June 1, 2023 at 12:00 a.m.
‘BLESSED TO COME HERE’
Kilbridge wrapping up successful first year at Academy of the Holy Names
President Martin Kilbridge on Friday, May 5, 2023, at Academy of the Holy Names in Albany, N.Y. Cindy Schultz for The Evangelist
(Courtesy photo of Cindy Schultz)
Dr. Martin Kilbridge already knows his way through the halls of the Academy of the Holy Names. He says hello to students in passing time and remembers to turn the faculty coffee pot off before heading into his office, ensuring nothing burns. They’re small rituals of a growing routine Kilbridge has settled into at his new place of work.
Last July, Holy Names bid a bittersweet farewell to their Head of School, Mary Anne Vigliante, who had led the girls of AHN for the past 52 years. But the passing of the torch wasn’t without gain, as students and faculty welcomed Kilbridge as their new president of the all-girls, Catholic preparatory school.
A year into his tenure, Kilbridge is feeling right at home.
“In so many ways, I feel like I’ve been so blessed to come here,” Kilbridge said in an interview with The Evangelist. “It’s such a beautiful school, the people are good, and the sense of mission is consistent and embraced. I’ve been in a lot of different schools, they’ve been good or great, but this is a fantastic environment.”
While new to the Albany area, Kilbridge brings with him 30 years of experience in Catholic education, both at single-gender and high-school environments. Kilbridge received his doctorate of education in educational leadership and certification as a school administrator/supervisor from the University of Rochester’s Warner School of Education. He earned his master’s of theological study from The Divinity School at Harvard University and received his bachelor’s degree in history and religious studies from the University of California at Berkeley.
Before coming to Holy Names, he served as principal for Our Lady of Mercy School — an all-girls, grades 6-12, Catholic institution — in Rochester from 2018-22.
“We had 800 students, so it was really difficult to get to know all of the students, especially as principal,” Kilbridge said. “Now that I’m here, I’m getting to know the girls and the families (there are currently 193 students at AHN) and the benefactors of the school.”
Born in the Chicago area and raised near San Francisco, Kilbridge recalled how the Catholic faith was instilled in his family’s routine from a young age.
“My dad is 85 and he is still doing faith formation in his parish,” he laughed. “There was such joy in the Catholic identity. Obviously, the Catholic faith is a big umbrella and there are lots of different ways of living out that experience, but my parents had a really good sense of how does the faith inform your life and the decisions you make during your life.”
Much like his Holy Names students, his faith was also ingrained in his education. Kilbridge graduated from St. Ignatius College Preparatory, an all-boys, Catholic preparatory high school. “The fact that the academic piece and the faith piece (were brought together) left a profound impact,” he said. And it was St. Ignatius that helped guide Kilbridge when pursuing his undergraduate degree at Berkeley.
“I went in undeclared and didn’t know what I wanted to do,” he said. “Then I reached out to the principal of my high school because I was starting to get interested in religious studies and history, and I asked him, ‘If I wanted to teach at St. Ignatius, what should I be studying?’ He said keep doing social studies, but we really need theology teachers. I was already interested in religious studies, so I moved in that direction.”
Kilbridge went on to teach theology at a boarding school in Princeton, N.J., but missed the Catholic environment: “Education is always good, but there was nothing more than that,” he said, “and I feel like an education that doesn’t give students a sense of purpose and direction, seems kind of empty. So after that, I moved to Rochester and started teaching there.”
He taught theology at McQuaid Jesuit High School for 18 years before making the transition into administration, where he served as principal for Siena Catholic Academy in Brighton before transferring to Our Lady of Mercy.
Coming into Holy Names, Kilbridge spent his first year trying to understand the niche parts of his new school. “I know you need to understand the culture of a school and what makes a school tick as a leader of a school,” he said. “It’s really been a learning experience over the course of this year, but I also wanted us to understand our strategic plans and goals and continue to support those and help those moving forward.”
Looking forward, Kilbridge plans to work with Holy Names’ constituents on increasing enrollment and creating opportunities for more families to attend Holy Names without the financial burden. As part of this goal, Holy Names was pleased to announce a tuition restructuring for the 2023-24 school year that reduced tuition for grades 6-12 from between $2,000 and $4,300.
“The number one rule is to continue to provide this education to more students,” Kilbridge said. “There are a lot of families that would like an all-girls, Catholic education for their daughters and it’s clear many have not been able to afford it. In the steps we’ve taken so far, and in the steps we’ll continue to take, (ensures Holy Names) continues to be an affordable education for more girls.”
Added Kilbridge: “To inherit this legacy and to steward it, that’s how I see my role: how can I honor the legacy of the past and ensure that I can carry it forward for many years to come, even beyond my own. This school has been in existence for 134 years, I want to make sure we’re carrying it forward and I’m just carrying on that baton to the next leader.”