A Trailblazer is trustworthy, loyal, helpful, friendly, courteous, kind, obedient, cheerful, thrifty, brave, clean and reverent.
“Extra emphasis on the reverent!” said Doug Callahan, newly appointed president of Fr. Tolton Regional Catholic High School in Columbia.
It was a reference to the 12-point Scout Law of the Boy Scouts of America (BSA), which has been the focus of Mr. Callahan’s career for the past 37 years.
Bishop W. Shawn McKnight has appointed Mr. Callahan to be the anchor of Tolton Catholic’s leadership team, beginning Sept. 1.
Jill McIntosh, the school’s current director of advancement, will serve as vice president, a new position for the school.
Gwendolyn Roche will enter her second year as principal.
Bishop McKnight made the appointments on the unanimous recommendation of the search committee that had been charged with selecting a president for the school.
“I am grateful to the committee for their thorough review of all the candidates and for their vision in setting Tolton Catholic on a sure path for a great future — not only for the school, but most importantly, for our students,” Bishop McKnight said.
He emphasized that “a Catholic school is a place where young people receive not just academic lessons but lessons in how to be better disciples, to contribute in a positive way to the Church and society.”
“A higher calling”
Mr. Callahan served for 20 years as the scout executive for the BSA’s Great Rivers Council.
“I always considered that work a calling, a vocation,” he said. “But now I consider this role a higher calling. I am excited about this new opportunity to serve the families of central Missouri, especially in making quality Catholic education more affordable and accessible to them.”
A St. Louis native and member of Our Lady of Lourdes parish in Columbia, he has been involved in supporting Tolton Catholic since its founding.
His daughter, Megan, was a member of the first graduating class.
English teacher Paulina Tramel has known Mr. Callahan since the school opened in 2011.
“He is a faith-filled man, and he’s all about Catholic education,” she said. “I’m really excited to know he’s going to be in charge.”
“An established community”
In addition to serving as vice president, Ms. McIntosh will continue as director of advancement, overseeing fund-raising, corporate relations, events, alumni programs, marketing and admissions.
She also anticipates taking a more active role in strategic planning for the school.
“That is a huge thing for us right now,” she said. “As we’re entering Year 9, we’re still a young school. But as you can imagine, every year, we’ve grown and evolved quite a bit. We have to make sure we’re staying current in our planning for the future.”
Ms. McIntosh holds degrees in marketing and management from the University of Missouri’s Trulaske College of Business and has worked as a major gift fund-raiser for the university.
She believes Tolton Catholic fills an important niche in Columbia, a community that values quality education.
“As a Catholic school, we’re committed to imparting a sense of personal accountability and a heart for service to others, along with our rigorous, college-preparatory program and thriving extracurriculars,” she said.
She is an active member of Sacred Heart parish and has children in fifth and seventh grades at Our Lady of Lourdes Interparish School (OLLIS) in Columbia.
She said they’re looking forward to being Tolton Trailblazers, and she’s excited about helping to create an environment that’s even more conducive to their success.
“They’ll be part of an established community of faith that offers a solid curriculum and has well-established athletic teams and a music program so they can hone their God-given talents with the kids they’ve grown up with,” she said.
“Children of God”
Mrs. Roche has been involved in Catholic education for more than 20 years.
A graduate of Avila University and the University of Missouri-Kansas City, she has served in Catholic schools in the dioceses of Kansas City-St. Joseph and Peoria, Illinois.
A member of Our Lady of Lourdes parish, she highlighted Tolton Catholic’s twofold mission: excellence and evangelization.
“We are a ministry of the Catholic Church,” she said. “We are called to bring about the Kingdom of God and to help these children learn how they can participate fully in the life of the Church and go out and be our new leaders and keep the Church growing.”
Mr. Callahan, an Eagle Scout and former Scoutmaster, started his career with the BSA in June 1982 in St. Louis as a district executive.
He rose through the ranks to director of finance before moving to Columbia in 1998 to serve as scout executive.
“Even though I still love the BSA and always will, I am excited and looking forward to this new role to serve my Church, the Catholic community, and to continue to serve our young people and the central Missouri community as a whole,” he said.
He believes Scouting and Catholic education have similar missions of helping to develop the whole person.
“It’s not just about the academics,” he said. “It’s also about the moral character and the spiritual side.”
“Nervous and excited”
Mr. Callahan plans to begin his tenure by listening, observing and asking a lot of questions.
He said his primary role will be “to ensure the short- and long-term operational viability of the school.”
“I’ll be the head cheerleader, the head of public relations and marketing and obviously fundraising, because that’s a big part of making a Catholic education more affordable for everybody,” he said.
He’s looking forward to cooperating and collaborating with Ms. McIntosh and Mrs. Roche.
“The three of us will work together as a team,” he said. “We all have the same goals. We may have different ideas for how to get there, but we’ll talk about all of that and figure out the best way.”
He plans to do the same with the faculty and staff.
“After all, they’re the ones carrying-out the ministry,” he said.
He acknowledged that he’s “nervous and excited all at once.”
“That’s a good place to be,” Mrs. Roche told him.
“All hands on deck”
Kenya Fuemmeler, interim diocesan superintendent of Catholic schools, said she’s impressed with the many gifts and talents this new leadership team brings to Tolton Catholic.
“They will enable the school to build the capacity of our students to be 21st-century Catholics who are willing to solve problems for our communities through a Catholic lens and a Catholic education,” she said.
Mrs. Roche noted that although each of the three administrators has his or her individual responsibilities, “there will always be overlaps.”
“In a school this size, it’s all hands on deck and very much a team effort,” she said. “In order for all of that to be successful, we have to collaborate and communicate with one another.”
She pointed out that the school has structures in place to draw on the expertise of the larger community.
“We have our advisory council, with parents and other stakeholders,” she said. “And stemming from our advisory council are committees that do a great deal of work in areas such as facilities, Catholic identity, finance and academics.”
The Booster Club is also important for bolstering the school’s programs and activities.
“So we have a good foundation of support and active people in our community,” she stated, “and I’m sure that will continue to grow and improve.”
Mr. Callahan is well versed in the story of the school’s namesake, Venerable Father Augustus Tolton, a 19th-century Missouri slave who became the Roman Catholic Church’s first black priest in the United States.
Mr. Callahan is confident that “we’ll someday have to change our name to Saint Augustine Tolton High School.”
He wants students to continue drawing inspiration from Fr. Tolton’s relentless pursuit of holiness and God’s plan for him.
“He was our original Trailblazer,” said Mr. Callahan. “He shows us that you can do anything God asks you, so long as you walk with Christ.”
Mr. Callahan requested prayers for the students, their families and their teachers.
“Pray that we are successful in our mission of helping them become the best Catholics and the best citizens that they can be,” he said, “and that we will never fail to teach them the Gospel and the love of Jesus Christ and how to serve other people.”
He added that a good way to help God answer those prayers is by saying “yes.”
“One of my goals is to get more great volunteers involved in every aspect of this school,” Mr. Callahan said. “So I would say to those praying for us, when somebody from the staff asks you to do something, say ‘yes.’”