Jim Stewart Returns Home

The Malvern Prep graduate returns to his alma mater as athletic director


By Rick Woelfel

After more than a quarter century away, Jim Stewart has returned home to Malvern Prep. Stewart, a 1986 graduate of the school, became the Friars’ athletic director in July, succeeding Kurt Ruch. He returns to his alma mater after spending 27 years at Holy Ghost Prep.

“When I found out that the job was open, I was excited,” Stewart recalls. “Quite honestly, I had not interviewed for a job since 1992 and I thought ‘At the very least, why not give this a shot? At the place where I grew up?’”

Stewart did indeed grow up at Malvern, his father, Jim Stewart Sr. was the head of the school when he was growing up.

“I looked at Malvern as a very young child with wide eyes,” he said. “The high school kids looked like giants to me when I was a little kid. I was just in awe of all of that.

“Over the years, Malvern did a great job with welcoming families of employees onto campus. I got to know, not only a lot of other kids that were close to my age but the faculty here.

“I remember being in eighth grade and I said ‘I can’t imagine going to high school anywhere else’ because of the familiarity I had with people and the solid influence that the Augustinians had on me and the faculty certainly. I really enjoyed my four years here as a student. Not so much because my father was here but because of the people I got to know through him.”

Stewart swam for the Friars, competing for longtime coach

Paul Hornsleth, and also played some junior varsity baseball. Along the way, he absorbed and embraced the philosophies that would shape his own career later on.

“I just remember hearing over and over, ‘We do things the right way’” Stewart recalls. “’We’re class acts We don’ t disrespect officials and/or opponents. We compete fiercely, but we also respect everyone else that’s involved in the game and everything from behavior in the stands to how you behave on the field. I just seemed like the message was consistent.”

After college at Shippensburg University Stewart found his way to Holy Ghost Prep and took that message with him, along with some advice from his father.

“When I got the Holy Ghost Job my father gave me really simple advice,” he said, “’be firm, fair, and consistent. That’s something I tried to do at Holy Ghost and something I’m trying to do at Malvern early on.”

Stewart has enjoyed getting to know the school’s coaching staff. “I know the fall coaches really well now,” he said. “I’ve gotten to know the whole coaching staff just in terms of having an introductory meeting; getting to know what their expectations of their program is, the basics.

“One of the words that we use here is brotherhood, and you can see very tangible experiences with that in fall sports just the messages the coaches are communicating to their athletes and the way the athletes treat each other the way the parents are involved. You can really get a good sense of that. That’s been a real joy to be involved with so far.”

In his role as the athletic director at Holy Ghost Prep, Stewart helped launch the Atlantic Prep Athletic Conference last winter. The league’s inaugural season was a success, he says, because of the similar philosophies of its four member schools.

“You have like-minded prep schools that want the same things,” he points out. “We all want to compete at a very high level against the best competition and it’s a bit hard to argue that the four schools involved in this league aren’t four of the premier hockey programs in the Philadelphia area.”

The APAC’s first season was characterized by not only a level of play but by mutual respect between opponents.

“These kids all know each other from the club world,” Stewart said. “So there’s a healthy respect there. When you see an aggressive play and opponents kind of talk to each other after that play because they know each other.”

Whether the sport is hockey or football, or any other, Stewart is committed to the concept that an interscholastic athletic program is an extension of the classroom and a component of the educational process,

“In very competitive that might be the last thing on people’s minds,” he said. “I think that’s a challenge for every athletic department in high-school athletics. That you want the lessons learned well beyond what’s happening on the field. That’s no different at Malvern, that’s a challenge at times, but I go back to the brotherhood thing; the respect kids have for each other and their coaches. That’s what I see so far.

“We’re learning lessons, we’re learning how to be leaders here. We’re learning to be good servants, to respect the game. I think that we’re doing the right thing here as far as I can see so far.”






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