Rev. Charles D. Sullivan, SJ
Prep Teacher, Coach & Director of Athletics (1970-2018)
Priest, educator, coach and “man for others,” Rev. Charles D. Sullivan, SJ was born in 1939 and grew up with his brother Daniel and his sister Doris just blocks from Johns Hopkins University in the harbor city of Baltimore where a hundred years before, fellow Hall of Honor inductee, Mother Hieronymo O’Brien, had spent her childhood.
The youngest of three children of Daniel Sullivan, Sr. and Helen Roosevelt Delano Sullivan, a contractor and a homemaker, Charlie attended Loyal High School in Baltimore and then continued for three years at Loyola College. In 1960, at the end of his junior year, Sullivan answered the call to enter the Society of Jesus.
As a scholastic, he taught at Georgetown Prep from 1966 to 1969, beginning his theological studies at Woodstock College in Maryland. When the theologate moved to the Upper West Side in Manhattan, Sullivan came to New York. While still engaged in his studies, he began teaching at the Prep in the fall of 1970. He has been a key figure in the spiritual, academic and athletic facets of the Fordham Prep experience ever since.
From his earliest days at Rose Hill, Sullivan has been respected and appreciated by generations of Prepsters for his straightforward, organized and unaffectedly eloquent approach in the classroom. In the words of Patrick Conway, longtime friend and former chair of the Prep’s Math Department, Charlie “is the ideal teacher, always prepared with a clear and concise presentation of the material.”
Father has also coached basketball at all levels during his time at the Prep. He has inspired his players, teaching them to succeed on and off the court and producing championship teams along the way. He is well-known and esteemed in high school and college basketball circles, and has maintained a 30-year coaching relationship with the University of Notre Dame’s Summer Youth Basketball Camp. It has often been said of Sullivan, who has also served as the Prep’s director of athletics, that he can take average teams, and make them good, and then he can take those good teams, and inspire them to be great, teaching them what it truly takes to be successful.
But even more than his dedication in the classroom and the basketball court, it is Father Sullivan’s extraordinary commitment to and leadership of the Emmaus Retreat Program and service trips to assist Habitat for Humanity that have left a mark on generations of students, on the broader Prep community, and on the many, many people who have benefitted from his gifts as a spiritual director, mentor and friend.
Father has organized the Emmaus retreats since 1990 and has led scores upon scores of them. In his office hangs a collection of wooden Emmaus crosses, one from each of the retreats of which he has been a part, each numbered and dated, with an attached list of the students and faculty who participated.
Faculty and students, past and present, gathered from near and far — John Corbett, Class of 1988 arrived by train from Washington, DC for the occasion — to celebrate the program and to honor the man who had led them along the road to Emmaus. Father was presented with a commemorative framed Emmaus banner, signed by those in attendance.
“He had confidence in me” — a recurring theme of many alums who have written about Sullivan or shared their experiences of “Father Charlie” and their Prep days at reunions. In different situations and contexts, and over the span of decades, Father has helped hundreds of young men to have faith in themselves. For some, his expression of confidence helped them to overcome a difficult academic or emotional situation. For others, it inspired careers of service, deeper involvement in the Church, or the self-assurance needed to assume leadership roles among their peers.
He keeps in touch with many former students, presiding over their weddings and christening their children. It is natural and seemingly inevitable that a student and teacher will drift apart after graduation, but in Father Sullivan’s case, it seems that the opposite is true. Many a former calc student, basketballer, and retreatant has noted how his relationship with Father has continued to grow since he left the Prep. As noted by Pat Conway: “His students’ desire to have him not just present, but intimately involved in the most important moments of their lives speaks to the impact he has had in his work at the Prep.”
Regarding Fr. Sullivan’s induction into the Fordham Prep Hall of Honor, former Notre Dame basketball coach Richard “Digger” Phelps, said it best:
You will not find a person who represents the values of Fordham Prep, its students, and the Jesuit community better than Charlie. His dedication to teaching and serving the young men of Fordham Prep for over 40 years has prepared many academically and spiritually for the years ahead. Add to this his commitment to coaching and impacting young men in the field of athletics and you have a deserving person for this special honor.
Sullivan’s long involvement with Jesuit high schools and colleges, both as a student and faculty member, has given him a close perspective into the Jesuit education: “There’s something special, a kind of ‘magic’ in what we do. It’s hard to put a finger on it. We want our students to value themselves, and to value God’s place in their lives” — in a phrase, cura personalis.