August 1, 2016

ITEM PHOTO BY OWEN O’ROURKE
Joanne Eagan, the principal of the Sacred Heart School in Lynn, is retiring after 30 years.

By MICHELE DURGIN

LYNN — Joanne Eagan calls the classrooms and hallways of Sacred Heart School her other home.

For the past 34 years, 30 of them as principal, she has ruled with a gentle touch over thousands of students during a key time in their development.

But by summer’s end Eagan will be retired. She will trade her principal hat for one that says grandma. Her son, Dennis, and his wife, Andrea, will welcome their first child in the fall.

“My husband and I are eagerly awaiting a blessed event,” she wrote in a letter sent to the school community. “I can’t begin to explain how thrilled I am at the prospect of my new job title, ‘Nana.’ ”

Sacred Heart began in a small building on Robinson Street when only grades 1-8 were offered. Within a few years, she launched pre-kindergarten and kindergarten classes. By 1989, the school had moved into a bigger facility on Boston Street, behind the Sacred Heart Church.

Eagan credits her dedicated staff, which includes faculty, as well as nuns and priests, with the school’s success over the past three decades. She said each of them took the school’s mission seriously to encourage students to be ambassadors of the Catholic faith, and to empower students to attain their highest academic potential.

Fr. Brian Flynn, the pastor of  Sacred Heart and St. Mary’s, said it hasn’t sunk in that his hardworking, beloved friend and co-worker is retiring.

“Joanne Eagan and Sacred Heart are synonymous with each other,” he said. “Her leadership has been invaluable to me and the pastors who have preceded me. Her faith, love and concern for children, faculty, staff and parents, as well as her gifts as a teacher and a leader, have helped to shape who we are as a Catholic school. I wish her the best as she prepares to enjoy more time with her growing family.”

Amy Newhall, 40, who graduated in 1995, is the parent of Rashaud, 11, who is entering sixth grade at Sacred Heart.

“Mrs.Eagan is the most amazing person I’ve ever met,” she said. “Sacred Heart has a beautiful, welcoming spirit because of her and she is like a second mother to all of the students, past and present.”

Michelle Avery, 42, another graduate, had three daughters graduate from the school, and Charlotte, 10, is entering fifth grade.

“She has been the most wonderful principal anyone could hope for,” she said. “She encourages parents to get involved and her door has always been open. She was constantly working to make the school the best it could be, whether it was hiring excellent teachers or making sure the technology offered is state-of-the-art. Simply put, she dedicated her life to the school and we are all the better for it.”

Mary DeAngelo, a teacher at the school for the last three years, will take over as principal.

Eagan said she will miss are the smiles she saw each time she walked the halls or visited classrooms.

“Sacred Heart has been one of the true loves of my entire life,” she said. “It has been an honor to be the principal and my heart is filled with a lifetime of incredible memories that I will always cherish.”