By Madeleine Berger
Outlook Valley Sun
After serving the St. Francis High School community for nearly half a century, Principal Tom Moran will be retiring next month.
Moran first joined St. Francis as an English teacher in 1975, and later served as dean of studies, vice principal of academics and baseball coach, where two of his star players reached the major leagues.
In 1990, Moran briefly left St. Francis to become principal of Chaminade High School in West Hills. But by 1993, he was back at St. Francis, beginning his principal role that would last the final 30 years of his 45-year career on the school’s campus.
“When St. Francis invited me to come back, I jumped. I just felt like this was home,” Moran said.
Reflecting on his tenure at St. Francis, Moran highlights the relationships: “I’ve met so many incredible people — teachers that I worked with and Franciscans and coaches and parents and young men.”
Some of his most cherished relationships have been with former students, and it is especially meaningful when Moran receives books authored by students he previously taught in English class.
Whether it be going to alumni weddings or funerals, Moran remains a supportive figure for past, present and future St. Francis students.
“The kids are at the center,” he emphasized.
Moran also admires the schoolwide growth of St. Francis since 1975, noting its expanded opportunities in student leadership, fine arts, athletics and community service, which have “really developed to a point where this is a more comprehensive place for kids, and where everyone who comes to school here can find a place to belong,” he said.
At the core of these extracurricular programs is spirituality, which is important to Moran on an individual level as a devoted Catholic, and also on an institutional level. He has enjoyed overseeing the development of the school’s spirituality program into a “more compassionate place” where students of all religions can develop their spirituality and leadership. (St. Francis admits students of different faiths, not exclusively Roman Catholic.)
“One of the things I admire about Tom is that the values we profess here at St. Francis – the Franciscan virtues – Tom respects them and he lives them. He doesn’t just talk about them. … He’s a renowned Catholic, but he doesn’t wear his religion on his sleeve. He is very respectful of everyone,” said Father Tony Marti, president of St. Francis.
As principal, Moran has formed close relationships with Marti and his predecessor, Father Matt Elshoff. Moran joked that the school’s president-principal leadership dynamic is “very similar to a marriage partnership,” as they are always a united voice for the St. Francis community, even if they have debated over an issue in private.
However, any differences of opinion are few and far between: “I used to kid Father Matt that we ‘timeshare’ a brain. And often with Father Tony, I will say something, and he’ll say, ‘That’s exactly what I was thinking.’”
“We communicate very well. We support each other,” Marti confirmed. He praised Moran’s fairness in the classroom, objectivity in decision-making, compassion for students, unparalleled memory of St. Francis’ history and courage in overcoming personal battles, among other attributes.
When asked how he hopes for St. Francis to remember him, Moran said, “Oh, it doesn’t matter if it remembers me. I’m blessed because I got to stand on the shoulders of other great men who preceded me … But how will I remember the school? This place is really hard to get out of your blood. I don’t plan on going too far.”
“I’m just so grateful for the opportunity to be here, to work with really good people. I am so blessed, and I don’t know that anybody deserves that kind of good fortune, but I have been very lucky,” said Moran, who was honored at the school’s recent POSH fundraiser.
Despite his accomplishments, Moran is a very humble man, according to Mark Heydorff, chairman of the SFHS Board of Directors, who has worked closely with Moran for decades: “He doesn’t have to be the smartest man in the room, but he usually is. He’s a big idea guy, so he has the ability to make decisions based on what’s best for the future of school.
“There’s nobody I can even think of that has done so much for St. Francis that wasn’t a friar,” Heydorff continued. “In my opinion, he’s the best principal in Southern California.”
In recent weeks, Moran has been preparing his speech for St. Francis’ class of 2023 commencement, which is being held this Saturday at 10 a.m. Moran’s speeches are “absolutely amazing” and always leave the crowd inspired, Marti said.
Moran, exemplifying humility, said, “Graduation is about the graduates. It’s not about me. I just want to leave them with something to think about.”
Once his retirement officially begins, Moran looks forward to reading the stack of books at home that he never had time to read during his tenure as school principal.
Moran’s official last day is June 30. On July 1, Tracy Traver, St. Francis’ current dean of studies and English instructor, will succeed Moran as the next principal.)
“This is a hard job, but it’s also a hard job to leave,” Moran said. “I know this will always feel like home. It should be like that for graduates and people who work here. It will always be like that for me.”
First published in the May 25 print issue of the Outlook Valley Sun.