Jason Hodges, Class of 1989, gave the following speech at the Spring Matching Fund-raiser in May. It has been edited to fit the space.
Nancy has been a large part of my life since 1985. She handed me my high school diploma. She gave me the job that started my adult working career. She mentored me and signed my pay checks for six years, and she danced in a Flash Mob before officiating my wedding ceremony. Other than my parents and my husband, Nancy has been the biggest influence in my life. I’ve learned so many lessons from Nancy. I want to share three of those with you:
Lesson Number One: Keep it fun.
Anyone who knows Nancy knows that she takes things seriously. Running a nonprofit, running a school is serious business. There’s never enough money, time or people to do it all. Nancy would tell me how she came in at 5 AM to get work done. Despite those sleepless nights, those worries, and concerns, Nancy wanted the work and this place to be fun. There were ice breakers at staff and faculty gatherings.
There was the scavenger hunt during the construction of this building where the faculty and staff had to find objects and places across the new construction in order to gain access to the Christmas Party that year.
She was always trying to find fun things to do at HIPOW to make the event more engaging and more memorable.
Lesson #2: It’s about the little things.
When I worked with Nancy, she was a walking phone book. Nancy was like Siri before Siri was Siri. You could ask her for a phone number and she would know it. She would brag that if she dialed a wrong number, she could pretend like she meant to dial it because she would often know the person she accidentally dialed.
While serving as development director, I wrote A LOT. Newsletters, solicitations letters, brochure copy, and recruitment materials were all given a final edit by Nancy. Jo Schlotfeldt was a crack editor, and even with her eagle eye, invariably something would escape and Nancy would find it on the final pass. Nancy was often more knowledgable about people’s details, including their ZIP Codes, than the expensive database we purchased. She could hold the budget of the schools in her head and still manage to know what year each member of the Stepoviches, Jackoviches, Ringstads, Kellys and Vacuras graduated from Monroe.
On my 16th birthday, which was nearly 32 years ago, right outside the Monroe Principal’s office was a bulletin board. On the morning of my 16th birthday, pinned to the board was a card with my name on it. It was a birthday card from Nancy. I don’t remember the exact words that she had written, but it was something along the lines of “watch out people of Fairbanks, Jason has his driver’s license now!”
It was a small gesture that, almost 32 years later, has more meaning to me now than it did to that 16-year old boy who received it.
Lesson # 3: We’re all human.
When Nancy retired for the first time in 2003, it was very emotional for many of us. We had a final staff meeting where she asked us, “how many people work at the schools?” At the time it was about 60-70 people. She asked us “how many mistakes does a person make in a day.” I think as a group we agreed that 10 mistakes wasn’t out of the question. I’m pretty sure my younger self was throwing off that average back then. She said “that’s about 600 mistakes that will be made on a daily basis.” And that doesn’t even count the ones the kids will be making. As she was leaving, she was telling us: we’re not perfect, and we need to be good to one another. We needed to recognize each of us is prone to messing it up in ways big and small, without any ill intention, AND we need to be able to treat each other with love, compassion, acceptance, and understanding. We need to remember we’re all human.
And Nancy knows this better than anyone because Nancy is also so very human. She sometimes loses her patience. She drives too fast to the lake, which has elicited speeding tickets in the past. She sometimes curses in ways that would make a truck driver say, “hey now, Nancy, you gotta check yourself.”
There are so many people, so many students who have been the recipients of her love, compassion, and understanding. Kids who got themselves into trouble and had no where else to turn, people like myself who were struggling with identity who needed acceptance.
Families who were on the edge and couldn’t afford to be here. Nancy helped, intervened, and championed those who needed it most.
Many of these stories will go untold and remain in the hearts of those who benefitted. When she shared compassion with those who most needed, even at times when some might not have approved, guess what? The world didn’t come to an end. And those who needed that love, understanding, and acceptance received and incredible gift.
I left the CSF family in 2005 after nearly 12 years of service. I found another organization and cause—the performing arts—that I was equally passionate about. For the last 14 years, I’ve had the honor of bringing musicians, singers, and performers of all stripes from across the world to Alaska. My favorite part of my job is at the end of a show, after the last song has been sung, after the last note has been played, and as the performers take their bow, the audience rises to its feet, clapping and expressing their gratitude and appreciation for a job well done.
Nancy has performed her roles—teacher, principal, director—with virtuosity and skill. She has served the students, parents, teachers, these schools, and the entire community. It is only fitting that we rise to our feet and express our gratitude and appreciation for a job well done.
In Our Thoughts
Barb McCaleb, long-time CSF teacher and mother of eight Monroe Alumni–Frances, Lori, Patrick, Janet, Lin, Christine, Murphy, and Tracy–passed away in June.
Christina (Winfree) ‘04 and Gary Woodward welcomed baby Harper Kathleen in April.
Aimee (Laurencelle) Iverson ‘07 and husband Paul welcomed Kinsley Grace in May.
John Jones ’11 and wife Victoria welcomed baby Scarlett. The family lives in Seattle. Monroe teacher Megan Jones ‘09 is an aunt!
Grainne (Brosnan) Bonestroo ‘04 and husband Robert (who teaches at Monroe) welcomed baby boy Ryker in June.
Ben and Megan (Anderson) Koch ‘02 greeted little Lottie in July.
Weddings & Engagements
Suzette Brosky ‘81 and Bill Bidwell said their vows.
Elise Tamai ‘05 wed Luke Bonnewell.
Krystal Audie (ICS) married Brook Ala. The couple resides in Kenai.
Hilary Kjera ‘11 married Graham Hood.
Connor Kelliher ‘07 and Kristin Fleming tied the knot. The couple lives in San Francisco.
Gloria Compeau ‘78, B.A. in Interdisciplinary Studies from the University of Alaska, Fairbanks.
Katie Andrews ‘93, Master in Social Work from West Virginia University.
Sierra Minder ‘10, Law Degree from Gonzaga University.
Mariah Minder ‘10, M.D. from the University of Washington.
Cassandra Ringstad ‘11, Master in Education from Point Loma Nazarene U.
Claire Hughes ‘13, B.A. in Biological Sciences from the University of Alaska, Fairbanks.
Nick Fleming ‘14, U.S. Air Force Academy graduate.
Mary Barnard ‘14, B.A. in Psychology from University of Alaska, Fairbanks.
Michael Neville ‘14, B.A. in Business Administration from Eastern Washington University.
Tyler Wells ‘14, B.A. in Business Administration with a Minor in Sport Management from Concordia University.
Ciara Newman ‘15, B.A. from Baldwin Wallace University. Ciara is headed to Penn State for her master’s degree.
Abigail Swallow ‘15, University of Idaho, Elementary Education.
Kayla Rauenhorst ‘15, nursing degree from University of Portland.
Andrew Walter ‘15, B.A. in Business Administration with a concentration in marketing from St. Martin’s University. Andrew has more big news: he and Katie McCurry (ICS alum) wed in June.
Olivia Hrinko ‘15, B.A. in Interior Design with a Minor in Architecture from the University of Idaho.
Andi Clark ‘15, B.A. in Business Administration from Gonzaga University.
JT Minder ‘15, B.S. in Engineering Management /Civil Engineering from Gonzaga University.
Rachel Adams ‘15, B.S. in Mechanical Engineering with a Minor in Physics from the University of Dayton. She will go on to a PhD program in Electronic Materials through Ohio State University.
August 14 - Back to School Social
5:30 to 7 p.m.
August 15 - Running of the Rams
This is the 3rd annual 5K. Everyone is welcome! Registration is open now: http://catholic-schools.org/ramrun. Race starts at 6:30 p.m.
August 19 - First Day of School September 20 & 21 - Super Sale
This HUGE garage sale raises funds for the Catholic Schools of Fairbanks. We are collecting donated items now. Bring them anytime Monday - Friday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. to the Monroe Foundation Office - 718 Betty St.
Oct. 11 - HIPOW GCI Family Night
This is a fun event for the whole family. Cookies are provided by Walsh, Kelliher and Sharp and pizza is available for purchase. Free admission and on-site babysitting. Get your flu shot at HIPOW! (free with most insurance). Doors open at 5 p.m. Oral auction starts at 6:30 p.m.
Oct. 12 - 50th HIPOW Auction & Dinner
Tickets are available now for Saturday’s Fairbanks Memorial Hospital Black Tie Dinner. Visit hipowauction.com or call (907) 456-7970. Don’t wait too long! The ticket price increases from $125 to $150 on September 14.
In January of this year, we introduced Magis Houses at the Catholic Schools of Fairbanks with a huge unveiling in the gym and a day of activities. Students from across all grade levels were assigned to one of 13 Magis Houses named after Catholic Saints. Mrs. Kathleen Balko, our religion director, helped the school develop the plan for these houses. “The idea came from former CSF PACE teachers who attended Catholic schools with “houses.” I loved the idea of everyone belonging to their own pre-K through 12 family inspired by a particular saint.”
The word magis means “more” or “greater” in Latin. To further describe the word, it means to do more, to be more, to strive to do better in all that we do–not just for ourselves, but for the greater good.
The goal of Magis Houses is to help further create a sense of community and belonging in our schools. Each house includes students from pre-K through 12th grade and two or three staff members. Students will stay with their Magis House throughout their entire tenure at our schools. Besides sitting together for all school Masses, students are grouped by Magis House for special activities throughout the year. There is an emphasis on older students mentoring younger students.
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
Welcome to our very last week of school! We have all thoroughly enjoyed having your student(s) at our school this year! Although this may be the last week, there is still some valuable information in our last edition of the Weekly Happenings. Please take a moment to review it for current and future events.