The Student News Site of Saint Xavier High School

Who was Dr. Perry Sangalli?

November 5, 2021

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With the brand new Sangalli Center being completed before school started this year, the official naming and dedication was unveiled to parents and community members this past month in honor of the center’s namesake, Dr. Perry Sangalli. The new interactive learning center displays his name; but sadly, many current students never got the chance to meet the man.

So, who was Dr. Perry Sangalli? He was a man who bled green and gold. He was a man who dedicated his entire life for the betterment of Saint Xavier High School. He was a man who truly embodied everything it meant to be a St. X man. After graduating St. X in 1976, he attended Bellarmine University and received a bachelor’s degree and then went on to get a Ph.D. from Spalding University. He was so fond of St. X that he immediately returned right out of college to begin his teaching career. After ten years of teaching, he accepted the position as principal of St. X and he served in that role from 1993-2001. After that, he served as the school’s president from 2001-2019.

Dr. Sangalli isn’t a true St. X man because of his tenure here; moreover, he’s a true St. X man for what he managed to accomplish during his tenure and because of the effect he had on thousands of members of the St. X community.

To get a better understanding of who Dr. Sangalli was, I contacted numerous well-respected members of our St. X community and asked them to share their thoughts and stories about our beloved president.

Who was Dr. Perry Sangalli?

Mr. Jed Hilbert:

Dr. Sangalli was ubiquitous.  He was in the upstairs T during class switches; he was on the sideline for the St. X-Trinity game; he was at mass on Sunday at Holy Trinity parish; he was at every funeral home for every St. X person that he knew passed on before us; he was playing the organ during school liturgy; he was teaching calculus; he was on morning announcements every Monday; he was part of this building, this school.

Mr. Jim Kraeszig:

Dr. Sangalli was the man who played the piano during the opening of school mass. He would attend sporting events (all of them). He was a brother. He completely dedicated his life to Saint Xavier and the young men within its walls. He was the president that raised money and shook hands and kissed babies, while lifting weights and checking in on teachers during the school day. He ate lunch with the teachers, spoke to the students. He had been the principal during Brother James Kelly’s tenure as president. He was a man that played so many roles at St. X. He taught Math when I was a student here at St. X. He knew what it was like to be a teacher, a coach, a mentor, a Catholic, and a Christian leader.

Mrs. Cathy Reynolds:

Perry Sangalli was someone who truly believed in Xavierian Education, lived his Catholic faith, was a musician, and enjoyed cooking and fine dining.  He was a great friend to me and my family.

Mr. Joe Bergamini:

I knew Dr. Sangalli for most of my professional life. There are others who knew him better than I did, but I will be glad to share a few of my thoughts on this truly good – good man. First and foremost, I considered him to be a man who truly loved God and his Catholic faith. He was a highly educated and an incredibly talented man. He was a great communicator and a great educator. He was a tireless worker who loved St. X and devoted his life to the school.

Mrs. Karen White:

Dr. Perry Sangalli was a wonderful school leader. I always felt secure in his leadership knowing that St. X was the love of his life. He was always finding ways for the school to improve to help educate young men. He was a huge supporter of his faculty, too. He worked to give us opportunities to improve our skills as educators even if it meant paying for trips and conferences. Our work was appreciated by him. He was present in the school halls and in the faculty cafeteria every day. He may have been the president but he was also one of us. He knew each of us by name and about our classrooms and our families. He was truly Xaverian.

Coach John Jefferson:

Dr. Sangalli is a Xaverian brother, without the word ‘Brother’ actually put with him. He defined what you want as a teacher, but more than anything else, as a leader of the school. He had this calm way about him, but at the same time he was always prepared to make any kind of difficult or important decisions that had to be made. He always gave us the idea that he had the best interest in mind for the school. Whenever anybody was going to try to make a decision, they could always have in the back of their mind, “What would Perry think about this?” I ran SAC back in the day, and we would always have to decide whether something was going to be appropriate or not, we would say, “What would Dr. Sangalli think about it?” He had that kind of respect that everybody would think about what his judgment would be on stuff. 

Coach Robert Schweitzer:

Dr. Sangalli was a man dedicated to the young men of St. X.  He was a man who led by example. In the many years that I was lucky to work with him, his first thought was always to St. X. His favorite line, “In Harmony Small Things Grow” was the perfect example of what he saw as his responsibility at St. X. His job was to help build an environment in which every young man could reach his potential. Academically, spiritually, athletically and as a good Christian man. This was his greatest gift to the men of St. X. A place where they could become the best man they could be. I think he challenged himself with this goal every day, and I believe he far exceeded that goal.

Mr. Joe White:

From my memories, Dr. Perry Sangalli’s passions revolved around St. Xavier High School, the Xaverian Brothers, music and good food. Perry was, at his core, an educator.  He loved teaching and believed that all courses should be challenging, interactive and engaging.  He wanted our curriculum to be viewed as rigorous and demanding, but not overwhelming.  Even when he left the classroom to become an administrator, he continued to teach one math class every year.

 

Favorite stories and memories:

Mr. Jed Hilbert:

I always remember the phone call I received when I got the job here.  I don’t remember the interview process, I really don’t.  But I took that call at Centre and ran to the basement of our fraternity house (the only quiet place there, ask Brockman).  Anyway, when he offered me the job, he sounded like I was the only person they could have possibly wanted.  He sounded so excited.  I know he probably made hundreds of those phone calls.  But, in that moment, right then and there, he made it sound like I was the greatest and best hire this school has ever made.  He was able to make people feel like they were the best version of themselves.

Coach Jim Kraeszig:

We ate lunch during the same time so I was able to sit and talk about any topic, but mostly St. X. He was trying to get into shape so I told him I would write him a workout and help explain anything that he needed help accomplishing. His first few days of lifting were tough because he had never really dedicated himself to the cause of really getting into shape. In about five weeks he was gleaming with pride with his new found energy, strength and stamina. I really enjoyed his excitement and it was fun talking to him about how the lads were getting a kick out of seeing him workout with them. 

Mrs. Cathy Reynolds:

One story I can share is about his music.  One summer my husband and I travelled with Perry to Paris, France.  We went to Notre Dame Cathedral for Sunday mass.  It was in French and Perry knew most of what was being said, having studied French.  Being an accomplished organist, after mass he wondered if he could play the organ at the Cathedral.  Trying to make his way up to the loft where the organ was, a security guard stopped him, asked him where he thought he was going, and proceeded to tell him that he was trespassing in a secured area. We laughed so much about how bold he was, not thinking that he could get into any trouble.  He would always find a way to visit important churches wherever he travelled just to see if he would be allowed to play the organ.  Perry shared his gift of music with our school community and with many parishes in the Archdiocese of Louisville.  It brought him joy and it was a way for him to share his faith in an artistic way.

Mrs. Karen White:

I met Dr. Sangalli when we were both students at Bellarmine University in the late 1970s. My husband, Joe White, was one of his closest friends in college. Dr. Sangalli played the organ at our wedding. He was often a guest in our home and loved to play Disney piano tunes on our piano when our children were young. He would show up at our house with Disney sheet music and a gallon of ice cream!

Coach John Jefferson:

I can share a story in a couple of ways. I didn’t have him as a teacher, but when I was a freshman, he led a freshman retreat back then he was a theology teacher. I just remember that he was laid back enough to where he let us have a good time on the retreat, but he was authoritative enough that when things needed to get back to serious stuff, he could naturally do that. I’d like to say I base some of my own teaching on that. I like to have a laid back classroom so my students can enjoy it, but at the same time I like to know that when it’s time to get back to business that we can do that. I just remember that experience from him on that retreat, because he was just a very young teacher at the time, and I was just thinking, “Who is this guy?”, and “This guy is cool”, but then he had a presence about himself where we just knew, “Ok, now it’s time to get back to business.” The other story I would share about him was when I became the baseball coach at St. X. I didn’t know if I was going to get the position. I was an assistant coach for a long time. But I can just remember when he finally gave me the position and he said, “Well there was never any doubt in my mind that I wanted a St. X guy to have this program, and I felt that you were the person to do that.” That meant a lot coming from him, because I just did not think I was going to get that position. There were other more qualified people ahead of me. But for him to say that it really gave me a jolt of confidence. Then I remember early in my first year of coaching, things kind of got off to a rough start. We weren’t winning a whole lot of games. I just remember him being outside my door one morning, and it wasn’t like I said anything, but he just must have known that things were bothering me. I just remember him saying, “Don’t worry about the wins. I know I got the right person for the job.” He goes, “You just keep looking after the boys and I know that the wins will start coming.” And the rest was history. It really felt good to get that jolt of confidence. He just knew when something was bothering someone, and he knew the right words to say.

Mr. Joe White:

There was a period in Perry’s life when he considered the decision to become a Xaverian Brother.  He was drawn to their way of life and many of his friends and colleagues were Brothers.  He ultimately decided not to officially join the congregation but remained close to many of the Brothers.  He knew Xaverian history as well as many of the Brothers.  Some of his closest friends were Brothers and he worked hard to keep the mission and vision of the Brothers alive at St. X. Perry played the piano and organ.  He played the organ at many of our school masses and at his parish on the weekends.  He also loved to play the piano whenever he visited a home that had a piano.  He also loved to play when the holidays rolled around and could also be found playing at many weddings, including our daughter’s wedding. He also enjoyed good restaurants and cooking for friends.  Much of his fellowship with others centered around a good meal.

Coach Robert Schweitzer:

I have so many stories and memories of Dr. Sangalli. Two of my favorites really illustrate the personal side of Dr. Sangalli. Every time we had a mock schedule, he would always come speak and joke to some of the parents in my class. It was a very casual interaction, but he always stopped by to give the parents a personal welcome and throw in a quick joke. Another fond memory I have of Dr. Sangalli is the conversation we would have at lunch. He was teaching a high level math class, with some very advanced students. He was joking about how far ahead of him the students were and how he was having to do homework each night to stay caught up with them. It was such a delight to hear the president of St. X having trouble in the classroom. It was such a relatable moment. I could always tell how much he enjoyed having a class. He was always a teacher at heart. For me, that is the legacy of Dr. Sangalli. For all of the years he was at St. X, for all the titles and jobs he was responsible for at St. X, he was always a teacher at heart. A man that dedicated his life to the young men of Saint Xavier High School. We will forever be in his debt.

 

Dr. Sangalli’s senior quote in 1976 was, “What you are is God’s gift to you. What you make of yourself is your gift to God.” Over the course of his time at St. X he managed to touch the hearts of hundreds of people. He truly was one of God’s many gifts to us.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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