Dr. Kassebaum’s Legacy

A passionate and forward thinking educator, administrator, and mentor who loved her students,  Dr. Estelle L. Kassebaum (formerly Estelle L. Rubano) was recognized nationally for her innovative and far reaching contributions to Catholic Secondary Education for over 35 years.

President of Marian/Mater Dei Catholic High School, Dr. Kassebaum passed away January 24, 2006 at Scripps Memorial Hospital in La Jolla.  The cause of death was advanced ovarian cancer that was diagnosed on January 4, 2006.  She was 68.

Born and raised in St. Louis, Missouri, Dr. Kassebaum married and came to San Diego where she received her Bachelor of Arts Degree from the University of San Diego College for Women in 1970.  In 1983, she completed her Master’s Degree in Education from Azusa Pacific University and Post Doctoral Studies in Education from Berne University in 2002.

Dr. Kassebaum spent the majority of her career at the University of San Diego High School (USDHS).  While there, she taught many classes, wrote curriculum for the Fine Arts Department, established parent volunteer programs, launched a Student Exchange Program with Japan, founded the Ambassador for Christ Corps, wrote the USDHS Summer School curriculum, and directed Student Activities.  As USDHS’s Assistant Principal/Executive Director of Development, Dr. Kassebaum revised and implemented the Development Program, developed Annual Giving Campaign strategies, coordinated all Annual Giving Programs, wrote school grants, addressed many National Conferences, inserviced the Dioceses of Victoria and San Antonio, Texas concerning development efforts, headed recruiting for USDHS, and spoke at many National Catholic Education Association (NCEA) Conferences.

Besides being involved in secondary education, she served as an Adjunct Professor for five years at Azusa Pacific University.  During her years with Azusa, she taught Contemporary Teaching Strategies, Organization and Control of American Schools (School Law) and Instructional Management in the Master’s Program for Educators.

In 1995, Dr. Kassebaum became the Principal and Director of Development for Marian Catholic High School (MCHS).  Calling MCHS “Our Blessed Mother’s Campus,” she worked tirelessly to give Marian Catholic High School a “face lift” by adding a new entrance to the school grounds, renovating numerous buildings, adding portable classrooms, and updating curriculum to a competitive standard.  She launched the school into global education through a Student Exchange Program with Japan, developed an Annual Giving Campaign for the school, reactivated the Alumni Association, established a Parent Volunteerism Program, placed MCHS on the cutting edge of technology by installing a local area network in the school, and raised student enrollment to an all time high.

During this same time period, she served as a member of the Board of Directors that enabled the development of the newly opened Cathedral Catholic High School.

In 2005, Dr. Kassebaum became President of Marian / Mater Dei Catholic High School.  As President, she raised over 50 million dollars for Mater Dei Catholic High School.  Mater Dei Catholic High School is scheduled to open in Fall 2007.

Dr. Kassebaum was a member of the Downtown San Diego Rotary Club as well as many educational organizations.  She was one of eight national recipients of the National Catholic Education Association (NCEA) Award and was honored by the Greater San Diego Industry and Educational Council for her educational contributions.  In addition, she received the Council for Advancement and Support for Education (CASE) Award for outstanding small publications, and was selected by the San Diego Journal as a finalist for “Women Who Make a Difference.”  Dr. Kassebaum was also selected as one of 2000 most notable women in America and was recognized by the Professional Women’s Association of Southern California for outstanding contributions to secondary education.

Dr. Kassebaum will be greatly missed by her family and friends, and by the faculty and students she served for so many years.  She is survived by her husband, David Kassebaum; daughters, Katherine Gillcrist of La Jolla and Nancy Trometter of Pennsylvania; and 11 grandchildren.