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Dan True Joins Cross Country Coaching Staff

By Joe Ginley '12 , 06/12/20, 4:15PM EDT


True coached and taught at Saint Joseph Academy for several years.

Despite never having attended a Jesuit school, Dan True has a special connection to the Jesuits.

True once discerned with the Jesuits, nearly becoming one. He also married into a Saint Ignatius family.

And now, he’s got a Jesuit dream job: Teaching at Saint Ignatius High School and coaching cross country. True has joined the Theology Department and the cross country coaching staff at Saint Ignatius.

“This opportunity was a welcome one,” True says. “I’ve always been intrigued with the Jesuits. Saint Ignatius has a clear spiritual strength, and I’m excited to continue my professional and personal journey at a great Jesuit institution.

True grew up in South Bend, Indiana, a four-hour drive west of Cleveland (as Ignatius fans of the Fighting Irish know well). He attended Saint Joseph High School, a prominent Catholic school in South Bend. True ran cross country for the Indians, enjoying a successful career.

At Saint Joseph, True began to develop an interest in the Jesuits.

“I discerned with the Jesuits for 2-3 years, starting in my senior year of high school,” True explains. “I attended come-and-see weekends, silent retreats, and even went to visit the National Shrine of the North American Martyrs [in Auriesville, New York]. I learned about the Jesuit mission and their dedication to education and social justice. I was always intrigued with the mystique of the Jesuits.”

After graduating from Saint Joseph in 2013, True stayed close to home, attending the University of Notre Dame.

True acquired his bachelor’s degree in Theology with a minor in Business Economics in 2017. He also participated in teaching programs at Notre Dame. And just as importantly (if not moreso), True met his wife, Colleen, during this time.  

Colleen (nee Michael) is a Clevelander, born and raised in Shaker Heights, and a Beaumont grad. She comes from an Ignatius family, as her dad, Joe Michael ’72, graduated from Wildcat High. Dan’s brother-in-law, Jimmy Michael ’05, is also a Saint Ignatius grad. True is also the uncle of Jack Norris '21 and Joe Norris '22.

The Michael family is deeply involved with Wildcat High. Kathy and Joe Michael have been a part of the Christmas Concert committee at Saint Ignatius, including as chairs of the Christmas Concert in 2016. Joe served on the Board of Regents from 2008-2014 and served on the financial sustainability committee for the strategic planning committee. Kathy and Joe are active with the Loyola Society Mothers’ and the Fathers' Club. They are very engaged people and love to be a part of the Ignatius community.

Dan and Colleen moved to Cleveland in January 2017 together. Colleen got a job as a teacher at St. Mark’s Grade School in West Park, while Dan found a gig as a long-term sub at Saint Joseph Academy.

True also found a niche for himself on the cross country staff, coaching the Jaguars. True served as a coach and a spiritual advisor for the cross country program, helping to launch the Jaguars’ chaplaincy program.

“I hope to draw on my experience with theology and tying spiritual insights to training,” True says. “A life of athletics and a life of faith go hand-in-hand. I hope to continue that at Ignatius. I want to give some examples of connections between faith and running.”

The Jaguars’ head coach, Fred Keiser, enjoyed having True on staff, as well.

“We are sorry to see Dan leave our program, but Saint Ignatius is picking up a valuable resource,” Keiser says. “Dan's patience, sly humor, and perspective on sport and life in general, helped make our runners be better athletes and better citizens.”

True loved his time at Saint Joseph Academy, but the opportunity at Saint Ignatius called out to him in a special way. Kathy Knittel recommended that he apply for it. Knittel is a renowned teacher at Saint Joseph, the wife of the late Dr. Greg Knittel ’67, who was a legendary and beloved teacher and coach at Saint Ignatius.

“I treasured my experience at Saint Joe’s,” says True. “It’s challenging, because it's tough to leave a good thing. But seeing the mentoring opportunities and the welcomeness of the community, it got my attention and I wanted to jump in. I was very impressed with the people who interviewed me. It’s clear they want to broaden their attention to diversity and are focused on the Jesuit charism in a direct way. The global mindset and the great programs in place, particularly the chaplaincy program founded by Drew Vilinsky ’97, are impressive. The package of a top-flight academic institution with great spiritual formation is great.” 

The Wildcats have a talented coaching staff in place with great organization, led by Head Coach Dr. Michael Gallagher ’71. The addition of True will help further.

"When I met Dan, I knew immediately he would fit right in with the cross country program,” Gallagher says. “Having another staff member along with Coaches Wolf, Voigt, Stefancin and Horbol is an added bonus!"

True is similarly stoked to be involved in the team atmosphere.

“I’m looking forward to helping out and being another set of eyes,” says True. “I want to get to know the guys outside of the classroom and know they’re about as people. I’m looking forward to becoming a part of the community, and returning to the Jesuit discernment in a different way. It will be providential for me, as a husband, and the father of a 1-year-old. I’m excited.”

True is sure to fit right in at Saint Ignatius.