2008-11-26 / Front Page

CBA recalls 'gregarious and thoughtful man'

Brother Andrew O'Gara was principal at school
BY JAMIE ROMM Staff Writer

The man who many credit with making Christian Brothers Academy what it is today, Brother Andrew O'Gara, died on Nov. 8.

O'Gara, FSC, 80, passed away at the community residence at Christian Brothers Academy, Lincroft.

According to people who knew him, he left his mark on every person who set foot on the CBA campus.

"I think for anyone who has graduated, Brother Andrew was CBA," said Geoff Billet, a CBA graduate who now coaches the school's basketball team. "He was one of the first people you met freshman year and was the first to know you, your name and your family. By November of each year he knew everyone."

Billet returned to CBA 13 years after graduating to take over the basketball program and work in the marketing department.

"When I heard that Coach (Ed) Wicelinski was retiring, I called Brother Andrew and he said to me that if I wanted the job it was mine," Billet said. "I am very, very happy to be back here and I owe it to Brother Andrew in helping me throughout the years and putting me in my situation where I am today."

Billet said that after he graduated from CBA he returned to visit the school and the first person he would see would be O'Gara.

"He helped me develop throughout high school so that I could succeed in college," said Billet, who went on to play basketball at Rutgers University. "For me to come back here 13 years later, it shows how he respected you as a person."

Billet said his brother, Todd, also attended CBA and said O'Gara had developed a close relationship with his family over the past 10 years.

"My family has been a part of CBA for over a decade and he has been in touch with all of us," Billet said.

CBA Director of Advancement Garry Koch said he knew O'Gara for a many years and sees him as "a representation of what CBA is today."

"He was a man who followed his Christian beliefs and was a gregarious and thoughtful man."

O'Gara became the first president of CBA in 1991, a position he held until his death. Prior to that appointment, O'Gara had been the principal of CBA since 1979.

O'Gara's 30 years at CBA were a time of unprecedented growth and major capital campaigns which transformed the appearance of the school, according to the school's Internet Web site.

During O'Gara's administration, a second gymnasium, a theater, science laboratories and new computer facilities were added at the academy. Four new soccer and lacrosse fields bear his name at this time.

"He was a shrewd administrator," Koch said. "He took CBA and put it on the map."

Koch said O'Gara, in his 30 years at the academy, helped make CBA what it is today.

"His legacy at CBA is connected to his vision," Koch said. "He oversaw two major building expansion programs. He drove to make CBA a realistic place for young men to attend and learn."

A native of the Bronx, N.Y., John O'Gara left home to study at the Christian Brothers high school novitiate in Barrytown, N.Y.

In 1946 he received the habit of the Brothers of the Christian Schools and the religious name Brother Andrew of Mary. After studies at Catholic University and Manhattan College, O'Gara served as a teacher and administrator at La Salle Academy, New York City, and Lincoln Hall Catholic Protectory for Boys.

In 1966 he was appointed principal of St. Raymond High School for Boys in the Castle Hill section of the Bronx, a post he held for 13 years prior to his transfer to CBA, where he spent the last three decades of his career.

O'Gara was famous for his warm Irish laugh and engaging manner.

"He had the stereotypical Irish personality and wit," Koch said. "He made you feel special as he was such a positive person."

O'Gara was predeceased by a sister, Sister Mary Theresa O'Gara, SMR (Society of Mary) and is survived by a brother and sister in-law, James and Barbara O'Gara; a sister and brother-in-law, Catherine and John Callahan; and several nieces, nephews, grandnieces and grandnephews. A Mass of Christian Burial was celebrated Nov. 13 at CBA.

Billet said that in a final tribute to the man, O'Gara's casket was carried through the school.

"To see all of the students lined up throughout the building really was a tremendous send-off," Billet said. "He spent the last 30 years of his life here and it's a strong dedication to the man to have his body carried throughout the place he cared so much about."

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