My high school principal died Saturday of a massive heart attack. He was a true visionary and a great friend. This post is a bit long.
There are some things and some people that you only learn to appreciate after you’re away from them.
Father Dave Scheider was that type of person.
As principal at Notre Dame High School, Father Dave was a visionary – he ruffled feathers, spoke out of turn and told students that they were welcome to smoke in the teacher’s lounge (when teachers smoked in the teacher’s lounge) … as long as they were 18 and had a note from their parents. (Not a lot of students were all that committed to smoking afterall.)
Father Dave was one of those people who told you exactly what he thought – solicited or not. He was instrumental in critical, life-changing decisions for many of his students – myself included.
Father Dave was also a family man. His mother lived across the street and his sister, Ruth, taught at NDHS. His great nieces attended school at NDHS. But his sense of family went well beyond his family tree. It included all of us.
Father Dave was enjoyably human. He joined our family for dinner when we were young, and I remember that he was trying to entertain us with a magic trick and ended up coloring on his own sweater.
Father Dave was horrible with names. He called you by your sibling’s name, if you were lucky. If not, it was just whatever rolled off his tongue at the time. At our wedding, Father Dave called my husband Mike several times, even though his name is Matt. Even on the card we received a couple of years later, he still referred to me and Mike.
Father Dave, the principal, could have used a cell phone. He walked around the building with a cordless phone, always calling the office to tell them which students had detention. He stood outside the bathroom door to wait to give us detention for not wearing socks. Regardless of the obvious ingenuity, toilet paper socks just didn’t cut it for him. Nice try, he would say, detention.
As a teacher, Father Dave’s Religion-English-History-Social Studies class was ahead of its time and truly a way to integrate everything into a world view. He taught seniors, so helping us develop a worldview was critical to Notre Dame – not necessarily to us though.
Father Dave knew we were more interested in sports, music and each other but he pushed us – jarring us out of an after-lunch haze and into worldviews like “money and the bunny,” which I think was one of his favorites. More than once, I’ve caught myself using one or two of his sayings like, “Don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater.”
Father Dave seemed ancient 1989, when I graduated from Notre Dame. I imagine he seemed much the same when my mother graduated in 1964. And at 84, I think he was still too young to leave this world.
Father Dave challenged us to think about the way things were and are. He challenged us to challenge the establishment, even if that ‘establishment’ was him.
Father Dave is the one who told us that we could make a difference … many of us believed it, and are trying to do just that.
Semper fi, Father Dave.