Quadrangle Flashback: Brother Raymond Meagher

The following profile on Brother Raymond Meagher, F.S.C., was initially published in The Quadrangle print edition on Mar. 24, 2015. Meagher passed away early Tuesday morning at the age of 74. The piece was lightly edited before web publication.

by SHANELL GARCIA, Staff Writer

In a festive room, chatting with students from behind a cluttered desk, sits Brother Raymond Meagher. No one appears distracted by the hanging butterflies, the random beach balls, the lobster on the wall, or the huge rainbow hula-hoops lying upon boxes of files everywhere. The blue Hawaiian printed bucket lying on his desk filed with candy, the elephant and teddy bear hanging from the wall, the inspirational quotes found on every inch of the room and the sculpture of an ear on his desk are no exception.

“I’m a big one for demonstrations, I’m a big one for visual aids,” Meagher said. “All of these things that you see here on the walls, they all have some story behind them.”

The small tubes of wedding bubbles on his desk therefore are not used in vain. Meagher uses those to demonstrate the importance of sharing ideas and reactions in the classroom.

“I have the students blow bubbles and we sit down and I ask ‘what happened to the bubbles,’” said Meagher. “They popped. So if we don’t share them with each other they’re gone forever. That’s why it’s important that you participate and get involved in the classroom.”

Born on Oct. 21 in Hunts Point Hospital, Meagher and all three of his brothers were raised by his parents in the East Bronx.

“It’s funny because my two older brothers and my younger brother were all born in Westchester Square Hospital,” said Meagher. “And later I found out I wasn’t born there because our family doctor had been brought up on charges that he was doing abortions.”

Meagher’s father was an NYPD police officer and his mother was a stay at home mom; taking care of the four children until they grew up and she was able to land a job down by the Brooklyn Bridge.

Relying on one income, the family was brought up struggling.

“The cops those days didn’t get good pay,” said Meagher. “Not like they get paid today. So we struggled you know? For dinner we’d have maybe a hot dog or a grilled cheese sandwich. You know? We didn’t have any big meals or anything, but we got by.”

The family was raised Catholic. As a result, the children all attended Catholic elementary school and high schools.

Meagher attended St. Raymond’s elementary school in The Bronx from where he was almost expelled. He often got into trouble and struggled academically.

“They sent the letter home to my parents telling them that they should seriously consider taking me out of school,” said Meagher. “So my father went over to speak to the pastor of the parish and convinced him that he should give me another chance and he did. And I made it through and graduated.”

The Brother went on to be the first and only member of his family to attend college. He first went to the Catholic University of America, class of 1966, where he pursued a degree in Biology.

The Catholic University of America is located in Washington, D.C. This was Meagher’s first time away from home and in the 60’s, a relevant time to be in the capital. He was there when President John F. Kennedy was assassinated, he was present during Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.’s civil rights march, and was also in Washington at the time of Robert F. Kennedy’s assassination.

Meagher continued his education at New York University, where he received his masters in Counseling Psychology in 1971. He later attended Columbia University and got his masters in Social Work.

After deciding to dedicate his life to missionary work and becoming a Christian brother, thanks to the influence of brothers he met during his academic career, he began working as a social worker at St. Raymond’s High School in 1981. Eventually, Meagher became the director of education and social services in charge of the girls’ academy, the boys’ high school and their elementary school. There he started the St. Raymond Family Outreach Program and became principal of the boys high school.

After the principal of St. Raymond’s elementary school retired, the Brother was appointed principal of the school. He never wanted to become the principal of the school but his vow of obedience as a brother compelled him to.

“I said no four times,” said Meagher. “I just wanted to work with kids and their families. I was tired of being in charge. I took it for a year and then it turned into two years and then two years turned into three years, and then three years turned into 10 years.”

“So I go back and return and I become the principal of the school that tried to throw me out,” said Meagher. “It was wonderful.”

In order to effectively run the school during his tenure, he once again continued his education and attended St. John’s University and received a Ph.D. in Educational Administration and Supervision.

Meagher has also worked as the director of a group home at Lincoln Hall in Lincolndale, NY. In addition, he taught biology, physical science and math at St. Peter’s High School in Staten Island.

“Brother Meagher is like New York City,” said Zoe Kritikos, one of his students. “He never sleeps.”

“I loved all of my assignments,” said Meagher. “I loved everywhere I went. I never wanted to leave. At Manhattan College this is the ultimate. I love living here and I love teaching here. I can’t wait to get in the classroom with them.”

Meagher began teaching in the education department at Manhattan College part time while he was principal of the boys school.

Thirteen years ago he started teaching full time to both graduates and undergraduates.

“It’s a unique experience,” said Tom Merse, an education major, about being in class. “Like Dr. McCarthy says, it’s like taking an elevator down to your soul because you learn a lot about yourself, things you don’t expect to learn about.”

His main priority is to develop a sense of community within the classroom; to make a safe environment for the transfer of opinions and ideas.

“I told this story in class,” said Meagher. “In third grade I would never raise my hand for anything. And the teacher asked a question on history. So I said ‘oh I know that’ so I raised my hand and she saw my hand like she never saw it before. So she called on me and I gave her the answer. And what I said I thought was right, was wrong. The class laughed but that didn’t hurt. But you know what hurt? She laughed.”

“It affected me socially and academically. So I never raised my hand again for the rest of my grammar school life. Even in high school. It wasn’t ‘til I went to college that I said ‘what am I doing here, I have the answer.’ We’re a community here. My job is to make them the most effective educators in their career.”

At the college, Meagher has been the counselor of Kappa Delta Pi, an international honors society for educators, for 10 years. The society hosts events at the college such as its safe Halloween and, its Winter Wonderland just before Christmas. They invite hundreds of students from schools in the surrounding area to create a safe and academic environment. Activities and books are also provided to all children who attend.

The honor society also travels abroad to countries in Africa, Palestine, Israel, Turkey, and Spain and will be traveling to Italy this summer. There, they team up with Lasallians to help families and children in need.

“In Rome we’re working with the developmentally disabled children,” said Meagher. “Then we’re hoping to spend a night and two days in Naples because we have brothers down there who are working with drug addicts and dropouts.”

“He has been our mentor for a long time,” said Caitlin Anina, president of Kappa Delta Pi. “He points out things about people that you’re just like wow yeah, I never thought about it that way. He picked me out as a leader from day one and I had never thought of myself as a leader or to be in charge of something. And I did it and I actually took his advice and I saw that, wow, I can really actually do this. If he hadn’t said it to me I don’t think I would have really gone out and done it. It’s that kind of insight that he has. It makes you feel good about yourself.”

Another student who has been touched by Meagher’s community and by Kappa Delta Pi is senior, Rachel Tomashosky.

“One thing I will always remember about Brother Ray is the beauty prayer,” said Tomashosky. “He would take our class outside in a circle and shout the beauty prayer. ‘There is beauty in front of you, there is beauty behind me, there is beauty to my left, there is beauty to my right, there is beauty above me, there is beauty below me, there is beauty all around, there is beauty within me, forever’ I was fortunate enough to go on a service trip to Barcelona, Spain with Brother Ray and my fondest memory was shouting the beauty prayer outside.”

“Brother Raymond truly embodies all of the qualities of a Lasallian Brother,” said Lisa Rizopoulos, Ph.D., chair of the department of Education. “He exemplifies excellence in teaching and has devoted his life to celebrating his students’ accomplishments. He touches the hearts and minds of his students.”

Meagher plans to continue his service by helping the NYPD with their families through counseling, as an ode to his father. He also plans to spread his teachings at several other universities in The Bronx such as Lehman College and Fordham University.

“You know you make a decision and you become a brother or a priest or a lawyer or whatever, but you know, you give up a lot too,” said Meagher. “It’s a different kind of life. I also thought that maybe I made a mistake. There are times where I’ve said to myself maybe this is not the route I should’ve taken. Then there are days where I know I made the right decision. There are days you wish you had a family and stuff. But most of the time I’m very happy with what I’m doing.”

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