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Fr. Reilly: This is Malvern

As we get to know new Head of School Fr. Don Reilly, he must also get to know the student body.

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LETTER: New Head of School Commits to Augustinian Values

LETTER: New Head of School Commits to Augustinian Values

Dear Malvern Prep Community,

I have been asked to write a letter introducing myself to you in this period of transition in leadership. I welcome the opportunity. I am grateful to the Augustinians, Malvern’s Board of Trustees, Christian Talbot and the Transition Team for affording me the honor of being part of the school community and for arranging occasions in the coming months during which I am able to meet people with whom I will live and work on and off campus.

Malvern is celebrating one hundred seventy-five years of outstanding Independent, Augustinian, Catholic education for young men. The history of the school parallels the origin and presence of the Augustinian Order in our country. It is a special place for the friars, the alumni, and their families. The development and evolution of the school over these years has placed Malvern in a coveted position of being among those schools offering a premier education steeped in a culture of Augustinian spirituality and pedagogy

My own Augustinian education at Msgr. Bonner High School and Villanova University in the 1960’s introduced me to the importance and value of community. I experienced learning within a community of learners. My education was not a single endeavor but a communal activity in which the exchange of ideas, the importance of living one’s faith, and the expectation to care for others through service solidified a perspective on life that continually challenges me to grow.

It is this wonderful integration of knowledge, character development, and spiritual growth within community that epitomizes an Augustinian education. How fortunate are we to have St. Augustine, a towering figure and seminal thinker in Christianity who captured the spiritual values of Truth, Unity and Love as signposts of an educated person, as our inspiration and guide. It is philosophy of education and his unique spiritual journey that I treasure and commit myself to living and sharing with the Malvern Community.

Having begun spending Fridays on campus before I assume my new position on July 1, 2017 and getting accustomed to my life at Malvern, I am struck by the embodiment of Augustine’s spirit of Brotherhood and the deep desire of the community to love and serve one another. Learning with others is an exciting opportunity for growing in knowledge while forming lifelong friendship precisely what Augustine recommends.

I look forward to being part of the Malvern Community and, as Augustine says: “…being of one mind and heart intent upon God.”

Fr. Donald F. Reilly, O.S.A.,D. Min.

Fr. Reilly: We’ve come to learn you’re a man who loves classical music and “The Godfather.” Most of us are guys who rap songs in the hall and binge-watch Netflix shows. How will we get along? Just fine, we’re sure. Acceptance is what Malvern is all about.

Compared to other schools, there is something intrinsically different about Malvern Prep and its students.

At some schools, the student body is known for their athletes and contributions to the sports teams. At other schools, students dedicate their time to creating an exceptional academic environment. Malvern students emphasize both of these things; however, neither of them are of paramount importance.

The goal isn’t to produce the best athletes or writers, or students, or musicians, or actors, but to produce an environment where each person can become the best version of himself and is prepared “for a like of integrity and courageous leadership.”

Despite being an excellent school academically, students sometimes feel they aren’t challenged enough. Perhaps challenged is not the right word. Students feel the coursework can be rigorous, yet they do not feel like they can actually fail. They feel that teachers have safety nets to assure that each students at least passes the class. Often, this may lead to the grade on the report card not accurately representing the student’s ability.

In college, complete independence is required, especially with studying. We feel as though there should be a paradigm shift at Malvern. The environment should be one where failure is possible and perhaps usual. As long as students have the opportunity and resources to learn from those mistakes, this will be a good thing. It will be better to get those hiccups out of the way in high school before we venture off to all corners of the globe.

In a similar vein of excellence, Malvern places a great deal of emphasis on sports – as it should. However, winning championships isn’t the main goal of Malvern, not even for the athletes.

Malvern is a multidimensional school with a sometimes intangible goal in mind.

At our school, that life of integrity and courage begins with a foundation of brotherhood.

We are teenage boys, so of course there will be disagreement and times when we push boundaries of how we treat each other. At Malvern, this never lasts long. Even if a brother is not our best friend, or even if a student makes a mistake, we have guidelines in our Augustinian values on how to recover.

This idea of inclusion – or Unitas – is something we are sure you experience at St. Augustine’s so we are happy to promise that same ideal at your new home.

However, despite this sense of community, the idea of brotherhood – our school’s defining factor – doesn’t become truly tangible until senior year, at MECO.

The seniors and MECO leaders on the editorial board agree that after four years with their peers and this unforgettable experience, their classmates are truly their brothers for life. Mr. Algeo always says when we go to college, we won’t find a better fraternity than the Malvern brotherhood.

When our underclassmen spoke about brotherhood, they didn’t feel the same sense of meaning. They didn’t associate the word with their Malvern experience like the seniors did.

For a community so bound together, it was astounding to see how two different classes could see something so differently.

We suggest that you stress the sense of brotherhood immediately upon coming onto campus. If the school is to move forward with its 21st century style of education, it must first convince its students to buy into learning as a community, not as individuals. For this to work, each person must feel like they have a spot at the table and an equal chance to succeed.

Even though we are a close-knit community that is bonded together by Truth, Unity, and Love, each student is completely different. We suggest getting to know as many students as you can, because you will hear a unique story from each individual. There are football players in liturgical music, varsity captains starring in the play, honor roll students in the jazz ensemble, students that spend two hours in car or train to reach school everyday, students working hard to overcome family and personal difficulties, and an infinite amount of other extraordinary combinations.

At our school, that life of integrity and courage begins with a foundation of brotherhood.

Students also become cynical at times when they aren’t asked for their opinions. They feel as though they have great ideas that could greatly benefit the school experience of students, yet sometimes they are not given a chance to act on them or to pass them onto administrators. This is yet another reason to get to know as many people on campus as possible. This aligns with the Augustinian idea of Malvern students being both students and teachers.

For a school that has undergone so much change in the last few years, it is hard to pinpoint exactly what the Malvern tradition is right now. We’ve had four different schedules in the past four years, we’ve had three different homework websites in the past three years, and we’ve even gotten rid of our library.

Malvern is a school that places a large emphasis on tradition. These traditions are important because a student’s Malvern experience would be incomplete without them. Things like MECO, the junior year service trip, the various clubs and sports students join, or belting out “No, nay, never!” at the talent show intangibly define a student’s Malvern experience, while a math course or SAT score is just another number on the transcript.

The essence of Malvern can not be found within a building on campus, a sports field, or our website. It can only be found in the hearts of the students whose freedom to pursue their passions allow them to become the best possible version of themselves and teachers who dedicate their time to the betterment of their students.

The best calculus teacher in the country wouldn’t fit in at Malvern if he or she didn’t have these selfless values. The bonds students have with teachers transcend the classroom. We understand the changes you must make to make Malvern the best institution it can be, but please don’t sacrifice the traditions; it’s what makes Malvern Malvern.

The Malvern of old might not even recognize the Malvern of new. The classes are different, the facilities are different, and the school address even changed in 1922.

However, the graduates of 175 years ago should still be able to identify with this year’s senior class.

We hope our staff has successfully represented the school body at large. We hope you, Fr. Reilly, take these things into consideration and use them to make the coming years the best they can possibly be for you and the community

Malvern has gone through a lot of changes in recent years, with more buzzwords and changes in direction than we could fit in any one article. Although it is attempting to keep up with many changes in our world, Malvern should never change for the sake of trends or of change itself.

Central to Malvern is the brotherhood and our Augustinian values. Our alumni want to see that current students are centered in those values, and our students want to feel as though they are part of more than just an experiment.

Fr. Reilly, we look forward to entering into this new chapter of Malvern’s story with you.

Read our feature on Fr. Reilly here.

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