A significant part of what makes Saint Ignatius High School so special is the quiet work done behind the scenes by people who care deeply for Saint Ignatius students.
Rory Fitzpatrick '88 is one of those people.
One of the busiest folks at Saint Ignatius, Fitzpatrick works countless hours in his job as athletic director to make the athletic experience an enjoyable and fulfilling journey for the 1,000+ student-athletes at Wildcat High. A patient and humble man, Fitzpatrick does not seek the spotlight, but deserves some time in it now.
Fitzpatrick has won Athletic Director of the Year honors from the Northeast Ohio Interscholastic Athletic Administrators Association (NEOIAAA).
Fitzpatrick spent 10 years at Saint Ignatius as an assistant athletic director under Dale Gabor '66 before assuming the reins in 2008.
During his tenure as athletic director, the Wildcats have thrived. Since 2008, the Wildcats have claimed 29 championships in nine sports, along with one national championship in football and four in soccer. Under Fitzpatrick, rugby joined the varsity fold in 2013, and has since won five state titles. He also played a critical part in helping to launch the Saint Ignatius Broadcast Network.
But more importantly, Fitzpatrick has continued the department’s mission of forming young men of faith and character through sports. Fitzpatrick works closely with the school’s coaches to mold “Men for Others” on and off the field. That includes the formation of the Chaplaincy program with Drew Vilinsky '97.
"As an athletic director, what makes Rory unique is that his focus is always on the student experience, which includes not only athletic success and competition, but also the formation of the student within the sport itself," said principal Dan Bradesca '88. "The fact that he has championed the chaplaincy program for every sport is something I'm proud to say that most schools don't even come close to. Rory is to be credited for making that a requirement and a part of our athletic program."
In his everyday work, Fitzpatrick has a lot of responsibilities. From working with coaches to talking with student-athletes to the more mundane tasks such as scheduling and handling department finances, Fitzpatrick is a busy man.
But even with the long hours he puts in, Fitzpatrick is always patient and generous with his time.
"He's got a really good temperament. A lot of coaches would say that he's similar in age to a lot of us, but he's like our dad, in some ways," said Pat O'Rourke '90, the Wildcats' head hockey coach. "He's level-headed, he gives good advice, he talks us off the cliff. That's the value for a lot of us – coaches are so intense and passionate, so sometimes we get hare-brained ideas or get upset about certain things, and you go talk to Rory for 10 minutes, and everything's okay. He always has an open door and is willing to talk and listen."
Fitzpatrick has three full-time direct reports in the athletic department – Brad Ganor (assistant athletic director & head baseball coach), Cam Joyce (director of youth programming & head basketball coach), and Jennifer Fight (administrative assistant). All three love working for him.
For Ganor, Fitzpatrick's patience and kindness stands out.
"I love working with Rory. What he does best is seeing every side of every conversation, from player to coach to athlete," Ganor said. "He makes level-headed decisions. His seat requires a tremendous amount of patience, and I've never met someone with more patience than Rory. Working with him has been a blessing for me. Hopefully for many more years to come, I can be his assistant. He's a great man who loves Ignatius and his kids more than anything, and that's why he's so good at his job."
And Fitzpatrick's impact is not just limited to athletics.
Bradesca works with Fitzpatrick frequently with athletics, but also relies on him in other ways. Fitzpatrick helps in ways that often go unseen to most.
"He's a very valuable member of my administrative team, and he contributes far beyond athletics, dealing with caring for students who have struggles or challenges," Bradesca said. "Rory, who has a personal relationship with just about every athlete who participates at Saint Ignatius, is able to go beyond his job tasks."
When Fitzpatrick first heard he was winning the award, he did not rush to social media to announce it. That's not his style.
But plenty of his colleagues are very happy for him.
"He has the best interest of the school at heart. Of course, he does things like scheduling and buses that all AD's do, but the reason he won the award is that he has the respect of his fellow AD's and the coaches at his own school," O'Rourke said. "There is no one who is not a fan of Rory Fitzpatrick. As a man, he's solid gold. He's a great husband, father, and neighbor. He's a good person and Ignatius man. We're all happy that he won this award."
If you're in search of someone who models what it means to be a true Ignatian, look no further than Fitz.
"Rory is not only the athletic director, but he's a personal friend of mine and a classmate. Since I first knew him back in 1984, I've known Rory to be a kind soul," Bradesca said. "Rory Fitzpatrick represents the model Ignatian, as far as I'm concerned. As a grad, father, and a teacher of young men, Rory encompasses what it means to live the Magis, going beyond what his job requires of him and contributes to the school as a whole. I'm proud to call him a colleague and friend."