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A Father's Day Note from a Headmaster Dad While Serving at a Boys School

The below message was sent to all Regis Parents on Friday, June 14, and we wanted to share it with the larger Regis community.


Dear Regis Parents,

On Father's Day, every year a deep well of gratitude rises in my heart. The gratitude surfaces when I recall who my father was and how he lived his life. As the tenth of eleven children, I had to do some crazy things to get his attention. Thank God, I didn't get into too much trouble but just enough that he had to sit me down and look me in the eye as we talked. Fortunately, every encounter wasn't about reviewing my mistakes but rather mostly about sharing little life lessons. I shared my father with ten siblings, so you can imagine intimate talks were in short supply. In the long run, I didn't notice a lack of time with my father because time with him was always well spent.

It has been ten years since my dad died and each Father's Day I thank God for gifting me with a dad who always had time for me and everyone else in my family. Over these last ten years I have come to realize spending time with my own son is the greatest gift I can give him. Of course, he is on the verge of college as a 17-year-old rising senior and he probably has a different opinion about the importance of how he spends his time. I can't blame him because I remember feeling the exact same way when it came time to sitting down with my dad. I was more interested in hanging out with friends or listening to music, or praying a girl I was interested in dating had a remote interest in me. Spending time together with my dad in retrospect was the greatest gift he gave me. More than food, shelter, and yes, even allowance. Truly "being with" another is the greatest gift we can give to our friends, family, and community.

I've been thinking a lot lately about fathers and the image of a man in our American society. As a father myself, and a man leading a boys' school I feel the need to talk to boys about what it means to be a man. Earlier in the year I hosted a series of round table discussions with each of the grade level parents on this topic. I titled it "Understanding the Boy Code." In the session, I mentioned the basic stereotypes boys must process as they grow from childhood to adolescence and ultimately adulthood. All boys battle with the theme of never showing weakness among their peers. They also struggle with self-image questions around how, if and when to pretend to be macho or daring. We know risky behavior is often applauded among boys and they are continually tested according to their core beliefs and developing morality.

Let's face it many of us do not want to return to our younger years (I sure don't) when these challenges typically rage in a boy's head and heart. It's difficult to be a boy today especially when we reflect on our political climate, religious leaders, professional trainers and movie stars. Ever wonder what boys are thinking as they see us reading the daily news feed? I wonder and often comment out loud with my son about what it means and why it happens. I usually don't have answers just a lot of questions that spur a conversation that might raise a point about character and the benefits of living a virtuous life.

I have often been asked by colleagues and friends what makes serving at a boys' school unique beyond the obvious? From my perspective having the opportunity to talk with boys and dads and moms about what it means to be a man is what makes our Regis mission distinctive. As a faith community we can ask the question spiritually, psychologically, intellectually, and honestly. When our youngest boys in PK spend time with their big brothers in the middle school they are laying the foundation for being a compassionate, empathically aware, man in the making. This is distinctive Regis mission work that every boy benefits from as he crosses the stage at our May commencement.

To all the fathers and grandfathers of Regis I wish you a Happy Father's Day this Sunday. The gift of your time and attention with you sons is the greatest gift you can give. We compete with screens, friends, food, and sports to get our boys' attention. Looking our boys in the eye (but not too long); encouraging the complete range of emotions; avoiding teasing and encourage conversation, is the way into a boy's heart. Once a boy knows it's safe to look inside his heart he will lead with it. This is my image of a Regis boy, a Shining Knight who cares for others!

Sincerely,

Dennis P. Phillips
Head of School