Chairman of the Board to receive prestigious higher education award

Brother James Gaffney to be awarded Theodore M. Hesburgh award in Feb. of 2021


Brother James Gaffney poses with his award with Journalism students Anthony Martin (left) and Yesenia Fuerte (right).

Anthony Martin, Yesenia Fuerte and Rachel Barnes, Staff writers

Brother James Gaffney, the Chairman of the Board of Directors at St. Joseph High School, will be receiving the prestigious Theodore M. Hesburgh Award given by the Association of Catholic Colleges and Universities in February of 2021. First given in 1982, the award is given for outstanding contributions to Catholic higher education.

On Wednesday, Nov. 11, he came to St. Joseph to talk to the Journalism class about his award, his life of service with the Christian Brothers, his long-time career as President of Lewis University, and his vision for St. Joseph moving forward.

By being surrounded by the Christian Brothers growing up, Brother James began to get involved with the Christian Brothers himself around the time he graduated high school in 1960. After college, he began to teach Theology, English, and Mathematics in a town called Saint Joseph in Missouri.

He was then asked to take on the responsibility in teaching Math, religion, and English at Driscoll Catholic High School in Addison. He’s been involved with the brothers since he was 18 years old and has a simple answer to describe what the life of being a Christian Brother entails.

“The title says it all. [It’s] like being an older brother,” he said.

Brother James is truly committed to being a Christian Brother, so much that he has little to no spare time. In that spare time though, he stays physically fit, he does a lot of reading, he also enjoys architecture, goes to the opera with some of his fellow Brothers, goes to sporting events, and he spends time with his family members.

Brother James is also the long-time president of Lewis University, a post he held for 28 years. He is currently the President Emeritus of Lewis, which is a sign of respect given to someone for their contributions by allowing them to hold a title even after retirement.

He was assigned to Lewis University when it was a struggling institution and helped turn it into a thriving school.

“I was assigned by the brothers to go work at Lewis,” Brother James said. “When they say assigned it’s not “you get out there by Monday” it’s [more like] ‘we think it’s what you need most. They basically said to me that ‘we think you are well prepared to take on this role of chair, faculty member, administrator, whatever it will be’ and so that’s what I did.”

One issue that seems to be at the forefront of the Catholic church and the Christian Brothers is a lack of young people. Brother James said he is aware of the lack of young people getting involved.

“I think catholic institutes, high schools, colleges as an example have to be more authentic in their mission, and really care for their students to make a difference in their life,” he said.

When asked about his future vision for St. Joseph, Brother James sees a bright future ahead.

“Our students are hard-working, and our staff is very dedicated,” he said. “New, highly accomplished board members have been added and they bring fresh ideas, expertise and great energy to St. Joseph High School and significant improvements in development revenue, recruitment, etc. have already occurred.”