Retired attorney, Pat Gauvey, first came to Brooklyn Jesuit Prep (BJP) in 2006 as a volunteer librarian after her last child went off to college. In July 2013, after BJP and the other New York Nativity Schools separated to manage their own administration and fundraising, she became president of the school. Her new position proved challenging and included cutting the budget by eliminating the fifth grade. After years of hard work and fundraising by her and the school, BJP will bring back the 5th grade in September 2017. Pat’s long and varied career (including five years as a member of the Sisters of St. Joseph, who were founded by Jesuit Fr. Jean-Pierre Medaille) has given her a diverse skill set to help BJP continue to be a school of excellence.
How did you first start working at Brooklyn Jesuit Prep?
The credit goes to Frank Murphy, a member of BJP’s board of trustees at the time, who first invited me to visit BJP. When I visited BJP I just fell in love with the place. It was around this time they received funding for a library. I created the library and then became the volunteer librarian at the invitation of Fr. Vincent DeCola, SJ, who was president at the time. While I love what I’m doing as president, serving as the BJP librarian was the best job I ever had.
What do you think is the most visible Jesuit ideal that someone might see at Brooklyn Jesuit Prep?
We work very hard to develop young leaders who are intellectually competent, open to growth, loving, religious and committed to doing justice. I think a visitor could notice any number of these Jesuit ideals in practice at our school but I think that we do an excellent job at helping our students grow through the many opportunities we provide them, whether it is a chance to learn a new sport, a service project that might bring them out of their shell a bit or an assembly program that causes them to rethink their opinion about something in the news.
When we start interviewing families, many parents aren’t aware that we’re a Jesuit institution - they just care that we’re a good school. So we actually start with students. A number of them are not Catholic, but Jesuit ideals are stressed at our summer camp. Eventually, the mission and spirituality is taught to the students and that gets brought back to the parents. A lot of our parents desperately want something good for their kids but don’t know how to get it. Jesuit schools make it a lot easier for children to get a good education. Going forward, I’d like to get the parents even more involved and offer parent sessions focused on spirituality.
You’ve brought back a fifth grade, what kind of challenges will that present? What are the advantages?
They school always had a fifth grade and discontinuing it was done reluctantly, but it was necessary. The minute we gave it up, the goal was always to bring it back. It was a leap of faith but we had ten families interested at the first open house and we plan to hit 30. We’ve faced some challenges though: we have had to raise more money, add faculty, find people who believed in us, and of course, recruit students.
How are you working to advance Brooklyn Jesuit Prep’s mission?
In terms of development, I am working as hard as I can to ensure that Brooklyn Jesuit Prep can continue to serve low-income families in Brooklyn for many years to come. We are expanding BJP's donor base, creating a strong administrative structure, building BJP's endowment, and continuing to strengthen our academic program.
But it’s not just about raising money, it’s also getting people in the door to be sold on what we do. Everyone is welcome to come and see what we’re doing even if they can’t donate. For instance, one Saturday a month tutors are brought in, young people and older people, to work with students. This is good for the students and gives volunteers a better sense of what BJP is all about. So many people believe in what we’re doing at BJP and have helped in a hundred different ways, even if it’s been just a pat on the back.
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