More than 120 alumni and their families attended the 2019 All Alumni Reunion. It was great to have representation from the Class of 1959 all the way to the Class of 2019. Thank you to everyone who made the effort to attend. You came from New York City, Washington, Oregon, Georgia, Virginia, and all over Alaska (Valdez, Anchorage, Eagle River, North Pole and Fairbanks).
Jason Hodges gave a toast to our Director of Schools, Nancy Cook Hanson, who will retire at the end of this week. That's tomorrow - WOW! We welcomed Amanda Angaiak, our new Director of Schools.
Thank you to the Monroe Alumni Association and Vince Fantazzi for helping to coordinate and sponsor this event. A shout out to Nick Ferree (husband of Cass Cerny Ferree '01) and Dan Cerny '12 for manning the grills. It sure was hot!
Typically this column runs later than I would like, most often because I drag my feet more than I should. This week however, I simply put it off because I really didn’t want to write it. I thought if I put it off, maybe the subject associated with it would simply go away. My son tends to take this approach to most of the problems in his life, so I figured why not give it a try. Alas, it seems my efforts have been fruitless and Mrs. Hanson will indeed be retiring.
I am not going to look up the dictionary definition, or the Catholic definition of saint. I have spent enough time here at Monroe, eleven years to be exact, to have a pretty good idea of
what a saint is. To my knowledge, a saint should be a simple, ordinary, every day human being who accomplishes things in life that are not ordinary. The person should be virtuous and holy. I believe a saint would be a great role model and through living a life in all the above ways, an exemplary teacher. I also understand a saint, to be recognized in the Catholic faith, must have at least two miracles attributed to their time on earth.
Though I assume Mrs. Hanson would be mortified at my suggestion, I am of the belief, she fits this description about as perfectly as anyone who has ever been canonized.
I did not know Mrs. Hanson when I started working here. I knew who she was. I knew of her. However, I did not know her. Over the last eleven years, I can say unequivocally, the greatest part of working at the Catholic Schools, was getting to truly know Mrs. Hanson.
Before reading further, I wanted to say how happy I am for Mrs. Angaiak and how supportive I am of our school board’s decision to hire her. I have every confidence Amanda will be great in her new job.
Over the years, I learned a great deal about Mrs. Hanson. Here is what I have come to know.
The demonstration of this woman’s faithfulness, her belief in God, and her commitment to prayer are an example for all. We have had many conversations over recent years regarding the struggles of enrollment and money. Yet every time, she smiles and says, “We will find a way. We simply have to have faith,” and when I leave her, I do. Every time my team headed off to a state tournament, we would gather by the doors, hold hands and she would lead us in prayer, often at 6 a.m. Imagine a group of teenage boys, full of everything you imagine a teenage boy to be full of, holding hands, quiet, each growing closer to God because of the woman leading them in prayer. Never once was I not in awe of this moment and never once was I not grateful.
I would ask my guys if they thought the director of school for the FNSBSD would meet any local team to simply wish them good luck before heading out, let alone lead them in prayer. They understood, and I am confident each of them has a special place in their heart for Mrs. Hanson.
Recently, following a semifinal loss at regionals, I found myself needing to let my players know the ramifications of their lack of effort and focus, without raising my voice. I needed them to understand, but yet come back with energy and passion. I simply looked them in the eyes, sitting in that classroom and said, “You know who I feel bad for? I feel bad for Mrs. Hanson who drove all the way down here to watch us play.” The look in the eyes of my players told me they would respond. That look was a look of letting down someone you truly love.
I have learned that nobody works harder than Mrs. Hanson. Much like a player in a program who thinks they work hard, but really doesn’t, so did I when I came to this place. Watching Mrs. Hanson tirelessly labor at these schools has been eye-opening. There is no job beneath the best leaders and Mrs. Hanson has always been one to get her hands dirty. I am willing to bet she has cleaned every bathroom in this building, shoveled every walk way, and swept, mopped, or vacuumed every hall and rug. Her passion is unmatched.
I have learned that Mrs. Hanson is the greatest of all the coaches I have ever known. She coaches all of us, especially me. Pretty much every morning, at about 7:15 a.m. she will pop in my office to say hello. Sometimes she will ask me how the Red Sox are doing, or why a particular football team or basketball team didn’t call a time out. For the past eleven years she has been the only constant in this building who knows anything about sports for me to talk with. I think she has sensed, like a great coach, my loneliness in this area and makes every effort to make me feel better.
On these occasions in the morning, she often will tell me a story or share a thought, all for the purpose of helping me understand a player or a situation, so I can be better. She does it in a way that I don’t even know she is coaching me, until later in the day and I realize what has transpired. She is understanding and empathetic and in my time around her, she makes me want to be more of those things.
I have learned Mrs. Hanson believes the adjective “awesome” is used way, way too much. Over my time here, she has made it clear that the overuse of this word by parents and coaches for the menial accomplishments of their children and players is indeed wrong. Awesome should be reserved for those matters that are truly awesome. This may seem trivial, but I think it speaks to the greater picture of who this woman really is. And since I agree with this notion wholeheartedly, I thought it worth including.
I have learned with Mrs. Hanson that common sense prevails. She may worry, but she is not concerned with red tape or bylaws. If something is better for our school or will benefit a student of our schools, she is all in. Her trust in each of us who works with her, is nothing short of amazing and is very much commanding of all of our respect.
I have learned that Mrs. Hanson is human, like the rest of us. Everyone who works with Mrs. Hanson knows to stay out of her way when she is unhappy about something. We all know how to listen and not talk in these moments.
I once told my players handling my expectations and frustrations would prepare them for life. Certainly, they will work for someone some day who will not allow them to make the same five mistakes without becoming frustrated and angry. Perhaps their parents will tolerate these mistakes, but their boss won’t.
Through this discussion I told them they were lucky — they only had to deal with me and I am not nearly as scary as Mrs. Hanson when she is angry. They looked at each other as if to say they weren’t so sure. I assured them I was right.
Like the rest of us, it is human to become tired. I have come to see the tiredness in the eyes of this woman who has had more passion and toughness than most anyone I have ever
encountered. I can see the need for her to rest, travel and continue on her journey to become closer to God. I am not saddened of her decision as I truly love this woman and know she
will be happy.
The concept of sainthood includes two miracles. These are easy. The fact that the doors to this school are open, is a miracle and it can only be attributed to this woman — this simple ordinary woman — who has given so much to not simply this school, but all of us at the same time. Look at the enrollment, look at the bills and do the math. The math simply equals a miracle; there is no other explanation.
The second miracle is perhaps greater. She has loved me and supported me over eleven years when I have continually come up short in a variety of areas that probably only she knows. Through every failure, she has met me and elevated me. She has done so through kindness and faith. Dan Gavora once told my leadership class that great leaders recognize the talents of those they lead and put them in positions to succeed. Nobody does this better than Mrs. Hanson. She has a unique way of finding the strengths and
abilities in those who perhaps others cannot. I would be one of these people. Perhaps I am just one of many miracles. Perhaps she has done the same for all of us, making each of us better through our time with her. Shouldn’t that qualify as a miracle? Shouldn’t that qualify a person for sainthood?
It does in my book. SHE, is awesome, and I am truly happy for her.
Column by CSF Athletic Director, Frank Ostanik
Follow him on Twitter @thefullcurl