John Van Meter - Retiree Tributes - McDonogh School

John Van Meter

Most photographs taken at McDonogh prior to 1973 are in black and white. In 1973, which coincidentally was when John Van Meter was hired, we went to color. And, that was a good thing, because with Mr. Van on campus, black and white would no longer accurately capture the man or his creations. Not only did he broaden the color spectrum on Foxleigh Hill with his loud plaids, but he also used the campus as a canvas upon which to produce thrilling theater for the entire McDonogh Family.

Mr. Van’s productions were his love letters to McDonogh, and, as such, they took place all over the campus. Whether it was the most charming of locations like the chapel or the little red farmhouse, or the most unlikely—the basement of Allan, the loading dock, in front of and behind Keelty—Mr. Van, like any great artist, reinvented the way we saw our world.

For those who saw his production of Hamlet, it is impossible to think of the basement of Allan without the memory of the Melancholy Dane, transforming an otherwise unremarkable space with ghostly reminders of the sublime.

Most importantly, Mr. Van also set up his easel in his classroom, opening eyes to the beauty of language, to the essential nature of literature, and to the importance of clear communication, all the while making learning fun for his students who grew to revere him. Thank you for your love letters, Mr. Van, and for all the color you have brought to McDonogh.  Know that your love has been requited by students and colleagues these last forty-two years.