Arts & Sciences

Turning ripples into waves of change

In his educational leadership roles, alumnus Patrick Landry pushes big ideas to effect positive change for low-income families and communities.

Patrick Landry, Arts ’08, was never afraid to throw out an idea, even early on in his career. As a young teacher at St. Gall School in Chicago, he peppered his principal with questions about how to improve the lives of the children and the families the school served.

“Why aren’t we doing this?” Landry would ask. “Can we try this? Should we be doing this?”

In those inquiries, St. Gall’s principal saw inspiration.

“She said to me, ‘If you have all these things you want to do, maybe you should be a principal and think about doing leadership,’” Landry says. “That triggered the thought of, ‘You’re right. I can manage a classroom as a teacher, but I can have an impact on a whole school as a leader.’”

Landry has followed that calling in the years since, first as an assistant principal at St. Gall before taking on a principal role at a fellow Chicago school serving low-income Latino students, Maternity of the Blessed Virgin Mary. He returned to his hometown to join Notre Dame School of Milwaukee as principal in 2015 and was promoted to his current role as the school’s president two years later.

Notre Dame School is a Catholic, biliterate institution originally launched in 1996 as an all-girls middle school with 26 Latina students. During his nearly eight years at Notre Dame, located on Milwaukee’s south side, the school has expanded with a primary school and an all-boys middle school, increasing enrollment from 390 to 635.

“I like pushing things forward and discerning what the need is at the time and trying to do something about it,” Landry says. 

As a first-generation college student, Landry didn’t have much of a road map when it came to picking a major at Marquette. Instead, he gravitated to the subjects that interested him, namely political science, philosophy and theology.

“Come junior year, it’s like, ‘What does this actually mean in terms of a career?’” Landry says.

As he looked to discover his vocation, he reflected on the mission instilled in him through his Marquette education, his time working in the Center for Community Service and his mission trip to New Orleans following Hurricane Katrina.

“I think there’s a lot of emphasis on service in college anywhere you go, but I think at Marquette it really pushed the envelope in terms of not just service, but looking at service through the lens of justice,” Landry says.

Teaching seemed like the perfect opportunity to address root issues and have an impact on the communities he was able to experience through service.

Landry has been at Notre Dame long enough now to see lasting effects. More than 99 percent of Notre Dame alumni go on to graduate from high school, and 95 percent of graduates are going on to college in some way. This compares with rates of 63 percent and 40 percent respectively for children in Milwaukee. Eight Notre Dame alumni started at Marquette this fall.

“NDSM is truly a beacon of hope for our families and children, and our staff is doing tremendous work,” Landry says. “When we impact our children, we truly think and believe that will impact their family, and those families will change our community. That’s how we get the ripple change of making Milwaukee a better place.”