By Martina Hart
CHARLESTON—After 28 years of service as principal of Charleston Catholic High School, Debra K. Sullivan is retiring at the end of this school year.
“I could never, never express to her sufficiently my own personal gratitude and the gratitude of past, present and future students of Charleston Catholic High School and their families,” said Msgr. P. Edward Sadie, P.A., V.F., rector of the Basilica of the Co-Cathedral of the Sacred Heart in Charleston and president of the school, at recent commencement ceremonies.
Martina Hart Photo
Debra K. Sullivan, retiring principal of Charleston Catholic High School, receives the Distinguished West Virginian Award May 23, presented by Major General James A. Hoyer, adjutant general, West Virginia National Guard. Looking on is Msgr. P. Edward Sadie, P.A., V.F., rector of the Basilica of the Co-Cathedral of the Sacred Heart in Charleston.
During her tenure, Sullivan saw more than 1,400 students graduate, having greeted each of them every morning as they entered the school building, standing by the entrance doors on Virginia Street. “Mrs. Sullivan can now leave Charleston Catholic High School in peace and in the knowledge that the school rests on solid, strong setting, spiritually, academically, physically, financially,” Msgr. Sadie continued, pointing out that the traditions of excellence will continue with strong administrative leadership in Colleen McCartney Hoyer, whom Sullivan has groomed for this position, and also the staff of dedicated teachers which she has recruited and guided along the way. He mentioned another reason for her to be able to depart in peace related to an “inside joke.”
“According to her word years ago,” Msgr. Sadie explained, “she and I agreed that she would not retire, and I would not die, until the debt for the athletic complex has been paid off.” He then announced that dedicated Charleston Catholic alumnus and Sacred Heart parishioner Philip Bond, class of 1941, bequeathed to the school the sum of $1.6 million which will be used to pay off said debt. A stained-glass window in the school was designed and commissioned by Sullivan to honor Bond.
Sullivan expressed her gratitude for the opportunity to have served the school. “My life has been changed by you,” she told the Charleston Catholic community. “As I say goodbye to you, leaving the school on wonderfully solid footing and with an incredible faculty and staff, I want to thank my husband and son for their support during these 28 years. They’ve never begrudged the time I gave to Charleston Catholic, which was a lot.”
In partnership with Msgr. Sadie, Sullivan built an exceptional educational program and also led the school in expanding physically. In 1994, a three-story addition to the school building was completed which includes spacious classrooms, laboratories and a full kitchen and cafeteria, referred to as the Charleston Catholic Commons. Hundreds of alumni, current students and their families gathered there May 31 for an ice cream social to honor Sullivan. Besides greeting her and meeting the designated principal, guests had the opportunity to share thoughts and best wishes in a memory book. A picture of the school building made up of students’ portraits was presented by the parent volunteer association who had organized the event.
As a farewell gift, donations were accepted to establish the Sullivan Scholarship which will be awarded annually to fund tuition for deserving students at the discretion of the principal and designated pastor.