Meet the prez

— The new head of the class at the all-girls St. Hubert is un­like any of the oth­ers who served be­fore.

The new pres­id­ent of St. Hubert, Frank Far­rell, Fri­day, Ju­ly 27, 2012, Phil­adelphia, Pa. (Maria Pouch­nikova)


There’s little activ­ity in­side St. Hubert High School these days, with teach­ers and stu­dents still about a month away from re­port­ing for classes.

But the light has been on in the pres­id­ent’s of­fice as Frank Far­rell is busy get­ting ready for the start of the school year.

The Arch­diocese of Phil­adelphia named Far­rell the school’s new pres­id­ent on Ju­ly 24. He’s the first male to lead the all-girls school that is known for its aca­dem­ics as well as its ath­let­ics.

Far­rell has been at the school al­most every week­day since land­ing the job. He’s in the middle of a weeklong va­ca­tion and will of­fi­cially start on Monday. He’s en­joyed get­ting to know the of­fice staff and oth­ers.

“Every­one I’ve met here has been so pos­it­ive,” he said. “The best word I can use is that Hubert’s ‘per­meates’ their lives.”

Word spread quickly of his hire. An­nemarie Szam­be­lak, the ad­mis­sions dir­ect­or, up­dated the school’s Web site and Face­book page.

“I had fifty-six ‘likes’ in the first hour, and my in­box had over a hun­dred e-mails the first day,” Far­rell said.


Far­rell be­comes the school’s fourth pres­id­ent since that mod­el was in­tro­duced in arch­diocese high schools in 1994. He fol­lows Joanne Walls, Sis­ter Alma Rose Schlosser and Sis­ter Mary E. Smith.

The new pres­id­ent views St. Hubert as a “com­munity of wo­men,” adding that the staff’s No. 1 goal is to make the stu­dents wo­men of faith and in­teg­rity.

Kath­ryn Ott Lov­ell, St, Hubert Class of 1992 and chair­wo­man of the school’s ad­vis­ory board, be­lieves it is im­port­ant for the girls to have a strong fe­male role mod­el, but she was won over by Far­rell in their dis­cus­sion.

“First and fore­most, he was the right per­son, re­gard­less of gender,” she said.

Far­rell, 51, grew up in Drexel Hill, Delaware County. He at­ten­ded St. An­drew Gram­mar School and Monsignor Bon­ner High School (Class of 1979).

At La Salle Uni­versity, he earned bach­el­or’s de­grees in polit­ic­al sci­ence and pub­lic ad­min­is­tra­tion and a mas­ter’s in theo­lo­gic­al stud­ies. He taught a year at St. Ed­ward the Con­fess­or, at Eighth and York streets, then spent eight years help­ing to over­see arch­diocese youth pro­grams.


He has been on the fac­ulty at Man­or Col­lege for 19 years, teach­ing theo­logy and philo­sophy and serving as chair­man of the lib­er­al arts di­vi­sion since 2004.

Far­rell lives in Chel­ten­ham. He and his wife, Donna, a doc­tor of in­tern­al medi­cine and a Car­din­al Dougherty High School gradu­ate, have five chil­dren. The three-young­est kids at­tend Present­a­tion BVM.

Sis­ter Mary Smith served as prin­cip­al at St. Hubert, Tor­res­dale and Cottman av­en­ues, for two years and was the school’s pres­id­ent for the last three years. She left to be­come prin­cip­al at Im­macu­lata High School in Somerville, N.J.

The arch­diocese en­cour­aged Far­rell to ap­ply for the va­cant po­s­i­tion.

“I was very se­cure at Man­or. I was happy and chal­lenged,” said Far­rell, adding that en­roll­ment was on the rise.

Far­rell in­ter­viewed twice with an arch­diocese team that in­cluded Richard Mc­Car­ron, sec­ret­ary for Cath­ol­ic edu­ca­tion, and Ed Han­way, chair­man of the Faith in the Fu­ture Found­a­tion.

Prin­cip­al Gina Craig and a half-dozen mem­bers of the St. Hubert ad­vis­ory board met with him at the school for al­most two hours on the even­ing of Ju­ly 18.

The arch­diocese and the ad­vis­ory board tried to gauge his com­mit­ment to Cath­ol­ic sec­ond­ary edu­ca­tion.

Mean­while, Far­rell and his wife talked and prayed about the po­s­i­tion. He be­came con­vinced that presid­ing over a Cath­ol­ic high school was the right move for him.

The ad­vis­ory board’s feed­back helped con­vince the arch­diocese to of­fer him the po­s­i­tion. He ac­cep­ted, and Man­or pres­id­ent Sis­ter Cecil­ia was happy for him, he said.


Far­rell was hop­ing for the call fol­low­ing his meet­ing with the ad­vis­ory board.

“Know­ing that I have a great net­work of stake­hold­ers kind of sold me that this is the right place for me,” he said. “A lot of people here have deep roots and con­tacts in May­fair and the Great­er North­east.”

Lov­ell, a mem­ber of the Friends of St. Hubert, said she ap­pre­ci­ated Far­rell’s will­ing­ness to give up a good job at Man­or to strengthen the high school.

“He’s really com­mit­ted to Cath­ol­ic edu­ca­tion and how crit­ic­al the school is to young people and the neigh­bor­hood,” she said. “He feels it’s a call­ing for him.”

St. Hubert star­ted the year with a bomb­shell — the news that the arch­diocese was plan­ning to close the school. The Arch­diocese an­nounced in early Janu­ary that St. Hubert would be among four high schools to shut its doors be­cause of rising budget de­fi­cits and de­clin­ing en­roll­ment.

Im­me­di­ately, the St. Hubert com­munity went in­to ac­tion, rais­ing more than $1.3 mil­lion in sev­en weeks.

“I thank the people of North­east Philly for ral­ly­ing,” Far­rell said.

On Feb. 24, Arch­bish­op Charles J. Chaput an­nounced that enough cash and pledges had come in from a se­lect few donors to save all four schools.

Far­rell is con­fid­ent in telling par­ents of eighth-grade girls that their four-year com­mit­ment to the school will be honored.

“St. Hubert is here to stay and be a vi­brant part of the North­east com­munity. I’m go­ing to reach out to all the stake­hold­ers to as­sure them that we’ll be here in the fu­ture,” he said.


Far­rell plans some changes, start­ing with new ban­ners out­side the school. He wants to make great­er use of so­cial me­dia so grads don’t have to wait un­til the alumni news­let­ter is pub­lished to see what’s go­ing on at their alma ma­ter.

The good news is that fresh­men en­roll­ment is up 20 per­cent over last year’s class of 140. The school is still tak­ing re­gis­tra­tions and trans­fers.

The days are over when 95 per­cent of girls gradu­at­ing from St. Mat­thew, St. Domin­ic, Re­sur­rec­tion of Our Lord and oth­er feed­er schools would auto­mat­ic­ally en­roll at St. Hubert.

Today, there’s com­pet­i­tion from oth­er Cath­ol­ic schools, along with charter schools. Far­rell wants to en­cour­age girls from loc­al pub­lic ele­ment­ary and middle schools to con­sider St. Hubert.

Of course, it will prob­ably take some schol­ar­ship money to per­suade a par­ent to choose St. Hubert — where tu­ition is $5,850 — over a free charter or pub­lic school.

In an e-mail to prin­cipals, pres­id­ents and oth­er arch­diocese of­fi­cials, Mc­Car­ron said Far­rell is strong in the area of stra­tegic plan­ning and is aware of the chal­lenges of en­roll­ment man­age­ment and growth.

The Friends of St. Hubert will man­age the money raised last winter and con­tin­ue to raise funds, but Far­rell un­der­stands he will have to pound the pave­ment to bring in more sup­port­ers.

“I’ll be there to rep­res­ent St. Hubert bey­ond these walls,” he said, adding that the staff will make it easi­er for him by of­fer­ing a qual­ity edu­ca­tion.

Far­rell is ex­cited to be tak­ing over at an all-girls school that is an an­chor of the neigh­bor­hood.

“I’m a firm be­liev­er in single-sex edu­ca­tion. That’s a dis­tinct­ive part we as a church can of­fer,” he said.

In the last few years, St. Hubert sent more stu­dents to Man­or than any oth­er high school.

“I’ve al­ways known the qual­ity of the St. Hubert stu­dent,” Far­rell said.

Far­rell said he knows of St. Hubert’s strong repu­ta­tion for aca­dem­ics and ath­let­ics. The girls win plenty of schol­ar­ship money, and he wants to help them find the right col­lege.

The in­com­ing pres­id­ent plans to “hit the ground run­ning” on Monday. He’ll get to meet ath­letes and coaches once prac­tice starts for soc­cer, field hockey, cross coun­try, vol­ley­ball, ten­nis and golf.

Teach­ers re­port on Sept. 4, fol­lowed by fresh­men the next day. Up­per­class­men come in on Sept. 6, and every­body will be to­geth­er for the first time on Sept. 7.

“Fi­nally, when I see sev­en-hun­dred girls, the fac­ulty and the ad­min­is­tra­tion, it will be ab­so­lutely joy­ful and hum­bling,” Far­rell pre­dicted. ••


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