Father Baum departing Rockhurst High School

Father Terrence Baum, SJ

By Marty Denzer
Catholic Key Associate Editor

KANSAS CITY — Jesuit Father Terrence Baum, 16th president of Rockhurst High School, announced in April that his term of service would end June 30 as he was to return to the Midwest Province of the Jesuits, his home province, to serve in several roles at St. Xavier High School in Cincinnati. He was installed as president Feb. 25, 2004, succeeding Jesuit Father Thomas Pesci, who took a 5-month sabbatical before reassignment.

“I’ve been here 13 ½ years,” he said, leaning comfortably back in his chair. “I inherited a beautiful facility from Father Pesci — this campus is something. But his millennial plan was not fully realized. That was up to me.”

During his term of office at Rockhurst, he oversaw fundraising efforts that generated $41.3 million in contributions. Capital improvements of about $25 million have been completed or are expected to be completed during the 2017 -18 academic year, including the Loyola Center athletic complex (a new field house is currently under construction), a Dining Commons, and interactive classrooms.  Advanced Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Mathematics (STEAM) programs were established under Father Baum’s leadership, emphasizing creativity, innovation, collaboration, and critical-thinking.

Construction will begin on an Academic Learning Commons this summer, and a Student Life and Alumni Center, also this year.

Father Baum sees the effect of new programs and capital improvements as the Jesuit high school takes a “whole different approach” to teaching.

“Rockhurst’s emphasis will be on programming,” he said, “especially STEAM, which will benefit our students now, in college and as they continue to mature. Several classrooms will be reconfigured with stand desks; students can sit at a standard desk or stand up, their choice. There will be professional communities and of course, faith formation for both faculty and students. I am very proud of the programmatic aspects of the curriculum.”

Although he’s returning to his home province and to a high school he worked at before, he’s already a bit nostalgic over leaving Kansas City, Rockhurst and the Jesuit community here.

“I will miss Kansas City and I will miss Rockhurst — the people I’ve worked with, faculty and staff, but most of all, I’ll miss the students. There’s a good spirit among the kids, a sweetness that I find refreshing. By and large, they are part of a community that really cares for one another. They also are good at enhancing and caring for the facilities here. They rise to the occasion if something needs doing. They are nice kids, and fun to be around. “

Father Baum also loved the local church — the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception, St. Thomas More, St. Peter’s and St. Elizabeth’s, Bishop Johnston, the priests and parish staffs, and the parishioners he met. And of course, the local Jesuit community.

He’s starting to pack up. He will be officially leaving June 30, and Jesuit Father Bill Sheehan, rector of the Rockhurst Jesuit Community and founder of the Hurtado Scholars mentoring and tutoring program for low income middle school boys, will step in as interim president. In 2018, Dave Laughlin, the high school’s first non-Jesuit president, will take office. Laughlin, currently president of St. Louis University High School, served as principal of Rockhurst High School 2000-2005. So, he is coming home too.

Father Baum is on “a farewell tour, so to speak, visiting friends.” After leaving Kansas City, he will go on retreat and then take his vacation: three weeks in New York. He is scheduled to move to Cincinnati in September.

Jon Haden, chairman of Rockhurst’s Board of Trustees, said he was excited about every aspect of the high school’s future. “Father Baum will leave a legacy of excellence and pride felt by our students, faculty, staff and alumni, and an institution which is rock-solid.”

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Thursday
May 25, 2017
Newspaper of the Diocese of Kansas City ~ St. Joseph