Dr. Daniel Everett was well aware that something heavy was resting on his shoulders.
“The weight of this medal, I think, is symbolic of the weight of the position of overseeing a Catholic high school,” he said during a Sept. 17 prayer service at which Bishop W. Shawn McKnight invested him as president and principal of Fr. Tolton Regional Catholic High School in Columbia.
The investiture ceremony took place in the St. Augustine Chapel at Tolton Catholic, in the presence of Dr. Erin Vader, diocesan superintendent of Catholic Schools; Father Christopher Cordes, pastor of Our Lady of Lourdes parish in Columbia and chairman of Tolton Catholic’s Board of Trustees; Father Paul Clark, one of the school’s chaplains; and several other representatives of the administration, faculty and student body.
The rest of the students and teachers watched via livestream from their classrooms.
Many others, including Dr. Everett’s mother in Baltimore, tuned in from afar.
“Dr. Everett, I have entrusted to you the leadership of Fr. Tolton Catholic High School,” said Bishop McKnight. “Thank you for accepting our invitation to be of servant leadership at Fr. Tolton and to engage our wider Catholic and local community of Columbia.”
Bishop McKnight presented the medal to Dr. Everett and his successors as a symbol of the office of school president.
It was one of three new medals the bishop commissioned, presenting the others to the new presidents of Helias Catholic High School in Jefferson City and Sacred Heart High School in Sedalia.
He noted that as president, Dr. Everett will be responsible for making sure timeless, universal Catholic values permeate the culture of the institution “as the faculty and students participate together in the school’s mission to blaze a trail.”
Toward that end, Dr. Everett will need to “engage a broader number of people to participate in the school, to form disciples of Jesus Christ,” the bishop said.
He pointed out that effective leaders do not try to do all the work alone.
Rather, “a good leader searches out the skill sets and talents that are available to a community, and knows how to facilitate their use in accomplishing the mission,” he stated.
As illustrated in the Bible and throughout salvation history, “quality leadership looks for and empowers other leaders,” he said.
“Beyond the walls”
Dr. Everett recently moved to central Missouri from the state of California, bringing many years of experience as a Catholic-school educator and administrator.
He said he accepted this role in a new place in response to a calling from God.
He’s grateful for the opportunity to serve and for the welcome he has received.
“It’s exciting to part of such an awesome community of people,” he said, adding that the students have amazed him.
He said he recognizes the seriousness of all that goes into providing an environment for students to grow and to learn, both academically and in their faith.
“I understand learning as a journey,” he said. “It’s a lifelong process.”
He acknowledged that there are time-honored procedures and benchmarks for measuring student success.
“But I hope to inspire in the students and all involved in the community a sense of love of learning,” he said, “something that goes beyond the walls, beyond the tests, something that you take with you for the rest of your life.”
Counting on help
In prayer, Fr. Cordes extolled God for Tolton Catholic and for Dr. Everett and the gifts he brings to the school.
“We thank You, Lord, for Your work through him to lead and guide our school, with all of those who are part of this community,” Fr. Cordes prayed.
Bishop McKnight blessed Dr. Everett and assured him of his continued prayers.
Dr. Everett said he will continue to rely on God’s help, along with that of the bishop, superintendent and the entire Tolton Catholic community.
“I’m excited to walk this path with you and blaze a trail,” he said.
A video of the prayer service can be found on the Fr. Tolton Regional Catholic High School Facebook page: