Published March 30, 2006
Daniel S. Dorsel, an administrator at Cardinal Newman School in Columbia, S.C., who also has development, teaching and coaching experience, has been named the new principal of Our Lady of Mercy High School in Fairburn.
Dorsel, 33, has been a part of the faculty and administration at Cardinal Newman since 2002 and is the interim co-principal this year. A Charleston diocesan school, Cardinal Newman has a coed student body of 432 in grades seven through 12.
He will bring to Our Lady of Mercy his experience at that Catholic secondary school, which has included efforts to strengthen the school through fundraising, public relations, spiritual retreats, alumni development, and community-building events.
He is a 1995 summa cum laude graduate of the University of South Carolina in mechanical engineering where he was the valedictorian speaker for the College of Engineering. He is also a 1998 summa cum laude graduate of Virginia Tech with a master’s degree in environmental engineering. As an undergraduate he studied at the University of Kent, England, for one year. He was in the inaugural class of the South Carolina Governor’s School for Science and Mathematics in high school.
He taught honors algebra and honors pre-algebra and an SAT preparation course at Cardinal Newman from 2002-2004 and coached cross country and basketball. As a co-chair of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools accreditation team he coordinated an 18-month school review process.
In 2004 he was named director of advancement at Cardinal Newman and created an advancement office, overseeing fundraising, public relations, alumni database, community-building, and student and faculty retreats.
He has also spent two summers involved in the Catholic HEART Work Camp, serving as a counselor in 2002 and as camp director in 2003. He taught at a Christian Brothers school in St. Vincent Island, West Indies, for one year after graduating from college.
He and his wife, Whitney, were married in January.
He will meet with the staff, students and parents at Our Lady of Mercy in a one-day visit April 10 and step in as principal July 1.
“Danny is a devout Catholic and brings with him wide experience in Catholic education, ranging from teaching and coaching to development and administration,” Archbishop Wilton D. Gregory wrote in a letter to the school community March 26. “In addition, he has been actively involved in many areas of Christian service to the community, through his volunteer work with Catholic Heart Work Camps and mission teaching in the West Indies. Danny started out as an engineer, but followed the inspiration of the Holy Spirit into Catholic education. I know that you will welcome and embrace him and his wife Whitney to the Mercy family.”
In the same letter, the archbishop also expressed his sympathy to the tight-knit school community over the death of sophomore Zachary Griffin, who was killed in an accident in Florida in March.
The archbishop also thanked OLM interim principal JoAnn McPherson “for her guidance and leadership through this time of transition,” Father Paul Burke, campus chaplain, and all the teachers, parents, and administrators involved in the national search for a new principal.
Father Burke said a search committee made up of the interim principal, himself, guidance director Musanna Hoskins, and athletic director Bill Schmitz considered a pool of five candidates after the national search conducted by Ruprecht and Associates for the archdiocese. A committee of five parents was given the opportunity to review and recommend candidates from the pool of resumes.
Archbishop Gregory also interviewed candidates and the final decision rested with him, Father Burke said.
“What attracted us most about Mr. Dorsel was the way he listened to our questions and concerns, and by the direction of his answers, which were anchored in a strong Catholic spirituality,” Father Burke said. “Danny has had several responsibilities in Catholic education—teaching, coaching, business, development and administration. With this combination of experience, he will oversee fruitfully all the areas of a developing Mercy community.”
In a joint statement, McPherson and Father Burke welcomed the new principal to Our Lady of Mercy and said, “It is our belief that Danny’s personal qualities and his experience will provide the confident leadership that our growing community desires. His strong spirituality will continue the tradition of Catholic education that has distinguished Our Lady of Mercy over the past six years.”
Our Lady of Mercy opened in Fairburn in 2000 with a capacity to serve 500 students in ninth through 12th grade. The six-year-old high school currently has 253 students and is continuing to promote its presence and programs to parishes and the general public on the south side of Atlanta. One hundred percent of its graduates have been accepted into colleges and a number of outstanding athletes have graduated from Mercy since its charter class of seniors completed their studies in 2003.
In a telephone interview, the incoming principal said, “Everything I’ve heard and seen about the school is fantastic. It’s a young school that is ready to move into becoming a top-notch school in the area. It just needs the right ingredients for that to happen. It has a lot of good things going on right now.”
Asked about increasing the school’s enrollment, Dorsel said, “That is one of the challenges, but I really think the product OLM produces in its graduates is the major selling point. All you have to do is get it out there to the community and people will come. I plan on knocking on a few doors and handing out some material.”
“But my main goal is to keep the school Catholic. I want that first and foremost and then the academic integrity of the school—keep those two intact while building enrollment,” he added.
“I would just commend the job that has been done there since the inception of the school. It is very hard to start a new school in an area that has not yet been developed as fully as it will be in the future,” Dorsel said.
He said that he has spent most of his life in North and South Carolina where he is part of a very active Catholic family. His younger sister, Gina, is working part-time at the Cathedral of Christ the King in Atlanta in youth ministry and through her he learned of the search for a principal at Our Lady of Mercy.
“I have strong parents and brothers and sisters who have all been involved in the church from altar servers to lectors to musicians,” he said, speaking of his faith life. “It has just been a very fortunate situation (for me).”
Although he had success very quickly in engineering and the business world after graduation, “I was not personally very satisfied,” he said of his career change in the year 2000 when he left PricewaterhouseCoopers to teach and coach at St. Francis Catholic School for two years.
“I would say that we never know what God’s plan is for us and we have to be always open to exploring where he is leading us,” Dorsel said. “I have a great love for Catholicism and a great love for children. Combining both is very satisfying to me.”
He said he has already spoken with principals of some of the other Catholic schools in the archdiocese, recognizes that they are “top notch” and looks forward to collaborating with them. At the same time, he said, “My vision is to make Our Lady of Mercy the best Catholic school in the area.”