Honoring St. Stephen’s Employees Retiring in 2020

Best Wishes on Your Next Adventure

St. Stephen's is tremendously grateful to the talented and dedicated faculty and staff who have served our school mission throughout the last seven decades. This year, we honor five amazing employees who have made indelible impressions on our school community. Whether instructing and mentoring us in classrooms, dance studios, the Chapel or Brewster Hall, or tending to literally every square foot and facility of our 370-acre campus, each has touched our lives in their 115+ years of collective experience on The Hill. Although we will continue to draw inspiration from the examples they set, we will miss their daily presence among us, as well as their wealth of institutional knowledge. Most importantly, we wish them good health and much happiness as they embark on the next leg of their life journeys.

List of 5 news stories.

  • St. Stephen's extraordinary campus managed by John Chovanetz

    John Chovanetz

    Plant Manager, 1992-2020
    John Chovanetz joined the St. Stephen’s school community in March 1992. During his 28-year tenure, he oversaw some of the most dynamic changes to the campus in school history. His colleague and friend Charlton Perry reflected on Chovanetz’s great impact on our school community:

    “John quietly and faithfully did his job behind the scenes,” Perry said. “Sometimes with resources and sometimes armed with only his own ingenuity, he managed to cobble this place together and keep it moving forward. He’s the man who has been on call 24-hours a day, seven days a week to fix any crisis.

    “Most of you probably don’t know who he is, and he’s probably OK with that,” he added. “Really though, I think it’s a shame. No one deserves to be recognized more than John."

    For example, Chovanetz led an effort to convert existing inefficient light fixtures on campus to LEDs, which typically use 15 percent of the energy of older fixtures, significantly reducing the school’s carbon footprint while saving money. Austin Energy predicted the project, whose pay-off period is just seven months, will save enough electricity in the long-term to power the equivalent of 40 homes for an entire year.

    “It is not hyperbole to say that no individual has had a bigger impact on students’ experience in the classroom than John Chovanetz,” Perry concluded. “He’s been dedicated to ensuring the quality of students’ experience on campus for longer than all our students have been alive. We’ll all miss him. And we thank him for his tremendous service to the school.”

    Watch John Chovanetz's Video Tributes
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  • Jim Crosby, Chaplain

    Jim Crosby

    Upper School Lay Chaplain, Theology Instructor, 1993-2020
    I was 13 in the summer of 1966 when my family first drove up the curvy road, through the limestone gate near where the school tennis courts are now, onto the St. Stephen’s campus. Less than a month later, we had moved from our hometown of Del Rio, Texas, to Austin, and I found myself ensconced as a freshman day student at St. Stephen’s.

    I came to work at the school when I was 40. My classmate Richard Burns ’70 was working in Admissions at the time. In recruiting my oldest child, Justin, he also recruited me.

    In hiring me, Fred Weissbach combined oversight of the community service program with teaching theology in my job description. Chaplain Pat Gahan further shaped my sense of calling by inviting me to serve alongside him as lay chaplain. As chaplain these last years of my tenure, Todd FitzGerald has been such a pleasure to work with. It has been exciting to see his vision of moving from the “community service” orientation to the more integrated “service learning” model come to fruition. I cannot wait to see what the Bishop Hines Center for Social Justice becomes under his leadership.

    Frank Mikan told me long ago that I would learn more from my students than they would from me. That has proven to be true. In my experiences in the classroom, advisory and dorm, students have been the center of this school community and its reason for being. They have taught me openness, presence, patience, gratitude — love.

    Watch Jim Crosby's Video Tributes
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  • Sylvia Lin, St. Stephen's Chinese Instructor

    Sylvia Lin

    Chinese Instructor, 2006-2020
    I initially joined St. Stephen’s in 2006 to teach Chinese in the Upper School. I have been a crossover teacher, typically teaching five levels of Chinese courses every year, since Chinese classes were started in the Middle School in 2009. In addition to teaching, I have been a Middle School advisor, and I sponsored the Chinese Language and Culture Club.

    At the time I was hired, St. Stephen’s was the first and only secondary school offering a Chinese language course as a foreign language elective. I feel honored to have joined this pioneering program. I appreciate all the love, kindness and support I have received here.

    St. Stephen’s has been much more than a workplace for me; it is a community where we have a vision to make this world a better place by working together to educate our students, to serve communities and to support everyone.

    I know that when I retire this summer, I will miss my students the most. I have taught multiple levels of Chinese, so I often teach the same students for several years. I have enjoyed watching them grow into fine young adults.

    When I do leave The Hill, my husband and I plan to move to North Carolina to be closer to my son and his family. We also plan to spend more time in Taiwan as well. I look forward to having more time to read, cook and travel around the world.

    Watch Sylvia Lin's Video Tributes
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  • Kathi Murphy

    Receptionist, 1997-2020
    My oldest child, Maria Murphy-Mayberry '02, began attending St. Stephen's as a 7th-grade student. At the end of her first year, the business manager, Ben Brewster, offered me a full-time position as the receptionist. At that time the position was being staffed by temporary workers. No one really wanted to do the job. Knowing I would be a good fit, I accepted the offer and started in May 1997.

    I have enjoyed many aspects of my job. I enjoyed working here while Maria and her sister, Claire Murphy Mayberry '08, attended the school. I also really enjoyed working with so many wonderful people throughout the years, including some amazing Parents’ Association volunteers.

    When we first had a school website, the technology director at the time, Doug Alford, asked me to coordinate the website calendar. I have kept that assignment for the remainder of my days on The Hill.

    I have been blessed to get to know so many great educators and administrators. It has been great to watch so many students grow into adults through the years as well. I especially enjoyed my role as a supporter of the boarding students through my work in the mailroom. They are the reason I kept the job for so many years. I truly enjoy nurturing young people who are so far from their families. As a family we hosted four international students during my tenure. That experience was very enriching for all of us.

    When I retire I will miss my co-workers and the students. I’m a big fan of the dining hall staff, as well as the great food they provide. I will certainly miss 6th period lunch! I also will miss being on our beautiful campus and the rhythm of a busy school day. Looking ahead, I plan to take good care of myself and my family. My plan is to continue to learn about our world and my place in it.

    I am grateful for being able to work at St. Stephen’s. I have truly loved coming to work on our beautiful campus every day. I am very grateful for the education that my daughters received here. I am really glad that I had the opportunity to be part of this community.

    Watch Kathi Murphy's Video Tributes
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  • Deirdra Strand St. Stephen's Coreographer

    Deirdre Strand

    Director of Dance, 1995-2020
    Before I joined St. Stephen’s, I served as director and choreographer of Tapestry Dance Company, which I had co-founded. In 1995 St. Stephen's alumnus Boyd Vance ’75 was working for Tapestry, and Liz Moon was his piano accompanist for shows. He suggested to Liz that they give me an opportunity to bring dance to the school.

    I was hired that year to start an extracurricular dance program for Upper School students. Initially, the class met twice a week after school. Not long afterward, I was approached with the idea of offering dance as one of the five options in the Middle School fine arts rotation. I later expanded the program for students who either were interested in dance as part of the Theatre Focus Program or who participated in sports after school and could not attend the regular after-school offering.

    Before long I also began to teach a choreography class that gave students tools to express themselves through the power of dance. These students were able to conceive their own show, which I produced and directed. The range of dance offerings included ballet, pointe, jazz, tap, hip hop and a variety of ethnic styles, such as African and Irish dance. That is when the idea of forming a school dance company began. The students chose the name, Chrysalis.

    Twenty-five years later, I am thrilled to have had the opportunity to work with so many fabulous faculty members and talented and passionate students. To develop a program that did not exist before was an honor. I will miss my colleagues and the endearing students that this school attracts.

    After retirement, I hope to integrate back into Tapestry as an administrator, as well as a teacher for special events. I love to travel and have been blessed to see the world through my professional dance experiences and connections. I would love to volunteer for some of the organizations that I support, and I also would not mind taking a cooking class or two.

    I do hope to come back to the school to watch performances and games and to support these young people that I have gotten so close to. I also hope to continue some beautiful friendships with my colleagues.

    Watch Deirdre Strand's Video Tributes

    Watch "Celebrating Dance Instructor Deirdre Strand"
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Address: 6500 St. Stephen's Dr., Austin, TX 78746
Phone: (512) 327-1213