The story of Fitzpatrick’s growth into a dynamic leader at Saint Ignatius begins long before he accepted the job in 2008. Fitzpatrick attended Saint Ignatius and played basketball and football. From there, he went to Marquette University, earning a degree in communications. After graduation, he spent time in the Jesuit Volunteer Corps before leading the Arrupe Neighborhood Partnership. He later spent some time working in the private industry.
In 1999, Fitzpatrick received a call to return home. Former president Rev. Robert J. Welsh, S.J. ’54 invited Fitzpatrick back to work in the athletic department.
Longtime athletic director Dale Gabor ’66 brought Fitzpatrick on as the Assistant Athletic Director. Under Gabor’s direction, Fitzpatrick thrived in the role for nine years. In 2008, when Gabor decided to step away after 25 years in the job, the school selected Fitzpatrick to take over.
“I was delighted when Rory got the job after me and I’m probably even more delighted now,” Gabor says. “Things happen so quickly down there. He takes care of 16 sports. It’s a tough job, but he does wonderfully.”
Utilizing his experience as Assistant Director, Fitzpatrick set to work in continuing Gabor’s efforts.
With the advancement of the internet and social media, Fitzpatrick modernized the department, instituting online ticketing, helping to expand the reach of the Saint Ignatius Broadcast Network, and hiring Brad Ganor as Assistant Athletic Director in 2016.
Another area of focus for Fitzpatrick was advancing the school’s relationship with the Ohio High School Athletic Association (OHSAA). He holds the organization in high regard and values the connection between Saint Ignatius and the OHSAA.
“Rory is a good person. We need more people like him leading athletic programs in Ohio,” says OHSAA Executive Director Jerry Snodgrass. “There is never any hidden agenda with Rory. Even when there is a rule he doesn’t agree with, that’s the way you do it. I have great respect for that. That speaks to his ethics – he would never consider violating a rule. He understands the system and approaches things the right way.”
Most importantly, Fitzpatrick places an emphasis on meeting with coaches about mission and culture. He spends time with each new head coach, and also every returning coach, talking about ways to form student-athletes as Men for Others.
“The most important part of the job is placing good people in front of our kids,” says Fitzpatrick. “We do a lot of formation work, which comes from our coaches. Our coaches are teachers. Their classes, in this case, are practices that last two hours a day, and they have a test or two every week in the form of games. The most important part of my job is making sure the people who are in front of our athletes are giving them the right messages.”
One coach who witnesses Fitzpatrick’s hard work is Head Soccer Coach Mike McLaughlin ’85. The longtime coach has great camaraderie with his fellow Irishman, noting Fitzpatrick’s extraordinary listening skills.
“It’s a pleasure to interact with Rory everyday. He’s a man who’s pulled in a million different directions, but when you walk into his office, he stops doing what he’s doing,” McLaughlin says. “He’s an amazing, mission-based leader. People look at our athletic success and think we are a high-powered, win-at-all costs type of school. That’s so far from the truth. If you listen to anything Rory has to say, it’s all about helping to create an environment for young men to discover their gifts in this world through the structure of a team.”