Students at Ss. Peter and Paul Catholic School in Naperville said goodbye to their longtime principal Friday in songs, speeches, videos and a special salute using words Frank Glowaty always said at the end of each morning's announcements.
"May you never lose sight of how special you are in God's eyes," student Maggie Flavin said to Glowaty as a retirement celebration at the school concluded.
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A loud round of applause from the student body -- even many eighth-graders who already graduated but came back in uniform for the ceremony -- greeted Glowaty as he entered the gym at the junior high for one of the last times as principal.
He's retiring after 39 years leading the school, "putting it on the map," as teacher and alum Ruthie O'Malley said, and helping it achieve recognition last fall as a Blue Ribbon School of Excellence from the U.S. Department of Education.
"There is nobody like him and nobody will ever replace him," O'Malley said, leading the students into their first song of the ceremony, "Nobody Like Glowaty."
Wearing decorated bow ties made of construction paper as a spoof on Glowaty's fashion habits, or waving paper plates showing an image of the principal's face, students expressed their appreciation for the good example he set as a father figure for the school.
Eighth-grade graduate Caroline Kubacki, who just finished a year as student body president, said she will remember most vividly Glowaty's strong Catholic faith, his remarkable thoughtfulness, his strong work ethic and his good sense of humor.
"As important as it is to have a strong faith, be thoughtful, have a good work ethic and have a good sense of humor, the No. 1 thing Mr. Glowaty taught us is to love one another," Caroline said.
And he led by example, enough that Caroline said a Bible verse the student body knows well could be altered to say his name in place of the word "love."
"Mr. Glowaty is patient, Mr. Glowaty is kind," she said. "He does not envy, he does not boast, he is not proud, he does not conquer others, he is not self-seeking, he is not easily angered. He keeps no record of wrongs. Mr. Glowaty does not delight in evil but rejoices in truth. He always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Mr. Glowaty never fails."
Glowaty called the ceremony "very touching." To the students, he offered a metaphor of a family to explain how his role at the school is changing. When he steps down as principal he will transition into a part-time position in advancement, working to raise money for the school he has guided for so long.
Instead of being like a parent -- the school's father -- Glowaty said he will be more like a grandparent. Still loving, still involved, but not around as closely tied to students' day-to-day lives.
The school's next principal, Karen Meskill, comes to the post from her job as principal of All Saints Catholic School in Lakeville, Minnesota. Glowaty said she is someone the school community can be "just as happy" with because she will bring out the best in students and staff members.
"Think of me not as somebody who is leaving forever, but as somebody who is transitioning to the role of a grandparent who you won't see quite as often," Glowaty said. "But when you do, you'll still see the bow tie."
The school will host another celebration of Glowaty's service after the 12:30 p.m. Mass Sunday at Ss. Peter and Paul Catholic Church, with a community picnic set for 1:30 to 3:30 p.m. at the church and ministry center, 36 N. Ellsworth St., Naperville.