Of all the valuable lessons instilled in Mario Powell, S.J., over the course of his life, perhaps the
most important one is this: An education does not solely belong to the person fortunate enough to
have received it. It is a gift for that individual to share with others. That lesson came early, when
then 10-year-old Mario was a student at St. Monica’s Elementary School in Santa Monica, Calif.,
from caring teachers he now counts among the many role models he’s been blessed to have. It is
something that has remained deeply ingrained in him over the roughly 30 years that have passed
Today, Father Powell finds himself sharing that lesson, a kind of credo, with his own students at
Brooklyn Jesuit Prep, where he has served as president since the summer of 2019. It is, he says, a
way of looking at the world and your place in it that is central to what it means to be Jesuit
educated. And it is as true for younger students, such as the ones Father Powell helps to nurture
every day in Brooklyn, as it is for those at Le Moyne, where he serves on the board of trustees. It
is tied closely to the idea that, as Father Powell puts it, “a Jesuit education is meant to be elite,
but not elitist.”
Father Powell credits his own Jesuit education, first at Loyola High School in Los Angeles
and later at Boston College, where he earned a degree in history, setting him on his current
path. As a student, he found that the people who cared most about him most were constantly asking:
What are you going to do with the rest of your life? Their inquiries led him to search his heart.
Ultimately, he realized that while he’d enjoyed the individual works of service he’d completed,
such as tutoring students at a charter school in Boston, what he really wanted was to build a life
devoted to service. He was called to enter the Society of Jesus, where his vocation so far has
been centered largely around education.
While it may not have been the course that Father Powell would have imagined for himself when
he was a student at St. Monica’s all those years ago, it was undoubtedly the right one for him. It
is impossible for him to look into faces of the 82 children he works with every day, to
accompany them along their journey, without feeling an immense responsibility for their futures.
That has proven especially true over the past two years as we have faced a once-in-a-century
pandemic, an urgent call for racial justice, and for many families, serious economic challenges.
In many ways, his school is what has allowed him to navigate this time.
“It can be so easy to give into pessimism and darkness. It can be so easy to ignore the light,“
Father Powell says. “When I hear kids who talk about their dreams for the future or parents who
talk about their aspirations for their sons or daughters, I find that it keeps me not just surviving,
but really trying to thrive as an educator, a Jesuit, and a human being.”
Le Moyne College is pleased to welcome Fr. Mario Powell as this year's MLK Convocation speaker.