TIGARD — After more than 13 years at St. Anthony School, Principal Karen Bolliger bids farewell June 13.
Bolliger knew her career path by age 5 when her mother kept telling her, “You’re going to be a teacher one day because of the way you’re always telling your brothers what to do.” She was 20 when she became a fifth grade teacher in Kansas City Public Schools.
Bolliger says her joys have been working with the parents and students and witnessing students grow in faith. She initiated “Fireside Chats” with each grade as a way to nurture each student’s faith formation.
“Karen has always been open and warm greeting students and families,” says John Cook, mayor of Tigard and a former St. Anthony student and parent. “It was that hometown feel that made everyone want to come back to the school.”
Laura Flax, another former St. Anthony parent, came to the school not knowing anyone and in the midst of personal hardships. “I didn’t know Karen very well, but she noticed me and came to me saying there are resources, and you do not have to go through this alone,” Flax says. “Karen is not just a principal, but cares about us as a community. We are now the best of friends.”
After family and teaching, the passions carrying her into retirement are traveling with husband Bill and shopping at flea markets or garage sales – forever on the hunt for vintage jewelry or perfume atomizers. The couple plan to return to Belize, Jamaica and Hawaii to investigate a retirement spot. “Karen grasped and embraced the big picture of the parish from the get go,” says Father Les Sieg, the longtime pastor of St. Anthony who is also retiring. “That has meant five easy years of being responsible for the school. She took care of it all. I pray that she and Bill enjoy their lives together dining around the world and spoiling their [future] grandchildren.” Krista Jacobson, a friend and vice principal of St. Anthony, says Bolliger has been a faith leader. “Many times Karen has told me that I am what is important, and whatever it is that I am working on, I need to follow my heart and rely on my faith,” Jacobson says. “I can personally say that my faith has deepened as a result of knowing Karen. People matter to her. It’s not just something she says, but what she lives every day.”