Remembering Quinton Donald (Q.D.) Thompson


The memorial service for Q.D. Thompson, former Head of Middle School who passed away on May 20, will be held in the Horn Theatre Saturday, June 3 at 10:00 a.m. A reception will immediately follow in the Burck Center Lobby.

Guests will be asked to enter campus via Lamborn Road and park in Woods Lot.

Quinton Donald (Q.D.) Thompson, who served for 32 years as McDonogh’s first Head of Middle School, passed away on May 20, 2017 at the age of 95. Q.D. was known for his zest for life; his loyalty to family, friends, and country; and his complete commitment to McDonogh School.

Q.D. was born in 1921 and was one of 11 children. After the Depression, his family moved from the Roanoke, VA area to Sparks, MD where his father was a tenant farmer on a large dairy farm. During his high school years, Q.D. was responsible for milking 16 head of cattle before and after school. He went on to the Maryland State Teachers College at Towson (now Towson University), where he juggled his farm duties with his classroom studies. Eventually, he became a boarding student, grew to be an accomplished athlete, and financed his education by working at a nearby gas station. He graduated in 1942 with a B.S. in Elementary Education. Although he had planned to start his teaching career immediately, he instead volunteered to serve in the U.S. Navy.

During World War II, Q.D. served aboard the aircraft carrier USS Enterprise and the HMS Tyne as a communication coding officer in the Pacific theatre. After his honorable discharge as a lieutenant in 1947, both he and his wife Mary were hired to teach in McDonogh’s Lower School. Three years later, however, Q.D. was called back into military service. He spent the next three years serving in Naval Intelligence in Washington, DC, training both officers and enlisted men during the Korean Conflict.

After being recruited and hired by former Headmaster Bob Lamborn to be the first Head of Middle School, Q.D. returned to McDonogh in 1953. According to Lamborn, the middle school structure (grades 5-8) did not exist in American education at this time.

Lamborn said, “We talked about the principles upon which the School should operate and how we might go about developing a new sort of program to meet the special needs of the age group involved. And Q.D. and Mary returned to McDonogh to turn the idea into a working reality.”

Q.D. remained in this pioneering position until 1985. During these years, he and Mary lived on Chapel Hill Drive and raised two children, Jim ‘79 and Susan Thompson.

During his lengthy career, Q.D. saw significant changes come to McDonogh, some of them physical and others related to the school’s very identity. He was present for the construction of the Field House; Lamborn Hall; Elderkin Hall; and three dormitories: South, Jane Bay, and Rollins Halls. Additionally, he oversaw numerous renovations to Finney Building. He served with four headmasters, nine Upper School Heads, and five Lower School Heads. Most importantly, Q.D. witnessed and supported the integration of McDonogh in 1959, the dropping of the military program in 1971, and the admission of girls in 1975.

Throughout his tenure, Q.D. was always extremely proud of his Middle School faculty and staff. In his retirement speech in May, 1985, he described them as “outstanding teachers and staff members” for whom he would be eternally grateful. He said, ”Among us there has been an esprit de corps - like a family within a family. I think such a relationship is extremely important. Each school level needs to have the opportunity to develop its own personality in order to be a strong and supportive force in the whole McDonogh Family.”

Q.D. had the reputation of “running a tight ship,” but his own door was always open. He welcomed any student, teacher, or parent who wanted a word with him. As noted in the Spring, 2004 issue of McDonogh Magazine, celebrating the 50th anniversary of the Middle School, “For 32 years, the Middle School operated like a close-knit family with Q.D. as the benevolent but strict father figure.”

Although Q.D. truly loved his Middle School students and found them to be “fun, impressionable, uninhibited, responsive, highly active, and creative,” he wrote that his greatest joy and fulfillment came from working with their parents. He believed that children in this age group sometimes needed an advocate when dealing with their parents.

He explained, “When playing the role of the advocate for the child, if I can in some small way help change a perspective, open a door, shift a responsibility, heal a bruise, create an atmosphere of mutual respect, establish an alternate route, and cry and laugh with (the parents), then, I feel I have served a purpose in the development of the child. A child has only one childhood and he (or she) is entitled to enjoy it.”

Q.D. was presented with McDonogh’s Distinguished Service Award in 1981 and later named an Honorary Alumnus in 1985. After his retirement from McDonogh, Q.D. stepped up his volunteer service to Towson University and in 2004 was honored for 50 years of service to his alma mater.

Three years after Mary passed away in 1991, Q.D. married Ruth Friedman, mother of Paul ‘60 and Steve Friedman ‘64, his former Middle School students. He played an active role in the life of Edenwald, a retirement community in Towson.

In August, 2015, at the age of 94, Q.D. returned to campus for the dedication of a plaque in his honor. School administrators, family, and friends gathered around him in the hallway of Finney Building as current Head of Middle School Darren Ford read aloud the words engraved on the plaque that hangs just outside the Head’s office:

In recognition of Quinton Donald “Q.D.” Thompson, Head of Middle School, 1953-1985.

In 1953, McDonogh became the first school in the nation to establish a structure of three divisions each comprised of four grades. Q.D. Thompson, a man who embodied the ideals of John McDonogh, was selected to serve as the first Head of Middle School - a position he held for 32 years.

Throughout his tenure, Q.D. assembled a faculty of distinct personalities who worked well as a team. His character, disposition, and understanding of early adolescents made him a remarkably successful administrator. He expected students to do their best, respect rules, and honor those around them. These principles are the foundation of McDonogh’s Middle School and Q.D.’s living legacy.


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8600 McDonogh Road | Owings Mills | Maryland | 21117