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Awards & Recognition

Edinboro University & Northwestern Pennsylvania High School Journalism Competition: First Place (Daniel Anthony, Opinion Category); Fifth Place (Brendan Jubulis, Sports)

Edinboro University & Northwestern Pennsylvania High School Journalism Competition: Third Place (Website)
Student Keystone Press Awards Honorable Mention (Website)

Edinboro University & Northwestern Pennsylvania High School Journalism Competition: Third Place (Website)

Alumni Profile: James Walczak (’69)


Mr. James Walczak graduated from Cathedral Prep in 1969. Mr. Walczak currently practices law at 100 State Street and contributes much of his livelihood to Prep. He gives back by participating in the board of directors for Prep and Villa. 

The biggest thing that Walczak said is probably the difference between his time at Cathedral Prep and now at Prep and Villa is class size. His classes were much larger than Prep and Villa classes now being between 80 and 120 kids per class. Walczak also said that he didn’t really choose to go to Prep nor did his parents make him attend the school. 

“For us, it was a natural thing,” he said. “You went to a Catholic grade school and going to a Catholic high school was the natural progression. I went to Holy Trinity on the East Side (it’s closed now).”

While the ethics and morals that Cathedral Prep still teaches today were pretty much the same back then, there were some differences. Walczak touched on these differences. 

“It was a different world in those days,” Walczak said. “There was no internet, no easy travel or anything of that nature. My dad worked at the Hammermill, and our vacations were going down to Cook’s Forest every year, which was a wonderful experience. The larger family clan of mine would go down there and camp out for a couple weeks.”

Walczak also talked about the way that kids today have a major advantage in understanding the world around them instead of just the environment they take part in on a day to day basis. 

“You didn’t have the exposure that you have to the rest of the world today,” he said. “I found that when I did get outside of Erie, that there was really a foundation from here that I didn’t even know I had. The education I got was really superb, particularly in things like math and science.”

Walczak especially values the education he received from Prep even though he didn’t understand when he went to school there how much it should have meant. When he went to college (Georgetown University), he realized how better off he was than everyone else. He felt as though he was completely and utterly as prepared as he could have been to make the most of the rest of his life. Walczak valued specific teachers as well. 

“I had the same teacher for math all four years, and she was a terrific teacher,” he said. “Even though my college major (international relations) didn’t have anything to do with math or science, it gave me a foundation I was able to use the rest of my life. I also found that it was a structure and discipline that was something which I didn’t fully appreciate until I saw other kids experiences. My first roommate in college dropped out of a class that we both shared and when I asked him why he did this he said that in public high school he didn’t have to work and nothing was very difficult for him; he was having trouble keeping up with it all. He said, ‘for you, it’s easy because you have this discipline: this is what you do and you do it.’”

Walczak said he never thought of it in those terms but that, “…if there’s someone you’re actually living with in the same space of a different culture, different background…” that didn’t put him in the same situation you are coming from a Catholic high school, it could be harder for them to succeed. 

“I didn’t fully appreciate the foundation I was getting until I got outside of Erie and got into a different environment. It was a foundation in which has served me well throughout my entire life.”

When it comes to Prep and Villa merging in the fall of 2022, Walczak had a part in it being on the board of directors. He believes it’s the best thing for both schools. He believes that when the consolidation was first announced, it could have been handled better/in a different way. 

“It’s not an easy thing and there have been a lot of endured emotions about it,” he said. “I think it could have been handled differently in retrospect and done in a better way. In the long run, I think it makes sense for the school and makes sense for the students both male and female.”

Mr. Walczak came to understand that in order for everyone to utilize the resources the school could make available to the students, everyone had to be on one campus.  

“Part of the project, part of the effort here, is the building of the STEM Center,” Walczak said. “You can’t build this center on two campuses. To give both student bodies the fullest opportunities to take advantage of these resources, it really was necessary to put them on one campus. I think it’s important that students and their families understand that we do have limited resources here. You have to realize that we have limited resources and they have to be applied in the best possible way. At the end of the day, the conclusion was that the best thing to do was to combine the two campuses.”

While most high schoolers are expected to have the rest of their lives planned out, Walczak didn’t really have a plan at all. He had interests and he based what he wanted to do off that. 

“I didn’t have that specific a plan; in fact, I don’t think I had a plan at all,” he said. “I really didn’t have a long term plan. I was interested in international relations and ultimately applied to Georgetown to their international relations program (the School of Foreign Service) and I was admitted. I graduated from there in three years. I came back to Erie and worked. I took a couple courses at Mercyhurst. I was also able to take an extra course to get some extra credits and I ended up being able to graduate in September of 1972.”

He ended up stopping by Prep and talking to a priest that was previously his teacher. 

“I remember going back to school for some reason when I was in college, and it always struck me after that, that I had gotten a foundation at Prep that was rock solid in that sense,” Walzcak stated (regarding his faith). 

It seemed that he couldn’t believe that people would fall away from the faith after leaving Prep. Prep, along with his Polish upbringing, gave him this foundation. Walczak is still a faithful and practicing Catholic today. He is a great role model for any Prep and Villa student who wants to be successful in life. 

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