could change, but that pillar, that Jesuit pillar, that charism, is here and it will stay.”

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