How Jesuit Education Changed My Life

The new president of Baltimore’s Cristo Rey Jesuit High School reflects on his time at Loyola University Maryland

By Bill Heiser, Ed.D., President of Cristo Rey Jesuit High School in Baltimore City

My Jesuit education at Loyola University Maryland changed my life forever.

God has a way of intervening just when you need him in your life. I’ve come to believe that it was divine intervention that I attended Loyola University Maryland (then Loyola College) as it changed my life personally, academically and professionally.

As a standout soccer player, I had several scholarship offers from different universities around the country. In fact, early in my senior year, I made a verbal commitment to attend another university. However, my mom became sick and suddenly passed away on Jan. 12 (the day before my 18th birthday), causing me to rethink my decision. As I grieved and struggled to understand why my mom was taken from me, I felt a strong calling to attend the small, Jesuit college in Baltimore. While it’s hard to explain, I remember an overwhelming feeling that I should trust in Loyola. I listened to God and chose to begin attending Loyola during the fall of 1991.

What appealed to me most was the sense of community at Loyola. Immediately, I felt a sense of comfort and support, particularly during such a tumultuous time in my life. I frequently visited my academic advisor, a Jesuit priest, who was assigned to monitor and advise student-athletes. He was a constant presence who counseled me through my grief. I met my future wife, Tracy, at Loyola, and we are best friends to this day.

Moreover, Loyola challenged me academically and inspired me to be intellectually curious. The core curriculum, common to all Jesuit schools, provided me the critically important educational foundation necessary for academic success. My writing improved over time, and it was with the continual feedback from professors, Tracy, and classmates that helped me to excel. As I advanced in my studies at Loyola, I was confident in my ability to take on more challenging academic work at the graduate level. In doing so, I completed my Bachelor of Arts and Master of Education degree at Loyola, and later my Doctor of Education degree [at Morgan State University]. None of these achievements would have been possible without the rigorous, yet supportive, academic climate at Loyola.

My Jesuit experience as a student and later as an administrator at Loyola taught me the importance of service for others. I’ve spent my entire career working in education, with the mission of giving back to students what Loyola gave me — “an opportunity to become something more.” I embrace the Latin word, magis, meaning “more” or “better,” and the motto, ad majorem Dei gloriam, meaning “for the greater glory of God.” Loyola University Maryland taught me the importance of doing more for Christ and, therefore, doing more for others.

Never have those words been more important than in my current role as president of Cristo Rey Jesuit High School in Baltimore City, where we strive to transform lives in the Jesuit tradition one student at a time.

Bill Heiser, Ed.D. is president of Cristo Rey Jesuit High School in Baltimore City, MD. He earned his B.A. in Sociology from Loyola University Maryland in 1995, followed by a Master’s in School Counseling. He later received an Ed.D. in Higher Education Administration from Morgan State University. Prior to his arrival at Cristo Rey, Heiser served as principal of Catonsville High School and was named Principal of the Year by the Maryland Association of Secondary School Principals in 2013.