Cardinal Gibbons head has ambitious goals

Principal: The Rev. John O'Brien envisions competitive athletic teams, better facilities and more arts programs for the Baltimore school.

August 16, 2002|By Ben Piven | Ben Piven,SUN STAFF

As the Rev. John O'Brien stands above the field where Babe Ruth learned to play baseball, he excitedly explains the role of the American baseball legend in the history of Cardinal Gibbons School.

"This is the house that built Ruth," O'Brien said with a smile. When George Herman "Babe" Ruth attended, Gibbons was known as St. Mary's Industrial School.

On July 1, O'Brien became principal of Cardinal Gibbons, a 500-student all-boys Catholic school with grades six through 12.

The 42-year-old Towson native has ambitious goals for the next few years at the Southwest Baltimore institution that has experienced a 50 percent enrollment decline in the past 20 years and a lack of funding.

O'Brien said his priorities are to examine the school's curriculum and to make physical improvements to the campus in the 3200 block of Wilkens Ave.

O'Brien envisions more competitive athletic teams and better facilities for the drama program. "This is going to be a year of learning for both me and the community. I have many ideas about things I would like to do," said O'Brien.

He is quick to point out the many buildings on the Gibbons campus that lie dormant because the school has little money for repairs. A weight room and wrestling room have recently been furnished by the athletic department, but O'Brien has plans for more changes, such as the relocation of middle school classes.

He would also like to establish vocal and instrumental music programs and enrich his school's offerings in the humanities and fine arts.

O'Brien comes to Cardinal Gibbons from Calvert Hall College High School, where he served as chaplain and religion teacher for four years.

"John is an outstanding person and was a valuable presence for students at Calvert Hall. He will be difficult to replace," said Louis Heidrick, Calvert Hall's principal.

Ordained in 1987, O'Brien earned a bachelor's degree from Mount St. Mary's College and a master's degree in education administration from Loyola College. He has served at St. Margaret's in Bel Air and Sacred Heard of Glyndon. In addition to his years at Calvert Hall, O'Brien has taught at John Carroll School in Bel Air. For the past three years, O'Brien also headed the Baltimore Youth Catholic Conference and Archdiocesan High School Leadership Institute.

"He's really easy to work with and also very understanding of students," said Matt Jones, a Calvert Hall senior who worked with O'Brien in the campus ministry and the adopt-a-family program.

O'Brien believes that Gibbons' Catholic tradition and neighborhood roots will continue to thrive.

"There's a real family feeling here. People care about each other, and I think we should preserve that," he said.

Baltimore Sun Articles
Please note the green-lined linked article text has been applied commercially without any involvement from our newsroom editors, reporters or any other editorial staff.