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Colleagues, friends remember
Dean Maureen McGarry at tribute
Feb. 6, 2015
On Nov. 12, 2014, the Community College of Rhode Island lost a dear friend and colleague in Maureen McGarry, dean of Health and Rehabilitative Sciences. On Jan. 30, nearly 75 people, including faculty, staff, students and family members gathered together at a memorial celebration in her honor in the Flanagan Campus cafeteria.
Dean of Business, Science, Technology, and Math Peter Woodberry presided over the event, which a group of faculty and staff organized over the intervening months. The celebration featured a slideshow of photographs and favorite musical selections that friends, colleagues and McGarry’s family provided.
President Ray Di Pasquale began the afternoon by announcing that the health sciences wing of the Newport County Campus would be renamed the Dr. Maureen Young-McGarry Health Sciences Wing and noted on a permanent plaque. Although McGarry’s legacy is felt all throughout the college, her home for the past quarter century, she was most instrumental in the health and rehabilitative sciences, where she helped build the department that would nurture more than 8,500 nurses as they moved through the program.
Nursing was not the only program to benefit from McGarry’s guidance; Di Pasquale said that CCRI is the largest trainer of health providers in all of Rhode Island. Each year, he and McGarry would preside over 30 to 40 pinnings to celebrate these students as they graduated, and he recalled what she said to him one year about the role they played in the launching of these careers: “We’re a team that helps students find their way. You never know the impact you make,” she told him.
Before McGarry joined the team at CCRI, helping to quite literally build the Nursing program in its new home at the Newport County Campus, she was a nurse and educator at St. Joseph’s School of Nursing, her alma mater. One of her classmates and close friends from that time was Dayle Joseph, who is now assistant provost and director of nursing for the New England Institute of Technology. Joseph spoke fondly of the moments she was able to share in three stages of McGarry’s life, beginning with what she called “the early years.”
“She had long, straight hair down to her back,” Joseph remembered, offering a bit of levity in what was clearly a difficult and emotional occasion for all in attendance. “She was a firecracker.”
Joseph recalled McGarry as having a formidable “mobile office” wherever she went – “only once in 50 years did I ask her for something she couldn’t find.” She “loved her patients and loved her students,” she said. “She was a true student as well as an educator,” added Joseph, who said McGarry was never afraid to think out of the box and give new ideas a try.
A lifelong learner herself, McGarry didn’t stop with her nursing degree – she went on to earn two master’s degrees as well as a doctorate. “But she never left her teaching roots,” said Joseph.
One college employee whom McGarry taught so much, both with her experience and her friendship, was Professor Kim Crealey Rouillier, the chairwoman of the Rehabilitative Health Department. Rouillier spoke of how McGarry guided her when she took over as the interim director of the Physical Therapist Assistant program in 1993.
“She was patient with me and took time to mentor and show how to be a better educator. I grew up so much in that role because of Maureen’s tutelage. She led by example, and I watched her. I learned how to be compassionate and firm, and you could see the love that she brought to the college,” said Rouillier. “So when I say that she is my friend and mentor – she continues to be. I always think about what Maureen would do, and it gets me through.”
Assistant Professor Joseph R. Arsenault, who coordinates the Emergency Management program at the college, offered a poignant remembrance, saying McGarry “was his boss, but she was much more than that. She inspired me to do great things – not for myself, but for her. I am a better person because of her.”
Arsenault delivered a touching tribute to McGarry, who he said believed in him and changed his life, not just as an educator but as a person. Arsenault said she felt so much like a mother to him that in her last days at Rhode Island Hospital, he told the staff that they had to let him in to see her, because he was her “unofficial son.” Before they relented, there was a moment of discomfort. “They looked at her chart and said that she didn’t have a son listed. I think they were worried I was illegitimate,” he joked.
In addition to the speaking portion of the program, the audience enjoyed two musical selections performed by students Brianne Perry and Antonio Rodriguez with accompaniment by Professor Audrey Kaiser; a letter from the college’s former dean of Nursing, Allied and Dental Health, Kathleen F. Dwyer, as read by Dean of Learning Resources Ruth A. Sullivan; and a slideshow lovingly prepared by Mathematics Department Chairman Edward Madonna, who went to grade school with McGarry and found the schoolyard photos to prove it. Before taking a shot of Jameson (or at least, what he told the audience was Jameson, hidden cleverly in a green cup) to honor his friend’s Irish heritage, he showed a picture of McGarry among the ladies of the Future Nurses Club in their high school yearbook.
Friends and former colleagues then offered impromptu remarks. Maria Tamborelli, McGarry’s assistant of 21 years, remembered little details that resonated with the crowd. “When Maureen got mad, the only way you’d know would be that she would tap her foot,” she said, recounting how she was responsible for getting the pair stuck in a snowstorm when she was taking too long to wrap up her work. “I was going too slow. She kept tapping her foot at me!”
You could feel the mood afternoon turning as colleagues stepped up to remember the little things about McGarry that made her so unique. Woodberry smiled as he remembered the affinity for candy that he shared with McGarry, particularly during meetings, and had brought in a plate of Life Savers to share with the room in her honor.
McGarry’s sister, Carol Hudson Young, also spoke, thanking the staff, faculty and gathered friends on behalf of her family – who, she noted, may have had a different impression of McGarry. “You all keep talking about how quiet she was,” said Young. “I’d talk to her on the phone almost every day. We’d talk and at times I’d put the phone down and go wash the dishes. She’d go on and on. Did she ever know? She does now!”
After the speaking portion of the program, attendees mingled, filling the hall with laughter, tears and stories of a truly unforgettable mentor, mother and nurse.
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