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Twenty Years of Tradition
Founders reminisce as Pinecrest Academy celebrates its anniversary

“The fruits of lots of prayer and hard work, and wonderful families coming together.”

This is how Arlene Gannon, one of the founders of Pinecrest Academy, and Principal for the first five years, describes the school that exists today.  Her friend and co-founder, Judy Guilfoil, agrees. “It was God’s providence.  Atlanta was ready for our school.”

The women are among those celebrating the 20th Anniversary of Pinecrest Academy.  The school had planned to host a day of festivities on January 31, 2014, to coincide with its annual Founders Day, but some of the festivities had to be postponed due to inclement weather.  All Pinecrest families -- past and present -- along with community leaders, representatives of the Archdiocese of Atlanta, and friends of Pinecrest Academy, have been invited to attend.

Pinecrest opened as planned a special “museum” created for the event – “Twenty Years of Tradition,” with photos and other historic items from Pinecrest’s history since its 1993 founding.

An all-school Mass will be rescheduled to a later date.  Concelebrating will be Auxiliary Bishop of Atlanta Luis Rafael Zarama, Pinecrest Head of School Fr. Robert Presutti, LC, Pinecrest Chaplains Fr. Richard Sutter, LC and Fr Matthew Kaderabek, LC, and St. Brendan Catholic Church pastor Fr. Matthew Van Smoorenburg, as well as other archdiocesan and Legion of Christ priests.

“This twentieth anniversary represents an acknowledgement of the Lord’s faithful presence and sure guidance over these years, as well as of the faith, goodness, and generosity of the many instruments He has used to establish Pinecrest Academy and move it forward till the present day," said Fr. Robert. "We unite our hearts and minds in humble adoration, thanksgiving, and petition for ongoing blessings and protection.”

Pinecrest History

Pinecrest Academy opened its doors on September 7, 1993, at a former elementary school in Crabapple, Georgia, with a student body of 29.  It was the first independent, private Catholic elementary school established to serve Atlanta’s expanding Catholic population.

Pinecrest remained at this
Pinecrest tradition on display
Pinecrest tradition on display
location for two years, and then moved to All Saints Catholic Church in Dunwoody, where classes were held in the parish’s activities center for three years.

The school was accredited by the Georgia Accrediting Commission, Inc. in 1995.  By 1997, the 153-member student body had outgrown its temporary facilities, and the 53-acre plot of land in South Forsyth County was acquired through benefactor donations.

The academy appointed its first headmaster, Dr. Brian Tierney, in 1998. Fifteen additional acres of land were donated to the school in 2001. And now, 20 years later, Pinecrest comprises a lower, middle and high school on a 68-acre campus, with enrollment at 800 students and a faculty and staff of 122.

Arlene remembers how difficult it was to get children into Catholic schools in the early 90´s. “My husband, John, was encouraged by a Legionary priest to come to Atlanta and open a school.

“In February 1993, my husband went on a retreat and God placed on his heart to have a school open by September.”

Arlene and John hosted many gatherings at their home with Legionary priests to help share their vision.  They began meeting with officials at the Atlanta Diocese, and the new Archbishop John Francis Donoghue would later grant their request to begin the school.

A friend of the Gannon’s, Cathy Hanson, helped to locate a closed school building in Crabapple, Georgia, and her husband, David, and John Gannon negotiated a lease for use of the property.

The first visit from the new Archbishop came shortly after the school opened in Crab Apple.

“He came unannounced, drove himself and stayed for a long family-style visit,” remembers Judy. “He became very endeared to the school, as we became endeared to him and always celebrated his presence with us. He granted us the Eucharist on site and the right to be called a Catholic School early on!”

Judy credits the role of the Blessed Mother in the school’s founding. “Our Lady was very present and granted us many favors on her feast days…particularly August 15th and 22nd. Our Lady interceded helping us find temporary locations for Pinecrest until we found our permanent home in Cumming.  We would begin with prayer, and the needs and the answers would arrive on her Feast Days!”

She remembers the surprise meeting that brought her and her husband together with the Gannons.  John and Arlene had just become members at All Saints parish, and the pastor, Fr. Rudd, introduced Judy to Arlene and asked her family to welcome their family to Atlanta.

“I was beginning my first day of home schooling with two of our daughters and it was our opening Mass of the year,” said Judy. “I asked Arlene to go to breakfast after learning that she was home schooling too. “

“We had a long breakfast with the kids, and then a long friendship.  She introduced me to the Legion that day by giving me an EWTN interview about the order and telling me they wanted to start a school in Atlanta… to which I replied, ‘I’ll help…it would be FUN!’”

Judy’s husband Bill, became very involved on the new board of the school and used his IBM expertise to set up the management structure, as the school grew. He later left his IBM career to become the first President of the school and start Pinecrest’s high school and the construction of its buildings.

Judy remembers how several teachers worked without salary for months in the beginning and how families believed and supported the school in every way they could.  “They would help clean, coach, share business talents, organize funding projects, traveled far, just to have their children receive Catholic Education,” she said.  She also remembers how the school introduced many community service activities into Cumming, as well as the “Family Leadership” program, in which speakers and round table discussions were held on topics such as child rearing, as well as starting a Mothers’ Prayer Group and more.

Judy is thankful for the work of other members of the Catholic community in helping to prepare fertile ground for the establishment of Pinecrest.  “In Forsyth County there was so much new ground to be broken for the Catholic identity,” she said.  “I thank the Marist priests for their work in Atlanta education, which helped us with our credibility.  Also, the sisters that served in establishing the United Way Chapter here in Cumming gave local people a good first impression of the Catholic family.  Pinecrest is now building on those early beginnings, as our students work and serve our community.  The reputation of these young people is well known and they are a great example for the Catholic name.

“Thank you Christ, for rallying us to serve and for blessing us with so many beautiful
Display board of leaders at Pinecrest anniversary museum.
The school's mission is to "form Christian leaders who will transform society."
memories and generous people.”



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Sponsored by the congregation of the Legionaries of Christ and the Regnum Christi Movement, Copyright 2011, Legion of Christ. All rights reserved.

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