By Cathy Harasta
The Texas Catholic
PLANO—The morning announcements at John Paul II High School on a recent day resonated from the public-address system in a soothing voice that projected the themes of faith, scholarship and patriotism.
Rich Gaffney, the dean of Administrative Services and director of Athletics, provided the school with a reflection on Psalm 5:3 before speaking about the merits of a good night’s sleep. He also recited the school prayer and the Pledge of Allegiance.
Gaffney’s announcements have become a revered tradition at the school, where he and his sons David and Brian have nurtured programs since Day One at John Paul II, which opened in 2005 with 301 students and now has 735.
David, 43, is the head football coach and the director of Transportation.
Brian, 39, is the head baseball coach and the coordinator of Instructional Technology.
The three men said that they are grateful for the example of the school’s soon-to-be-canonized namesake and the faith environment that influences all teaching in the classrooms and on the athletic fields.
They also said that they count as a great blessing their opportunity to experience a young school’s progress in gaining traditions.
“My sons’ goal is the formation of the students,” said Rich, who began his career as a teacher at St. Rita Catholic School before administrative and coaching positions at other schools including the University of Dallas; Ursuline Academy; Bishop Lynch High School, and Bishop Dunne Catholic School. “I’m so proud when I hear people’s comments that the Gaffney boys are developing men and making such a difference for the kids on this campus.”
Rich was working for the Garland Independent School District when he received John Paul II President Thomas W. Poore’s offer to become a charter staff member.
“I think the Lord put me here,” said Rich, a native of Oceanside, N.Y., and a UD multi-sport athlete and charter member of the university’s Hall of Fame. “I wanted to get back to Catholic education. This is truly a Catholic school.”
Poore said that Rich made a positive impression from their first meeting in 1978 when both were officiating high school basketball games.
“I was impressed with his poise, his energy and his leadership on the court,” Poore said. “During his years as a teacher, coach and athletic director, I saw his organizational skills and his ability to motivate staff members and students.”
Rich also worked for the Rockwall Independent School District. David and Brian graduated from Rockwall High School. David was an All-Southland Conference linebacker at Southwest Texas State University, now Texas State University. Brian was an All-SLC infielder at Sam Houston State University.
“We’re three really different strong personalities,” said David, who was coaching at Rockwall High School when he accepted the call to build JPII’s football program. “Brian and I owe a great deal to Mr. Poore for letting three Gaffneys work together. We’ve been extremely blessed.”
The athletic department’s growth and success are helping traditions to mature. The JPII 2012-13 girls basketball squad won the school’s first state championship in a team sport. The addition of ice hockey last year brought the school’s number of sports programs to 15.
David served as an assistant coach for Brian’s baseball team and vice-versa when the programs were new and lacked home fields. Some athletes play for both brothers, as the coaches encourage students to participate in whatever way best suits them, said Brian, whose baseball team has made the playoffs in all but one season since the varsity began in 2007.
“I was a little apprehensive about coming in to start a program from scratch,” said Brian, who previously coached at Rockwall. “You know X’s and O’s, but it’s not just about coaching. There also are things like fund-raising and promoting.”
David said that some of the football program’s challenges vanished when the Cardinals’ home field opened in 2008.
“We’re probably another year or two away from fielding three competitive football teams,” said David, whose program has varsity and sub-varsity squads instead of varsity, junior varsity and freshmen teams. “Hopefully, some day people will say, ‘There’s a way that John Paul II goes about its business on the football field. We don’t know who the guy was, but this program sure is good.’ ”
Rich said that he and his sons work in different areas of the school and see little of each other during the school day.
“You see Rich’s qualities in different ways in his sons,” Poore said. “You see that genuine love for people and very strong faith.”
Rich’s wife, Mary Anne, said that her husband’s return to Catholic education has delighted the family.
“Rich never went to anything but a Catholic school,” said Mary Anne, a retired teacher who met Rich when they were students at UD. She and Rich have five children, eight grandchildren and one great-grandchild. “He really believes in giving students all the things that we believe in as Catholics. It’s been refreshing for Rich, David and Brian to be at John Paul II, where so many lovely families send their children.”