Brother Stanislaus Sobczyk, FSC (’66)
John Michael Sobczyk was born in Omaha, Nebraska. He was drawn to teaching and service, perhaps due in part to God’s early presence in his life. When he was just five years old, he contracted polio, which was in the early stages of an epidemic in the U.S. “People wouldn’t let their kids play with me,” he remembered. “They didn’t know how it was transmitted.” Every Tuesday, his mother would take him to pray at the Monastery of Saint Clare in Omaha. “Mom would light a candle and say to the sisters, ‘Please pray for my little boy so that he can walk again.’” When he left home to attend Christian Brothers College and to enter the Novitiate and become Brother Stanislaus – just two weeks after his high school graduation – he already knew then that education could help people experience the holy presence of God much more fully.
Brother Stan graduated from CBC with a BA in Philosophy in 1966 and relocated to Illinois to teach at Costa Catholic Academy in Galesburg, Illinois. He then taught at Helias Catholic High School in Jefferson City, Missouri and served as the Vocation Director at the La Salle Institute in Glencoe, Missouri. During that time, he earned his MA at St. Louis University and then returned to his hometown of Omaha to become the Dean of Archbishop Rummel High School in 1973.
Brother Stan returned to Memphis in 1974 to serve as Dean of Christian Brothers High School and to complete his MEd at the University of Memphis. He returned to Omaha in 1975 when he was appointed principal of the new, coeducational Roncalli Catholic High School, which was the result of a merger of the all-male Archbishop Rummel High School and the all-girl Notre Dame Academy. He served there for four years, leaving to attend Ministry Training Service in Denver and then taking what he had learned back to Memphis to serve as Retreat Director at the Stritch Awareness Center, a retreat center for high school students on the CBU campus.
In 1984, Brother Stan took his first assignment in California, studying at the Sacred Heart Cathedral Community, San Francisco. If “home is where the heart is,” California became Brother Stan’s new home. Over the next 15 years, he lived and worked in Sonoma at a boys’ school and in Moraga at St. Mary’s College, where he taught, coordinated outreach programs for the Brothers Community, and served as Assistant to President — except for a few months in 1993-94 when he once again returned to Memphis to serve as Interim President during a gap between the terms of Brother Theodore Drahmann and Brother Michael McGinnis. He also completed his EdD while in California at the University of San Francisco.
Brother Stan was called back to Memphis again in 1999 to become CBU’s 20th President. During his six-year presidency, he worked to strengthen the financial base and fundraising capabilities of the University, created a study-abroad program that connected CBU to the larger global Lasallian community, expanded student housing with the construction of the “Capstone apartments” (O’Hara and Pender Halls and the Oakdale Apartments), oversaw the renovation of De La Salle Hall and Canale Arena, and spearheaded the conversion of St. Benilde Hall into a state-of-the-art laboratory space for the School of Engineering. He was also the driving force behind the creation and installation of De La Salle Plaza and the sculptures of St. John Baptist de La Salle and the student that serve as its centerpiece — in fact, one of the fingerprints cast into the student’s notepad is Brother Stan’s (the others belong to Brother Terence McLaughlin and the donors, Edward and Wanda Dukes).
Brother Stan is fondly remembered as a president with an enormous heart for students. One of his favorite days was in 2002, when he greeted CBU’s Lady Buccaneer soccer team at the Memphis Airport on their return home from winning the NCAA National Championship, handing each player a long-stem rose.
One story is often told as the example of how we should always remember Brother Stan. On a regular school day in 2002, the head basketball coach came to Brother Stan’s office to talk about Shemon Reaves, a senior member of his team who was having difficulty preparing for his final exams because his mother was dying. Brother Stan was really touched by the story and immediately called the hospital in Jackson, TN to see if he could come to visit. The doctors and nurses agreed, as long as the visit was brief.
So, Brother Stan quickly gathered his academia regalia, then called the Registrar for another cap and gown and a signed diploma. Together with the coach and Shemon, they headed for Jackson. Granted special entrance to the hospital room, Brother Stan opened the patient’s door. He and Shemon, in full cap and gown, staged a graduation ceremony at the mother’s bedside. The mother’s eyes came to life, a weak smile crossed her face. She knew what was happening: her son was graduating from college — the first in the family to ever do so. She died a few days later. Her son, Dr. Shemon Reaves (’02), is now the principal of Arlington Elementary School in Jackson, TN.
Brother Stan declined a third term as CBU President and returned to California in 2005, where he served as Vice President for Development at St. Mary’s College until 2008. After a year’s sabbatical at the Sacred Heart Cathedral Community in San Francisco, he took on his final position as President of the School of Applied Theology in Oakland. In 2010, Brother Stan retired as a member of the Joseph Alemany Community at St. Mary’s College and later moved to Mont La Salle in Napa. He spent his retirement travelling around the world (with several stops in Memphis over those years) and passed away at his home in Napa on July 22, 2019.