'I'm just part of the history' Legacy: During the tenure of the Rev. James F. McAndrews, Loyola Blakefield has more buildings, more students, higher salaries, and "the Ignatian spirit" endures.

June 30, 1998|By Mary Maushard | Mary Maushard,SUN STAFF

When the Rev. James F. McAndrews started receiving letters from alumni that devoted two sentences to his departure and two dozen to campus issues, the retiring president of Loyola Blakefield knew he had done his job well.

"That's just the way I want it," said the 69-year-old Jesuit priest, who leaves the Towson boys school tomorrow."I'm just part of the history of this place."

That history will show that McAndrews served as president for 19 years, about three times as long as any of his predecessors, that he initiated and completed the first building program in 40 years and that a middle school opened on his watch.

Like many private schools, Loyola is thriving with more applicants than it can accommodate, new facilities and a loyal and generous alumni. The school's enrollment is 925.

"A lot of it can be traced back to Father's direction," said John H. Weetenkamp III, the assistant headmaster.

McAndrews is described as a gentle man who downplays his accomplishments, and a well-read one who has taught by deeds rather than words.

"I was just fortunate to be here at the right time," he said last week during an interview in his office, one floor below his living quarters -- "just like the firemen" -- in Xavier Hall at Loyola.

"I was very conscious that you allow people to do what they can do best and try to get out of the way," McAndrews said.

McAndrews' departure continues the changing of the guard among leaders of Baltimore-area private schools. W. Byron Forbush II is retiring this week after 38 years at the Friends School, and longtime administrators have also stepped down at Notre Dame Preparatory School in Towson and Oldfields School in Glencoe during the past few years.

Following a Jesuit university model, Loyola has a headmaster, Donald W. Urbancic, who handles day-to-day operations, and a president "to look at the long-range possibilities and to do fund raising."

Showing off the school's elegant Chapel of Our Lady of Montserrat and the state-of-the-art classrooms in the new Burk Memorial Building, McAndrews played down his part in making the $6.5 million project happen. "I just signed the checks," he said, overlooking the job of raising the money to make those checks good.

Acknowledging that fund raising takes a great deal of time, McAndrews said he tried to keep it in perspective. "I try not to let the dollar signs get in front of the people," he said, adding that his approach is to establish a rapport with a possible donor, state the need and ask for help.

Though Loyola has more buildings, more athletic fields, more students and more teachers with better salaries than when McAndrews arrived, the boys haven't changed much, he said.

"Students are looking for guidance. They want to look up to the faculty. They want to be proud of their school, and they want to be able to achieve."

Over the years, administrative duties have cut into time McAndrews might have spent with students, he acknowledged. For years, he managed a senior homeroom of boys who gathered every morning in his comfortable office to talk about getting out of high school and into college.

Alumnus Dyer Bell, one of those homeroom students, said McAndrews always wanted to "make sure our lives were in order," and spent a lot of time at it.

Facing the reality of a shrinking number of priests to carry on the philosophy and work of St. Ignatius Loyola, the founder of the Jesuits, McAndrews has encouraged the lay faculty to take up "the Ignatian spirit," which he defines as the realization that God can be found in this world in all aspects of human endeavor, and that Jesuits should be "out laboring in the world."

He is particularly proud of their willingness to do so.

"They are trying to discover what this Ignatian spirit is that drives Jesuits so they can keep it alive in the school," McAndrews said.

Just as the dwindling number of priests has brought changes at Loyola, so too will it affect McAndrews' next steps, which surely won't be into retirement.

Before being reassigned, however, he will be on sabbatical in his hometown of Adams, Mass., where he will help the priests -- who are not Jesuits -- in what was his home parish many years ago.

"I hope to do a lot of reading, a lot of walking, a lot of reflecting. I'm looking forward to going."

Pub Date: 6/30/98

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