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2022 Honoree Biographies

List of 5 items.

  • Doreen Engel

    An educator for almost 40 years, Doreen Engel received a bachelor’s degree in music therapy from Anna Maria College and a master’s degree in education with a concentration in special education from The Catholic University of America. Formerly the Assistant Superintendent for the Diocese of Arlington and Director of Special Education for the Archdiocese of Washington, Engel’s classroom experience includes teaching students in every grade from preschool to graduate school with courses ranging from AP psychology to elementary school music. She has served as principal for four Catholic schools, including St. Coletta School in Arlington, Virginia (1985–1988), Blessed Sacrament School, in Washington, DC (1994), St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Academy in Rhode Island—where she and her team were awarded a grant from the Raskob Foundation to implement distance learning for highly gifted students via the Johns Hopkins Center for Talented and Gifted Students, and is the current principal at Our Lady of Mercy School in Potomac, MD. Engel was also an adjunct professor at The Andrew M. Greeley Center at Loyola University, Chicago, and has worked with The Roche Center for Catholic Education at Boston College.
     
    While working for Blessed Sacrament as assistant principal, Engel met Hal DeLuca, currently at St. Anselms Abbey School, who sought to determine why local students were experiencing challenges getting accepted to Catholic high schools. 

    Through this relationship, she went on to design, implement, and direct the St. John’s College High School’s Benilde Program (1998–2006), named for visionary and innovative Lasallian educator St. Benilde Pierre Romancon. To this day the SJC program offers a college preparatory curriculum for highly motivated students with average to above-average intelligence and diagnosed mild learning differences. The program received a national award from the National Center for Catholic Education Association (NCEA) in 2000 and again in 2004. “I’m so grateful for the opportunity and experience at St. John’s,” said Engel during a recent interview. “I laid the groundwork for the Benilde Program, but it was St. John’s College High School who first had the vision.” 

    From 2014 to 2018, Engel went on to create and then direct the Benilde Program at St. Raphael Academy in Rhode Island, and in 2020, received the Catherine McNamee Award, an award given annually to the person in American Catholic education who has provided additional opportunities for children to have a Catholic education. In response to receiving this award, she stated, “This award is really thanks to the opportunity at St. John’s.” Several other Catholic high schools in America have also adopted the Benilde format.
     
    Engel is also the author of Be Open!: A Guide to Prayer for Reflection on the Inclusion in Catholic Schools (NCEA, 2019); “A Powerful Sign: The Catechesis of Children with Disabilities” (Catholic News Service, 2019); and co-author of “Serving Exceptional Learners” (Best Practices, NCEA, 2018), among other articles. An experienced speaker, Engel recently held a live NCEA webinar for more than 3,000 enrolled participants during the COVID-19 pandemic. She was awarded the Catherine T. McNamee, SJC, by NCEA in April of 2020.

    Engel is a former member of NCEA’s Exceptional Learner Advisory Committee, an associate for the Sisters of Mercy, and was a former board member for the National Catholic Partnership on Disability. In her precious spare time, she is a serious student of Spanish and enjoys playing the violin. Engel’s son Daniel graduated from St. John’s in 2007.
  • James Kernan '70 and Chris (Stadtler) Kernan

    SJC Alumnus James Kernan ’70 and wife Chris know firsthand the many benefits of a Catholic education. Raised by his grandmother, who taught at St. Mary’s in Rockville for nearly 25 years, Jim attended St. Ann’s Academy and later St. John’s, following in the footsteps of his brother Pat ’67, father-in-law Paul Stadtler ’42, Chris’s uncle John W. Stadtler ’35 (1967 SJC President’s Medal honoree), and several cousins, all fellow SJC Cadets.

    Chris Kernan’s upbringing was strikingly similar. She also attended St. Ann’s Academy, where she and Jim were in the same class. Chris’s great grandmother (Mary Christine Stadtler), was one of the first teachers (and later principal) at St. Ann’s, where Chris later joined the faculty as a preschool teacher where she worked with three-year-olds for 36 years. In addition, she and Jim took over running St. Ann’s Catholic Youth Organization (CYO) beginning in the 1970s. Since then, Chris has been recognized for her work at St. Ann’s as an educator, awarded “Teacher of the Year” by the Archdiocese of Washington, DC  in 2008, and also served on the Board of Directors of the Archdiocese of Washington Catholic Youth Organization from 1980 to 1986. 
     
    As a student–athlete at St. John’s in the ’60s and ’70s, when SJC was an all-boys military school, Jim found the rigors of the program and the school’s humble service approach helped to shape his work ethic, future professional success, and interest in philanthropy. Jim shared his thoughts recently with St. John’s during an interview: “The intellectual power that comes from an SJC education is unbelievable. It inspired in me a great level of discipline and philanthropy. It forged in me a future I didn’t even know existed. It is also so heartwarming to see how beautifully the campus and curriculum has transformed and evolved over the years. I feel it is one of the finest institutions in the country.” 
     
    Lifelong residents of Washington, DC, the Kernans experience as Catholic school students inspired their later contributions to both St. Ann’s and St. John’s. At St. Ann’s, Jim and Chris coached baseball and basketball for students in the fifth through twelfth grades, and together continue to oversee weekend games for the CYO, for which Chris bakes and runs the concession stand. After graduating from St. John’s, Jim recalls discussing possible ways in which he and fellow alumni could give back to the school and its community. Along with fellow classmates Kevin Foster ’68, Joe Donnelly ’67, John Stadtler, Jr. ’60, Jack Greaney ’44, and others, Jim helped to form the first SJC alumni association, which is currently stronger than ever. Still active in the alumni community, Jim never passes up an opportunity to help organize reunions and other alumni events.
     
    The Kernans stated, “St. John’s has been such a special place for our families, and a real turning point for our son Brendan.” Described as a “free spirit,” they felt Brendan would benefit from the direction provided by the JROTC program. After graduating from St. John’s in 2007, Brendan went on to run his own business, Every Last Detail, in North Carolina where he lives with his wife and children. Jim and Chris’s daughter Kaitlin followed in her mother and grandmother’s footsteps, graduating from Georgetown Visitation in 2004. Both Brendan and Kaitlin attended St. Ann’s, where they had their mother as a teacher and where their father coached the CYO.  
     
    Chris also worked for DC’s Department of Recreation at Lafayette Recreation Center, where she and John Holmes first founded Biddy Basketball. Now established and run by the St. Ann’s Catholic Youth Organization, the league meets regularly for games at St. Ann’s Gym in Northwest DC. Both Chris and Jim enjoy introducing girls and boys in first through third grades to what is often their first experience with organized sports. Participation in the league inspires sportsmanship, team building, technical skills, and of course, socialization without technology. “Throughout our 33 years of running Biddy, it always brings us great joy that these kids still recognize us all these years later.” The Kernans were honored by St. Ann’s parish as they named the gym floor, Kernan Court.
     
    Chris and Jim feel that through their roles as alumni, donors, teachers, and coaches, they can so generously give back to the institutions that have provided so much to their families throughout the years. “We are honored and humbled beyond words to receive the St. John’s President’s Medal,” said Jim Kernan. 
     
    In addition to his contributions to St. Ann’s and St. John’s, Jim has been a member of the Palisades-Georgetown (Friendship) Lions Club for nearly 40 years. He was named Melvin Jones Fellow for dedicated humanitarian services in 2009 and 2021, and was awarded the Dr. Arnall Patz Fellowship in recognition of dedicated service and support to advance the objectives and commitment of the Lions Multiple District 22. Jim served on the Board of Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Washington from 1993 to 1996; Georgetown Visitation’s Board of Trustees from 2000 through 2009; Cemeteries of the Archdiocese of Washington Board of Trustees from 2003 to 2009, finishing his tenure as Chairman; and has served on the Archdiocese of Washington Catholic Youth Organization’s the Board of Directors since 2014. In 2014, Chris and Jim were presented with the Manifesting the Kingdom Award, given by the Cardinal to individuals who demonstrate the presence of Jesus in their lives and exceptional service to the Church. 
  • Branden Jacobs-Jenkins '02

    As a student at St. John’s College High School, Branden Jacobs-Jenkins discovered his identity as a writer and artist. Inspired and supported by teachers and friends, particularly Tim Emerson, theatre director; Carol Fitzsimmons, religion; Brother Martin, English); Joe Patterson, English; Michael Sheeh, calculus; and best friend Maj. Mary O’Donnell, MD ’02, who received the St. John’s College High School President’s Medal in 2017. Jacobs-Jenkins went on to attend Princeton University, graduating in 2006 with a major in anthropology; New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts, where he earned a master’s degree in performance studies in 2007; and the Juliard School, where he completed the Lila Acheson Wallace Playwrights Program. 
     
    Jacobs-Jenkins remembers being given the access, encouragement, and freedom to explore subjects that most interested him at St. John’s. Inspired by his religion classes and through his experience with and participation in St. John’s Theatre, The Sabre student newspaper, The Lasallian literary magazine, peer ministry, De La Salle Scholars, the SJC yearbook, and French Club, he received an incredibly well-rounded education. “I knew always wanted to be a writer,” said Jacobs-Jenkins during a recent phone interview. “It didn’t occur to me to be playwright until college. My education from St. John’s Theatre prepared me to be playwright. I believe I would never have been accepted to Princeton University without St. John’s, since my freshman college class was recruited, specifically, for their experience in the arts and theatre.”
     
    Jacobs-Jenkins’s first play, Neighbors, which premiered Off-Broadway at the Public Theater/Public LAB in 2010, was later presented at the Matrix Theatre Company, LA, and premiered in Boston in 2011. His second play, War— written while on a Fulbright Fellowship in Germany—premiered at the Yale Repertory Theatre in 2014 and opened at the Lincoln Center LCT3 Off-Broadway in 2016. In 2014, he received the Obie Award for Best New American Play for both Appropriate and An Octoroon. Appropriate was also nominated for the Outer Critics Circle Award for Outstanding New Off-Broadway Play and won the 2014 Obie Award for Direction and Performance. An Octoroon, an adaptation of the play by Dion Boucicault, first ran in 2010 at the Performance Space, New York, then Off-Off-Broadway from 2014 to 2015, and was later staged at the Artists Repertory Theatre in Oregon in 2017. 
     
    Produced Off-Broadway in 2015 by the Vineyard Theatre, Jacobs-Jenkins’s play Gloria was nominated for the 2016 Lucille Lortel Award for Outstanding Play, was a finalist for the 2016 Pulitzer Prize for Drama, received two nominations for the Outer Critics Circle Award for Outstanding New Off-Broadway Play and Outstanding Director, and was nominated for the 2016 Drama League Award for Outstanding Production of a Broadway or Off-Broadway Play.

    In 2017, Jacobs-Jenkins’s Off-Broadway play Everybody—inspired by the 15th-century morality play Everyman—included roles assigned by lottery. Jacobs-Jenkins explains, “The concept is that every night there will be a different ‘Everyman,’ chosen by lottery, so the cast is forced to shift.” Everybody was also a finalist for the 2018 Pulitzer Prize for Drama. A contemporary version of Euripides’ Greek tragedy The Bacchae, his most recent play, Girls, premiered at the Yale Repertory Theatre in 2019 and features dance music and live-streaming video. 
     
    Jacobs-Jenkins’s work has been seen both nationally and internationally at The Public Theater, Signature Theater, PS1122, SohoRep, Yale Repertory Theatre, Actors Theater of Louisville, The Matrix Theatre in LA, Mixed Blood Theatre in Minneapolis, the Wilma Theater in Philadelphia, CompanyOne and SpeakEasy Stage in Boston, Theater Bielefeld in Germany, the National Theatre in London, and the HighTide Festival in the UK.

    Jacobs-Jenkins taught playwriting at the Tisch School, Princeton University, and the University of Texas, and currently teaches theatre and performance studies at Yale University. He is a board member of the Dramatists Guild Fund, providing more than $1.6 million in emergency relief and mental health support for fellow writers; the Ucross Foundation; and is Vice President of the Dramatists Guild of America.
  • James S. O'Connell '73

    “I have nothing but wonderful memories of St. John’s,” said Jim during a recent interview. “As Cadet Colonel, I valued my experience during a time when SJC was an all-boys military school. Under President Jeff Mancabelli’s watchful leadership, I feel the Lasallian tradition of brotherhood has remained intact, reflecting the same values that made the school such a special place for me in the 1970s. The military program taught me and my brothers, Quinn ’70, Jerry ’71, and John ’75, so much about leadership and building trust. To this day, I feel this is one of the most important components to running a successful business, as trust stems from good character. Through Catholic values, community service, self-respect, discipline, and learning how to respectfully interact with members of our diverse community, we all felt supported at St. John’s. However, as great as that time was, the revamped military program and coeducation have greatly enriched and strengthened the St. John’s of today.”
     
    After graduation, O’Connell majored in English at the University of Notre Dame and was a seminarian during his sophomore year with the Congregation of Holy Cross. After earning earn his MBA from Notre Dame in 1979, he married his wife Barbara and joined the field of public accounting. He earned his CPA, and setttled in Indianapolis, where he worked for a family car business. In 1987, he returned to DC to join Jim Koons Automotive Companies, where he has been President for 34 years. During his tenure, the Koons organization has grown to be one of the largest retail automotive organizations in the nation. With revenue of more than $2.8 billion annually, more than 2,600 employees, 28 franchises, and 20 locations located in Maryland, Delaware, and Virginia, the company has been awarded every major award offered by the automobile industry for sales, performance, customer satisfaction, and operational excellence. It was one of the “Top Workplaces” eight years in a row by The Washington Post and “Best Places to Work” by The Washington Business Journal. 
     
    Jim enjoys keeping up with SJC classmates, including attending regular Class of 1973 dinners organized by Phil Finelli ’73. “In addition to my close friends from those days, I’ve also made great friends with other classmates later in life. You can’t help but develop great friendships after SJC. When you meet a fellow alumnus, you have an immediate shared experience. Our class has a tremendous bond to this day.” It was these experiences that inspired Jim to help launch the Cadet Colonel Society in 2015.

    The idea was born to bring alumni together through their shared experience at St. John’s and to reconnect them to the school. During the 2015 Cadet Corps black-tie dinner, Jim and fellow members of the SJC Alumni Committee invited former Cadet Colonels to the celebration, presenting each of them with medals. When reaching out to these men, Jim was touched by the warm and enthusiastic reception, particularly from members of the earlier classes, saying, “The fact that someone called and reminded the Cadets of this time in their life was thrilling to them. I enjoyed several lovely conversations with fellow Cadets. We shared so many similar memories, and on the night of the dinner, everyone thoroughly enjoyed being together and reconnecting. The evening’s enthusiasm was infectious, particularly as attendees ranging in age from 18 to 80 sang the school song in unison. Alumni both young and old were dazzled to witness how much the school has grown and improved over the years.”
     
    In addition to his responsibilities at Jim Koons Automotive, O’Connell is on the advisory council at Notre Dame’s Raclin Murphy Museum of Art; an active member of the St. John’s Cadet Colonel Society; eucharistic minister for Our Lady of Mercy Catholic Church; annual gala chair for Georgetown Preparatory School; and was a basketball coach for the Catholic Youth Organization. He was President of the Serra Club of Indianapolis, served on the Board of Trustees at the Academy of the Holy Cross and Board of Directors at the Washington Area New Car Dealers Association, where he helped launch the Auto Technician Development Program through the Automobile Dealer Education Institute. The ADEI Technician Development Program recruits, employs, and educates aspiring technicians, successfully transforming them into line technicians over the two and a half years of prescribed college training. For these contributions, he was awarded the Northwood University Education Award in 2015.
  • RADM David N. Rogers '54 (Retired)

    Rear Admiral Rogers claims that the foundation for his many successes was largely due to his Catholic education and experiences in the Cadet program at St. John’s College High School. There, he learned to be polite and to treat people with respect, which later inspired his leadership through faith. He keeps in regular contact with classmates (Ed McNamara ’54, in particular) and was instrumental in planning the Class of 1954’s 50th reunion. Before the pandemic, he enjoyed monthly lunches with classmates and hopes to continue this tradition.
     
    Rear Admiral Rogers graduated from Georgetown University with a bachelor’s degree from the United States Naval Academy, an MBA in international business from the University of Southern California, is a graduate of the Naval Postgraduate School at Monterey, California, and received a graduate degree in aeronautical engineering. In 1958, while a midshipman, Rear Admiral Rogers participated in the U.S. amphibious landing in Lebanon. His first duty was as an instructor of seamanship and navigation at the Naval Academy. Following flight training at Pensacola, Florida, and Beeville, Texas, he reported to Attack Squadron 36, flying the A-4 and deploying twice aboard the USS Saratoga to the Mediterranean, and later aboard the USS Lexington during the Cuban Missile Crisis. 
     
    Following school, Rear Admiral Rogers reported to Attack Squadron 125 at Lemoore, California, as an A-4 instructor pilot. He then reported to Attack Squadron 93 deployed aboard the USS Bon Homme Richard and later aboard the USS Ranger in Southeast Asia. Admiral Rogers flew over 200 combat missions in Vietnam. Subsequently, he was assigned to the Bureau of Naval Personnel in Washington, DC, as an Aviation Officer Detailer, where he returned to Vietnam for the third time. He later served as Executive Officer and Commanding Officer of Attack Squadron 192, the “World Famous Golden Dragons,” deploying twice aboard the USS Kitty Hawk and flying the A-7E. He then reported again to the Bureau of Naval Personnel, serving as Head of the Subspecialty Development Branch and Head of the Air Combat Placement Branch. He then graduated from the University of Southern California where he earned a master’s degree in science.
     
    Rear Admiral Rogers assumed command of Carrier Air Wing 14 aboard USS Enterprise, later deploying aboard USS Coral Sea. He was then assigned as Air Wing Training Officer at Commander, Naval Air Force, U.S Pacific Fleet. He commanded the USS Okinawa, followed by command of the USS Kitty Hawk. He was next assigned as Chief of Staff to Commander Seventh Fleet. Admiral Rogers then served as Deputy Director for Operations, National Military Command Center; Deputy Director for Operations, Current Operations, and Vice Director for Operations, Joint Chiefs of Staff; and as Commander Carrier Group Three and Commander Battle Group Charlie; Deputy Assistant Chief of Naval Operations (Air Warfare); and Commander U.S. Naval Forces Central Command Rear.
     
    Rear Admiral Rogers has flown 62 different types of military aircraft—16 types from the decks of 17 carriers. He has more than 1,400 carrier landings and over 5,000 accident-free flight hours. His personal awards include the Distinguished Service Medal, Defense Superior Service Medal, four awards of the Legion of Merit, two awards of the Meritorious Service Medal, 18 awards of the Air Medal with Combat V, five awards of the Navy Commendation Medal with Combat V, the Combat Action Ribbon, and the Vietnam Cross of Gallantry. Following active duty, he joined Kapos Associates as Director of Studies for three years followed by nine years as Senior Vice President of the Titan Corporation. Rear Admiral Rogers has the following advice for graduates of St. John’s College High School who are entering the workforce: “Know your responsibilities inside and out; be respectful to everyone you work with and help those around you excel in their jobs; and be courageous and stand up for what is right and ethical.”