Michael, '76, and Suzanne Hogan, '76: Educating the Mind, Heart and Soul
January 27, 2012 by Lisa McMahon, MA'09
When their eldest daughter, Julia, was ready for kindergarten, Mike, '76, and Suzanne (Kowalczyk) Hogan, '76, wanted to enroll her in a Catholic school because of the strong foundation it would provide and their desire that the values she was learning at home would be reinforced at school. However, there were few Catholic schools in their neighborhood in North Atlanta. So they, along with 17 other local families, established Pinecrest Academy, which has been named one of the top 50 Catholic high schools in the United States by the Acton Institute.
“Through Providence, I met another mom at church who had gathered a group of like-minded families together, intent on starting a private Catholic school,” Suzanne explains. “Some moms were teachers, others office support, some fundraisers, but everyone was involved, hands on, in some way or another.”
Suzanne says that the first year was exciting and fun, despite the fact launching the school presented several challenges. They had to seek and secure the blessing of the bishop of Atlanta, locate a school building, obtain financing, and hire and retain top-notch teachers. But the founding members were a strong, committed group and remained focused on their vision. “To work together on a large and important project such as a school is very motivating,” Suzanne says. “What really struck me about this group of parents was how they worked together in charity to build something lasting for their kids.”
With an initial enrollment of 29 students, the school began in rented facilities in a former elementary school. Its high standards of academic excellence and spirituality led to continued growth, and by its fifth anniversary, the school occupied a six-building, 15-classroom facility and had received accreditation from the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools in its very first year of eligibility. Today, the school has an enrollment of 1,200 students in pre-kindergarten through 12th grade, and is considered one of the premier schools in the Atlanta area.
Mike and Suzanne both had a strong foundation in the Catholic faith when they attended Niagara, but acknowledge that the school deepened that faith and their trust in God. “Niagara built the platform for us to launch our adult lives,” Mike says. “In all of our moves (Mike's job as an executive in the logistics industry took the family to Cleveland, Chicago, California, and Atlanta), our life centered around our parishes and being involved. We were blessed while living in Atlanta to be a part of the group that started Pinecrest Academy, and we continued the mission after moving to Chicago to help similar start-up Catholic schools.”
“Our Catholic values were solidified for us at Niagara, and we were able to pass them on to our children,” Suzanne adds. “The formation we give our children is priceless, because it is our legacy to them and future generations. I am humbled by the fact that we were privileged to be there at the start of the school. The blessings our family has received from this encounter have been too numerous to mention.”