Charles K. Riepe

The Baltimore Sun

The Rev. Charles K. Riepe, former principal and president of the John Carroll School in Bel Air who had also been rector of the Roman Catholic Cathedral of Mary Our Queen, died in his sleep Saturday at his Bel Air home. He was 75.

Father Riepe was born in Baltimore and raised on Lake Avenue. He attended Gilman School and graduated in 1951 from the Cooperstown Academy in Cooperstown, N.Y.

A former Episcopalian who converted to Roman Catholicism, Father Riepe began his religious studies at St. Charles College in Catonsville.

He earned a bachelor's degree in philosophy and a master's degree in theology from the Pontifical University of Innsbruck, Austria, where he was ordained in 1960.

He published two books, Living the Christian Seasons and The Mass of the Roman Rite, originally written by the Rev. Joseph Jungmann and revised by Father Riepe in 1958, on the 100th anniversary of the Pontifical University of Innsbruck.

After returning to Baltimore, Father Riepe served as associate pastor at St. Gregory the Great Roman Catholic Church in 1960, and the next year became associate at St. Joseph Roman Catholic Church in Fullerton.

In 1964, he was named the first chaplain and first religion department chairman at the John Carroll School in Bel Air. He also coached the junior varsity baseball team for six years until becoming the school's second principal in 1968.

He also directed the development of the football program at the private school and oversaw its transition in 1971 to an independent high school under the umbrella of the Archdiocese of Baltimore and a board of trustees, of which he was the first president.

In 1974, he left the school when he became rector of the Cathedral of Mary Our Queen, returning to John Carroll as president in 1976.

In a dispute over the direction of the school, Father Riepe asked that he not be renominated as president, and he left in 1978.

He returned to the Cathedral of Mary Our Queen, where he was rector for two years until being named headmaster of St. Sebastian School in Needham, Mass., in 1980.

After leaving St. Sebastian in 1990, Father Riepe was Roman Catholic chaplain at the Johns Hopkins University from 1990 until retiring in 2002.

Father Riepe had served on the board of John Carroll from 1993 to 1996, and in 2002 returned to the school as chaplain.

When Father Riepe celebrated his 75th birthday in December, Paul Barker, current John Carroll principal, described him as a "titanic figure."

In announcing that school would be closed yesterday for Father Riepe's funeral Mass, Mr. Barker wrote:

"The death of Rev. Charles K. Riepe is a huge loss for our community. It is difficult to overstate Father Riepe's significance for John Carroll: founding chaplain, second principal, first president, a coach, a teacher, a trustee, and a benefactor - the single most influential figure in our school's history."

Father Riepe had also been Maryland State Police chaplain and also functioned in that capacity for the Baltimore County police and fire departments.

Monsignor William F. Burke, pastor of St. Francis of Assisi Roman Catholic Church in Mayfield, had been a friend of Father Riepe's since they were students at St. Charles College.

"Charlie was very well-regarded at John Carroll. He loved teaching kids and saw it as an opportunity and not a grind, and it became a fine school under his guidance," said Monsignor Burke.

The Rev. Stephen R. Sutton, associate pastor at St. Ignatius Roman Catholic Church in Forest Hill, has been on the faculty at John Carroll for 25 years.

"He was a visionary as far as Catholic education is concerned. He understood the value of leadership, how it's done, and was committed to academic excellence," he said.

"His feeling was that we educate the whole man - mind, body and spirit," Father Sutton said.

"He also was independently wealthy and therefore had the wherewithal to do justice wherever he saw need," said Father Sutton.

Father Riepe was also something of a charming anachronism.

"He was a bit of an antique but in a good sense. I mean. you could mention Dolly Parton, for instance, and he'd ask, 'Who?' " said Monsignor Burke, laughing.

"I remember Charlie's father sending him button-down shirts from Eddie Jacobs. and that's the style of shirt he wore for the rest of his life. Fashions may change but not Charlie. He always wore tweed sports coats with patches and button-down shirts."

Father Riepe served on the board of the Harford Day School and Partners in Excellence, which raises money for inner city schools. He also was a consultant for the Reading Network for the Blind.

For many years, he was a benefactor and served on the board of the Upper Chesapeake Medical System and the Upper Chesapeake Health Foundation.

Because of his philanthropy, a floor at the Upper Chesapeake Medical Center in Bel Air was named for him, family members said.

He was an avid lifelong Orioles fan.

A Mass of Christian burial for Father Riepe was offered yesterday at St. Ignatius Roman Catholic Church in Forest Hill.

Surviving are two half-brothers, George M. S. Riepe of Lutherville and John T. Riepe of Guilford.

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