by Joe Bollig
OVERLAND PARK — Sometimes, things that can change your life come from unexpected places.
For Paul D. Fallon, a change in his understanding of vocation came from investigating a career move — and a curve ball thrown by an archbishop.
Fallon, with 30 years of experience as an educator, was living in Virginia Beach, Virginia, when he learned that St. Thomas Aquinas High School in Overland Park was conducting a search for a new president.
The more he learned about the school and the Archdiocese of Kansas City in Kansas, the more interested he became. Could this, he wondered, be a calling?
And then he read what Archbishop Joseph F. Naumann wrote about having “vision.”
During the course of interviews for the position, he had an opportunity to talk with Archbishop Naumann.
“I told the archbishop that up to this point I had always gone by ‘the call,’” said Fallon. “I’d be in eucharistic adoration and I’d just say, ‘Christ, put me where you need me to be.’ Total submission. But then I read what the archbishop wrote about vision, and he said it’s not about ‘the call,’ it’s about ‘being sent.’
“I told him it’s all his fault. He fractured my view of vocations by making me focus less on ‘the call’ and ‘gray matter’ and focus on the very intentional ‘being sent’ by Christ. That’s why I pursued St. Thomas Aquinas with a prayerful sense of being sent, not just called.”
This month, the archdiocese and St. Thomas Aquinas High School announced that Fallon was named president of the school, replacing William P. Ford, who retired on June 30 after leading the school for 22 years.
Before accepting his new position, Fallon was president of True North Ventures, an educational consulting company he founded. During his career in education, Fallon has served as president and principal of Catholic high schools in Virginia, New York and Michigan, and was regional superintendent for nine charter schools across three states.
Fallon was born in Baltimore and raised in Piscataway, New Jersey, to a Catholic family. He attended Catholic schools, graduating from the now-closed St. Pius X High School in 1980 in Piscataway.
He earned an associate of arts degree in 1982 from the College of DuPage in Glen Ellyn, Illinois; a bachelor’s in psychology in 1984 from the University of Chicago; a master’s in education in 1993, with a secondary in counseling, from The Citadel in Charleston, South Carolina; and a doctorate in educational administration and policy studies in 2015 from the State University of New York at Albany.
He completed the Institutional Development and Capital Campaign program at the University of Notre Dame, and has extensive experience in adolescent crisis intervention, suicide prevention and PTSD counseling.
Fallon served in the U.S. Marine Corps from 1984 to 1987, and in the reserves from 1987 to 1997, attaining the rank of captain. His main work involved the F-18 Hornet fighter jet, but his secondary billet was as officer in charge of a substance abuse counseling center.
Fallon is already at work building a vision for Aquinas.
“I have my personal vision of what I’d like to see happen, but I’ve already begun a process of asking by survey for responses from all stakeholder groups,” he said.
The three questions in the survey are: “What should we keep doing at Aquinas and why?”; “What should we stop doing at Aquinas and why?”; and “What should we start doing at Aquinas and why?”
“When I get responses from those stakeholder groups, [they] will all blend into a vision we will create — compelling, collaboratively built and strength-based,” said Fallon.
One of the great challenges Fallon — and indeed, all school administrators, faculty and staff — now face is how to begin a new school year amid a pandemic.
Much depends on what the state of Kansas, the Johnson County Health Department, and the archdiocesan schools office require. Gov. Laura Kelly announced on July 13 an executive order delaying the reopening of schools until after Labor Day, Sept 7.
Fallon and Aquinas teachers and administrators are preparing three options for opening. One is a general opening with restrictions; a second is a limited, adjustable opening; and a third is complete closure if there is a serious resurgence of the virus, requiring learning at home with creative adaptations.
“Once we have the guidance . . . from the governor, and once we have the guidance from [archdiocesan superintendent] Vincent Cascone, we’re ready to roll,” said Fallon. “That’s why we’re looking at three options. Ultimately, it’ll be an amalgam, probably, of all three.”