Upper School History and Admissions Athletics Liaison. Upper School Varsity Football Coach.
Rick graduated from Chestnut Hill Academy (CHA) in 1992 and started teaching at SCH Academy (then CHA) in 2005.
What inspired you to become a teacher?
During my junior year at Penn, I had a looming deadline of declaring my major. There was no question in my mind that I was a history major, but this deadline made me think about why I wanted to be a history major. In short, what did this major mean for the rest of my life?
There was a compelling argument that I should become a lawyer. My dad was a lawyer, my uncle was a lawyer, and my grandfather was a lawyer. Teddy Roosevelt’s attorney general was even a distant relative named Philander Knox. The cards were stacked for me to become a lawyer.
So what then swung the pendulum for me to bypass my bloodlines and become a teacher? There were two key factors that all started at CHA. First, the experience that I had at CHA, including being taught, coached, and mentored by dedicated educators, inspired me to follow the same path and give back in the manner that they did. Second, the passion that I developed for history and football at CHA and then Penn was powerful. I could not see myself being separated from the study of history and the game of football.
This led to a realization one day on Locust walk in the heart of Penn’s campus that I wanted to teach history and coach football in a vibrant community like the one I had spent my formative years. Looking back, this was one of the most important days in my life, and the past 25 years are evidence of that fact.
What attracted you to teach at SCH?
After college, I was fortunate enough to get a job at Episcopal Academy and flourish as a professional at that institution for nine years. At Episcopal, I had an opportunity to work with some amazing professional educators, teach and coach many outstanding young people, and develop my skills in the classroom and on the field as a coach. I have memories and friends from Episcopal that will last a lifetime, and I owe that institution a great deal of gratitude for giving me the opportunity that I was given.
It would have been easy to stay at Episcopal for a long time. I was becoming a skilled teacher. I was given an administrative position in the Athletic Department. I was honored to bring an Inter-Ac football championship back to the school for the first time in 20 years. However, there was a motivating thought in the back of my mind that actually had been there since high school.
As you may know, CHA’s football team was not a member of the Inter-Ac for over 30 years from 1973 until 2006. During that period, CHA had some outstanding football teams that could easily have competed in the Inter-Ac and in fact beat Inter-Ac teams. When I was in high school this ate at me and many of my teammates. We were very proud of our program and the success that we worked so hard to earn. The fact that every team at all six Inter-Ac schools played in the league, except for our football team, felt like a punch in the gut. We felt slighted in Southeastern PA’s rich football tradition. As a result, when I became a successful head coach at Episcopal, who brought a struggling program back to prominence, I was determined to do the same for my alma mater. I wanted to bring CHA back into the Inter-Ac and win the school’s first football championship. I believe that things in life happen for a reason, and not long after I started to think about this possibility, Jack Plunkett and Frank Steel approached me with an offer to return to CHA. All I can say is that I was humbled by the opportunity and honored to take them up on their offer.
What part of SCH’s mission or values is most meaningful to you as a teacher?
Since my time at this institution, CHA now SCH has always been a tight-knit community that strives to be welcoming to students and people from all walks of life. When I came here as a neighborhood kid from Olney, I was accepted for who I was and given a great opportunity. Today our mission states “We are an inclusive community.” That statement is something that the institution has worked towards since I went to school here. This is what makes SCH a special place. We are a diverse community that mirrors the city where our institution lives. While no community is perfect, I know from my own experience at CHA/SCH, and the experience of my three children who have attended here—for a combined total of 48 years—the level of respect and acceptance amongst members of this community is an example that others should follow.
Is there some object in your office or on your desk that has special significance to you?
What is most important to me in my office are the pictures of former football teams that I have coached. Each team comprises outstanding people with whom I was fortunate to work and toil towards a common goal together. Each team set lofty goals and did everything in their power to reach them. Some of these teams were more successful than others in that process, but to me that doesn’t matter. What matters most is that each team has a lasting connection and every player is a better person today for being part of that team. Wins and losses are important but character is more important. I know this has been the goal of the Blue Devils football program since Jack Plunkett guided the team for decades and a tradition that I am honored to continue. Each team picture in my office reminds me of those teams and the fact that all of our lives were collectively enriched and continue to be enriched by being members of the Blue Devils football family.
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