Northeast Times

A new Crusader in charge

The Rev. James E. Dalton, a 1962 Judge gradu­ate, is re­turn­ing to his roots as the Cru­saders’ new prin­cip­al.

Fath­er Judge High School did not have to go on an ex­tens­ive search for a new prin­cip­al.

Last month, as the school year ended, the Arch­diocese of Phil­adelphia ap­poin­ted Judge prin­cip­al Kath­leen Her­pich to the same po­s­i­tion at Con­well-Egan, which is loc­ated in Fair­less Hills.

The Ob­lates of St. Fran­cis de Sales ad­min­is­ter Fath­er Judge, and the or­der had an ob­vi­ous can­did­ate.

The Rev. James E. Dalton, a 1962 Judge gradu­ate, had spent a dec­ade as prin­cip­al at North Cath­ol­ic and was just fin­ish­ing up a sev­en-year stint as pres­id­ent of Salesian­um School in Wilm­ing­ton, Del.

The Rev. James J. Green­field, pro­vin­cial of the Ob­lates of St. Fran­cis de Sales, re­com­men­ded Dalton to Car­din­al Justin Rigali, arch­bish­op of Phil­adelphia.

Dalton didn’t have to sub­mit the tra­di­tion­al cov­er let­ter and re­sume with ref­er­ences or even sit down for an in­ter­view.

“I was a known quant­ity,” he said of his long ser­vice.

A HOME­COM­ING

Rigali ap­proved the re­com­mend­a­tion on Ju­ly 6, and Dalton star­ted his new job im­me­di­ately.

“I just jumped at the op­por­tun­ity,” he said. “It’s like com­ing back home.”

Dalton, who turned 67 last month, is a nat­ive of Port Rich­mond. He at­ten­ded Nativ­ity BVM Gram­mar School through sixth grade be­fore his fam­ily moved to Ben­s­alem.

After two years at St. Charles Bor­romeo School, he en­rolled at Judge. It was quite an ad­just­ment for the boys from St. Charles, which at the time was in a coun­try set­ting.

On their way to and from school, the sub­urb­an kids would take the Phil­adelphia Trans­port­a­tion Co. Route 66 bus in the city be­fore walk­ing or hitch­hik­ing the rest of the way.

“That was an ac­cept­able thing back then,” Dalton said of hitch­ing a ride. “You can’t do that these days.”

Aca­dem­ic­ally, Dalton ranked 42nd in a gradu­at­ing class of 555 and en­joyed meet­ing kids from oth­er par­ishes. In his last year, Judge had about 3,300 stu­dents, a fig­ure that de­clined a few years later with the open­ing of Arch­bish­op Ry­an.

Dalton went on to earn a de­gree in math­em­at­ics from Al­lentown Col­lege (now De Sales Uni­versity). He was or­dained a priest in 1972.

Over the years, he en­rolled in nu­mer­ous con­tinu­ing edu­ca­tion courses and re­ceived mas­ter’s de­grees in theo­logy, math and in­struc­tion­al tech­no­logy.

In the 1970s, he was as­sist­ant prin­cip­al and math de­part­ment chair­man at Salesian­um.

THE MAN FROM NORTH

From 1982-92, he was prin­cip­al at North Cath­ol­ic, Judge’s long­time sports rival. Chan­ging neigh­bor­hood demo­graph­ics caused a steep de­cline in North’s en­roll­ment, and the school closed in June 2010.

“I’m sorry to see that age pass us by,” he said. “The Ob­lates have been very suc­cess­ful in edu­cat­ing young men in the city.”

Dalton re­turned to Salesian­um in 1998, serving as dean of stud­ies and dir­ect­or of tech­no­logy be­fore as­sum­ing the pres­id­ency in 2004.

The Rev. Joseph Campel­lone, pres­id­ent of Fath­er Judge, is ex­cited about the new hire. Soon after learn­ing of Her­pich’s de­par­ture, he found out that Dalton was avail­able.

“It was like the Phil­lies get­ting Roy Hal­laday,” he said. “I’m still pinch­ing my­self.”

Oth­ers in the edu­ca­tion­al com­munity were en­vi­ous, ac­cord­ing to Campel­lone.

“They asked, ‘How did you get Dalton?’ ”

Campel­lone said chair­man Bill St. Clair and the rest of the board of ad­visers are happy with the choice. He de­scribed Dalton as a work­ahol­ic who has the trust, hu­mil­ity, spir­itu­al­ity and for­ward think­ing to be a suc­cess­ful prin­cip­al.

The school pres­id­ent was par­tic­u­larly im­pressed that, un­der Dalton, Salesian­um landed on the Ac­ton In­sti­tute’s Cath­ol­ic High School Hon­or Roll as one of the top 50 sec­ond­ary schools in the coun­try.

Campel­lone would like to see Fath­er Judge on the list.

“No pres­sure, Jim,” he joked.

The Arch­diocese of Phil­adelphia’s Of­fice of Cath­ol­ic Edu­ca­tion has a Blue Rib­bon Com­mis­sion look­ing in­to the fu­ture of Cath­ol­ic schools, with a re­port due as early as Septem­ber.

JUDGE STAYS STRONG

Fath­er Judge is a healthy school, with about 1,140 stu­dents ex­pec­ted next year, and is in no danger of clos­ing. It’s the largest all-boys Cath­ol­ic school in Pennsylvania, and the school pres­id­ent thanks the alumni and his fund-rais­ing team for provid­ing schol­ar­ship money.

Campel­lone also shot down a per­sist­ent ru­mor.

“We’re not go­ing private,” he said. “We just want the amen­it­ies of a private school.”

Dalton will in­her­it a school with plenty of amen­it­ies, in­clud­ing the Wil­li­am F. Mitchell Activ­ity Cen­ter.

In ad­di­tion, Judge has formed a part­ner­ship with the city that will lead to an over­haul of Ramp Play­ground. The school’s soc­cer, lacrosse, rugby and JV and fresh­man foot­ball teams will play games on the new turf, and the varsity foot­ball team will prac­tice there.

The new prin­cip­al likes the tech­no­logy at the school, point­ing spe­cific­ally to new in­ter­act­ive white smart boards and a sci­ence and math wing that in­cludes a part­ner­ship with Drexel Uni­versity.

The Fath­er Bris­son Cen­ter for Aca­dem­ic Ex­cel­lence is one of the school’s jew­els. It helps edu­cate stu­dents who need a little help catch­ing up to their class­mates.

“Judge is an ex­cel­lent school, but it has to be ex­cel­lent for all,” Dalton said.

Dalton, whose gradu­at­ing class will cel­eb­rate 50 years in 2012, hasn’t been back to Judge in an of­fi­cial ca­pa­city since he was a stu­dent, oth­er than to at­tend alumni meet­ings as a board mem­ber.

CHANGES BIG AND SMALL

Plenty has changed. The track has been com­pleted, and chalk­boards are largely a thing of the past. There were only two lay teach­ers in his day. Today, there are only about a half-dozen Ob­lates on the fac­ulty.

There will be some fa­mil­i­ar faces in the hall­ways and classrooms, as sev­er­al former North Cath­ol­ic teach­ers moved to Judge after last year’s school clos­ing.

Dalton is look­ing for­ward to meet­ing with teach­ers, de­part­ment chairs and ad­min­is­trat­ors and at­tend­ing the Judge/St. Hubert Rock at the Dock re­union on Aug. 13 at La Costa in Sea Isle City, N.J.

A former Phil­adelphia Cath­ol­ic League board of gov­ernors chair­man dur­ing his lat­ter years at North Cath­ol­ic, he’ll cheer on the Judge sports teams. Among the prom­in­ent non-sports clubs are the ro­bot­ics pro­gram and the Mod­el U.N. team.

“That’s an im­port­ant part of be­ing a school prin­cip­al,” he said of ming­ling with alumni and en­cour­aging ex­tra­cur­ricular activ­it­ies. “It’s not just morn­ing and af­ter­noon edu­ca­tion.”

In look­ing at the cir­cum­stances that led to his re­turn to Judge, Dalton quotes St. Fran­cis de Sales, who said, “Let’s not waste time in will­ing and wish­ing for things, but let God ar­range them.”

Dalton de­veloped the Salesian spir­it as a stu­dent at Judge and Al­lentown, and it re­mained at North Cath­ol­ic, Salesian­um and all of his pro­fes­sion­al stops.

“It’s good to be home,” he said. “I get a chance to con­tin­ue that spir­it.” ••

Re­port­er Tom War­ing can be reached at 215-354-3034 or twar­ing@bsmphilly.com

You can reach at twaring@bsmphilly.com.

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