Jazzed about Notre Dame

School principal in Kentucky says Notre Dame played a huge role in who he is today and why he works in education.

When contacted about participating in an interview for IRISH magazine, 1987 NDHS alum Mike Shires was reluctant—as is typical for most alums—saying that his “story” may not be that interesting. We of course disagree because, just like with nearly every alum we contact and interview, it turns out that his story is another one of many interesting stories that show just how impactful Notre Dame and its Marist-inspired education were on their lives.

“Notre Dame has played a huge role in who I am today and why I am in education,” Shires said recently. “This interview really makes me think about my time at that special place and reflect on the people there who made an impact on me.  In reality, I am trying to do the same things they did, but for a different generation.”

Shires is a principal at North Pointe Elementary School in Hebron, Kentucky, just south of Cincinnati. He’s been in education for nearly his entire professional career and in Kentucky since 2007, when he and his family moved from Chicago.

“After living in the big city for 15 years, my wife, Rhonda, and I decided it was time to make a move out of Chicago, partly because we needed more space with three kids,” Shires said. “We chose northern Kentucky because it’s still close to my family in Detroit (4-1/2 hours by car) and still near a major city.” 

He said they can head south 10 minutes and be in a very rural setting or head north 15 minutes and be in the city. Plus, he said, northern Kentucky is a great place to raise a family and “a lot cheaper place than Chicago to live.”

So, with three kids, a busy job and a current pursuit of a doctoral degree in educational leadership, Shires is a busy guy. In fact, this accomplished jazz musician—who has a twelve-year-old daughter, Lili, and twin boys named Miles and Jack “Coltrane” Shires—gave up his trumpet about five years ago. 

“In Chicago, I played gigs all the time, but with the kids and being the principal of a school, time was extremely limited,” he said. “I felt like I could not dedicate enough time to doing something I loved. And because I could not be the best I could be at playing, I decided to hang it up for a while.”  

He says that after he finishes up his doctoral program at Northern Kentucky University, he hopes to pick up his trumpet again and play.

Larry Egan made him believe
Shires recalled his time at Notre Dame as being an important time in his young life. “My experiences at Notre Dame helped to instill in me the value and importance of education,” he said. “The teachers and staff there pushed me to strive for excellence and to try and reach my fullest potential as an individual.”

Shires, who has three uncles who also graduated from Notre Dame: Tom McEvoy (‘59), Charles McEvoy (‘62)*, and Tim McEvoy (‘64)*, holds one particular aspect of his Notre Dame education in especially high regard. He said the music program at Notre Dame and the late Larry Egan, the longtime music teacher and band leader at NDHS, were very big influences in many parts of his life. 

“As I get older and reflect on my time with him, I have realized that Mr. Egan believed in me even when I didn’t believe in myself,” Shires said. “That was very powerful for me. I wanted to please him and I thought that if he believed that I could do it, then I must be able to do it.

“Now I see myself doing this very thing for students. Many times young students doubt themselves. If the principal of their school tells them ‘I know you can do it,’ they start to believe that they can do it, and then they do it!” 

A big fan of bebop and post-bop musicians such as Miles Davis, Freddie Hubbard, John Coltrane and Woody Shaw, Shires said Egan also taught him how to be more professional as a musician, especially on the band stand. “I can still hear him telling me ‘If you’re on time, you’re fifteen minutes late.’”


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About Notre Dame Preparatory School and Marist Academy

Notre Dame Preparatory School and Marist Academy is a private, Catholic, independent, coeducational day school located in Oakland County. The school's upper division enrolls students in grades nine through twelve and has been named one of the nation's best 50 Catholic high schools (Acton Institute) four times since 2005. Notre Dame's middle and lower divisions enroll students in jr. kindergarten through grade eight. All three divisions are International Baccalaureate "World Schools." NDPMA is conducted by the Marist Fathers and Brothers and is accredited by the Independent Schools Association of the Central States and the North Central Association Commission on Accreditation and School Improvement. For more on Notre Dame Preparatory School and Marist Academy, visit the school's home page at www.ndpma.org.