VOL. 130 | NO. 96 | Monday, May 18, 2015
Dr. Mary C. McDonald
Still Finding Joy After 75 Years
By Dr. Mary C. McDonald
He does not claim to be courageous, yet lives by the strength within, confronting fear, uncertainty and intimidation. He does not see himself as humble, yet deflects every question about him with a story about the inspirational deeds of others. He does not admit to being a visionary, yet continues to see things as they should be and works to make them a reality. He is a man for all seasons, and a Christian Brother for life.
I first met Brother Terence McLaughlin when I was a graduate student in his finance class. He couldn’t inspire me to be excited about reading financial statements or constructing budgets, but he did convince me of the importance of running a school like a business, a novel idea 30-plus years ago. And he was right. This year he celebrates 75 years as a Christian Brother, teaching others inside the classroom and out.
Commitment is an elusive concept in a rapidly changing world. Yet his commitment to a purpose-driven life is what led him from his first days in school, in a one-room schoolhouse in Minnesota, to positions as teacher, principal, superintendent and college president throughout the mid-west, London and Memphis, inspiring thousands of students along the way. Perhaps his finest moment, and the public witness of living out his commitment to his vocation as a Christian Brother, came in Memphis, on August 26, 1963.
When Brother Terence was president of Christian Brothers College (now University), there was a high school on the same campus (now CBHS) that also was under his leadership. On that day in August, two days before Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. delivered his “I Have a Dream” speech in Washington, D.C., Brother Terence admitted Jesse Turner Jr., an African American, to the high school. With that act, Christian Brothers College High School became the first desegregated school in Memphis.
It was a peaceful desegregation and without fanfare; however, it was not without risks and suffering for Brother Terence at the hands of those who opposed his decision. He took his usual stance of doing his job based on the school’s mission and his mission in life. He has always been about lifting the poor and marginalized of society. Of course Brother Terence credits Allegra Turner, Jesse’s mother, and her courage and determination for the peaceful desegregation of the school, and Jesse for being the real hero.
Brother was transferred to Chicago the following year. He returned to his beloved Memphis in 2000 to continue his retirement in residence on the campus of CBU. He has authored nine books, including one, “Silent Acceptance,” which chronicles the events of 1963. As a former history teacher, he gives modern meaning to past events. He still hears from many of his former students, myself included. Once you have experienced the inspiration of greatness, you continue to seek it.
“Seventy-five years is a long time” he said, “to continue to find joy in what you do.”
Dr. Mary C. McDonald, a National Education Consultant, can be reached at 901-574-2956 or mcd-partners.com.