Celebrating Father Ron Nuzzi
on Thursday, 25 May 2017.
By: Lauren Kloser
We look back at 15 years with Father Ron Nuzzi, who will retire and join Notre Dame’s emeritus faculty June 30. Father Nuzzi came to ACE in 2002 to lead the development and implementation of our Catholic school leadership program, which has grown into the nationally recognized Mary Ann Remick Leadership Program.
When he first pursued his doctorate, Father Ron Nuzzi wanted to lead a diocese as a superintendent. But as he learned more about Catholic education, he came to understand how deeply Catholic schools needed active, faith-filled, and effective leaders. “I have always gravitated to where there is the most need,” says Father Nuzzi, and so he embarked on a journey to create a program that would best fit the unique needs for leadership in the Catholic Church.
At both the University of Dayton and Saint Louis University, Father Nuzzi led principal formation programs that served the schools of the local dioceses. When ACE created a program to form talented leaders for Catholic schools, Father Nuzzi came aboard. The first class in the leadership program included six members. “From the beginning, it was our focus on the pillars of ACE – teaching, community, and spirituality – that formed the basis of our program,” says Father Nuzzi. “Anyone can go and get a principal’s license. But leadership in the Church is different: the faith, the law, even the financing is different. We wanted to use our biggest gift, our ability to build the faith and hearts of our students in their Catholic beliefs, to create school leaders who could transform every aspect of their schools.”
The leadership program sought to model the process of culture building that principals could use in their own schools. For Father Nuzzi, his memories of the opening weekend retreat encapsulate the power of building a faith community. The class in its second year would take charge of hospitality for the new class and give witness talks, mentor the incoming leaders, and introduce them to the program. “On Monday morning, you were inspired, you were thinking you could succeed,” Father Nuzzi describes the retreat. “That weekend of community building built the foundation that would help everyone once the academic rigor of the program actually began.”
Father Nuzzi was especially interested in making sure that Catholic schools leaders could recognize problems, study them empirically, and then use data to resolve them, so the leaders worked on action-research projects that tackled a specific issue in their own schools. “Though the sample sizes are small, the quality and rigor of these projects are phenomenal,” Father Nuzzi says. Leaders studied the needs of their own schools: projects included program evaluations, studies on instruction methodologies, and ways to improve achievement, character education and Catholic identity. “These action research projects were a real zenith in the program. We have had many who have presented their work at NCEA or published their work for others to use. The projects demonstrated on the part of the emerging leader that they knew how to implement change based on data,” says Father Nuzzi.
- Sr. Kathleen Carr, C.S.J.
The growing success of the leadership program drew national and international attention. Father Nuzzi has traveled across the United States and to Australia, Ireland, Mexico, Italy, Canada, and the United Kingdom to provide presentations and professional development in-services that continue the conversation about how to form faith-filled leaders. For Father Nuzzi, his travels have had a profound effect on him: “It made me realize how big the Church is and how wide the faith is. I am privileged to spend my time helping our leaders create academically rigorous schools that truly engage in our Catholic faith.”
Father Nuzzi has also published resources for Catholic educators. His works include the two-volume Moral Education: A Handbook, written with Dan Lapsley, Darcia Narvaez, and Clark Power, as well as handbooks of research on Catholic education and an encyclopedia of Catholic schools in the United States. He has also published three national studies on school pastors, principals, and the use of closed Catholic schools, written with Jim Frabutt and Anthony Holter. His book, Gifts of the Spirit: Multiple Intelligences in Religious Education, was published by NCEA and is in its second printing. Father Nuzzi also edited the Journal of Catholic Education for many years and continues to consult with and support colleagues at the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops and the Vatican’s Congregation for Catholic Education.
Father Nuzzi will continue his work with Catholic schools at Catapult Learning, where he will serve as Executive Director of Equitable Access and Excellence. In this role, he will lead national efforts to ensure all students attending Catholic schools have equitable services, as well as provide specialized professional development programs for Catholic school leaders across the country. Father Nuzzi will live in South Bend and begin his work with Catapult Learning July 1.
“We celebrate Father Nuzzi’s 15 years of service to ACE’s mission and recognize his considerable contribution to the field of Catholic school education research,” says Sr. Kathleen Carr, C.S.J., ACE’s senior advisor. “I thank Father Nuzzi and wish him God’s continued blessings in his future endeavors.”