21-year Marine to lead Anchorage Catholic high school

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A 21-year Marine, combat veteran and former Catholic school student in Anchorage has been tapped to lead Anchorage’s largest Catholic high school.

In April, Lumen Christi High School announced that Brian Ross, age 44, of Anchorage, would take over for outgoing Principal John Harmon who is stepping down after leading the school since 2013.

“I have enjoyed serving as principal of Lumen Christi Catholic High School these past three years and believe that with the guidance from Father Leo Walsh and the school board we’ve brought stability and direction to the school,” Harman said. “I’m very excited about (Ross) assuming the reins of Lumen and believe he will continue to grow the school.”

After a months-long national search, Father Leo Walsh, pastor of St. Benedict Church, which operates the school, announced the new hire.

“Brian brings a wealth of leadership and managerial experience to the position,” Father Walsh said. “The school board and search committee are very pleased with the selection. Under Brian’s leadership, we look forward to continuing and enhancing the proud tradition of quality Catholic secondary education at Lumen.”

Born and raised in Anchorage, Ross attended St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Elementary School from second through eighth grade. After high school, he attended the U.S. Naval Academy, receiving a bachelor’s in history. He is a combat veteran and retired officer in the U.S. Marine Corps. He served honorably from 1994-2015, including two combat deployments to Iraq.

“We have lived all over the country — in seven states and Okinawa, Japan,” Ross told the Catholic Anchor. “I wanted to give my kids the opportunity I had growing up as far as Alaska is concerned. The people are wonderful and there are so many outdoor things to do.”

Ross and his wife Tracy have three children, two teenage boys as well as a daughter who attends fifth grade at St. Elizabeth Ann Seton, her dad’s alma mater.

Ross’ experience in education — teaching Marine recruits and officers — may be uncommon, but Lumen Christi was attracted to his extensive leadership and the global outlook he brings to education.

His experience includes a master’s degree in history from Marquette University and more than seven years teaching and educating at the undergraduate and graduate levels. This spring he will complete a master’s degree in teaching from the University of Alaska, Anchorage.

“I wasn’t just the average undergrad who lacked experience in the classroom and was looking to be a principal,” Ross said of his background. “But I also wasn’t someone who had been teaching in a school system for 8-10 years.”

Since returning to Alaska last year, he has taught secondary education and served as assistant rifle coach at Bartlett High School in Anchorage.

Ross looks ahead to his time leading Lumen Christi as an opportunity to “serve the Catholic community” in Anchorage.

“I am thrilled,” Ross said. “I’m just a hometown boy who has returned to try to make the best contribution that I can. Lumen is the best-kept secret in Catholic education in Alaska. I see it as an essential part of my job to make sure this wonderful school will no longer be a secret.”

One of the enduring strengths of Catholic schooling, he said, is the ability to tie education to faith in God.

“As you’re receiving an education, as you’re taking that walk, you are also walking with your faith,” he observed. “They go hand in hand with each other. To be able to tie your faith into your education is very important.”

Service to the wider community is another pillar of Catholic education Ross will seek to highlight.

“Lumen’s mission talks about service and responsibility while sticking to our Catholic roots and values,” he said. “A life of service and responsibility in my time in the Marine Corps, in some ways, paralleled what Lumen was focused on.”

As principal part of his responsibility will be to “serve as a mentor and guide to the next generation.” he said.

“What better opportunity is there than to profess your faith with your life before the student body?” Ross said. “I’m looking forward to meeting and getting to know the students.”

As he embarks on his new job, Ross aims to reach out to alumni, whom he sees as valuable contributors to the school in terms of educational support, fundraising and other assistance that are marks of a school with roots in a community.

“Lumen has a strong family feel,” he said. “My desire is to continue this aspect of Lumen being a family.”

In applying for the job and meeting teachers and staff, Ross said he was impressed by their qualifications.

“They seem topnotch, extremely professional and well educated and dedicated to the students at Lumen,” he said. “There is a sense of nervous excitement. Lumen is a well-run ship. I benefit from the things Principal John Harmon, Father Leo and many others have done. I don’t want to upset that but just add to what the school has already established.”

Founded in 1996, Lumen Christi serves students from every Catholic parish in the Anchorage bowl, as well as Orthodox and Protestant congregations.


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