A former CCSTA president and Higgins Award winner passed away last month.
Michael (Mike) van Adrichem, died in Prince George, BC on Sept. 28, one day before his 91st birthday. He was president of CCSTA in 1975-76 and was awarded the CCSTA’s Higgins Award in 1993 for outstanding contribution to Catholic education. For his impact on Catholic education and involvement in the Church, he also received the Pro Ecclesia et Pontifice medal from Pope John Paul II, the highest medal that can be awarded to the laity.
John Stunt, executive director of CCSTA, said the association is saddened by the loss. “Mr. van Adrichem was known as a champion of Catholic education nationally, but especially in his home dioceses of Prince George and throughout British Columbia,” Stunt said. “We mourn his passing but also celebrate his many accomplishments.”
Fred Herfst became a close friend to van Adrichem in the mid-1980s. At that time, Herfst was the executive director of the Federation of Independent School Associations of British Columbia and van Adrichem was a board representative of the Catholic component of that coalition, while serving as the first superintendent of Catholic Independent Schools Diocese of Prince George.
Herfst said van Adrichem had rock solid convictions on fundamental principles, however, he was also exceptional at listening well and adjusting his thinking in political situations.
“He had the ability to work with people of divergent faith and bring everyone together as a functioning team,” Herfst said, noting van Adrichem’s leadership qualities were enhanced by remarkable social intuition and being connected to his community in Prince George.
“Mike was very thoughtful and looked at issues from every angle,” he said. “He had the ability to step back and let others be a part of the decision-making process, ensuring they got their dues.”
Herfst said van Adrichem was an integral part of the early leadership of FISA, first appearing in the association’s records in 1968 at the annual general meeting as a representative of the Prince George Diocese. He continued to serve over the years, with his involvement culminating as president of FISA from 1989 to 1994.
“He helped form policies and he engaged politicians,” Herfst said, noting that his work ultimately helped bring the first Independent Schools Support Act to fruition in 1977. The act made per-student grants of 30 per cent available to qualifying independent schools, including Catholic schools.
From there, van Adrichem was once again part of championing for additional funding to make Catholic education in British Columbia more accessible. That funding was increased in 1987 to 35 per cent. Herfst said van Adrichem was deeply involved in re-drafting the new Independent School Act, even making presentations to the Royal Commission in 1988. When the act was officially revised in 1989, Catholic schools in BC received 50 per cent funding per student.
Herfst said van Adrichem was even a part of obtaining additional funding for special needs students in the Catholic school system. “Mike’s contributions are big; ones that affect Catholic education in all of British Columbia, as well as across the country,” Herfst said.
As time went on, van Adrichem didn’t slow down. Extensive time was spent in the early 1990s revising the FISA constitution, which was put into place in 1995. He retired under the former organization but stayed on as president to see the re-constitution through. When FISA realized a history had not yet been written, van Adrichem served for five years on a five-member editorial committee until 2002 when the history was completed. “He was instrumental in helping to accurately piece that together, giving of his time into retirement,” Herfst said.
A prayer service was held on Oct. 3 and Funeral Mass took place on Oct. 4 at Sacred Heart Cathedral in Prince George, BC.