Home Education and Careers ‘Vibrancy of community’ draws Patrick Tiernan to St. Mary Magdalen

‘Vibrancy of community’ draws Patrick Tiernan to St. Mary Magdalen

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Patrick Tiernan, the new principal at St. Mary Magdalen School in north Wilmington, joins students in the school gym. Tiernan wanted to return to administration after working in advancement. The Dialog/Mike Lang

BRANDYWINE HUNDRED — Patrick Tiernan’s adventures in Catholic education began in Los Angeles and continued in high school in San Diego. He decamped for the East Coast after that, heading to Merrimack College north of Boston. He stayed in Massachusetts until Delaware came calling.

“Wilmington just kept coming back on the radar,” Tiernan said recently in his new office.

He had moved from administration into advancement, but he had an itch to return to the educational. There were several factors at work that attracted him to St. Mary Magdalen.

“It was the vibrancy of the community, a new board. I saw the school really not resting on its laurels but looking ahead and really wanting to invest in the future. That was what I wanted. I wanted to work with a board that was going to be excited about the future of the school,” he said.

A strong enrollment also was enticing, he added, as was St. Mary Magdalen’s place in the community.

Tiernan spent the summer meeting one-on-one with his faculty and staff, “to meet them where they’re at and just see what their experience is like at the school.

He made a change in the maintenance company that takes care of the buildings, something not too many people would notice but that was financially prudent. Although he is on what he calls his “listening tour” at the north Wilmington grade school, he won’t be afraid to make changes if they are warranted. But, he said, he will always be transparent about why moves are made.

“For me, it’s both listening and recognizing,” Tiernan said recently. “Recognizng that some things can be improved and better. I think that’s part and parcel of our mission.

“It’s not upsetting everything necessarily. It’s to try to be responsible for the community. But it’s also explaining the rationale behind things. Sometimes, we’re going to disagree on some things, but at the end of the day, I’ll always give the reason behind it.”

Tiernan has a master’s degree from Boston College and hopes to finish his doctorate at Gwynedd-Mercy College. He and his wife, Anitza, have two sons. Gabe is in fifth grade at St. Mary Magdalen, and Danny is in kindergarten. He said all are excited to be in Wilmington.

“We visited a few times,” he said. “We found a place and loved the area. The boys have been great.”

He keeps quite busy with his family. They like to visit museums and spent a recent day at the Philadelphia Zoo. They also like to ride their bikes. When he has time to himself, Tiernan likes to read, especially nonfiction, and he loves sports. That is one area that will take some getting used to.

“The New England-Philly change has probably been the toughest.”

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