Eugenia McGowan Receives Honorary Doctorate

The Roche Center for Catholic Education Salutes Principal Eugenia McGowan for Receiving an Honorary Doctorate from Boston College

McGowan is Honored for her Groundbreaking Work Transforming St. Matthew Catholic School through Dual-Language Immersion

CHESTNUT HILL, Mass., May 27, 2016 -- The Roche Center for Catholic Education congratulates Eugenia (Gena) McGowan, principal of St. Matthew Catholic School in Phoenix, Ariz., for receiving an honorary Doctorate of Humane Letters from Boston College at its recent 2016 Commencement ceremony.  McGowan, whose school participates in the Roche Center’s TWIN-CS program (Two-Way Immersion Network for Catholic Schools), was recognized for her trailblazing work transforming her traditional K-8 Catholic school into a thriving community through whole-school, dual-language immersion in English and Spanish.

“The granting of this honorary degree to Eugenia McGowan signals Boston College’s recognition of the powerful importance of the challenges of bilingual Catholic education and the universal need to raise the academic standards and outcomes for those who otherwise are continually marginalized,” said Patricia Weitzel-O’Neill, Ph.D., executive director of the Roche Center.  “In so doing, Eugenia McGowan is modeling what it means to fully provide for those least among us, in the true spirit of our Ignatian tradition. Too often, the work of outstanding Catholic school principals is overlooked by our Catholic institutions of higher education.  Boston College has set the bar high for all institutions by embracing the accomplishments of St. Matthew Catholic School and honoring its mission-driven leader.”

McGowan led her school through a transformational process to improve performance through dual-language immersion.  When the school began its improvement journey in 2009, St. Matthew enrolled just 89 students, and academic performance was low. Today, the school enrolls more than 200 students and has experienced a yearly increase of approximately 15% in test scores and enrollment since beginning dual-language immersion. All students are now taught to read, write, and speak in English and Spanish, providing an innovative structure for developing students’ academic content.

The Roche Center’s TWIN-CS initiative provides program design support to assist schools in transitioning to a dual-language model. TWIN-CS also provides professional development for Catholic school educators and access to a network of educators leading two-way immersion schools. Through its ongoing research on dual-language immersion, the Roche Center is able to assist schools with the latest findings on successful dual-language learning. TWIN-CS is made up of 97% of all U.S. Catholic bilingual schools. 

The signs that the dual-language model is working are abundant. “Incoming children who speak only Spanish now arrive at St. Matthew to find classmates who are ambassadors of welcome and encouragement,” said McGowan. “Established students know that they can use language to bridge this student into the classroom. These kids are no longer alienated. They are a loving ‘mission’ for the other students, who have become proud of the two languages they are learning to speak.”

McGowan has also led St. Matthew through two successful re-accreditation processes and re-structured the way the school uses assessment data.  Every student now benefits from the use of an iPad for instruction. These changes have also helped to boost student achievement in math and reading.

McGowan is an alumna of the University of San Francisco and holds master’s degrees in education and counseling from University of Portland and University of Phoenix, respectively.  Of Venezuelan and French heritage, she has been an educator for more than 27 years.


About The Roche Center

The Barbara and Patrick Roche Center for Catholic Education (The Roche Center) strengthens Catholic education through the promotion of research-based educational innovations and the generation of research to lead the transformation of Catholic schools to serve with a preferential option for the poor and marginalized.  The Roche Center accomplishes this mission through a strong commitment to research, professional development, advocacy, and outreach. 

Housed within the top-ranked Lynch School of Education and Human Development at Boston College, the Roche Center brings together a collaborative community of Catholic school leaders, teachers, researchers, scholars, and innovators to sustain and improve K-12 Catholic education.  Signature programs include: the Two-Way Immersion Network for Catholic Schools (TWIN-CS), a national dual-language immersion initiative; the Emmaus Series, a leadership advancement program for Catholic school leaders; and Urban Catholic Teacher Corps of Boston College (UCTC), a two-year volunteer and graduate program where licensed teachers serve full-time at an urban Boston Catholic school. For more information, visit