#75 Happy birthday Mr. McGinty

My first job teaching English was at Hermitage High School. I started in late August of 1979.  That is when I met John McGinty who as an assistant principal at the time.

He had a legal pad way back then too. 

Seems I recall that he might have driven a lime green, VW bug convertible.

John knew how to get the attention of a young teacher. 

One day,  I remember being summoned to his office. When I arrived, John showed me a question that he had written on the legal pad:  How would you like to earn, and out beside the question was an amount of money. 

For a young teacher, pennies were important. John was looking for a tennis coach at Hermitage. I had played tennis with friends, but never competitively at any level. However, John promised to help me set up the tryouts and other details, and I took the assignment. Of course, Uncle Sam took most of the pennies.

At some point, Hermitage lost John to Godwin, and John was a success there too. Eventually, he became the principal, and even to this day John remains a legend in Eagle land.

Our paths would cross at principal meetings. He was always a good professional listening ear in our conversations. No matter where a person served as principal in the county, it was tough work.

 And John had to weather some storms at Godwin, and he did. 

I think John weathered storms because of a quiet internal strength deep inside of him, and I believe his heart was always a part of this thinking and decision making.

When John retired from Godwin, another interesting assignment was in front of him. He became the Headmaster at Benedictine High School in the city. In lots of ways, John was returning to his turf. 

Perhaps one of the craziest things John did during the latter part of his tenure at Benedictine was to hire me as a part-time freshman English teacher. John still had his legal pad with him at Benedictine, and yes, the Cadets loved and respected his leadership there too. 

Once a knucklehead senior cadet who had nothing better to do late on a Saturday night called my house as a prankster. Somehow, John tracked the senior down. An apology was given to me, and no more phone calls happened.

I think Bruce Bowen stated on Facebook that there are too many John McGinty stories out there to chronicle. I agree.

 I suspect that the volume of stories would require a new wing to be added to the Boatwright Memorial Library on the campus of the University of Richmond.  This would be especially true since two of John’s hobbies— fishing and golf really lend themselves to truth stretching.

No one enjoys a good laugh more than John McGinty. A highly reliable source once shared the story of the white dolphin with me. 

The setting was a local restaurant with a bar. John convinced his friend, a bright, seasoned educator, who was no rookie in this environment to take a shot of a distilled spirit. 

The mystique of this spirit was so clear and mellow that makers of white rum, vodka, and gin from around the world were envious. They wanted to know the skills of the distiller who had created a beverage with such clarity, strength, and smoothness.

Finally, his friend agreed to take the shot. John caught the eye of the bartender who of course, John knew. He ordered the white dolphin. 

The shot glass arrived. 

And only as McGinty could orchestrate, all eyes around the bar focused on his unsuspecting friend. His friend bravely hoisted the glass and gulped it down. The white dolphin was simply a shot of tap water. Folks around this scene erupted, and John’s friend did not clobber him.

So, John you are 75. Maybe, I thought you were a lot older. 

For some reason with your middle initial “B” I figured you might have been named after the elderly Bahamian folk song “The Sloop John B.” 

Perhaps,  the John B. naming helped you secure the teaching and coaching position at the Naval Academy. I think they know a little bit about water there. Who knows maybe those midshipmen know something about white dolphins too.

Wow 75, there is no way you are 75. I still see you as an ageless wonder from my first encounter at Hermitage.

I hope there are 75 more years ahead of you.

Pat Conroy wrote:  “One can learn anything, anything at all, I thought, if provided by a gifted and passionate teacher.”

John, I think that quote says a lot about you. 

You have never stopped learning.

You have always used your gifts to help people.

And you have always been passionate about your God, your family, your profession, and the people who have stumbled into your life along the way.

I’m glad I stumbled into your path. 

Happy Birthday my friend!

The infamous White Dolphin photo by Bill Pike

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