James D. Childs has been selected to succeed Father William Rowland, S.M. as the first lay president in the school’s 122-year history.
After an extensive global search, Childs was selected as Marist School’s next president effective July 1, 2023. Originally from South Bend, Indiana, Childs is the current president at Bishop O’Dowd High School in the Diocese of Oakland, California. He served as O’Dowd’s principal from 2016 to 2018 until being appointed president in 2018.
“I couldn’t be more excited and honored to be joining a community dedicated to Catholic education with such a rich history and tradition of excellence,” Childs said. “Everything about Marist School is exceptional from the Marist charism and culture to the outstanding faculty and staff as well as engaged and committed students and families. I can’t wait to join the Marist family and for my wife and children to experience all that is Marist.”
During Childs’ tenure at O’Dowd, an urban Catholic high school with an enrollment of 1,250, he has provided mission-inspired and charism-charged leadership; completed a successful $40 million capital campaign for the construction of a new building; oversaw $4 million in capital enhancements to the campus; and worked with a dedicated faculty and staff to successfully implement a rigorous, college-preparatory curriculum.
Prior to O’Dowd, Childs served as president and principal at Mission College Preparatory Catholic in California, and before that as a religion teacher and director of spiritual life at Catholic schools in Indiana and North Carolina.
“We searched far and wide for the right person to lead Marist School through the next phase of our history as we transition to lay leadership,” chairman of the Marist School Board of Trustees Bill Roche said. “We couldn’t be more excited about J.D. Childs’ vast experience as a proven leader in Catholic school education and his enthusiasm about joining the Marist family. He checked all the boxes and then some for the kind of educational and spiritual leader we were looking for.”
Childs earned a bachelor’s degree in English, Philosophy and Theology from the University of Notre Dame, going on to earn a Master of Theological Studies in Systematic Theology. He also holds a Master of Education in Catholic School Leadership from Marymount University. He is the co-author of two books and several articles focused on imaginative teaching of high school religion class. J.D. and his wife, Kate, have four children, ages 21, 18, 15 and 10.
“As Father Rowland steps down as Marist’s president, we are so thankful for his dedicated leadership, and we’re especially grateful he will continue to be involved with Marist School in the new role of Rector, overseeing the strong Catholic emphasis and the Marist philosophy of education which are hallmarks of the school,” Society of Mary U.S. Provincial Father Joseph Hindelang, S.M. said. “The hiring of J.D. Childs as our new school president, combined with Father Rowland’s ongoing involvement, ensures Marist School will continue to be in excellent hands.”
Childs joins Marist School at a significant time in the school’s history as it transitions from religious to lay leadership. Understanding this change was inevitable, many years ago the Society of Mary put programs in place to ensure the continuation of excellent Catholic education with the Marist charism as established by the Marist Fathers and Brothers in 1901.
This tradition will fall under Childs’ leadership when he officially takes over as Marist School president July 1, 2023.