When Dr. Gary Tocchet retired after 12 years of service to Regis as the school’s first lay principal, Fr. Lahart turned his attention to securing the next academic leader. This was no easy task, given Dr. Tocchet’s impressive record of leadership and service to fair Regis.
Since Dr. Tocchet’s retirement announcement occurred in the late winter, Fr. Lahart decided that naming an interim principal would be necessary for the 2018-2019 school year. After much reflection and consultation, Fr. Lahart named Fr. Anthony Andreassi, CO, interim principal on March 5, 2018.
Fr. Andreassi began his work in the summer of 2018, getting settled into his new role and responsibilities as students and teachers were away on vacation, and the building on 84th St. was relatively quiet. Along with his two assistant principals, Ms. Samantha Lehn and Mr. Christian Mariano ‘99, he planned for the academic year ahead.
When the school doors opened in early September, Fr. Andreassi was excited for the year ahead, but could not quite foresee what bigger plans were in store for him. Over the course of the fall trimester, he did so well in the role and enjoyed it so much, that when the time came for applications for the next full-time principal, he prayed, consulted with others, and ultimately decided to throw his proverbial hat into the ring.
The search process was indeed competitive and rigorous search process, with dozens of applications from educators around the country and indeed the world. At the conclusion of much deliberation, the search committee recommended three finalists to Fr. Lahart. From those three finalists, Fr. Lahart chose Fr. Andreassi to become the school’s 23rd principal.
“It was a tremendous honor when last year Father Lahart asked me to serve as interim principal after Dr. Tocchet announced his retirement," Fr. Andreassi said. "And his decision to ask me to stay on in the role fills me with even more gratitude and honor. Ever since arriving as a classroom teacher at Regis in 2003 I recognized what a special place our school is and that feeling has only deepened over the years, especially in these months as interim principal. In this new role, I have also come to have a new-found respect for my colleagues on the faculty and the many gifts and deep passion they bring as Ignatian educators. And now I am greatly looking forward to working with them as we respond the both the challenges and opportunities of the Strategic Plan in our common vocation to form young men to become servant leaders in the world and in the Church rooted in the vision of St. Ignatius.”
Fr. A, as he is known by many, comes from a family of educators. Born in White Plains, his mother and father were both teachers, his mother a teacher of middle school math in Yonkers, while his father spent over three decades teaching children--many with special needs--in the South Bronx. Even Fr. Andreassi’s brother is a teacher. “These things can run in families,” Fr. A remarked.
One a more serious note, he continued: “I proudly come from a family of teachers. So much of my vocation in high school and college was driven by a desire to work with young people and children as a priest, and this reflects what my father did for all those years. The only title that Jesus ever accepted in the Gospels was teacher. Being a teacher is a vocation, and I see that here in the school. The mission is teaching, forming, supporting. This has given me my life’s energy. I’ve been blessed as a priest of the Oratory to be both a priest and a teacher.”
Fr. Andreassi’s preparation to become a priest and teacher is impressive. He studied philosophy at the Catholic University of America, received his master in Divinity from St. Joseph’s College and Seminary. After returning to school, he earned both his master's and Ph.D. in History from Georgetown University. His thesis focused on the Sisters of the Divine Compassion in the late 1800s and early 1900s. In 2007, Anthony Andreassi was ordained a priest for the Brooklyn Oratory of St. Philip Neri.
Since he joined the school in 2003, Fr. Andreassi has worn many hats. A regular in both the History and Theology departments, he has taught classes such as American and European history, Church history, Catholicism since Vatican II, Faith through Film and Fiction, Christian Ethics, and Macroeconomics. In addition to his dedicated work as a teacher, Fr. Andreassi served as the director of the Senior Christian Service Program prior to his appointment as interim Principal this past summer. He has moderated the Freshman Retreat and has led countless others. He has also served as the school's archivist, and is the author of Teach Me to be Generous, the centennial history of Regis High School.
“Of all the many blessings in my adult life,” Fr. Andreassi said, “one of the singular blessings was when Fr. Judge asked me to write the history of Regis. To be able to research and write the story of Regis, was wonderful, especially to have spoken with alumni and parents.” Now as Principal, Fr. Andreassi still finds joy “telling the story of the school.”
With Fr. Lahart’s arrival in 2016 and now Fr. Andreassi’s, the school is under new leadership on the first floor. As President and Principal, respectively, Frs. Lahart and Andreassi will work closely together, despite focusing on different areas of school life. "I have known Fr. Andreassi since we worked together at Gonzaga College High School in Washington D.C. 20 years ago," Fr. Lahart said. "I have the utmost respect for him as an individual, and he has proven himself to be an outstanding administrator as well. He always leads with the heart of a teacher, and with a concern for the students. I am confident he will be a wonderful principal here at Regis High School, and I am grateful to his Community for making him available, and to him for his willingness to take on this new challenge."
Fr. Lahart’s thoughts are reflected in Fr. Andreassi’s own approach to educational leadership: “I try to lead as a servant leader. When power is given to an authority, it’s always for the common good. Power and authority come with great responsibility to all the stakeholders in the community.” Fr. A continued in a manner characterized by humility to say, “I’m also not afraid to ask questions of people I trust. A leaders should recognize that there’s wisdom and insight he can draw upon from all sorts of people who are part of the community.”
Being principal requires not only leadership and wisdom, but also the ability to make practical changes. As mentioned above, Father Andreassi will work with the faculty to begin the implementation of changes that resulted from the multi-year curriculum review that all departments participated in, as well as the recently approved strategic plan. "This is an exciting time for Regis High School as we begin the implementation of both our strategic plan and our curriculum review," Fr. Lahart said. "I look forward to continuing to work with Fr. Andreassi as we strive to strengthen the good work that Regis has accomplished over the past 105 years."
And indeed Fr. Andreassi has already begun to implement changes that reflect the work of many over the prior few years. Among the many positive changes in the works for next year, he is most excited about an adjustment to the daily schedule, which will see the school move from a five-day to an eight-day cycle of letter days, and also changes to the college guidance curriculum. The schedule change will offer “more opportunities for our community to come together regularly in intentional ways” and will also “help our students deal with stress in a healthier way,” Fr. Andreassi said. Changes to the college guidance curriculum will help the school build on an “already strong program” and respond to changes in the college admissions landscape.
Naturally, Fr. Andreassi brings a historian’s perspective to change: “Looking at the sweep of the school’s history over the last century, so much as changed, and that is human--to be human is to change, and change is a sign life and growth. But there are some core things we hold on to. These core things are the substance of our mission, and I see this framed in the following question: how do we form Catholic leaders rooted in the Gospel?”
When not busy leading the day-to-day operations of Regis High School, Fr. Andreassi can be found taking a morning run in Brooklyn, which he cites as good for his health, “both mental and physical” or spending time with friends. But even many of his friends connect him to Regis. “I’ve been blessed to become friendly with colleagues and even some former students,” he said. “The time that I spend with them gives me a lot of meaning and purpose in life.”