As three beloved members of the Regis community retire, we look back at the long, impactful careers of Dr. Ralph Nofi, Ms. Mary Henninger P’93’98, and Ms. Caroline Christie.
In the spring of 1991, Dr. Ralph Nofi paged through a copy of The Owl as he waited to be interviewed for the position of school psychologist at Regis. Dr. Nofi, then an associate psychologist at South Beach Psychiatric Center in Staten Island, recalls reading a story in the issue about the retirement of Rev. Stephen Duffy, SJ,
after 35 years on the faculty. During his interview, Dr. Nofi said that he told the then-Headmaster, “While I don’t know if I can offer 35 years of service, I really felt like I could make Regis High School the focal point of my practice.”
Nofi says now that the article showed him early on that Regis was a special place. “I remember being impressed that it was a place wherepeople would stay,” he said. It turned out that he would go on to stay, too, serving Regis as a psychologist and teacher for 30 years and then as an administrator. This year, in which he served as interim principal prior to his retirement, was his 32nd as a member of the Regis community.
Having previously treated adults in a state-run hospital, Dr. Nofi said he found joy in giving students “their own resources to put themselves back into the lane that they need to be in. For a man with a hammer, everything looks like a nail. And for our guys, for a kid with a huge intellect, everything looks like an intellectual problem.”
Dr. Nofi guided students through challenging periods like 9/11 and the COVID pandemic, as well as through major changes like the emergence of social media. But even in difficult times, students and faculty have been able to rely on Dr. Nofi’s calm, humorous, reassuring presence.
Dr. Nofi says he used to prefer his psychologist role over his teacher role, but that he came to appreciate them both. One year, he taught a group of 50 seniors during the first two trimesters of the year, and was heartened when 20 of them opted to take his third-trimester elective to continue studying with him. “That's when a light bulb went off in my head and I realized, this is why people love to teach,” he said.
And though Dr. Nofi didn’t work with every student during his years as the school psychologist, he kept in touch with the larger community in other ways. While working in the bookstore, he became familiar with the curriculum and school roster as he filled students’ orders. By setting the students’ class schedule, he grew in tune with the rhythm of Regis’s daily life. He updated the guidance department curriculums on a regular basis and for years facilitated the school’s participation in research projects involving Jesuit schools. He became involved in Schola, the student-led group responsible for providing music at school-wide liturgies, and, with a counselor from Loyola, started an unofficial support group for gay students in the 1990s.
The wealth of experience he accumulated over three decades served him well in his final year as interim principal, and he leaves Regis as a beloved member of the community who has touched the lives not just of students, but of the faculty members he worked with.
“Ralph and I came to Regis in the fall of 1991, and he has been a friend throughout those years, always ready to lend a helping hand, listen, and truly care for each person in the building,” said theology teacher Mr. James Scacalossi ’83. “I think everyone at Regis has been blessed by his sense of humor, his kindness, and his sincerity.”
Admissions officer. Assistant dean of students. Academic services coordinator. Assistant librarian. Founding supervisor of the Diversity Club and the Young Democrats and Republicans. Kickstarter of the HeForShe Club and Prism, Regis’s LGBTQ+ and allies organization. Creator of Coffee House. Graduation tuxedo coordinator. Mother of two Regians.
Ms. Mary Henninger P’93’98 has proven to be a Renaissance woman during her decades of service to Regis, and her passion for expanding students’ cultural, social, and political education has had a profound effect on the school’s culture.
“Promoting diversity and inclusion in moderating the Diversity Club, as well as working with students in the Young Democrats and Republicans Club, has given me great hope for Regis as we continue to define our place in a changing world,” said Ms. Henninger.
Ms. Henninger formally joined the staff at Regis as the assistant dean of students after her youngest son, Peter, graduated from the school in 1998. By that point, she was already so involved as a parent, serving as a Hearn judge and working with the Parents’ Club, that joining the school full-time was seen as a natural fit.
“After witnessing her devotion to Regis as a parent, it was almost too obvious how much Mary would elevate the Regis community when she officially joined the ranks as an Ignatian educator,” said Director of Admissions Eric DiMichele.
Six years later, Ms. Henninger moved to the library to assist Ms. Laura Allen while also becoming the school’s academic services coordinator and assembly coordinator, one of her favorite roles at Regis. In that capacity, she was charged with bringing in speakers to supplement the curriculum with glimpses into the arts and other fields. This sparked her interest in providing the Regis student body with opportunities to expand their intellectual horizons and create spaces for discussions of race, class, gender, and more. “I am a product of the 60s, and so I believe very strongly in the work in diversity and in the work we needed to do at Regis,” she said.
Around this time, Ms. Henninger helped create the Diversity Group, a precursor to today’s Diversity Club. In 2016, she also argued alongside the founding student members of what is now Prism for the necessity of an officially recognized LGBTQ+ and ally organization. Ms. Henninger also sought to facilitate a healthy
exchange of ideas. As moderator of the Young Democrats Society in the early 2000s, she realized that without an opposition voice, the group served as a self-reinforcing forum for partisan opinion. She helped restructure the group into the Young Democrats and Republicans Club, and since then meetings have become a hotspot of intense, but cordial, debate. “Respect for Mary’s political acumen and integrity were the only points of bipartisan agreement,” said Mr. DiMichele.
Ms. Henninger has also served on Regis’s faculty and staff Diversity Committee and played a part in the revival of John Francis Regis Day, a non-instructional school day that highlights a different social-justice topic each year. And while
she has never taught an academic class, Ms. Henninger has been a model of an educator and in 2022 was recognized for her work when she was presented with the Patricia Hannon Ignatian Educator Award.
In her final position change, Ms. Henninger in 2008 joined the Admissions office, where she assisted Mr. DiMichele on the admissions committee, helped lead recruitment efforts, and articulated to prospective students the unique opportunity that Regis offers those who are awarded scholarships.
Said DiMichele: “There is no one more fitting to be both one of the first faces a Regian meets at an open house as a naive eighth-grade student and one of the last faces they see as they’re fitted and dressed in their white tuxedos to walk out of the 84th Street doors one final time as fully grown men for others.”
Ms. Caroline Christie’s dedication to the Regis community and to Ignatian values has been on display in many ways over the years.
Born and educated in South Africa, Ms. Christie taught biology, math, and science to high school students in her native country before transitioning to training in the IT industry. She arrived at Regis in 2005 and has served the school for 18 years as a computer science teacher, a fervent participant in the Campus Ministry retreat program, a longtime freshman advisor, and a dedicated singer with Schola.
“The most meaningful thing for me at Regis has been the caring: the boys caring for each other, the boys and faculty caring for other communities, the caring of the faculty for each other and the students, and the parents who are so generous and caring,” said Christie. “Regis has been so special because teaching and caring are the main focus.”
In 2021, Ms. Christie was honored with the Patricia Hannon Ignatian Educator Award in recognition of her longtime service to Regis, dedication to the profession of teaching, and commitment to enriching the lives of students.
“Teaching at Regis allows me to enjoy many of the things that I love in one place – my Catholic faith, teaching, teaching teenagers, music, and technology,” Ms. Christie said in 2021 upon being selected for the award. “I love the challenge of learning new things every day.”