The new president of Immaculate Heart High School and Middle School, Maureen Diekmann, recalled her first day at the school in 1964. Costumed upperclassmen greeted the incoming freshmen with a personalized song and skit routine on “Welcome Day”. She warmly recalls being overwhelmed by the feeling of community.
It’s that same feeling of community that made her decision to accept the position as president of the academy an easy one for Diekmann, who is an alumni, parent of alums, and former council and board member of the school.
Considering what kind of role model she would like to be for young ladies, Diekmann recalls the women who were her mentors when she was a student. It was an era in which nuns in the Immaculate Heart community objected to the strict rules that the Archbishop of Los Angeles was enforcing on their attire, bedtimes and hours of prayer.
“I was here at a very special time – when I came, the nuns were in habit, when I left, they were not anymore,” Diekmann said. “So I saw women who were not afraid to stand up for what was right, regardless of what the consequences were, in as positive of way as they could, and were respectful always.”
After graduating in 1969, Diekmann was so inspired by her experiences at the all-girls school she dedicated her career to education. She spent 41 years with the Los Angeles Unified School District, in roles ranging from substitute teacher to her most recent position, executive director of early childhood education. Additionally, her two daughters attended the Immaculate Heart High School and Middle School, graduating in 2005 and 2007. While they were in school, Diekmann served as parent council president and board member of the school’s alumnae association, and since has been a member of Immaculate Heart’s Board of Trustees and chair of its education committee.
In making the announcement, Ruth Anne Murray, chair of the Immaculate Heart board, praised Diekmann as “extremely qualified” for her new post “by virtue of her vast experience in the field of education, as well as by her personal knowledge, understanding, and support of the philosophy, mission and unique culture of our school.”
In the weeks leading up to the start of classes at Immaculate Heart, Diekmann has familiarized herself with a new, different side of the school than she knew as a student, parent and board member.
“Even though I went here, my girls went here and I’ve been involved with boards and councils, it’s still different when you’re on the other side,” she said.
Callie Webb, English instructor and communications director at Immaculate Heart, said she most looks forward to Diekmann’s energy level and what she will bring to the school.
“When you bring in someone new, they bring with them their own perspective. While she is familiar as a parent, board member and alum at Immaculate Heart, having worked in public education so long, she might bring a fresh perspective in the regard that she can combine both experiences,” Webb said.
Diekmann said that while her time as president will mainly concentrate on development, public relations and marketing, she has a personal goal to get to know each of the 700 students and 60 faculty members. During the first week of school, she visited every teacher and classroom in the high school, and intends to do the same with the middle school in the second week.
“I think that it’s hard to tell a story about a school if you don’t know about what’s going on inside the school, so I got a really good feel for the way teachers interact with the girls. They don’t waste a single minute, and you can just tell that the teachers care very much that their students learn and have good relationships with each other,” Diekmann said.
Diekmann has goals to bring fundraising opportunities to the school, including maximizing the potential of support from outside Immaculate Heart. The school reports it gives financial aid and academic scholarships to 29 percent of its students each year, who commute from all over the county.
“We give quite a bit of financial aid, so we want to make sure that those sources are well maintained, and maybe identify some additional new sources as well,” she said.
“This school has always been about having a broad reach in the city, and pulling girls from all parts of the city together – even when I was going here it was a very diverse school. I think that’s one of our priorities – to reflect what the city of Los Angeles looks like.”
Aside from raising funds for scholarships, Diekmann hopes to address the use of facilities on the school’s campus. Her office, along with the school’s cafeteria, is located atop a hill that physically separates her from the classrooms, where she spends over half of her day.
Diekmann added that she would like to look into adding buildings to the campus and utilizing the current spaces for different uses.
In terms of development, she hopes to expand the school’s presence in the area and to tell the story of the school.
“This is a fabulous place to be, as an adult and child. You come out of here with an education that will set you up for whatever you want to do,” she said. “I don’t know that we brag about that enough, or that we sell ourselves as much as we should, because the culture has been more modest and humble.”
Just as the teachers at Immaculate Heart role models were for her, Diekmann hopes to become a role model for the young girls who attend the academy, as their president.
“It is an honor to be able to come back here and speak for this 110-year-old school, and really pull out the parts that we are so proud of,” Diekmann said. “I hope that I can move the school forward in ways that help the teachers and the students do the best job that they can do every day.”
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