Perry Sangalli, ‘gentle and firm leader,’ dies


Dr. Perry E. Sangalli, left, and students welcomed Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan of New York to St. Xavier High School in 2016. (Record File Photo by Jessica Able)

Noting that spring is a reminder of the cycle of life, Dr. Perry E. Sangalli encouraged the St. Xavier High School community in a recent newsletter to “savor the blessings in your life.”

The long-time St. Xavier High School president died May 5 after a brief illness.

In a statement issued April 25, Sangalli announced he had colorectal cancer and was stepping away from his duties at the all-boys school to focus on his treatment.

According to those who knew him, Sangalli did as he instructed, living his life with a purpose guided by his faith.

Sangalli, 60, was a 1976 graduate of St. Xavier. He held a bachelor’s degree from Bellarmine University and a doctoral degree in educational leadership from Spalding University.

He served at St. Xavier for 38 years, first as a math teacher, then as principal, from 1993 to 2001, and later as president, 2001 to 2019. As president, he continued to teach advanced math courses.

Mike Littell, vice president for advancement at St. Xavier, said in a statement that Sangalli was responsible for leading the “school through the greatest period of academic, physical and spiritual growth in its 150+ year history.”

Dr. Perry E. Sangalli prepared to take up the gifts at a 2014 Mass at the Cathedral of the Assumption celebrating the 150th anniversary of St. Xavier High School.

He led initiatives to increase support for need-based financial aid, as well as merit-based scholarships. During his tenure, Sangalli also oversaw expansion of the school’s academic and athletic facilities and oversaw the school’s fourth designation as a National Blue Ribbon School, the statement said.

Beyond leading the school, Sangalli, a parishioner of Holy Trinity Church, was an accomplished organist and often played at various events around the Archdiocese of Louisville.

Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz extended sympathy to the Sangalli family and the St. Xavier community May 6.

“It is fitting that Perry goes to God as we begin the national observance of Teacher Appreciation Week. … First and foremost, Perry was a consummate Catholic school teacher who cared deeply about the young men of St. Xavier as well as the teachers and staff who served there during the almost 40 years he served in Catholic education,” the archbishop wrote in his blog at

Archbishop Kurtz noted Sangalli’s “gentle and firm leadership” at a Mass at the school during Holy Week and said he exhibited “the grace and dignity that accompanied all his actions as a leader and a friend to so many.”

“Since Perry loved music, we will raise our voices together in a joyful chorus of gratitude for his life,” he said.

Aside from his service as an educator and musician, friends, including Dr. Brian B. Reynolds, chancellor of the archdiocese, remembered him as a good and loyal friend.

“As the children of his peers grew up, he rarely missed a First Communion or graduation ceremonies. He paid attention to them and tracked their lives into adulthood,” said Reynolds.

Sangalli was also known as a “wonderful cook and food connoisseur,” Reynolds said.

“Over Spring Break, when his health prevented him from traveling with four of us to New York, he still chose the restaurants for us to visit,” he said. “I join with his many friends, his family, the St. Xavier community and parishioners of the archdiocese who will deeply miss him.”

In a recent school newsletter, Sangalli wrote of the spring season and signs of hope.

“All remind us of the marching of time and the cycle of life, challenging us to pay attention to our senses as we have opportunities to see, smell, hear, touch and taste the gifts that surround us. Celebrate the season, enter the events, and grab a quiet moment to recognize and savor the blessings in your life,” he wrote.

Survivors include his father, Eugene, and brothers, Jamie and Bob Sangalli.

Visitation will be May 9 from 3 p.m. to 8 p.m. St. Xavier’s Sterne Gymnasium, 1609 Poplar Level Road.

The Mass of Christian Burial will be May 10 at 10 a.m. at Holy Trinity Church, 501 Cherrywood. Burial will follow in Calvary Cemetery.

Expressions of sympathy may be made to the Sangalli Endowment at St. Xavier.

Frank Espinosa, St. Xavier High School principal, left, and Dr. Perry Sangalli, right, presented the Theodore James Ryken Award to teacher John Zickel in December 2016. (Record File Photo by Jessica Able)
Jessica Able
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