“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.”
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
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.
|Pinecrest tradition on display|
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.
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!”
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
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
|The school's mission is to "form Christian leaders who will transform society."|
memories and generous people.”