Christian Brother Gale Condit not only was introduced to a standing ovation in the school gymnasium Feb. 10 as the new president of Archbishop Rummel High School. The man who started his student teaching career at Rummel in the 1960s also decided to spring his first pop quiz on the school’s 820 students.
In returning to Archbishop Rummel for the fourth time in his educational career – the first as a student teacher (1965), the second as a teacher (1970-74) and the third as admissions director and vice president for institutional advancement (1989-99) – Brother Gale told the students he was thoroughly familiar with that special “something” that previous Rummel students had exhibited “that really inspired me.”
“I’m going to find out this morning if that same thing is still around,” Brother Gale said with a smile, calling forward student council president Tucker Roussel from the bleachers to lead his fellow students in the Raider fight song.
‘Raider Pride’ alive and well
At the conclusion of a blaring rendition, Brother Gale looked at the students and said: “I heard that, and that’s ‘Raider Pride.’ And that ‘Raider Pride’ will become a force, not only for this school but for this entire community.”
Brother Gale, 69, will return officially to Archbishop Rummel on July 1 after having spent 11 years as director of development at The St. Paul’s School in Covington, which is owned and operated by the Christian Brothers.
Dr. Jan Lancaster, superintendent of Catholic schools for the Archdiocese of New Orleans, said when Rummel began its search for a new president last October, Archbishop Gregory Aymond and the school’s board of directors pushed to bring a Christian Brother back into the primary development role.
“But not just any Christian Brother,” Lancaster said of the discussions during her initial meeting with Archbishop Aymond. “He wanted Brother Gale.”
Christian Brothers’ legacy
When the archdiocese opened Archbishop Rummel in 1962, the Christian Brothers agreed to staff the school, and they were a formative religious presence there for more than 30 years. In fact, when current principal Michael Scalco was a student at Rummel in 1965, Brother Gale was his teacher, one of 27 brothers on the faculty and staff.
Scalco, who also announced to an ovation that he would return as principal next year, said bringing back Brother Gale to Rummel was a stroke of genius.
“I think it’s a little hard for you (students) to appreciate what a major coup this is to get another brother back here on campus,” Scalco said. “It’s been over 20 years since we’ve had the brothers active at the school. This is very, very big.”
Lancaster thanked the Christian Brothers for their willingness to allow Brother Gale to leave one of their own schools to head up an archdiocesan high school. Brother Gale said the “call” came out of the blue.
Abp. Aymond encouraging
“I had no idea this was going to happen,” he said. “When the archbishop called me one night and said he wanted to meet, I didn’t know what this was about. He told me in his office that he had prayed about this and talked to people, and that he wanted a Christian Brother as president of Rummel and that he wanted me to be that man. I was quite surprised. I said, ‘Well, if this is what the Lord wants, then with his help and the help of other people, I’ll do what I can.’
“I’m glad to come back to Rummel. This was my first assignment. I have a lot of memories here. Frankly, at this moment, I feel a tremendous sense of support here. Without a doubt in my mind, the seeds of growth and great things are here. As I told the students, if we have that Raider Pride as one in our hearts, good things will happen.”
Enrollment can rebound
Like many archdiocesan high schools, Archbishop Rummel has experienced declining enrollment in recent years. In 2003, Rummel had 1,340 students, making it the third-largest high school in the archdiocese. It was at 1,152 students as recently as 2008-09, and this year enrollment is 820.
“Enrollment is not my primary goal, but we do want to build up those numbers,” Brother Gale said. “I’m certainly going to foster an aggressive admissions operation. If the numbers move up, that’s good, but the important thing is that we run a good, solid school, and I think we’re moving in that direction very well at the present time, and we’re going to be even better. In doing that, the numbers will take care of themselves.”
Brother Gale said his main short-term focus will be to nurture the Christian Brothers’ Lasallian educational mission.
“That has to do with things such as faith and the presence of God, inclusive community, quality education, concern for the poor, social justice and respect for the individual,” Brother Gale said. “That’s not to say it’s not here, but we want to continue to strengthen those core values.”
‘A huge win’ for the school
Board president Paul Hasney (‘71), who runs a Metairie management consultant firm, said Brother Gale’s return to Rummel “brings back the legacy” established by the Christian Brothers, which was so important to the thousands of alumni.
“This is a huge win for everyone,” Hasney said. “The president’s role is effectively development, and so his connections to so many alums at Rummel, his years of service here and the people he knows in the community are so important. What he brings is his personal credibility. He can sit across the desk from people and talk about building an endowment for Rummel, and he has instant credibility.”
Asked what he thought it would mean to have a Christian Brother back in a leadership role at Rummel, Brother Gale said: “I guess it means that people have great confidence in the Christian Brothers. At this point in my life, it means that seemingly the Lord is saying, ‘I’ve got another project for you. You’re not done yet.’ This is an opportunity to share some very important values to these young men as they prepare for their future.”
Peter Finney Jr. can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.