As the school year winds down, two Catholic school principals for the Diocese of Springfield in Illinois are getting ready to hand over the reins to new leaders. Mike Slaughter is retiring from Marquette Catholic High School in Alton, while Diane Wepking is bidding farewell to St. Mary School in Edwardsville. Together they have contributed approximately 80 years of service to Catholic education.
Slaughter is taking a well-deserved retirement from Marquette Catholic on June 30, having spent the majority of his educational career at that Alton high school. He was a teacher and coach at St. Teresa High School in Decatur for the 1978-1979 school year, before taking a job at Marquette. “I have been at Marquette from 1979 through the present, with the exception of 1991 to 1994 when I was principal of St. Boniface School in Edwardsville and 2003 to 2005 in the private sector,” he said. “At Marquette I have been a teacher, coach, guidance counselor, and principal.”
Slaughter says he plans on remaining at his home parish. “I am a member of Ss. Peter and Paul in Alton, and I’m staying put,” Slaughter said. “I am looking forward to sitting on my front porch in the mornings, drinking coffee, reading the newspaper, and not having to worry about what and where I have to do or go today. Then, at 10 a.m. starting on all the projects my wife will have me doing.”
Speaking of his wife, Slaughter says, “I would like to thank my high school sweetheart, Cindy, who is now my wife for all the support she has given me in the past 40-plus years of my professional life. And thanks to my three children, Alyson, Luke, and James, who all graduated from Marquette.”
Additionally, Slaughter is looking back with affection at the many people who have touched his own life over four decades. “I would also like to thank the parents, students, faculty and staff at Marquette for all the support they have shown me over the past years,” he said. “I was raised in the Catholic school system and always appreciated what it did for me. I thus wanted to give back to others what had been given to me. I am a graduate of Marquette (1974) and I love the students, the history and the traditions.”
Slaughter says he has some advice to offer other educators. “Be fair and consistent. Remember your students are teens and pre-teens,” he said. “You are the adult in the room. In the Catholic schools you are walking the halls with Jesus Christ. You will never regret it.”
Wepking is looking forward to her retirement beginning July 31, after spending time training her replacement at St. Mary School. She has been principal at St. Mary for the past five years. Prior to accepting her current job, she taught at Ss. Peter and Paul School in Collinsville for 32 years, and then served as assistant principal there for four years.
Wepking will be leaving Illinois following her retirement. “We will be moving to Oakland, Ark.,” she said. “My husband, Russell, and I have a house on Bull Shoals Lake. It has always been our dream.”
Although Wepking says she has “way too many” memories to choose even a few as specifically special, she says there is “no better” place to work than in a Catholic school. “The parents and students are vested in their education,” she said. “You get to share your values and beliefs and have the opportunity to sing God’s praises every day.”
After more than 40 years in Catholic education, she has even more good things to say about it. “Catholic schools provide the best opportunity to realize the three-fold purpose of Christian education,” she said. “We want our students to be good citizens of the world, loving God and neighbor with the goal of getting to Heaven. Being a Catholic educator and administrator means being part of a parish family. It’s a wonderful experience and I have loved every minute.”