First lay president of Rockhurst High School takes the reins

Dave Laughlin

By Marty Denzer
Catholic Key Associate Editor

KANSAS CITY — Rockhurst High School opened as part of Rockhurst University in 1914 on the college’s campus at 52nd and Troost. In 1962, it moved to a brand-new building at 93rd and State Line Road, and became a separate entity at the same time, with its own president and administrators. The president of the Jesuit high school, for more than a century, was always a member of the Society of Jesus. Until now.

Jesuit Father Terence Baum, the high school’s 16th president, was called elsewhere by the Society in 2016. A nationwide search effort for a new president ended at St. Louis University High School. Its president, a product of Jesuit education, and a former principal at Rockhurst High School, was hired to serve as Rockhurst’s 17th and first lay president. He was committed to serve at St. Louis University High for another year, so Father William Sheehan, S.J., was appointed to serve as Interim President. Earlier this month, Dave Laughlin officially returned to Rockhurst High School after 13 years in St. Louis.

What was the impetus for him to apply for and accept the job? The timing was right, he said, and after a lot of prayer, discernment and, his wife’s approval and openness to a new place, a new adventure, they decided to return to Kansas City, which they both loved. And Kansas City is only about 3 hours from Omaha, Neb., where Laughlin grew up.

Laughlin said he had kept in touch with Rockhurst High School through social media and was familiar with some of the “goings-on at the school. I’m still learning about all that is taking place here, however,” he added. “What we have at Rockhurst is a faith-and- humanities-based, classic Jesuit educational model, with additions adding relevancy in today’s world, including coding and active learning classrooms. I think we’re headed in the right direction. Parents must agree, we’ve got 1,002 young men enrolled this year.”

Laughlin believes that as president he needs to listen and learn from the collective wisdom of the faculty, staff and administration, as well as civic leaders, family and friends. “Rockhurst High School is starting its 104th year in Kansas City, part of the 500-year-old tradition of Jesuit education, one of a network of schools that enculturates. By partnering humanities, science, technology, engineering and Math (STEM) with faith and where the world is today, we relate to the local culture, business and world cultures.”

Rockhurst High School is the first accredited STEM school in Missouri and Kansas, he said. STEM courses interface so students can design, devise and implement machines and other aids for the future, including robotics.

He believes in dreaming big. “I would like to ensure that our educational model is valuable in its service to young people. I’m always thinking of the future. For instance, how are we going to make our Jesuit education available to young men from all walks of life?”

He also learns from the past. “I would like students and families as well as visitors to see the fountains around Kansas City, the art and sculpture on display throughout the city and in the art galleries and museums. The Steamboat Arabia is incredible, the World War I Museum and Liberty Memorial is amazing, as are other historic buildings and churches. Loose Park is beautiful.”

Laughlin loves and is very proud of Jesuit education, the intellectual apostolate of the Society of Jesus. “We graduate young men for others. We don’t forget their cultures, their interests or their faith, if different from ours. Serving others is part of our culture.”


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October 30, 2020
The Diocese of Kansas City ~ St. Joseph