Founder's Philosophy - History - McDonogh School

Founder's Philosophy

John McDonogh, a Baltimore-born merchant and philanthropist, was born in 1779. He moved to New Orleans in 1800, just before his 21st birthday and built his fortune as a merchant and a trader. McDonogh was known for his piety and frugality, financial and otherwise, derived from his Presbyterian beliefs. He was a hard worker, a bold leader, and a constant thinker, and his unrelenting devotion to work made him appear aloof from strangers and even close friends. These ideals and visions guided his action in his personal and business life, and he expressed his philosophy at age 24 in his Rules For Guidance in My Life in 1804.

Twelve years before his death in 1850, he thoroughly expressed his plans in a handwritten will. Aside from a small amount meant for his sister, John McDonogh left half of his estate to Baltimore and half to New Orleans. His dream was for students to learn in a disciplined environment under his philosophies of hard work, frugality, and compassion.

Because a public school system already existed in Baltimore, the mayor and City Council used the funds to solely endow the farm school for poor boys of good character. In 1872, a tract of 835 acres was purchased for $85,000 for the school's establishment.

Since 1873, the McDonogh community has lived by the words of its founder, John McDonogh, who sought to leave the world a better place. The notion of doing the greatest possible amount of good is inculcated in McDonogh students of all ages. Through community involvement, students learn to broaden their sight, give to those less fortunate, and discover the joy in making a difference.

John McDonogh's Rules for Living

  • The first and great study of your life should be to tend by all means in your power to the honor and glory of the Divine Creator.
  • Remember always that labor is one of the conditions of our existence.
  • Time is gold; throw not one minute away, but place each one to account.
  • Do unto men as you would be done by.
  • Never put off till tomorrow what you can do today.
  • Never bid another do what you can do yourself.
  • Never covet what is not your own.
  • Never think any matter so trivial as not to deserve notice.
  • Never give out that which does not come in.
  • Never spend but to produce.
  • Let the greatest order regulate the transactions of your life.
  • Study in your course of life to do the greatest possible amount of good.
  • Deprive yourself of nothing necessary to your comfort, but live in an honorable simplicity and frugality.
  • The conclusion of which I have arrived is that without temperance there is not health; without virtue, no order; without religion, no happiness; and the sum of our being is to live wisely, soberly and righteously.