St. Anthony ambassadors (copy)

2018 St. Anthony High ambassadors (from left) Jacob Organista, Madeline Salvador, Sophia Lopez and Jasmine Agoncillo with school president Gina Maguire, center.

Gina Rushing Maguire, an impactful community leader whom many credit with rescuing Long Beach’s St. Anthony High from closure 20 years ago, has announced that she is stepping down as the school’s president, effective June 30.

Maguire, 71, said that serving St. Anthony’s has been “my great honor, an extraordinary blessing, a precious gift in my life.” Her decision to leave her alma mater was made “after long and prayerful thought.”

A 1967 graduate of St. Anthony, Maguire has been a key player in the city for years, having helped to found Leadership Long Beach and serving as president of the Long Beach Junior League, among other efforts.

Long Beach Mayor Robert Garcia said Maguire will leave a lasting legacy in the city not only for what she’s achieved at St. Anthony’s but for so many other things she’s done, including helping to found Leadership Long Beach, the city’s premiere leadership development program. Garcia’s first job after graduating from Cal State Long Beach was working as Maguire’s assistant in 2001, the same year she took on the daunting task of keeping the school from closing.

“I learned so much from her during those difficult days when it looked like the school might close,” Garcia said. He helped her start the President’s Ambassadors Program to have students spread the school’s good news to the community.

“She enriched me and so many others with her skill and her kindness, compassion, inclusiveness and humility,” he said. “She has had a huge impact on the city in many areas. She is simply the best.”

Garcia said he was happy to hear that Maguire will remain in the city. “She is a leader who will succeed in whatever she decides to do next. She still has much to give. Long Beach is fortunate to have her,” he said.

Mike Curran, chair of the St. Anthony Consultative School Board and a 1964 graduate of St. Anthony’s, said Maguire’s shoes would be hard to fill.

“She is an amazing person,” he said. “She is the school, she is St. Anthony’s. It will be really tough replacing her.” 

In an announcement to the St. Anthony community, Maguire said the last 20 years “have been the most challenging in my life, but they have also been the most rewarding and blessed.”

Maguire recalled the day on Aug. 1, 2001 when she took over as president of her alma mater.

St. Anthony’s, Long Beach’s only Catholic high school, was in dire straits, facing declining enrollment — then at an all-time low of 180 students — and growing debt. It had been placed on the Los Angeles Archdiocese’s closure list, officials said.

But the school hired Maguire as its first president and the resurrection of the school began, culminating in what the Press-Telegram declared “The Miracle on Olive Avenue.”

As St. Anthony’s celebrates its 100th anniversary, enrollment is projected to reach 500 students in September. The school is debt free, Maguire said.

“We have invested over $50 million in facilities, technology, teachers, staff and coaches, expanding curriculum, athletics and student activities, leading us to this day,” she said.

The school also has developed funding to realize a long-held dream to build a new Athletic Complex at Clark Field in the coming year, she said. That dream is something of a sequel, dubbed by some as “The Miracle on Clark Avenue.”

Maguire also said she was proud of having a master plan in place supporting the second century of the growing school.

She modestly gave credit to parents, teachers, priests, lay leaders, business partners and alumni for coming together to rebuild the school.

“My heart and mind are filled with so many memories of all the amazing people I have been honored to meet and work with during this journey,” she said. “I have witnessed so many miracles, each a wonder alone, but when remembered together, this succession of miracles takes my breath away.”

Maguire has been the driving force and visionary behind the rebuilding effort. Before taking the St. Anthony job, she was a marketing and organizational development professional who founded her own branding company.

Maguire said she is committed to working closely with the Department of Catholic Schools and St. Anthony’s School Board to ensure a smooth leadership transition.

When her presidency ends in June, she said she will continue to work as a volunteer to help build the athletic complex at Clark Field. She said she also will continue to work on a proposal being discussed that might see the vacated National Guard Armory building next to St. Anthony’s on Seventh Street turned into a community performing arts center, meeting rooms and office space.

The proposal includes the possibility of building residential housing units on the parking lot next to the Armory, which was vacated in 2018. The Long Beach City Council will be discussing this concept Tuesday.

Maguire said her ties to the high school will remain strong.

“You may be assured that, though I am stepping down as president, my love for this high school is constant, unchanging,” she said. “I will always remain one of my alma mater’s most loyal and raving fans, always a Saint.”

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