Amid celebration of the 70th anniversary of Chaminade College Preparatory, students, faculty, and staff from both campuses, as well as other distinguished guests, gathered at the high school to celebrate the 33rd Annual Founders Day Mass on Thursday, January 26, 2023. The celebrant was Fr. John Thompson, SM. Fr. John is vice president for mission at St. Mary’s University in San Antonio, Texas, and serves on Chaminade’s Board of Directors. He was joined by school Chaplain Fr. Mike Chiuri, SM.
Founders Day remembers Blessed William Joseph Chaminade and his charism to be formed by Mary for the mission of Christ. It also honors individuals who have made significant contributions to Chaminade.
During Mass, President Robert S. Webb name five Founders of Chaminade College Preparatory, who collectively represent 145 years of service to the school. Longtime faculty members Michael Buck, Lisa Highley Magorien, Jennifer Poole, and Lee Thorneycroft were honored for their 25 years of service to Chaminade. Middle School Principal Michael Valentine was honored for his 45 years of service. Twelfth District Councilmember John Lee presented Mr. Valentine with a special recognition from the City of Los Angeles in honor of his long tenure at Chaminade.
Michael Buck joined the high school faculty in 1996. At the time, he was 22 years old and had recently earned his bachelor’s degree in physics from the University of Virginia. After five years at Chaminade, Michael left to study for his master’s degree in physics at UCLA before returning two years later.
During his tenure at Chaminade, Michael has taught a variety of math, science, and computer science courses. He has served as chairperson of the science department and coached cross country and track. Among Michael’s fond Chaminade memories are the summers he spent hiking with his colleague Steve Mussack and the High Sierra Club, and watching his daughter Claire ’21 attend and graduate from the middle school and high school.
Lisa Magorien joined the high school faculty in 1988 to teach biology and physical education and coach girls varsity basketball. At the time, she was 23 years old and had recently moved to California from Montgomery, Alabama, where she earned a volleyball scholarship to college after being a three-sport athlete in high school.
Lisa taught at Chaminade for 12 years and became the dean of students. After earning a master’s degree, Lisa left Chaminade to work for the Conejo Valley Unified School District. She returned to Chaminade in 2010 as the vice principal of student support.
Lisa feels blessed to be a member of the Chaminade community, where she has met some of her closest friends. She is thankful for the love and support of her family, including parents Mont and Gail Highley; siblings Leigh Ann Brooks and Mont Highley IV; husband Doug Magorien; sons Taylor, Travis, Colby, and Troy; grandchildren Kennedy, Brady, Teigen, and Baker.
Jennifer Poole grew up in Pacific Palisades, California and graduated from Loyola Marymount University in 1991. Soon after college she moved to Kyoto, Japan to teach English, and it was there she discovered her vocation as a teacher. After earning a master’s degree in English literature from LMU, Jenn joined the high school faculty to teach English at Chaminade.
Jenn served as chairperson of the English department for 14 years before becoming vice principal of instruction in 2012 and vice principal of academics in 2020. In those years, Jenn earned a second master’s degree in child and adolescent literacy, and a certification in Catholic educational leadership, both from LMU.
Catholic education has been fundamental to Jenn’s growth as a person and a teacher, and the Characteristics of Marianist Education continually inspire her work at Chaminade. The vocation Jenn discovered all those years ago is powerfully supported by the CMEs, which Jenn believes are an invitation to serve the larger world by first serving the students in front of her. She strives to recognize each student’s uniqueness, to listen to what they have to say, and to champion their dreams. In the process, Jenn’s students have always been her greatest teachers – she constantly learns from their questions and ideas, their empathy and joy. Every day her students make her a better person and educator.
Across her 25-year tenure, Jenn has found in Chaminade a cherished community of colleagues who are now like family to her. They are sources of wisdom and inspiration, comfort and compassion. With their support, Jenn has navigated some of life’s most challenging times and celebrated some of its most wonderful moments. Without fail, Jenn’s colleagues exemplify the meaning of Family Spirit by modeling abiding love and presence, two traits that have been instrumental for her as a parent raising her daughter Gracie ’17. Indeed, one of the greatest gifts of Jenn’s life is that Gracie grew up in the love of the Chaminade community, attending both the middle school and the high school, and feels that she has a family here as well.
Chaminade is so deeply rooted in Jenn’s life that she finds it hard to remember a time when blue and orange weren’t her favorite colors. As she celebrates 25 years in this remarkable school, Jenn feels abundant gratitude for being able to do what she loves in a place that has given so much to her life.
Lee Thorneycroft was born in Malaysia and grew up in Australia. Her parents were both teachers. Lee attended Catholic schools in Australia and graduated from the Australian Catholic University with a teaching diploma and bachelor’s degree in education. She later earned a master’s degree from Grand Canyon University. Lee began her career in education at a Catholic elementary school in Australia where she taught 5th and 6th grade and coached netball.
Upon arriving in the United States, Lee worked as an outdoor education instructor at Camp Marston in Julian, California. She went on to become program director and camp manager at Teresita Pines, Lions Wilderness Camp, formerly owned and operated by the Catholic Daughters of America.
Lee came to Chaminade in 1998 to teach 8th-grade religion. She also taught a variety of middle school science courses and currently teaches physical education. During her 25 years at Chaminade, Lee has enjoyed coaching girls and boys volleyball and soccer, as well as teaching during the summer through the Center for Excellence.
Chaminade is more than just a job for Lee, it is a home away from home. The school’s sense of Family Spirit makes for a positive environment that welcomes students and employees from diverse cultures, religions, and backgrounds. Lee enjoys working with her students to develop an inclusive outdoor PE classroom that emphasizes positive attitude, acceptance, respect, and support. She is grateful to the Chaminade community for serving as a second family and helping her to learn and grow as a teacher who leads by example.
Mike Valentine began his career in education in 1972 as a senior in high school, when he became the afterschool coach at his parish St. Paschal Baylon in Thousand Oaks. While attending Moorpark College, Mike taught physical education and coached at St. Paschal. In 1976 he graduated from Cal Poly San Luis Obispo with a bachelor’s degree in English and returned to St. Paschal to teach 7th grade.
Mike also coached boys basketball at St. Paschal and his team won the Catholic Youth Organization (CYO) title in 1978. Through this accomplishment, Mike coached the CYO all-star team with Joe Rauser, who served Chaminade for 50 years before his retirement in 2015. Mr. Rauser, along with Joe Fabian ’82, alumni hall of fame inductee and former chair of the board of directors, convinced Mike to apply for an open position at Chaminade.
Mike began his career at Chaminade in 1978 when he was hired to teach 8th-grade religion and 9th-grade history and coach middle school boys basketball and high school girls varsity softball. In 1980 Mike became the CYO coordinator, a position that morphed into athletic director, and helped grow Chaminade’s middle school sports program. Proud to have coached during each of his 45 years at Chaminade, his highlights include winning the CYO girls softball championship in 1982 and girls basketball championship in 1990. As athletic director, Mike was sometimes required to coach sports that were not his specialty. Coaching girls field hockey became his passion after he wrote a grant for equipment and launched the program in 2002. He is proud of its seven Delphic League championships and for introducing many young athletes to the sport.
While serving as athletic director, Mike started teaching courses in the English department and began working with 6th-grade students. This allowed Mike to welcome younger students to Chaminade and share its Marianist culture. During his time at Chaminade, Mike served as summer school director, club moderator, mentor teacher, and even helped paint the school one summer. In 2006 he became interim middle school principal and was named principal in 2007.
Mike is thankful to have had supportive bosses in President Emeritus James V. Adams and President Robert S. Webb. He credits his caring and collaborative colleagues, and inspiring and memorable students for his long tenure at Chaminade. Mike is blessed to serve at a Marianist school because educating in Family Spirit inspires his approach to teaching and coaching. As a coach and administrator, he has worked hard to select the right people and build team chemistry. Mike hopes that his legacy at Chaminade is a caring culture where each student feels known and loved, and each employee feels respected and valued. Mike will greatly miss Chaminade after he retires at the end of this school year, but he looks forward to spending more time with his wife Jeanne, sons Kristopher and Ryan, and cat Bingley. He hopes to travel, go on long hikes, and enjoy life in Palm Springs.