By M-C Scarlett
Special to The Texas Catholic
Few people possess enough ambition to complete a 33-year decorated military career, earn a Ph.D. and found a company in a subsequent 10-year civilian career. Even fewer people go on to lead a unique, prestigious private school. Yet that is exactly what former U.S. Navy Adm. Patrick M. Walsh did upon assuming the presidency of Cristo Rey Dallas College Prep in April.
While Walsh’s resume consists of countless impressive accomplishments, he hails from humble beginnings.
“As the oldest of six…we couldn’t afford to go to the school that my dad was teaching at,” Walsh said.
The administrators at Jesuit College Preparatory School of Dallas, though, made it possible for him to attend. Walsh went on to earn an undergraduate degree from the Naval Academy. He now holds a graduate degree and Ph.D. in Law and Diplomacy from Tufts University. Walsh emphasized that his academic achievements would not have been possible without the contributions of countless individuals.
“All of that education came from, really, the generosity of someone else,” Walsh said. “Either through the alignment of incentives at Jesuit College Prep, or through taxpayers, I was able to have that kind of investment from other people who believed in me.”
Walsh’s personal encounter with the empowerment that a high-quality education can afford young people inspired him to accept the executive leadership position. Cristo Rey Dallas operates on a corporate work-study model—each week consists of four class days and one workday at a partner company in the community.
Through his experiences as a scholar-athlete, Walsh has come to believe wholeheartedly in Cristo Rey’s educational model, which immerses students into both academics and professionalism.
“Having a foot in the world of ideas and a foot in the world of operations is a way to have one complement the other,” Walsh said. “If you keep one foot in the world of ideas, you’re always challenging yourself, you’re always proactively trying to develop a wider view, a more worldly view, a view that’s more understanding, more empathetic with the situation, and the conditions and the circumstances around you.”
According to its mission statement, Cristo Rey Dallas strives to nurture and challenge young people to “recognize and realize their full potential as they grow to love God, respect others and serve their community.” Walsh believes that Cristo Rey’s approach “brings a sense of value and individual contribution on the part of students and faculty.”
A leader as mission-driven and enthusiastic as Walsh is sure to expand reach, maximize opportunities and contribute invaluable insights to Cristo Rey. Walsh’s primary goals are increasing the availability of the campus, raising awareness and starting summer programs so that faculty and students can “get to work sooner.”
Cristo Rey looks to flourish with Walsh’s executive leadership—his energy, commitment and foresight will serve the school well. Yet Walsh said he is the one who feels privileged.
“There’s a real sense of community and wanting to feel like they’re part of a team, wanting to make a difference in each other’s lives,” Walsh said of the environment at Cristo Rey.