Loyola Magazine

Life lessons

McGonigles make gift to further Catholic education

The Rev. Edward Gannon, S.J., had an iron-clad rule for his classes at the University of Scranton: don’t skip them. The philosophy professor was so strict that he docked any student a half grade for being absent.

When a conflict arose that pitted a campus activity against one of Father Gannon’s classes, Dennis McGonigle approached his professor about the dilemma.

“Sounds to me like you have a choice to make,” Father Gannon told the student. “Is it worth half a grade?”

McGonigle decided it was and skipped the class.

At the end of the semester, during McGonigle’s face-to-face final examination with Father Gannon, the priest reminded his student of the attendance policy. Instead of receiving an A, McGonigle left with a B+.

“He taught me so much about expectations,” remembered McGonigle, a member of Scranton’s Class of 1982. “He set a high bar, a high level, and a high standard—and he had no problem calling you on it if you didn’t meet it.”

The life lesson was one of many imparted to McGonigle by Sisters of St. Joseph, diocesan priests, and Jesuits throughout his years in Catholic elementary and high schools in New Jersey and at the University of Scranton.

McGonigle, chief financial officer and executive vice president at SEI Investments in Pennsylvania, and his wife, Rachel, a graduate of the College of New Rochelle in New York, recently made a contribution to Loyola University Maryland in the hopes of helping others attain some of the same positive experiences they had in Catholic education.

Their daughter, Audrey McGonigle, is a 2012 Loyola graduate who serves on the board of advisors for the School of Education and teaches pre-kindergarten at The Primary Day School in Bethesda, Md. Audrey’s experience at Loyola framed the opportunity to connect the School of Education with Catholic elementary education.

Brent Dailey, director of development for the School of Education and the Loyola Clinical Centers, said a significant portion of the McGonigle gift will endow a scholarship for undergraduate students within the School of Education, with a preference for those in need of financial assistance, and those interning at one of Loyola’s four partner community Catholic schools in Baltimore City.

The remaining funds will be used to support the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults (RCIA) program at Loyola, which provides religious instruction to students, faculty, and staff who are interested in being received into the Catholic Church. Rachel McGonigle, a registered nurse, teaches confirmation students at St. Basil the Great Parish in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia.

“The support from the McGonigle family is consonant with the mission of Loyola and the School of Education,” said Joshua S. Smith, Ph.D., dean of the School of Education. “We are focused on preparing teachers who integrate content and compassion into the classroom. Our students critically examine social issues of the day and stand up for families and children. They advocate for opportunities to learn and view education through a lens of social justice.”

Smith noted that elementary education students have increasingly requested field placements and student teaching in the urban schools of Baltimore and Washington, D.C.

“In the past few years we have seen the percentage of graduates getting teaching positions in the Baltimore region grow from less than 10 percent to approximately 40 percent for the most-recent graduating class,” he said. “This speaks to the students’ and school’s commitment to teach and serve our community.”

McGonigle said he and his wife hope their contribution will help the Church deliver a message of mercy in the city. They also hope it makes more people aware of the beauty of the Catholic Church’s teachings.

“There’s so much cultural influence today that runs counter to the Church’s teachings,” he said. “When young people actually hear and understand how beautiful and rewarding our Church’s teachings are, their ability to serve others will be strengthened—and their life will be so enriched.”