A presidential visit to North Philadelphia’s Cristo Rey High School
Temple University President Jason Wingard discussed his career path during a visit to Cristo Rey Philadelphia High School’s college counseling class on Thursday, Nov. 10.
Twenty-five high school juniors at Cristo Rey Philadelphia High School watched wide-eyed as Temple University President Jason Wingard entered the classroom of their college counseling course.
Standing 6 feet, 4 inches tall, Wingard’s presence alone generates attention just about everywhere he goes. But on Thursday, Nov. 10, it was more than just his stature that stood out to the students during his special visit to this North Philadelphia high school.
Wingard’s career has spanned the gamut. Currently the president of Pennsylvania’s second-largest university, he previously was a dean at Columbia University and also worked as an executive at Goldman Sachs. For the students at Cristo Rey, a school that admits 100% of its graduates to college, it was easy to see Wingard’s story of success as something that they can aspire to.
“Was being a CEO or a president of a university always a part of your plan?” asked Cristo Rey students Diana Albino and Anala Thompson, who moderated a classroom discussion and shared questions from their peers with Wingard during his visit.
President Wingard smiled before responding. “No, it wasn’t always part of my plan. I wanted to play basketball like Dr. J, who was winning championships here for the 76ers when I was kid,” said Wingard. “But one thing that was critical for me was always doing my best. When you always do your best, sooner or later, you will find your passion for where your skills lie and it all lined up for me.”
Wingard’s visit to Cristo Rey came after he received a letter and invite from Fabian Austin, the instructor of the school’s college counseling course. Austin believed students could benefit from hearing directly from Wingard, who made sure to discuss a handful of pressing and relevant topics during the 45 minutes that he spent with the students.
Students feverishly picked his brain, and he also returned the favor. “What has been your greatest support and inspiration?” Wingard asked Albino.
Without hesitation, she responded that it was her parents. “They’ve been through a lot and they’ve sacrificed a lot for me. My parents came from the Dominican Republic, and they started down here and they worked their way up,” she said.
The presidential classroom visit marked the continuation of an ongoing relationship between Temple University and Cristo Rey. Students in Temple’s bachelor of arts in art therapy program help teach in Cristo Rey’s art class. The school also serves as a community for Temple nursing students, who visit on a weekly basis.
Temple also serves as a work-study partner for Cristo Rey, as its students serve as interns within various Temple offices, including the Provost’s Office; Admissions; Institutional Diversity, Equity, Advocacy and Leadership; and Government Affairs. Temple Engineering has also been a resource for Cristo Rey’s STEAM faculty members and assists with the school’s senior engineering course.
While career preparation and college readiness were among the topics discussed during the visit, the conversation also saw Wingard offer some practical life advice. After a student asked how he has been able to have so much success, the Temple president turned toward his wife, Gingi Wingard, who accompanied Wingard for his visit to Cristo Rey.
“You have to have a partner if you want to do the things that we’ve done,” Wingard said. “That’s what I have.”