Saint Louis School picks layperson as leader
Former Judge Walter S. Kirimitsu will take over as the first nonclergy administrator of 160-year-old Saint Louis School this summer, just in time to oversee a major expansion of the Kaimuki campus's facilities and programs.
Kirimitsu, 64, a Saint Louis School graduate who is now general counsel for the University of Hawaii system, will assume the posts of president, headmaster and chief executive officer on July 1, the school said yesterday.
In announcing last year that they sought a successor to Father Allen DeLong, school officials indicated they would look outside the Catholic school's Marianist order for candidates with greater financial know-how to execute the school's plans.
Kirimitsu said he planned to call on his decades of experience in the business and legal world, his familiarity with the Legislature, and his work with the UH system to make that happen.
"With the background I have, I hope to bring to the school a better drive to unify the community, the alumni and the parents to support the school, and a greater knowledge of financial resources," he said.
The school, currently grades 4-12, plans to expand to K-12 by 2010 and has $15 million in corresponding capital improvements on the drawing board.
Kirimitsu, a 1958 graduate, also served on the school's board of trustees from 1988-2005, acting as board chair for seven of those years.
The selection of a layperson would have no impact on the school's commitment to providing a Marianist-based education, said Kirimitsu, who credits his own conversion to Catholicism while a junior at the school with setting the course for a successful life.
"Where the leader is clergy or nonclergy, it won't alter the core mission," he said.
Current board chairman Dr. Reginald Ho said the move to non-lay administrators at Catholic schools is a national phenomenon rooted in the increasingly sophisticated financial aspects of running a school.
However, he said he was surprised that none of the 27 candidates who applied for the job were clergy members.
"It was not a choice of a layperson versus a religious person. Our objective was to find best person to lead the school," Ho said.
Kirimitsu said he had been planning to retire from the university, which he joined in 1999, once it selected a permanent successor to former President Evan Dobelle. The university appointed David McClain earlier this month.
Though he'll be treading familiar ground at the campus, Kirimitsu admitted his pioneering role as a lay leader would be a "challenge."
"There might be people wondering, 'Is he going to be able to do it, to continue the tradition?' But the way I envision it, nothing's going to change," he said.