COLORADO SPRINGS. Rob Rysavy first became a part of the St. Mary’s High School family 12 years ago when his oldest daughter, Alex, entered the school as a freshman. Over the years he has served the St. Mary’s community in many ways, including coach and a member of the board of directors. On July 1, Rysavy will step into a new role for St. Mary’s, that of president of the school.
For the last three years, Rysavy has served as president for the Vitae Foundation, a national pro-life non-profit headquartered in Missouri. With his family settled in Colorado, Rysavy commuted back and forth to Missouri. He said his experience at Vitae has been “truly amazing,” as he has had the opportunity to serve with a passionate group of people. In 2016, his wife, Michelle, was diagnosed with breast cancer and their youngest daughter, Katharine, was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes. These health battles caused the family to re-evaluate.
“Our family is strongly committed to pro-life work, and we did not anticipate my leaving Vitae. However, life sometimes has other plans,” Rysavy said. “Michelle is now on the other side of treatment and is cancer free, and Katharine’s diabetes is well-managed, but those two events caused our family to take stock of life. In the aftermath of those family discussions, I decided to pursue opportunities to serve closer to home.”
Last fall, the St. Mary’s Board of Directors put out a call for president applicants as they began the search for the school’s next president. Rysavy said after prayer and numerous discussions with some of his mentors, he decided to apply for the position at St. Mary’s. Early this year, the board extended the offer of the president’s position to Rysavy.
“To the great delight of our family, the board invited me to join the St. Mary’s family as the school’s president,” he said. “It is a tremendous privilege to be asked to lead an institution with the history and tradition of St. Mary’s.”
In the fall, the Rysavy family’s fourth child will enter St. Mary’s High School. Their daughter Alex graduated in 2010 and son Robert graduated in 2012. In the fall of 2018, Mark will be a junior and Elizabeth will join the Pirate family as a freshman. The plans are for the Rysavy’s youngest two children — Mary and Katharine — to follow in their siblings’ footsteps as members of the classes of 2024 and 2030, respectively.
“In the 130-plus years of the St. Mary’s community, the Rysavys are relatively new arrivals. Yet I am deeply impressed by my own experiences with the St. Mary’s family,” Rysavy said. “We have certainly experienced academic and extracurricular successes in our time at St. Mary’s, but what is vastly more important to us is the spiritual, the whole person, benefits we have seen in our children and in the children of so many other St. Mary’s families. St. Mary’s has fostered a deeper, more authentic practice and appreciation of our Catholic faith. That is not something that St. Mary’s does to families; it is an ongoing invitation from the school to walk with us as we enter into a deeper relationship with Jesus Christ.”
The product of 12 years of Catholic education while growing up in South Dakota, Rysavy feels his experience with Catholic education was a gift that his parents gave him, one of infinite value. He feels that the teachers and clergy who surrounded him during his youth changed the trajectory of his life, gifting him with a profound respect and passion for Catholic education.
“When I walked onto the campus of the Air Force Academy 32 years ago as an 18-year-old cadet, I realized my parents and those Catholic educators had not just prepared me for college, but they had also prepared me for life,” he said. “They had given me the tools I would need to hold onto the faith in a world that would frequently and tirelessly try to separate me from that faith.”
Rysavy feels his 28-year Air Force career has prepared him for the leadership roles he has filled since retiring from service. As he assumes the role of president of St. Mary’s High School, he said his vision for the school is not a personal one but is one of executing the school’s vision of faith, knowledge and community. Rysavy said part of St. Mary’s larger community vision is to make Catholic education accessible to more families. St. Mary’s recent launch of its Hamilton Scholars programs shows the school is making strides in accessibility, but Rysavy knows that the school can, and should, do more.
“The pursuit of knowledge without the guidance and structure provided by true faith and healthy community has often yielded a bitter harvest in a world that all too often worships knowledge and marginalizes faith and community,” Rysavy said. “Catholic education is expensive, and even as we remind parents that tuition is not an expense to be endured, but an investment to be embraced, we need to realize that the cost of that investment can place the immense benefits of a Catholic education out of reach for some in our community.”
When it came time to enroll their children in high school, Rysavy said he and Michelle felt there was no choice other than St. Mary’s, and they feel they have been greatly rewarded in their commitment to the school. They have enjoyed how the St. Mary’s faculty and staff have become like members of their family as they have supported the Rysavys as they seek to raise their children to be virtuous Catholics.
“What St. Mary’s has been and meant to our family is what St. Mary’s can be and mean to any family,” Rysavy said. “As St. Mary’s moves smartly and faithfully into the future, we should cling to the many good practices that are working, we should look for ways to expand our reach, and we should never take our eyes off Jesus Christ. Please pray for the success of St. Mary’s, and please support us in our faithful work.”
(Amy G. Partain is director of communications for St. Mary’s High School.)