Loyola High School names native Detroiter David Smith as sixth president

Loyola High School choral students sing during a special event at Sacred Heart Major Seminary. On Dec. 10, the Detroit all-boys Jesuit-run school announced the hiring of its sixth president, David Smith, who will succeed Fr. Mark Luedtke, SJ, effective July 1, 2019. (Photos courtesy of Loyola High School)

Former Johnson & Johnson executive succeeds Fr. Mark Luedtke, SJ, at all-boys school starting next summer

DETROIT — Loyola High School’s board of directors announced Monday that David Smith will become the school’s sixth president.

Smith is a native Detroiter and a graduate of St. Alphonsus High School in Dearborn. He will replace outgoing president Fr. Mark Luedtke, SJ, effective July 1, 2019. Fr. Luedtke is leaving the school in preparation for his final vows as a Jesuit.

“The education of Detroit’s young men is critical to the long-term success of our city, and Fr. Mark prepared 200 students to become our future leaders,” said Cathy McNamara, chair of the Loyola board of directors. “We are blessed to have had his leadership and vision and look forward to continuing his good work under the leadership of David Smith.”  

David Smith was named the sixth president in Loyola High School's history on Dec. 10. Smith is an alumnus of St. Alphonsus in Dearborn and the University of Michigan. (Courtesy photo)
Loyola High School, in northwest Detroit, is pictured in this file photo. The all-boys school celebrated its 25th anniversary this year. 

Fr. Luedtke is preparing for some personal time of formation where he leaves his place of work, goes on personal retreat where he leaves his place of work, goes on a 30-day silent retreat to reflect on his life a Jesuit, and prepares to take final vows. 

"When I arrived at Loyola, I took the time to talk to a lot of people both inside and outside the school and learned about the wonderful mission Loyola High School has," Fr. Luedtke said. "Our students have value that is often overlooked by society. So with our young men, we help them  recognize their value and teach them what it means to be 'Men for Others' and share that value with the community."

Fr. Luedtke will go to Cape Town, South Africa in September 2019 to work with the poor and marginalized communities, but said he will always carry his experiences at Loyola with him. 

"My big takeaway from working at Loyola is to always remember the person in front of you is the most important person for you at that time," Fr. Luedtke said. "My time at Loyola taught me to be attentive to the ways you might be able to help the other person. And the ways the other person might be able to help you."

As Fr. Luedkte departs, Smith comes to the Northwest Detroit school bringing Fortune 500 experience, having most recently served as president of Johnson & Johnson's Vision Care division in Japan. He had a 30-year career with Johnson & Johnson, living in Florida, Tokyo and London, while remaining involved in Catholic life all over the world.

“My wife and I are thrilled to return to Detroit, my hometown, after 35 years of global business experience,” Smith said. “As president of Loyola High School of Detroit, I intend to bring the perspective of my global work experience along with my lifelong Catholic faith to help our young men of Detroit realize their full potential.”

Smith, whose extended family includes diocesan priests and a Franciscan sister, said he looks forward to carrying on the commitment to excellence other clergy, including Fr. Luedtke, have started at Loyola.

Loyola High School was founded in 1993 in collaboration with Cardinal Adam J. Maida, then-archbishop of Detroit, and the Midwest Province of the Society of Jesus (Jesuits), who sought to establish a Catholic school to serve disadvantaged youth in Detroit's inner city. 

“It is my privilege to partner with (Detroit) Archbishop (Allen H.) Vigneron to mission Mr. David Smith as the next president of Loyola High School,” said Fr. Brian G. Paulson, SJ, provincial of the Midwest Jesuits. “Dave brings so many gifts to this important Jesuit apostolate, most significantly his vibrant Catholic faith. A true son of Detroit, it is this faith he received through the parishes and schools of the Archdiocese of Detroit that he now seeks to pass on.”

Smith was one of six children growing up in Detroit, attending SS. Peter and Paul (West Side) grade school. After graduating from St. Alphonsus, Smith attended the University of Michigan, earning a bachelor’s in political science. After five years in sales with Procter & Gamble, Smith began his career with Johnson & Johnson.

“Catholic education has long been a top priority for both the Archdiocese of Detroit and the Society of Jesus,” said Kevin Kijewski, superintendent of schools for the Archdiocese of Detroit. “We are blessed that David brings with him a record of innovation and significant professional accomplishment to his role of president of Loyola High School. He holds a deep personal belief in Catholic schools’ ability to help children realize their God-given potential. We are pleased to welcome David, a native Detroiter, back home and are confident the Loyola community will be strengthened and have great success under his leadership.”