Michael Dougherty '93
The list of legendary Prep teachers is a long and storied one. Two of the greatest also happened to be Classics teachers: Henry Bender ’63 and Charlie Kling ’61. It might be time to add Michael Dougherty ’93 to the list; he is a Master teacher who has served as a mentor for decades of Prep students with many “stories” told by those who have had the fortune to be taught by him.
“Doc” is intelligent, that is obvious, with a body language of a man constantly thinking, constantly moving. A proud product of Northeast Philly, he commands the classroom and holds students’ respect for his demeanor, attention to detail, and keeping students accountable to a standard of excellence. He is a shining example of what academics at the Prep have been for generations.
Dougherty has spent most of three decades at 17th & Girard, returning to the Prep as part of the Alumni Service Corps in 1997-98. That year, he taught three sections of Latin, coached freshman soccer, and led two Kairos retreats while assisting another legend, Sr. Kate Woody, in Mission and Ministry (“she has a fingerprint on all of the good things that are a part of this place, even today,” he says). That summer, he joined the department full time and has been a rock on the Prep faculty since then. His teaching style is based on the legends he had in class, especially Dr. Bender and Al Vernaccio ’82, who taught him AP English.
“They were two of the best teachers I ever had and had opposite styles of teaching but each knew how to prod students to be their best,” he says. “I read differently today as an adult as a result of those classes.”
Dougherty wants his students to learn, not just for an exam or a result but for enjoyment and to fill an inquisitive mind. Not surprisingly, he is a stalwart believer in requiring students to learn Latin and his reasons are deep. “A lot of people will say that it is good to learn Latin to help you with other subjects or in the future and that is true,” he says, “but I want to drive home the fact that content matters, that you should want to learn something for the benefit of learning it, not just for the results or some payoff down the line.”
As a Prep graduate on campus, Dougherty feels a responsibility to preserve the legacy of the education he received and to teach current students that being a Prep Hawk comes with expectations.
“There are certain responsibilities that come with being a Prep student, a Prep alumnus; certain things are expected of us,” he says. “There is a connectivity that is important and threads through the generations here. I don’t think it’s okay to dispense with that connectivity because it is necessary and it does matter. That doesn’t mean you don’t evolve, that you don’t weave in new methods, new content. There are ways of doing both if you have the desire to do so.”
Isaiah Littlejohn '24
Widener University Leadership Award Recepient
By Riley Burns ’18
Isaiah Littlejohn ’24 is hard to miss if you are walking the halls at 17th and Girard. His iconic bowtie look, outgoing personality, and palpable energy make him stand out among the Prep student body. To those that know him, it wasn’t a huge surprise when he received a Leadership Award from Widener University this spring.
Students must be nominated for the Widener award by a high school principal, administrator, or guidance counselor. Littlejohn says he was greeted in front of the school by Principal Mr. Andy Cavacos outside on what seemed like just another day at the Prep. This is common practice for Cavacos, as he often welcomes students into the Prep each morning. Yet, on this specific morning, Cavacos had something more important to share with Littlejohn.
“I was walking into school, and said, ‘Good morning’ to Mr. Cavacos like I usually do when he greets students outside,” says Littlejohn. “That moment he asked me if I would like to be considered for the Widener Leadership Award.”
Isaiah admits that he was not very familiar with the award, or Widener in general. Being himself, he immediately responded that he was interested and it was not until later that he got the chance to research the award.
“That’s when I began to understand the gravity of the Leadership Award,” admits Littlejohn.
It wasn’t a blind choice by Cavacos. Their paths have crossed in the few years since they both arrived at the Prep.
“Mr. Cavacos was my first front page article of the Hawkeye,” says Littlejohn. “It felt great to be recognized by the principal, and the person who contributed to one of my proud accomplishments at the Prep.”
In addition to Cavacos, Ms. Nailah Brown, Director of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion, also nominated Isaiah for the award. Brown even helped him proofread the essay he was required to submit. Once again, this was not the first meaningful interaction between Littlejohn and Ms. Brown.
“I also did a feature on Ms. Brown earlier this year, and at that point I didn’t know her well,” Littlejohn elaborates. “After spending more time in her office, taking candy, and talking about life, it felt amazing to know that she had a hand in nominating me for this award.”
It was clear that Littlejohn had done enough to deserve the nomination in the eyes of Cavacos and Brown. But to him, it’s not about the awards.
“When I do things, I don’t think about the implication of an award or accolade,” states Littlejohn. “Instead, I think about how I can bring about positive change in my environment.”
At his core, Littlejohn understands what it means to be a man for and with others. He knows the magnitude of his actions, and that his choices have positive repercussions on his community.
Despite all that he has accomplished in almost three years as a Prep student, he knows he can continue to make an impact and he is humbled that adults in the community are recognizing him.
“I’m grateful for having Mr. Cavacos and Ms. Brown help me through this process,” Littlejohn continued. “I am humbled by this blessing and hope to continue to do good work for the Prep!”
Receiving the Leadership Award has ignited Isaiah’s interest in Widener, despite still being a year away from his college decision.
“I did not have prior interest in Widener before this award,” Littlejohn expanded. “However, after attending an Open House before the award ceremony, I found out that Widener is definitely a school I can see myself at in the future.”
We are sure there will be more good news to come for Isaiah!