Wednesday, February 12, 2014

An Open Letter to the Administration of Gordon Tech College Prep

There has been a lot of discussion locally about the possibility of renaming my high school, Gordon Tech College Prep, to something else. Here is an e-mail letter I sent to my school's administration.
February 9, 2014

Very Reverend Gene Szarek, C.R., Provincial Superior
Dr. Kelly Jones, President
Dr. James Quaid, Principal

(sent by e-mail only)

Dear Provincial Superior Szarek, Dr. Jones, and Dr. Quaid:


Thank you all very much for your service to Gordon Tech. For your information, I recently sent a much shorter variation of this letter to the Gordon Tech Rebranding Task Force. I am expanding here on some of the topics I mentioned in that earlier letter and am respectfully offering some new subjects for your consideration.

Your leadership is critical to the ongoing success and future of our beloved school, so I thank you for that leadership and encourage you please to consider Gordon’s rich history of providing solid college preparatory and business and technical education as you look toward the position that Gordon Tech will occupy in Chicago Catholic secondary education in the twenty-first century and beyond.


My name is Steven Imparl and I graduated from Gordon Tech in 1981. It is hard to summarize my four years at GT in a few lines, but let me tell you that I ran on the Rams freshman cross-country team, played 3 intramural sports (basketball, bowling, and boxing), was active in 2 foreign language clubs (French and German), participated in several other extracurricular activities including Student Council, worked part-time during the school year and summers to help pay expenses related to my secondary education, volunteered at Grace Convalescent Home while studying under the direction of Fr. Greg Helminski, C.R. in the Christian Service course in Religious Education, was active in liturgical music activities and performance in classical guitar and small chamber ensembles, managed to graduate with a GPA of 3.91/4.00, was named an Illinois State Scholar, and was awarded an Arthur J. Schmitt Scholarship at DePaul University (which was then DePaul’s most prestigious undergraduate academic scholarship). I mention all of this, not to try to impress you, but to tell you a few things about me and tell you why GT and its name are so important to me. Indeed, my roots at GT and DePaul run very deep and I am humbled by and most grateful for them, and very thankful to my parents for their vision, values, and sacrifices as they made a Gordon Tech education available to me. That education prepared me extremely well for my post-high school studies and for my career as a lawyer, writer, and businessman.


I did not have the opportunity to attend the Rebranding Task Force meeting on January 29, 2014. Therefore, I am writing to you to tell you that the Gordon Tech name is very important to me and to many of my fellow alumni, as you heard in person at that meeting.

I am confident that retaining the name of “Gordon Tech” can be an integral component of any rebranding effort for the school. The name of Very Reverend Francis Gordon, C.R. is inextricably bound to our past, present, and future. Perhaps the informal, but still unsettling, suggestions that we change our school’s name are rooted in a lack of genuine understanding of our heritage. Do we know enough about Father Francis Gordon? Do we think enough about Father Francis Gordon? And, perhaps most importantly, do we talk, write, and share enough about Father Francis Gordon?

In the spirit of cooperation and working together with our school’s alumni, I would like to take a can-do attitude to the issue of potentially renaming GT. To help that effort, I pose to you the following question in good faith:

What will it take to keep the name “Gordon Tech” (or even the simpler “Gordon”) in our school’s name as we move into concrete rebranding and more expansive visions for our school’s future?

Rebranding our school is not synonymous with renaming it, and there seems to be no reason to abandon our name merely to address some areas for improvement that exist in our school. To offer just one example of why that is so, if there is a perception that some of our laboratories in the physical sciences are “dated,” then surely changing our name from “Gordon Tech College Prep” to, just hypothetically speaking, “DePaul College Prep” is not going to improve the quality of our physical sciences labs. Upgrading the labs and trumpeting those improvements will change that negative perception and reality. Why can we not remain Gordon Tech and update our facilities substantially, especially with the very large monetary and other resources to which our Gordon Tech community is now being introduced?

There are many ways to “rebrand” our school, and I do not believe renaming Gordon Tech is either necessary or appropriate. I am deeply concerned that a renaming of our school could merely enshrine in the school’s name in perpetuity the name of just one of the partners in the “academic partnership” between Gordon Tech and DePaul University. That “academic partnership” has already been publicized very well, so I am wondering what a change of the school’s name would accomplish for Gordon Tech.


I am told that at the meeting on January 29, 2014, the results of a survey were presented, in summary form, which suggested that the name of Gordon Tech was not viewed favorably by the public.  (A page on Gordon Tech’s Web site states, “GT/DePaul Partnership Survey --Check back here for survey results and updates soon!” However, as of the date of this letter—February 9, 2014—no survey results or updates have yet been posted.) In light of some of the alumni accounts of the January 29 meeting and with all due respect to the presenters and conductors of that survey, I invite you to take another look at the survey, asking all of the following questions:

1.  Who conducted the survey?

2.  Who paid the costs of conducting the survey and tabulating the results?

3.  What are the qualifications of the persons or firm who conducted the survey?

4.  Did the surveyors have an interest in the outcome of the survey? If so, could that interest have influenced the survey’s results?

5.  What was the size of the survey’s sample?

6.  How were respondents to the survey selected?

7.  Out of the possible pool of respondents, how many were selected for the survey and how many were rejected?

8.  What were the exact wordings of the questions posed to the respondents?

9.  What was the methodology of the survey?

10.  Which survey responses were rejected?

11.  What is the margin of error of the survey’s results?

12.  Do the survey results accurately support the conclusions offered as their summary?

13.  How much confidence do you have in this survey, its methodology, and its results? Enough confidence to rely on this survey as the basis for changing the name of our school from that of our patron, the Very Reverend Francis Gordon, C.R., to something else?

I realize that these are pointed questions and that considering them fully will likely require at least some examination of the survey’s raw data. I ask these questions, not to be disrespectful of the surveyors who likely donated a considerable amount of uncompensated time to the survey, but to better understand the survey and to share with you questions that other alumni are asking.


It is worth remembering that DePaul University, at which I earned two degrees—a baccalaureate and a doctorate—is not a newcomer in the area of secondary, college-preparatory education. DePaul University previously sponsored the well-regarded DePaul University Academy, a secondary Catholic high school for boys in Chicago that closed in 1968. Interestingly enough, I first learned about DePaul Academy as an undergraduate DePaul student by looking at some of the Academy’s yearbooks that are part of the DePaul University library’s collection at the Lincoln Park Campus (now housed in the John T. Richardson, C.M. Library).

Earlier this week, I was speaking with one of my Brother Knights in the Knights of Columbus (University Council, No. 1687) about his experiences at DePaul Academy. I enjoyed hearing the stories of DePaul Academy’s glory days as an academic and athletic powerhouse. Those tales gave living words to the various yearbook photos I had seen as an undergraduate student at DePaul University. Indeed, and to my great thrill and pride, my Brother Knight told me where DePaul Academy’s finest students and athletes transferred when their school closed in 1968: to Gordon Tech!

That is our heritage, but there is no reason for it to be limited to our past; with the right assistance, at this critical stage of our school’s development, we can continue our status as the Catholic high school of choice in Chicago.


The two largest partners for our success, in terms of economic resources, as we make Gordon Tech the Catholic high school of choice for Chicago students from all backgrounds are DePaul University and The Philip H. Corboy Foundation.

I am inviting you to consider a $5 million campaign to rebrand, upgrade, and position Gordon Tech College Prep as a comprehensive, thoroughly updated, Catholic high school for the next fifty years. The $5 million would come into Gordon Tech through donations of $2.5 million each from DePaul University and The Philip H. Corboy Foundation with no renaming rights of Gordon Tech provided to either donor. A five-year campaign would seek $500,000 each year from each of those two donors, with $500,000 from each donor for the first year, with those grants being renewable for each of four consecutive years upon Gordon Tech’s achievement of measurable, attainable milestones that would be agreed upon by Gordon Tech and each donor.

While this letter is not intended to present a comprehensive plan for requesting or managing such grants, I would like to share with you some of my ideas for using such resources which include the following:

·         Minimizing annual tuition increases over the next five years to make a Gordon Tech education more accessible to more students, including current GT students;
·         Increasing enrollment at Gordon Tech to the school’s target enrollment of more than 1,000 students;
·         Upgrading GT’s educational facilities and programs in the physical sciences (anatomy and physiology, biology, chemistry, and physics), information technology and computer sciences, and “Engineering Technology” (as the term is used in GT’s 2013-14 Course Selection Guide) to equal or exceed national standards promulgated by secondary school educators or comparable organizations in those academic disciplines;
·         Expanding the “Engineering Technology” program to provide more opportunities for study for students who pursue four-year university degrees and post-graduate education and for those students who eventually choose to follow a different career path than one that involves study at a four-year college or university. Such an expansion could include new or additional courses in the following areas of study:
o   Automotive technology (including more course offerings that would lead to Gordon Tech’s certification by organizations such as the National Institute for Automotive Service Excellence (NIASE) and the National Automotive Technicians Education Foundation (NATEF));
o   Computer software specialists, such as certification in software like the various components of Microsoft Office®;
o   Culinary arts;
o   Early childhood education;
o   Engineering (such as architecture, digital design, engineering design, manufacturing, and principles of engineering—as an example, please consider the work of Project Lead the Way on STEM curricula);
o   Healthcare careers:
-  Certified nurse assistant;
-  Pharmacy technician;
o   Public safety (fire, police, and emergency medical services); and
o   Wood technology.
·         Improving our students’ preparation for the Advanced Placement (AP) and International Baccalaureate examinations;
·         Enhancing course offerings in Religious Studies to include new courses such as:
o   Ethical issues in business, the professions, engineering technology, and the physical and social sciences;
o   Detailed, semester-length study of the seven sacraments (as a group, and individually if and as deemed appropriate);
o   Roman Catholic social teaching, including study of primary source documents such as the relevant documents of the Second Vatican Council, social teachings of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, and papal encyclical letters, including, not limited to the following:
-  Rerum Novarum;
-  Pacem in Terris;
-  Humanae Vitae;
-  Populorum Progressio;
-  Laborem Exercens;
-  Evangelium Vitae;
-  Caritas in Veritate; and
-  Lumen Fidei;
o   Vocation (marriage, priesthood and religious life, singlehood), family, and church teaching on sexuality and the biblical, historical, philosophical, and theological bases for that teaching;
·         Improving financial aid and scholarships for all students, with a primary focus on economically-disadvantaged students and students with disabilities;
·         Reinstating Gordon’s intramural sports program to allow more students to participate in sports, to enhance physical fitness and encourage a lifestyle that includes substantial recreational physical activities, to complement students’ learning in physical education courses (referred to as “Kinetic Wellness” in GT’s 2013-14 Course Selection Guide), and to help students learn the many positive values one can learn through athletic events, including teamwork, the importance of practice and preparation, the value of competitiveness, and the virtues of good sportsmanship;
·         Publicizing the improvements Gordon is making to its curriculum and facilities regularly through print, radio, television, and Internet-based social media, as well as in targeted mailings to schools whose graduates comprise or may comprise GT’s student body; and
·         Developing a heritage program that will study the life and legacy of Father Francis Gordon and the Congregation of the Resurrection as innovators in Catholic education (as well as the Congregation’s other apostolates) and publishing the results of that research in various media (and submitting them for inclusion in library collections) and spreading knowledge of them in public presentations that expand the awareness of Father Gordon’s and the Congregation’s work.


Since the early 1990s, the term “diversity” has been very much in vogue. However, I have always been somewhat troubled that however well-intentioned efforts to achieve the sometimes elusive goal of “diversity” may be, they often fail miserably to account for two groups: the economically disadvantaged and persons with disabilities. It is my hope that Gordon Tech will not lose the spirit of generosity and compassion that has been at the roots of the Congregation of the Resurrection since its founding and become simply a so-called “elite” school that attracts its students from groups that are already largely privileged in our society.


I am sharing this open letter to several groups on Facebook and LinkedIn and to selected alumni to generate some discussion and solicit ideas that we can submit to you for your consideration. I will similarly share your reply to this letter, unless you ask me not to disclose any or certain parts of it. However, please understand my purpose in using the open letter format is to simplify things and eliminate the need for hundreds of alumni contacting you with the same questions and concerns.


Thanks again for your time. If it is not too much trouble, please convey my thanks to the Resurrectionist fathers and brothers who sponsor Gordon Tech. I look forward to sharing a bright future for our beloved Gordon Tech and would welcome your reply and news about the rebranding project.

Very best regards,

Steven Damian Imparl
Gordon Tech Class of 1981 (and academic letterman)
Bachelor of Science, With High Honor and Arthur J. Schmitt Scholar (computer science), DePaul University, 1985
Juris Doctor (law), Dean’s Scholar, DePaul University, 1992

[phone number removed]

Back to Blogging

After a long hiatus, I am back to blogging. I'm hoping to post more frequently here. Happy new year to everyone!