After long career, veteran instructor retires

Mr. Vollmer: CHS grad and soon-to-be former teacher


Catherine Jasper

English teacher Mr. Joe Vollmer ’66 oversees one of his final composition classes during C period on May 8.

Anna Pohl, Reporter

After 42 years, English teacher Mr. Joe Vollmer ‘66 will retire at the end of this school year. But his journey with this school is longer than the 16 years of his employment here.

In 1962, Vollmer was a freshman attending the high school from which his father had graduated decades earlier. Vollmer said he never had a choice regarding his high school. “I don’t honestly remember discussing where to go,” he said. “I just understood that I was going to go to Cathedral.”

Vollmer was happy with the decision made for him.

“I’d always heard that Cathedral was a really good school. To go there, I felt kind of proud,” he said. Vollmer also enjoyed attending the same school his father had attended.

Vollmer’s four years at the school had a lasting impact on him.

He still remembers Br. Raymond, his favorite teacher, from sophomore year. “I learned more about writing and how to be a better student from him than anybody,” Vollmer said.

The family legacy did not end after Vollmer’s graduation in 1966. Later, Vollmer’s own children attended the school and found their identities through the theatre program. “They both still perform in one way or another, my son in music and my daughter in comedy,” Vollmer said.

Vollmer returns to teach

However, Vollmer did not return to teaching at the school until 2002, when it made a life changing — or life saving — mark on him.

Prior to his 16-year employment at this school, Vollmer taught for 30 years at Indianapolis Public Schools. “My first 15 years at IPS were wonderful,” he said. However, this changed with new government and economic factors. “By the end of the ’90s it became a very difficult place to work and a very stressful place to teach,” he said.

The stress from teaching at IPS caused significant heart problems.

Vollmer had his blocked arteries fixed 24 times and eventually underwent open heart surgery in 2014.

Meanwhile, Vollmer’s wife encouraged him to apply to private schools for a teaching position. This made sense financially, as Vollmer could take a lower salary at a private school and combine it with his public school pension.

Yet upon changing schools Vollmer noticed a great change in his heart condition as well. “I would argue that coming to Cathedral saved my life,” he said.

Vollmer did not come to this school with only financial and health goals in mind. “I just knew that when I came here I would have the opportunity to work with more motivated students,” he said. “I have tried my best to share with them what I knew about literature and how to connect it with their everyday lives,” he said.

Students were not the only ones learning in Vollmer’s classroom. Vollmer learned from his own students as well as the other teachers from the school, he said.

After 46 years of teaching, there are a lot of memories, Vollmer said. “Certainly coaching the state championship golf team was a great memory,” he said.

Another of these memories occurred after the death of Jeramy Schmitt, a senior from the graduating class of 2006.

Schmitt, a football player, passed out on the field during practice in front of several teammates and classmates. An hour later, Schmitt was declared dead at Methodist Hospital.

“We knew it wasn’t going to be a normal week,” Vollmer said. Classes were canceled and students attended a prayer vigil.

One night several days after Schmitt’s death, Vollmer opened his email to look for any updates on scheduling that week. “I found an email there from one of my former students,” Vollmer said.

The graduate had heard about Schmitt through social media. “He was checking in on me just to see how I was. If I was OK,” Vollmer said. “And I thought, that is the epitome of a real Cathedral student. That they care enough about other people,” he said.

When Vollmer retires, he will miss his interactions with the students and staff. However, he plans to continue attending school events to remain connected.

Although Vollmer will miss the social aspect of his job, he will not regret leaving some things behind. “The one thing I will miss the least would have to be grading research papers,” Vollmer said.

Although Vollmer is not sure what he will miss the most, he said, he does know one thing for certain.

Vollmer said, “The last time I drive down the Hill, I’m going to drive real slow.”