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Eagles Soar Into Retirement


Santa Margarita Catholic High School's faculty and staff is the backbone of the Eagle community. These five faculty and staff members have poured themselves into the school and are now moving on. We thank them for their years of dedication and wish them luck in the next chapter of their lives.

Brian Cooper

What led you to work at SMCHS?

Back in 1989, when I was a member of a religious community, I came to visit my parents in Mission Viejo and they said that I should take a look at the new Catholic high school over in RSM. I stopped by the school, talked with students and teachers and remarked how much I would’ve loved to work at the school, but I said that it would never happen. The religious community would never allow it. It goes to show you that we should never say never. I left religious life after working in the missions and somehow God called me here to SM some 24 years later.

What will you miss most?

I will miss everyone! I especially loved leading such a great group of people in the Religion Department. They made the ministry so easy because of their gifts and talents.

Favorite SM memory?

This is a difficult question as I have so many wonderful memories. I will always remember the students at SM.

Post-retirement plans?

To help take care of my 97-year-old mother, travel a bit and go back to bed after breakfast.

Something we may not know about you?

I was in a religious community, ordained priest, worked in the Missions in South America for 14 years, left the priesthood and religious life and continued in education here at SM. Before joining religious life, I was a business owner of a very successful distributorship for six years before giving it all up to take a vow of poverty. After 50 years of working, I am ready to retire!

 

Cheryl Dopudja

What led you to work at SMCHS?

Living across the street from the school I watched the school being built. I use to always think how great it would be to have a job where I could share in the experiences of the Catholic community as well as the educational excellence. It wasn’t until about 12 years later I got a job working in the front office as a receptionist. Being able to work at the school that my children attended (son was class of 2002; daughter was class of 2006) was a great experience. 

What will you miss most?

There is no doubt that the thing I will miss the most is working with the dedicated teachers and staff of SM, with whom I have made many friends, as well as working with the students and parents in helping them on their path toward the college of their dream.

Favorite SM memory?

Watched my own children push through the academic challenges as well as the physical challenges of playing a sport at the highest level (football 1998-2002 and softball 2002-2006).

Post-retirement plans?

Spending time and traveling with my husband.

Something we may not know about you?

I’m an original pioneer of Rancho Santa Margarita (1987-2022). My family would actually go to San Francisco Solano Mass in the high school gym until it was built. I lived in the same house across the street for 35 years which we recently sold this past December and moved to San Clemente.

 

Ray Dunne

What led you to work at SMCHS?

In June of 2006, after 15 years, I stepped down as Principal of Servite HS and spent the ensuing year as a full-time SHS teacher. During that year I received a call from the Superintendent of Catholic Schools asking if I would be interested in applying for the soon to be vacant SMCHS principal’s position. One thing led to another and I applied, went through the interviews and was selected, serving 12 years (2007-2019) as Principal of SMCHS. I retired as principal in June 2019 and remained on staff, teaching AP American Government & Politics for three years.

What will you miss most?

I have been in the field of education as a teacher or administrator for 51 years and can honestly say that while I will miss the daily association with fellow educators and staff, I will miss the interactions with students. I became a teacher to work with kids, to bring history and government alive for them and I will indeed miss doing that each day.

What will you miss most?

This is a tough one…there are so many great moments…."It’s A Great Day to Be an EAGLE"!, doing the Irish jig for the student body, running the SM victory flag onto the football field for each home game my first couple years as principal, my AP Gov classes writing and performing their political satire Christmas themed songs, going to Ireland with the SM Choir,  attending all-school Masses, living my faith in the place where I worked, seeing Caritas Christi become our charism.

Post-retirement plans?

I have been honored by being selected for a one-year term on the Orange County Grand Jury beginning July 1, 2022. I look forward to being active in public service in this way and in others. I also plan to do more traveling.

Something we may not know about you? 

Two things:

For eight years at Canyon High School, I taught in a U.S. History Team Teaching program; when we were studying the 1950s, I would dress like Elvis Presley (of that era) and perform (lip-sync) his song,  "All Shook Up" for five periods of our students.  

After spending my first three years student teaching, substituting and teaching at the junior high level, I spent 17 years at Canyon High, 16 years at Servite High and 15 years at Santa Margarita!

 

Jerry Holloway

What led you to work at SMCHS?

I had always wanted to work in a high school environment. After retiring from a career in public safety, I started out here as a football coach and substitute teacher. I then joined the Social Studies department teaching Economics, Government and Business Law. My last year teaching was freshman Health. I then transitioned into the Dean’s office.

What will you miss most?

Working with faculty and staff towards the common goal of creating an environment that gets our students ready for the rest of their lives many friends, as well as working with the students and parents in helping them on their path toward the college of their dream.

Favorite SM memory?

Seeing students who have struggled, eventually succeed

Post-retirement plans?

Getting back to coaching and working part-time at Disneyland

Something we may not know about you?

I once played in the World Series of Poker

 

Pat Mollica

What led you to work at SMCHS?

I enjoy working in a school setting, every day can be different. Prior to SM I worked for the Superintendent of Schools for more than 15 years in New Hampshire. I was the Director of Human Resources at SM.

What will you miss most?

The friendships made with great people, and the laughter (and tears) we shared.

Favorite SM memory?

Working side by side with Catherine Hassen, she would make me laugh so hard, that I would have to walk away to compose myself. 

Post-retirement plans?

Snowbird between Fort Myers Fl and New Hampshire.

Something we may not know about you?

I’m a practical joker.