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After 50 years in education, Aspinwall Catholic school principal stepping down

Tawnya Panizzi
| Wednesday, June 4, 2014, 9:00 p.m.
Brody Altenbaugh, a kindergarten student, stops by to say his goodbyes and get a lollipop from Sister Dorothy Dolak who is retiring from her position as principal at Christ the Divine Teacher Catholic Academy.
Jan Pakler | for The Herald
Brody Altenbaugh, a kindergarten student, stops by to say his goodbyes and get a lollipop from Sister Dorothy Dolak who is retiring from her position as principal at Christ the Divine Teacher Catholic Academy.

Sister Dorothy Dolak, principal at Christ the Divine Teacher Catholic Academy, jokes that members of the religious sisterhood never officially retire.

Still, she's leaving her full-time post at the Aspinwall school in hopes of some relaxation after more than 50 years of work in education.

“I liked everything about being here,” she said of the elementary school along Brilliant Avenue. “The parents are great, the students are hard-working. It's been wonderful but I turned 70 and am looking forward to taking it easy for the summer.”

Sister Dorothy, a member of the Sisters of Charity of Nazareth, came to CDTCA five years ago after serving as principal at St. Sebastian School in Ross and other elementary schools prior to that.

Her hiring marked the school's return to having a religious sister in its head position.

“Sister Dorothy took the mission of our school, to instill Catholic values, very seriously,” said parent Traci Giuffre. “Students were blessed with a wonderful example of faith and service under her tenure.”

Giuffre said Sister Dorothy's door always was open to students and parents. She said that openness contributed to the school's spike in enrollment over the last few years from 121 to 159 students.

Sister Dorothy, a native of Donora, earned her bachelor's degree from La Roche College and her master's from Duquesne University.

Joanne Saunders, parent-teacher guild president at CDTCA, said Sister Dorothy has devoted her life to the faith formation of primary and middle school students, first as a teacher and then as an administrator throughout the Diocese of Pittsburgh.

“Here, she has truly embodied the spirit of our motto ‘Nurturing faith, Inspiring excellence,'” she said. “In working with her these last five years, I have experienced firsthand her gentle soul, her firm hand, her sense of humor and her intense devotion to our students. We will truly miss her.”

Despite Friday as her last official day on the job, Sister Dorothy said she will be in her office during most of June to finish paperwork and help a search committee in its quest for her replacement.

Then, “I have a whole stack of books that I want to read, that I've just never had time for,” she said. “And I love to crochet. I have bags of yarn that I want to use up. After that, I want to get together with some friends.”

Sister Dorothy will continue to live at the Vincentian Mother House in McCandless and joked that her lazy days of summer won't stretch into fall.

“Sisters never retire. They always find some odd jobs for us to do,” she said. “God has blessed me. This was my last school job. I've been working for 50 years and this was the best.”

Tawnya Panizzi is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-782-2121, ext. 2 or

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