McDonogh Voices - Our History - McDonogh School

McDonogh Voices

McDonogh Voices: One School. Many Perspectives—a multi-year series of learning and discussion opportunities—was designed to give stories about our past a greater voice in McDonogh’s present and future.

The series, which began in the 2021-2022 school year, was developed by a group of McDonogh alumni historians and scholars working in partnership with administrators, staff, and trustees. During the inaugural year, programming focused on our understanding of history. During the 2022-2023 school year, McDonogh Voices took a look at the alumni experience from the 1950s through the 1980s.

In celebration of the School’s 150th anniversary, the 2023-2024 season continues with a focus on the 1990s through the present day. See below for information on upcoming sessions and links to view past programs.

Upcoming Webinars

The 2000s: Embracing Change

Thursday, December 7, 2023 
7:00 p.m.
Register HERE

The unveiling of McDonogh’s website in 2021 launched the School into a decade of adapting to evolving technology, embracing change in leadership, and confronting the challenges of economic volatility. As Charlie Britton took the reins from Bo Dixon in 2007, an innovative and courageous Board of Trustees stood firm on planned strategic developments even as the global financial crisis raged. While many institutions shrank in the face of these economic headwinds, McDonogh exhibited a confidence that allowed students, as in decades past, to discover their passions, establish lasting relationships, and feel supported in taking appropriate risks in all phases of school life.


The 2010s: Finding a Balance

Thursday, January 25, 2024 
7:00 p.m.
Register HERE

Realizing the long-range goals of the Campus Master Plan to make the core campus free of traffic and to create large communal spaces, the School saw a dramatic change with the addition of the Naylor Building (2013), The Edward St. John Student Center (2013), and the Rosenberg Campus Green (2014). The new spaces demonstrated that McDonogh’s traditional values of community and family underpinned contemporary values of collaboration and innovation. Attention to this complex relationship between past and present gave birth to McDonogh’s LifeReady ethos and provided the intention to create meaningful, sustained connections between McDonogh and the society beyond its campus. Charlie Britton, who cultivated a balance between tradition and progress throughout his tenure, turned over the reins to Dave Farace ’87 in 2018. 

McDonogh Today: Prepared for the Unexpected

Tuesday, March 26, 2024 
7:00 p.m.
Register HERE

As the first decade of the 21st century was drawing to a close, a new—and soon-to-be ubiquitous—device peppered the landscape: the iPhone. This transformational invention, a synthesis of the iPod and the Blackberry, heralded more than just new technology; it signaled a new way we would access knowledge and information. Rapid technological change coupled with a burgeoning of new research on learning and glimpses of what life might be like in the future gave rise to LifeReady: McDonogh’s bold promise to graduate self-reliant critical thinkers prepared to do good in a diverse and rapidly changing world. Since its inception in 2014, LifeReady has provided a “North Star” orienting McDonogh’s approach to teaching and learning. In this session, a panel of teachers will share how LifeReady has influenced their practice and share their thoughts about what’s in store for McDonogh’s academic program in the future.

View Past Programs

The 1990s: Commitment to the 21st Century

September 21, 2023 
Moderator: Louis Hyman '95, The Dorothy Ross Professor of History at Johns Hopkins University
Panelists: David Holland '90, Kaylee Kassap George '94, Grace Jackson '95, Bryan Billig '97, and Jazmine Eldridge '99 

At the May 1990 dedication of the Kiplinger Library, guest speaker Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor made the following observation about women in America:  “The tide is running in your favor and the wind is at your back.” The same was true not only for young women at McDonogh but also for the School’s culture, climate, and campus. The 1990s were marked by the introduction of kindergarten in 1992 and the mid-decade construction of the Rollins-Luetkemeyer Athletic Center and the Clarence Burke Center for the Arts. In 1998, the School celebrated its 125th Anniversary with a reenactment of the arrival of the original 21 boys on campus. The celebration harnessed a spirit that would carry the School into the next century. In this session of McDonogh Voices, alumni who graduated in the 1990s shared their perspectives of the time.

View the recording. 

The 1980s: An Era of Opportunity

March 23, 2023 
Carol Croxton, Director of Alumni Engagement
Historian: Jessica Levy '04, Assistant Professor of History at Purchase College, SUNY
Panelists: Terry Booker ‘82, Alberto Diaz ‘89, Anna Dopkin ‘85, John Hung ‘84, and Aliya Qureshi Poshni ‘89

Two major transitions in the previous decade focused the School’s attention within the boundaries of its vast campus, tending to the challenges of an increasingly diverse community. The burgeoning development of the county surrounding the School required McDonogh to begin an ambitious process of strategic thinking that has yielded the campus design we enjoy today. The 1980s also saw the evolution of arts programming, athletic opportunities, divisional rituals such as closing ceremonies, and an intentional focus on the academic and emotional needs specific to each division. Join us to learn more about the 1980s on campus.

View the recording.

The 1970s: Times of Transition

January 19, 2023 
Moderator: Carol Croxton, Director of Alumni Engagement
Historian: Louis Hyman ’95, Professor and Director, Institute for Workplace Studies at Cornell University
Panelists: Wally Boston '72, Bethel Henry '78, LeRoy Katz '76, Ginger Kurapka Keener '77, and Norman Parker '73

The dawn of this decade saw the height of anti-Vietnam War protests—epitomized by the 1970 Kent State massacre—that presaged McDonogh’s dropping of its semi-military tradition in 1971. McDonogh became fully integrated in 1970, and the first Black graduate walked across Childs Memorial Terrace. The economic challenges of the time helped fuel an equally major shift to coeducation in 1975. No other time in McDonogh’s history witnessed decisions so dynamically reshaping the School’s culture. Join us to hear alumni from the 1970s describe their time on campus. 

View the recording.

The 1950s and 1960s: Prosperity and Protest

November 17, 2022
Carol Croxton, Director of Alumni Engagement
Historian: Ane Lintvedt, McDonogh Upper School History and Social Studies Teacher 
Panelists: John Beever '50, Hank Chiles '56, John Sieverts '63, Mike Koppisch '60, and Tim Wright '66

The 1950s, often described as a period of conformity, stability, and prosperity gave way to the 1960s—one of the most tumultuous and divisive decades in history. The early 1950s witnessed the continuance of the Lamborn legacy as Doc Lamborn—the architect of McDonogh’s survival during The Depression and World War II—yielded his office to his son, Bob, who revamped the School’s academic program that would eventually eclipse the farm program. 

In the 1960s, the war in Vietnam could not muster the national unity achieved by World War II. The heroic image of the American military eroded as did the perception of the uniform on McDonogh’s campus and in the community. Thus began a decades-long metamorphosis of the literal cloth uniform into a metaphorical weave representing character. Also during this time, the first Black student was admitted to McDonogh under a plan of gradual integration that was completed in 1970. Join us to hear alumni from the 1950s and 1960s recall their McDonogh experience. 

View the recording. 

Dance Performance by Nile Russell '00, Naana Badu '00 and Jenn Ford '00

April 29, 2022

Using historical research as inspiration, Nile Russell ’00 and his collaborators, Naana Badu '00 and Jenn Ford '00, composed and performed a dance piece that explores several complementary concepts and themes. His work highlights the dichotomy and complexity of McDonogh (the person and the School), the importance of creating greatness in difficult times, and a forward vision of the McDonogh community’s future. Nile served in residency at McDonogh for two weeks in order to teach and incorporate the talents of McDonogh’s theatre, dance, and gospel choir students in this performance.

Watch the performance.

The Memorial to Those Enslaved and Freed

March 22, 2022

Planning for a memorial to recognize and honor the enslaved peoples of John McDonogh has been in the works for nearly two decades. The journey began with the work of a passionate group of current and retired faculty, staff—including retired Art Department Chair Oletha DeVane—and Board members who brought light to the importance of doing justice to the memory of people whose labor contributed to the wealth that was the basis of our School’s founding. The memorial will honor the enslaved people and be used as a foundation for educating students more fully about this period in history. During this session, lead artist Oletha DeVane and artistic historical consultants Dr. Leslie King-Hammond and Dr. Lowery Sims discussed the evolution and meaning behind The Memorial to Those Enslaved and Freed.  

 View the recording.

New Understanding of American Slavery and John McDonogh

March 2, 2022

Historians Ken Lipartito, Ph.D., professor of history at Florida International University and President of Business History Group, along with Patricia A. Watson, Ph.D., Vice President of Business History Group, are researching and writing a narrative history to commemorate the 150th anniversary of McDonogh School (which will take place during the 2023-2024 school year).

During the second session, the speakers discussed slavery and the slave trade in the United States, Baltimore, and New Orleans as well as John McDonogh's association with it. They also explained how other institutions with connections to slavery have analyzed and expressed their own pasts.

View the recording. 

History and the Inclusion of New Voices

November 18, 2021

Nadine Knight ’95, Associate Professor of English and Director of the Center for Interdisciplinary Studies at College of the Holy Cross; Jessica Levy ’04, Assistant Professor of History at Purchase College, SUNY; and Upper School history teacher John Wood provided an overview of how history is understood and communicated and how various institutions and their disciplines have evolved in their understanding of the stories they tell about people who have been overlooked.

View the recording.

Gallery Exhibit Featuring Artist Akea Brionne

November 15-December 15, 2021

Artist Akea Brionne is a photographer, writer, curator, and researcher whose personal work investigates the implications of historical racial and social structures in relation to the development of contemporary black life and identity within America.  A collection of Akea’s photographs was displayed in the Tuttle Gallery from November 15 through December 15.

Learn more about the exhibit from the artist.