ELMHURST - Jean Field, IC Catholic Prep’s director of counseling, said the next principal of the school will have “huge” shoes to fill.
That individual is Tom Schergen, the president and athletic director of IC Catholic Prep since 2012. Schergen will become the new principal July 1 following in the footsteps of Pamela Levar, who is retiring after 41 years at the Elmhurst high school.
Levar joined the IC Catholic Prep staff 41 years ago as a physical education teacher and coach of girls basketball and girls tennis.
It was her second teaching position after working as a full-time substitute teacher in Chicago Public Schools after completing her Catholic education.
Levar and Field, who has taught at the school for 47 years, were physical education teachers at Catholic Prep during some of the same years.
In the late 1980s, Levar became dean of students. She was successful in the role, as she worked well with students and showed concern for them, Field said.
“I think a real testament to a dean is when the kids graduate and some of the kids that are in trouble all the time go over and hug the dean,” Field said.
Field said Levar is an excellent administrator who is highly involved in the school community and student events.
“You name it, she’s at it," Field said. "You don’t find too many people doing that. This is a huge part of her life and she’s really invested in it."
Field recalled the support Levar offered when her mother died. She “was there like a bolt,” Field recalled.
In fact, Levar and another school administrator returned from a Door County trip to attend Field’s mother’s wake and funeral and asked Field to come with them back to Door County.
“That meant a lot to me,” Field said.
Field said that was only one example of the many times Levar went “over and beyond” for members of the IC Catholic Prep staff.
Levar became principal in 2003 and has become entrenched in the community attending countless weddings, 50th wedding anniversaries parties and birthday celebrations.
“I’ve been so blessed–the people I’ve met, the families I’ve known through the years,” Levar said. “I’m teaching the children of the students I taught. Once you have that shift in your career, you realize you’ve been here a while.”
Levar believes she’s been able to make change and be a leader, and she's had the support of the Immaculate Conception parish, which has helped the school thrive.
One of her proudest achievements is starting the school's board of directors in the early 2000s. The board has strengthened the relationship between lay people and parish leadership over the years.
“When you have that combination in leadership, you’re going to be successful," she said. "It’s a recipe for success."
She also praised the school's faculty for its dedication. They “have been in the trenches every day” for the sake of the students, who often gain college scholarships and are accepted to college of their choice.
Levar said the decision to leave was bittersweet.
“I love what I do," Levar said. "I love being in education. I love being with the kids. It’s something I’m going to truly miss, I know that."
She thanked those who welcomed her into the IC Catholic Prep community and have offered her support over the years. Levar has received hundreds of emails and texts from people thanking her for her years of work at the school.
“It’s been my pleasure. I’m the one who’s been blessed here,” Levar said.
A former colleague of Levar’s said the veteran principal would know when the moment was right to leave IC Catholic Prep.
“That’s exactly what happened to me," Levar said. "I just said, ‘It’s time.’ The school’s in a great position, physically, financially, all of the things that are happening here, it’s in a great position. “It’s someone else’s turn. And I’m looking forward to an opportunity of doing something very different after 41 years.”
Levar hasn't decided on specific plans for retirement, but looks forward to spending more time with family and grandchildren.
“Right now, that’s first on my list, and I’m going to take it one step at a time,” she said.
Field said she was sad to see Levar retire but is happy for her longtime colleague.
Schergen looks forward to leading IC Catholic Prep.
“I am excited to step into this leadership role and I am confident that I will continue to build upon the strengths of our school,” Schergen said in a news release. “I am committed to Catholic education and to making IC Catholic Prep the best possible educational experience for young women and men to develop into mature and independent thinkers.
"Like Ms. Levar, I will focus on strong student academic achievement, high quality teacher professional development and continue to be dedicated to our students and families. Her unwavering commitment to our mission has truly made an impact on thousands of students, alumni, and teachers.
Schergen has served as the school's president and athletic director since 2012. Previously, he was the director of the McDermott-Doyle Program for Developmental Learning at Mt. Carmel High School.
He holds a bachelor’s degree in elementary and special education from Illinois State University and a Master’s Degree in educational administration from St. Xavier University.