WARWICK — When John Jackson walked into Bishop Hendricken High School 43 years ago as a 14-year-old incoming freshman, he never dreamed that someday he’d be named president of the all-boys high school.
At the time, the young man actually didn’t plan to attend Bishop Hendricken; he was ready to enter Coventry High School, but was encouraged to apply to the Catholic school by neighbors who he later discovered generously paid for his education.
Jackson, a member of Hendricken’s Class of 1971, graduated from?Providence College four years later and returned to his alma mater in 1976 to teach social studies.
In 1981 the longtime educator moved to the senior campus, the present site of Overbrook Academy on the Aldrich mansion property, where he also served as assistant principal from 1990 until 1994, when the campus closed.
Jackson has also ministered as Hendricken’s alumni director, senior coordinator and chairman of the social studies department. He became assistant principal of the high school five years ago. Jackson will take the reins at Hendricken later this summer.
“I had a great experience here as a student,” he said, noting that “many positive changes” have been made to the school in the past 43 years, including improvements to the physical plant, new academic programs and additional extracurricular activities.
“The one thing that has stayed constant is the Catholic identity of the school,” Jackson continued, adding that the school’s mission has always been to strengthen the relationship between all members of the school community and God.
“We provide the essential elements of a Christian Brothers’ education,” he continued. The religious order, founded by Blessed Edmund Rice in Ireland in the 1700s, has ministered at Bishop Hendricken since 1971 following the departure of the Holy Cross brothers.
Bishop Hendricken High School currently has 934 students; 98 percent of its graduates attend college.
Jackson emphasized that Hendricken students are encouraged to strive for excellence in all of their pursuits - in the classroom, on the playing field or in the community.
“Our mission trips are extraordinary,” he remarked. “We not only proclaim our Catholic identity, we live out our Catholic identity.”
Hendricken students and their adult chaperones have helped less fortunate families in Appalachia, worked with the children of migrant farm workers in Florida, and built homes in Peru.
The new president emphasized that the school’s faculty and staff offer a well-rounded education with a wide range of extracurricular activities.
“It’s not just 8:30 to 2:30 and then the bus,” he said. Jackson served as the school’s freshman basketball coach for eight years, and as the junior varsity coach for 25 years.
In his new role as president, Jackson will be responsible for ensuring that the school follows its mission, adheres to its strategic plan and maintains its Catholic identity. He’ll be working closely with Jay Brennan, a member of the Class of 1972, who serves as principal.
“We really love the school and we will strive as a team to continue the great momentum that was established over the past 50 years,”?Jackson noted, adding that the pair has 75 years of combined experience at Bishop Hendricken High School.
One of the new president’s goals is to continue to create opportunities for inner-city students who seek a quality Catholic high school education but whose families cannot afford the cost of tuition.
Another goal is to “grow the net” and conduct additional outreach to parents, alumni and members of the community. He cited the example of a local woman - the mother of a late Hendricken graduate - who recently left her entire estate to the school.
“We have a lot of people who believe in Bishop Hendricken whose support is essential to the vitality of the school,” he said.
Jackson resides in Warwick Neck with his wife Jo-Anne. The couple has three grown children — all of whom are educators — Kristen, Kelly and Lauren, and two granddaughters, Madison and Abbey.