neworleans_McDonogh_monument_BaltimoreJohn McDonogh’s Grave, Owings Mills, Maryland

Witness Post: McDonogh School

These notes were gleaned from a paper written for a graduate level course in Curriculum Development at Johns Hopkins University. The paper was titled “McDonogh School: Curriculum Development from All-Male Military to Civilian Co-Education.” The course was conducted during the spring of 1980, so much of the information may seemed dated. It is.

The evening course, taught by Peter Demyan, Ph.D., was my first chance to dive into the question: “What would I do to a classroom curriculum, if I had a magic wand?” As a new middle school teacher, it was a combination of what do I know and what do they need to be successful in the next grade. Yet, as easy as it was to pose those questions, what did I know about the traditions and ways of doing things at McDonogh School that were already there? What could I add to the curriculum to inject my own personality and perspective? What learning could I have to be a better mentor and guide to my assigned students?

The idea of the graduate school class was to first be a photographer; at the end of the course and in other courses we could tinker with the image. Using the “behind the lens view” of the school we could learn a lot more than by just starting to rewrite all of the rules of pedagogy.

As a Middle School English teacher, Wrestling Coach and soon-to-be Development Director at McDonogh School at the time, it was a great chance to step behind the camera, focus on those aspects of curriculum that seem to have shaped the school, and to try to take a clear picture of what programs and practices were effective and meaningful for the students. After the discoveries of the traditions, I could start to manipulate the curriculum to my personal tastes…Perhaps.

John McDonogh (1779-1850) - Find A Grave Memorial

John McDonogh


After two years as an English teacher at McDonogh School, I came to regard seventh grade teachers as a rare and rugged breed. Not less than six full-time teachers had either left the school or changed responsibilities in these two years. When one considers the fact that the children we teach are having an even tougher time adjusting to the situation than we are, eyebrows raise. It is hard to be unbiased when you try to evaluate your employer, and it is easy to laugh at other people’s apparently silly habits. In order to keep inherent biases to a minimum, I have tried, as Professor Seymour Sarason from Yale encouraged, to “assume the perspective of an observer from another planet,” say Mars. Easier said than done.

During my research on McDonogh School, I conducted some invaluable interviews with Paul E. Carré, a graduate from McDonogh in the class of 1921 and a long-time history teacher at the school. Paul began to look at me as if I had more than four eyes. I figured my “other planetary perspective” was working! I also spoke at length with Howard C. “Dutch” Eyth, an athletic administrator and baseball coach since 1931, and Hugh Burgess, Dean of Faculty and associated with McDonogh since 1956. Robert C. Smoot, a McDonogh Alumnus, Science Dept. Chair, McDonogh parent, and faculty member since 1959 proved an invaluable resource. Mr. Burgess and Mr. Smoot co-wrote an extraordinary book about McDonogh for its centennial. Entitled McDonogh School: an interpretive chronology, (Columbus, Ohio: Charles E. Merrill Publishing Co., 1973), this richly researched book became the main written source material for this curriculum development project.

April | 2014 | Community

I also had incidental and in depth conversations with Quentin D. “QD” Thompson, Head of the Middle School and a faculty member since 1947, Barbara Bagli, a parent and Guidance Counselor in the Upper School, and William C. Pacy, an alumnus, McDonogh parent, and a long-time member of the Board of Trustees at the school.  I had specific talks with Raymond B. Oliver, a McDonogh Alumnus, Math teacher, Wrestling Coach and Upper School Guidance Counselor and Robin Coblentz, Director of Admissions, former English teacher, and dear friend. Without people such as these, the “McDonogh Family” would be an empty phrase, and this paper, just a book report.

I borrowed extensively from several other sources, including bound copies of the McDonogh School newspaper, The Week, and the McDonogh Papers, a collection of the school’s other student and alumni publications. Another book I cite extensively other than the Burgess and Smoot chronology is William T. ChildsA Freshman at McDonogh, (Baltimore, Maryland: Maurice Leeser Co., 1946), which was written by a former Headmaster.


Curriculum Development at McDonogh School

Tracing the threads of curriculum development at any school can be frustrating, and McDonogh School, despite its uniqueness, is no exception. After many hours poring over lists of course offerings and many more hours interviewing alumni, faculty and administrators, I found myself lost in the details. I felt like someone using a metal detector to find a cloth net! Perhaps the STUFF I was seeking lay hidden in those dusty copies of the school newspapers, or in between the lines of reminiscing students and teachers, but it was hard to grasp.

While looking over the simplest statements about McDonogh School and its history, though, I was confronted with a vivid description: for nearly 100 years McDonogh had been a semi-military, all male school in a rural setting. Then in 1971 McDonogh, 98 years later, it dropped its military status. Four years later the school became coeducational. Those are two revolutionary changes in a short time, right? Certainly the school was dramatically different; certainly it had developed. Perhaps it was true, as the former McDonogh Principal, Louis “Doc” Lamborn insisted, “There is nothing permanent but change[1] On the other hand, the McDonogh curriculum of 1980 includes many of the same courses and activities it did in 1880. Perhaps it is also true, as Dr. Seymour Sarason argues, “The more things change, the more they remain the same.” [2] The contradiction between these statements by Lamborn and Sarason, and the understanding of which thesis best applies to McDonogh, becomes the substance of this paper.

The eminent Dr. J. Abner Peddiwell [3] always began his lectures on the saber-toothed curriculum by placing his points in an historical perspective. Over a century of McDonogh history, the school has longevity, and this paper needs photographic perspective. After a review of some of the major historical figures who molded the school, this paper will attempt to analyze three significant changes that have taken place at the school, seek clarity as to how those changes were implemented, and determine what were some of the consequences for those changes.

Of the almost infinite possible changes to examine, I have chosen to analyze: dropping military status, accepting integration, and becoming co-educational. Although the second change, integration, was federally mandated, the process of integration is part of private school folk lore, and it is interesting to dig into the details. In this paper incidental references show that discuss corporal punishment, school size, philosophy, curricular courses, farm food and various other topics of importance to “the life of the place” over the decades.


Syca 10 Sycamore Roots at Ground Zero, NYC

Old Roots

While President of Yale University, Kingman Brewster, Jr. once remarked, “If you are going to start a school, start an old one!”[4] Only three colleges in the US have the good fortune to be 75 years or more older than the country where they reside, as Harvard, William & Mary and Yale do,[5] but McDonogh School has a head-start on many. The school first opened its doors in 1873 to the original twenty-one (21) Foundation Boys. Still, the roots of the institution grow much deeper.

As one drives up the maple tree lined entrance to this 800-plus acre campus in Baltimore County, the first statue is to John McDonogh, the founder. The statue serves as the gravestone for his remains. On the tomb are engraved some facts about the man, including his “Rules for Living.” (See Appendix A.) The school’s founder and benefactor is indeed a curious figure. John McDonogh, like George Peabody, Henry Walter, Enoch Pratt, and Johns Hopkins, appears to be one of those “numerous, enigmatic philanthropists, who flourished during the 1800’s.”[6] He was also an extraordinary white supremacist and racist.

There have been various biographies written about John McDonogh over the years, and some of their contents is invaluable to the understanding of the school as he envisioned it. A brief look into the life of the school’s founder is important.


John McDonogh (1779 – 1850)

Born in Baltimore, Maryland, in 1779, John McDonogh grew up in a Scotch-Irish family. At the age of 14 his father apprenticed John to work at the mercantile trading house of William Taylor in Baltimore City.[7] Even as a young adolescent, he performed well beyond his years and he was soon promoted to the position of traveling agent for Taylor. After many southern trips to ports-of-call around the country and to ports abroad, McDonogh left Taylor’s trading house and established his own trading company in New Orleans, Louisiana. The primary trading businesses of the time were in commodities. In McDonogh’s case sugar cane, which he imported from Islands in the Caribbean and sold to refineries and other commodity brokers in New Orleans. The business model was a success.

In 1804 John McDonogh expanded his mercantile interest further to trading in people: the slave trade. With the surge in need for cheap labor to plant seeds, tend crops and harvest cash crops (cotton and tobacco primarily), his business boomed. McDonogh’s company earnings rose, and he plowed his profits back into real estate.

In approximately 1817, however, McDonogh had a profound change of heart: he developed an aversion for the slave trade. In his own home he began doling out to his servants “time-off in recompense for work.”[8] He emancipated his slaves after 15 years of hard work and servitude, for a fee. By “working off their time” McDonogh thought of himself as a humanitarian. After all he laid out a path for his slaves to buy their way back to freedom or their native land. With his newfound conscience, McDonogh became an active member in the American Colonization Society, which transported “manumitted slaves” back to the countries in Africa from which they came. The Society offered to resettle the former slaves in their native countries.[9]

As McDonogh’s interest in slaves waned, his excitement about southern real estate accelerated. He began acquiring large tracts of land. Believing that New Orleans, much like New York and London, would boom to be one of the major ports in the world, he was in a frenzy to buy land. New Orleans was an epicenter of commerce for two primary reasons: 1) its central location to the States, and 2) its easy access via boat to the major cities in the center of the country. Located at the delta of the Mississippi, New Orleans was the confluence of the largest river on the continent, and McDonogh was convinced that location, location, location made it a natural winner in any future land grab.

His early speculation was that the land values were incredibly cheap. Since it was a delta, the “real estate” consisted of swamp land, drainage areas, bayous and marshes.[10] His best guess was that the land values would escalate to the point where his “wetlands” could be drained, filled, developed and leased to others, all at a handsome profit above his acquisition prices.[11] What could go wrong?

Upon his death in 1850, McDonogh owned well over 600,000 acres of land in several states (Florida, Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana) and he was considered one of the land-wealthiest men in the US.[12] Those fortunes did not last. Due to the Civil War his estate values plummeted and his land was in limbo for many years. Wishing to rule from the grave, McDonogh had constructed what he believed was a near iron-clad will. He believed fervently that he had invested so wisely that he could provide generously for his many social causes.

John McDonogh was a religious man, a “Puritanical Calvinist,”[13] who believed strongly in working hard for everything, because “labor is one of the conditions of our existence.” He also stressed what Seymour Sarason was to echo a century later, “Time is gold: throw not one minute away,” but be accountable for all that you do and do NOT do.[14]

In his lifetime McDonogh was a major benefactor of education. At the same time, perhaps the best way to understand McDonogh is to see how he put his money where his mouth was. Simply look at his will. He placed education at the center of his legacy. His last will and testament, prepared in 1838, called for gifts to found or expand schools all over it.

tagart2Tagert Chapel, McDonogh School

The Legacy – The Will

In his personal writings, John McDonogh always showed an intense interest in education, particularly for the poor. During his lifetime he supervised and paid for the education of several siblings, as well as a number of New Orleans orphans. McDonogh held the fact self-evident that only through education could poor and unfortunate people be lifted from a life of sin and degradation to one of God-fearing and productive contributions to society. [15]

His philosophical interests in education were manifested in the kinds of organizations he founded and supported after he had died. Among the requests for his estate were the following three (representing 37.5% of his estate’s income):

  • One-eighth of the land holdings income is to go to the city of New Orleans for the purpose of establishing an asylum for the poor.
  • One-eighth of the income is to go to the Society for the relief of Destitute Orphan Boys of New Orleans.
  • One-eighth is to go to the city of Baltimore for the establishment of a “school Farm.” [16]

What McDonogh had not anticipated was civil unrest. A decade after his death, the Civil War seriously eroded the value of southern currency (Confederate dollars) and ultimately his estate. The currency devaluation threatened the scope and reach of McDonogh’s will. He had made some revisions and codicils to his will, and, despite having no living relatives, many people claimed to be related to the man. He had not wanted the land to be sold, but for the recipients to receive income from rental fees earned from his vast real estate holdings.

All of the positioning and wrangling by the claimants in probate made for a lengthy, expensive and protracted process. The “proclaimed heirs” filed separate lawsuits against the estate, which left the already depressed multi-million dollar estate greatly diminished. In an attempt to carry out the interests and intent of the will, the courts in New Orleans finally sold McDonogh’s real estate holdings, converting as much as it could to cash. The money was divided, approximately as McDonogh had wanted, between New Orleans and Baltimore, his home town.

New Orleans, for the most part, used the money to found the first public school system in the City, as well as the child welfare agencies to assist the poor and under-served populations of all races, genders and social standing.

The school Farm

Baltimore spent time trying to interpret the McDonogh will. The City officials took pains to determine what it meant for them to found a “school Farm.” They wanted to honor the request of the city’s native son, but they also wanted to make sure that the money was not demanded back by the probate judge for misappropriation. With a sum total of approximately $600,000 to $750,000 coming to the coffers of the Baltimore City planners, they did some quick work to decide what to do.[17] The City officials wrote back to the court in New Orleans stating that they had decided to define “school Farm” as follows:

The “school farm” is to take the destitute and the poorest of the poor male children and youth of all castes and colors in the area. First consideration is to be given to those of the City of Baltimore, second to those of the State of Maryland, and finally to those of all the great maritime cities. Children from four to sixteen years of age are to be sheltered, lodged, and fed, and instructed in reading, writing, arithmetic, history and geography. They are to labor at husbandry or farming as well as the science of agriculture. There are also to be taught the Bible and singing.[18]

Once the plan was approved by the court and the money arrived, the City managers had to plan for the school. They first located a place, second purchased land, and third hired some professionals to become the staff. These three steps, when combined with the war years and legal complications, left a time gap of twenty-three (23) years between the death of John McDonogh and the start of the school. If one must wait that long to found a school, then it is wise to pick a great first leader. The City of Baltimore could not have found a more able school head.

The first leader of the school was Colonel William Allan, who has been called the Architect of McDonogh. Col. Allan attributed many of the school’s traditions to the “foundation boys” or the original twenty-one students. “[They were] a party of emigrants to an unsettled country; they had to discover everything from themselves;  they had to create the customs and lay the foundations for the traditions that have come down.”[19] It is less poetic but more truthful to say that Col. Allan lay the foundation.

 AllanCol. William Allan

William Allan, the Architect (1837 – 1889)

Col. William Allan was the first Principal of McDonogh School. He had been the Chief Ordinance Officer under General T.J. “Stonewall” Jackson of Civil War fame. After the war, at the invitation of Gen. Robert E. Lee, Allan joined the faculty at Washington & Lee as a professor of applied mathematics.

After being selected by the Board of Trustees in 1873, Allan came to McDonogh from Lexington, Virginia. He was in every sense of the expression, a Southern Gentleman. Like John McDonogh, Allan was a Calvinist and believed strongly in the importance of work. He was a self-taught man and, with the help of the Board at McDonogh, assembled a faculty and staff that could perpetuate some southern sympathizing ideals. Although Maryland always considered itself a “neutral state” in the War among the States, at McDonogh, that neutrality was not always found in the classroom. For example, former students recall American history courses focused much of their attention on Southern victories in the Civil War.[20]

The starting faculty at McDonogh (one hesitates from calling them teachers or professors) was not filled with educators grounded in best practices from Normal Schools and the rubric of teaching. For the most part they were college graduates who practiced what could be called an “armchair philosophy” of education. The instruction consisted of lectures and recitations. The administration expected students to inculcate a “plain English, terminal education.”[21] This form of education, as outlined by a Trustees Report in 1872,[22] was understood as a commercial education, closely aligned with the more traditional grammar schools of that era. The school aimed to take the students from where they were on admittance and to prepare them for places in the larger society. McDonogh does not appear to have been a “Boy’s Town” of its time, but many of the same theories of “uplifting boys for the real world” were present in the first formative years.

A basic dichotomy between John McDonogh’s will and Col. Allan’s architecture began to show through the curriculum early in his tenure. Allan wanted the school to expand to 500 students (a number that was not reached until 1930), to offer a wide variety of practical courses, and for the student population to include day students (an inclusion that was not reached until 1923). If enacted these changes would mean that the school would no longer solely serve the small cluster of “foundation boys.” Allan despised the notion of McDonogh as an orphan school, or as an institution only for the poorest-of-the-poor from falling into the clutches of sin. He wanted a school that made a difference in a person’s civility: students were to leave McDonogh and become successful in life.[23]

William Allan and his right-hand-man, Duncan Campbell Lyle, who was editor of the school newspaper, The Week, both promoted the idea that the students were the creators of customs and the layers of the school’s traditions. The land in Maryland was indeed unsettled, but The Architect saw to it that the foundation was well laid. Graduates of the school were touted as world travelers and accomplished men. They were a generation of Horatio Alger’s ready to depart McDonogh School and change their circumstances for the better.[24] It seems that the written accounts of the school were edited with posterity in mind. The letters and articles in The Week, heavily edited by D.C. Lyle, have carillon bells of “the McDonogh difference” ringing through them.

Allan would have us believe that the students were the Southern Gentlemen at a farm school. It is more likely that the faculty members were the gentlemen and the students were the working foot soldiers. In the Learner/Society/Discipline perspective, it seems that the school was focusing on Society for its curricular influence rather than on the students, as one is led to believe.

The Board of Trustees during the early years did not tinker much with the Col. Allan model. They did, however, with the reports due to the City of Baltimore and to the court in Louisiana, often using John McDonogh’s will as an anchor for the program. Over Allan’s objections, they clung to the idea that orphans should have a high priority on admissions, and that the Board did their best to keep the boys coming from impoverished backgrounds.

According to one administrator, Allan “popped a few boys through the school and on to college,” but the vast majority of the graduates ended up as hourly works in Baltimore.[25] Col. Allan tried to change the notion of education only for “terminal education” to have students advance to colleges and universities, but the time was not right for such a radical change. McDonogh was not to shift to a college preparatory curriculum for many decades. The Trustees of the time did not want the program to fall into the trap of being a “prep school for rich kids” any time soon.[26]

A brief glimpse at the minutes from Board of Trustees meetings in the early years offers some chuckles and few sorrowful nods. Despite their best intentions, in light of current educational theories, the Board may have been more of a menace than an aid:

January 16, 1877 – The high number of applications indicates that the faculty is conducting an “attributable system; [therefore] the Trustees can promise that there will be no change for the present, or even in the near future, in this system, and it will be for [our successors] to see that it will never be changed, ever.” [27]

June 29, 1880 – The Board’s education committee boldly declares, “It is not in the power of the teachers to develop a mind where none exists, nor to create a habit of study where invincible dulness [sic] prevails…[28]

One can imagine what kind of outburst Benjamin Bloom would make to the McDonogh Board declarations of the day!

There existed between the Board and the Principal, the students and the Principal, and the school’s future and the Principal a “balanced set of tensions.” Without those tensions, the architectural design of the school might have teetered and collapsed. Col. Allan may have insisted that the students be selected and admitted to the school with a special talent or character, but Allan’s innate leadership ability and his charisma to align the faculty around teaching excellence, loom as the school’s greatest beginning assets.[29]

In one sense, William Allan failed. He was unable to implement many of the changes he wanted at McDonogh. In another sense the process of change is such an intricate one that Allan was ultimately successful. The seeds of change were planted on good soil, with enough time they would be watered, germinate, grow and the farm school would flourish under watchful eyes of the Principals coming down the road.

Allan_Building_McDonogh_SchoolMcDonogh School, Allan Building

Moreland, Missed Steps, and Bowman, The Interloper

In the early 1900’s McDonogh School continued to attract the same southern gentlemen to its core of faculty members for years after Col. Allan’s departure. Sidney T. Moreland was the Principal, and for several years the Board let things go along as usual. By 1913, the Board, not wanting to lose touch with their charge, hired R.R. Reader, the Superintendent of the New York Orphanage Society, to come to McDonogh for an assessment. When the Board received Reader’s scathing report, that they realized the problems that their laissez faire hiring practices had caused. The report, coming from an independent outsider, was such an affront to the Board and school leadership. Suddenly Principal Moreland resigned, and slowly McDonogh School considered dipping collective toes into the best pedagogical practices of the Twentieth Century.[30]

In 1914 the Board hired Morgan H. Bowman as Principal. Instantly, he was not received well. One alumnus called Bowman “the gale from the North,[31] and an administrator referred to him as a “frightful, Hill School/Yale, northern intellectual[32] snob. Bowman was apparently viewed highly skeptically at every turn.

McDonogh was trying to find footing in the Twentieth Century; however, with World War I approaching, the winds changed, the land shifted and the semi-military school was forced to come down the learning curve quickly. During the catch-up process, Bowman began to “pop” even more boys through school and on to college. He sent several to northern “prep schools,” such as Choate, Hotchkiss and his alma mater, the Hill School. The extra time (post grad years) at those schools prepared the boys for admissions to Johns Hopkins, Columbia, and the University of Maryland, among other colleges and universities.

During his tenure at McDonogh, Bowman, with his Hill School biases, had to fight an uphill battle (no pun intended). That said, he had some minor successes: he was able to implement some stronger programs in athletics; corporal punishment was re-evaluated;[33] the humanities courses and other academic subjects were strengthened; and the school military uniform changed to a forest green jacket (Hill School hand-me-downs) and grey slacks. Meanwhile the Board maintained a cautious distance from the negative fray from the faculty that was swirling around the Principal.

It is apparent, using the novel The Great Gatsby as an analogy, that Morgan Bowman was Jay Gatsby. [34] Bowman was a New York rogue, apparently well-bred, well-schooled, the quintessential student/athlete. McDonogh School, a school for poor boys, was defensive about it principles of working for success, rather than appearing born to it. Those boys ‘to the manor born’ were shunned. The McDonogh alumni seemed particularly upset with this interloper. The faculty, too, after a time began ranting and raving about Bowman. A portrait of Duncan C. Lyle, at his wild-eyed shouting best, hangs in the hallways as a testament to the tempestuous times. Lyle started and escalated the cold, cadet charge to have Bowman removed. [35]

In 1920 Morgan Bowman was relieved of his duties and the Trustees sought new leadership. They appointed a McDonogh alumnus and banker, William T. Childs as Principal.

Childs, the bankers touch

Childs’ task was an explicit one: get the alumni back on the school’s side and the budget in the black. As a banker, Childs had his task clearly before him. [36] Bowman had shifted the emphasis of the school into a well-balanced learner/society/discipline triangle. In the process, though, he had disenfranchised the faculty, the Board and the alumni. Besides those errors, Bowman had spent much more money on students than had ever been spent before. According to the Board, Childs needed to alter the budget and align the income statement into the black, while re-emphasizing key McDonogh constituents, particularly the vocal alumni body, numbering in the thousands.

Childs held his position for four years; he righted the wrongs and balanced the books. In his fourth year he started a deliberate search process for a successor. He wanted to find a man who would embody more of what McDonogh should become. The school needed a visionary, someone who saw above the crowd at a higher goal. He noticed such a man at another local religiously affiliated school in Baltimore. His name was Louis E. Lamborn, an administrator and teacher at the Quaker School in town, Friends School.


“Doc” Lamborn, the Juggler

If Col. William Allan was the Architect who held the school together with his “balanced tension,” then Maj. Louis E. Lamborn was the Juggler, who tipped the balance, suspended many things in the air at once, and rebalanced the school on a course far better prepared for the changing times. Some say that Lamborn was a small time P.T. Barnum, full of flair and excitement.[37] Some say that he was a Teddy Roosevelt, who rode in with the Rough Riders on horseback.[38] Still others say that he was a May pole: everyone grabbed a streamer and prepared to dance to the music. He was not a man of medicine, but a doctor of young men’s pride and confidence. Whatever he was, Louis “Doc.” Lamborn was a different leader than the school had ever seen. The Trustees may not have been on the best terms with Lamborn at the beginning, but the faculty, students and alumni were ready to dance. [39]

Above everything else Doc. Lamborn was a paradox: he was a Quaker, who believed in non-violence, yet he earned his way from a private to a major in the US Cavalry. He was stern and aloof, yet his stories were endearing and warm. He was aged, yet his disposition was youthful.[40] Interestingly, Lamborn was able to encourage and foster individuality in a school that had historically commanded precision and uniformity.

Under Col. Allan the McDonogh faculty members were the officers and the students were the foot soldiers, i.e. the teachers were the Southern Gentlemen and the students were the foundation boys. Things were different under Maj. Lamborn, as the shift was made to even out the disparate levels between students and teachers. More than ever the faculty was involved on an intimate level with the boys: teachers assumed coaching responsibilities; they supervised morning chores; they became house parents in the dormitories; they counselled the students; and they sat at student tables for meals. All of these were firsts for the faculty.

“Gone forever were the days when the faculty ate from a special menu and were served on a raised, segregated dais. Vivid within memory of the boys were the trays of strawberry shortcake and whipped cream being carried the length of the dining hall to the faculty tables, while the students were left to contemplate their plain pudding…”[41]

Along with the interpersonal changes, Doc. Lamborn introduced McDonogh to the idea of “tracking.” As controversial as this teaching strategy was at the time, Lamborn believed that he was undertaking a “new program of studies…with a view of providing for the students according to their specific abilities.[42] This meant that boys who were academically capable were segregated into “academic sections that matched their strengths,” while those whose aptitude seemed better suited to commercial lines of future employment were also separated. All sections of students were included in the “cultural subject,” but Lamborn fervently believed that McDonogh’s aim must be “to prepare boys as early as is consistent to become self-supporting, and those boys who are what we might call college timber should be prepared for college.[43]

RAW: Explosion at McDonogh School in Baltimore County | abc10.com

A thorough internal evaluation of McDonogh’s curriculum had been undertaken in 1924, directed by W. Marion Sparks. The school was beginning to listen more attentively to national trends, such as the Seven Cardinal Principles. The former “armchair philosopher” view of teaching was prone to criticism. Major Lamborn continued to be aware of the national education landscape throughout his tenure, always reaching for a higher standard of excellence. He was especially receptive to ideas that affected his “college-bound timber.”

With an eye on the College Boards, and their imminent importance to college admissions practices, Lamborn worked with Marion Sparks and other faculty members to help cover the humanities part of the national tests. Lamborn considered much of what the tests covered as “suspicious pedantry;” nevertheless, he requested a new course offering in 1929. The faculty responded to the request by adding an appreciation course in the areas of art, literature, music, philosophy and language, notably Latin.[44]

A trend that seemed to suit McDonogh was the increasing demand for schools to teach knowledge by doing. Lamborn filled out his basic design for a four-track curriculum, and also redressed one of the criticisms filed against McDonogh in 1914. The report by R.R. Reeder had accused the school of being a school on a farm, thereby wasting one of their most valuable assets, the farm setting. With the intent of using the farmland for both formal and informal curricula, Lamborn hired Richard Wills. A graduate of Penn State, Wills joined the faculty in 1928 and introduced courses in farming, dairying, and animal husbandry.[45] The four course curriculum consisted of 1) college preparation; 2) business training; 3) mechanical art, and 4) agriculture. In four short years Lamborn had implemented a thorough program and a philosophy to back up its theory for each course; a task which would have taken his predecessors at least twice as long to accomplish.

Doc and Bob Lamborn honored

Headmaster Charles Bratton & Bob Lamborn show sign honoring Lamborn family

The variety of curricular and extra-curricular activities made McDonogh a multi-linear school,[46] but it was still not for everyone. The possible curricula ranged from horsemanship (Cavalry) to auto mechanics (body and engine repair),[47] and from farming to philosophy. Athletic teams improved at the school as mandatory participation was introduced to all students. More and more the topic of food home-grown on the land became integrated into the curriculum. Beyond the dinner table, food was harvested for retail sales in stalls at the Lexington Market in downtown Baltimore. (For another look at this topic of Food as Curriculum, see Appendix B.) The 4-H Club was a big hit on campus, and the general clubs around specific themes thrived. A school variety show received Baltimore City–wide recognition. In short “the life of the place” reached new heights as the school took full advantage of its assets: the farm, the people and the place.

One hallmark of the Doc. Lamborn era, was the pooling of resources. Success, though, had to be measured versus outside comparisons. Were the colleges and businesses going to welcome these students, the products of “the new McDonogh?” By 1936 the answer was an unequivocal YES! Lamborn boasted of the school’s ability to send its graduates to the tip-top clerical and business jobs throughout the city. The academic students matriculated at over fifty of the most prestigious colleges and universities in the country, and they were faring well.[48] The school had begun to develop a good reputation in the region and nationally.

Maj. Lamborn, with all of his emphasis on graduating leaders, was making a significant departure from the original John McDonogh will. Col. Allan had tested these waters for change in the 1880’s and the Board had rejected his testing. This time around, the mood was different, and the Board of the 1930’s, in the teeth of the Great Depression, embraced the changes. Doc. Lamborn felt that the Board had hired him to rule on major decisions and matters about philosophy, and Lamborn was going to do what he felt was best for the institution. If the Board disagreed, they could vote him off and replace him. Maj. Lamborn saw himself as a rower in a scull: while looking backwards, one rows forward.[49] If a student had success in college and the outside world was his coxswain, then the finish line was won by the rower who took the fastest/straightest route. An important first stroke for McDonogh was to think local and get the school recognized among its Maryland peers.

Regional recognition came to a school when it was certified by the Association of Colleges and Secondary Schools of Middle States, which includes Maryland.[50]  McDonogh became certified. Once over that hurdle, Lamborn wanted McDonogh to expand its financial base. This expansion translated into increasing the population of students. One year before Lamborn arrived, in 1925, there were 100 scholarship students and 9 paying day students. By 1931, there were 160 scholarships students and 380 paying day students. Even through the heart of the Great Depression, the school’s development and student population boomed, so that by World War II, McDonogh’s enrollment was up to over 600 total students. Allan’s dream of 500 students and paying students became a reality in the Lamborn era. Apparently Lamborn needed the day/pay students to provide enough revenues to carry out his programs. Whatever the reasons, the school was still vital, but, at the same time, it was larger and unwieldy.[51]

It is interesting to note that in 1941, just nine months before the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor, Major Lamborn was considering a dramatic change. Although he had inherited the idea of a semi-military program at McDonogh, he had “intended to retreat from its practice with time.”[52] Time, as a resource, though, had something else to say about the military program at McDonogh. The push toward dropping the military affiliation would have to wait.

There have been several important Principals and Headmasters at McDonogh since Doc. Lamborn, including Doc’s son Robert Lamborn, who made vast strides and improvements to the school over the years. This assignment does not want to slight their accomplishments in any way, rather it is to focus on the early green shoots of education that have occurred to make McDonogh the school it is today. The paper will veer now to investigate the military ties, integration and co-education.

John Baker, McDonogh's first studentJohn Baker, McDonogh’s first student

The Military Program

The philosophy behind the military program at McDonogh was an intricate one. The reasons for a uniform, though, are easier to identify. Examining the uniforms should be, as Seymour Sarason always suggested, “a glimpse of the obvious,” still it is a glimpse worth taking.

Maj. Louis Lamborn had inherited the uniform and the program as a hand-me-down from Col. William Allan. Allan had been an aide-de-camp to Gen. Robert E. Lee, and was an expert in military tactics and Civil War history. Like John McDonogh, Allan believed in the Puritanical work ethic and he saw discipline of body, mind and spirit as essential to a proper education. First of all, Allan’s experience in the military had been a fruitful one. In a rigorous cavalry setting, a soldier learned responsibility, pride, respect and discipline, which were all traditional values.[53] It was natural for “The Architect” of the McDonogh program to promote the regime of the military. He knew it well, and naturally gravitated to a regimen that he knew would work with all types of boys.

Second, at its inception, McDonogh was a school for “foundation boys.” The students for the most part were from indigent families (several had lost fathers and mothers to battles during the Civil War) and could scarcely afford train fare to the campus much less a wardrobe of suitable clothing.

Third, the military attire put all of the students, no matter what their socio-economic background, on equal footing. The least well-off and the most well-off were dressed the same.

Fourth was the economics. The uniforms in their first few years were made from army surplus materials. They were relatively inexpensive to make and the cloth could be purchased, along with buttons, blankets, bedding and other goods, from Southern Mills. Cotton and wool could be bought in large bolts of cloth, offered in military gray at wholesale prices. If McDonogh could find seamstresses to make the uniforms, the school could effectively clothe all students on a tight budget.

Col. Allan, despite his military bent, however, had looked to the great English schools, such as Eton, Winchester, and Rugby for his model for education. Those elite schools had risen from charity schools to institutions with bolder designs.[54] In 1914 Principal Bowman had looked to Hotchkiss, Andover and Exeter as his models, while Principal Childs, in 1925, sought out other military academies in the country for his peer group perspective.[55]

The two World Wars definitely elevated the important status of military training in the minds of the American public. The US needed security and the prestige of the McDonogh uniform, denoting service to our country, was a ticket to innumerable venues. McDonogh graduates developed a reputation as well-trained military leaders, and Maj. Lamborn seized the moment and capitalized on the sentiment. Daily drills, cavalry conditioning, obstacle courses, and commando training were all integral parts of the student’s final year curriculum.[56]

The advantages of the uniform stayed steady during the early 1950’s; however, they waned seriously over the late 1950’s and 1960’s. By the Vietnam War years, the uniform became a liability. The traditional gray garb, no longer commanding respect, became a stigma. In times of antiwar rallies, draft card burning, and social unrest, there was more uniform mockery than cadet praise.

Another factor hurting McDonogh’s military image was the notion of the peer military schools were “reform schools for wayward youth.” The back pages of magazines advertised Southern and Midwestern Academies which would take the wild, unruly misfit young boy and mold him into a model citizen. McDonogh clearly did not wish to be aligned with those schools, which incarcerated the juvenile delinquents, disciplined them and fenced out the fun.

McDonogh’s principles had not changed, but the social perception of the school had. When the Board announced, in 1971, that the school would drop the semi-military program, there was a short sigh of relief. Shortly after that sigh was a louder cry to “Save our Cadets!”[57] Change is hard, even when you know it is the right thing to do.

When you consider the fact,” observed Mr. Paul Carre’ with his history hat on, “that it took Great Britain over 300 years to ban ‘widow burning,’ the rapidity of the changes at places like McDonogh seems marvelously swift.[58] The school had clearly made some changes, but only when the timing for the school, the students, the faculty, the Board and society matched. The other changes of significance at the school were 1) integration and 2) coeducation, which we will discuss next. These changes, too, had to be carefully orchestrated, not to disenfranchise the constituents who were vital to McDonogh.

583Paul Smith coaches the McDonogh Basketball team

Integration & Coeducation

John McDonogh was revolutionary. He was an emancipator, when others felt he was deranged. He freed his slaves and sent them back to Africa long before Abraham Lincoln arrived on the political landscape. He wanted his school to be open to the “poorest of the poor” and functioning for “all castes and colors.” The intent of McDonogh’s last will and testament made it clear that the only restriction he wanted for admissions was the relative wealth of the students.

Up to this point, this paper has touched lightly on the issue of “pay students” at McDonogh, but why was it “easy” for Maj. Lamborn to admit pay students in 1926, and “difficult” for his successors to admit Blacks in 1959 and females in 1975? Once again the timing of the changes was important.

First of all, Maryland is a Southern state. It is south of the Mason/Dixon Line, the traditional North vs. South split in the country. Second, although many Civil War maps list Maryland as a “neutral state,” it was a state with many southern sympathizers, e.g. since slave-owning, tobacco growers were all over the state, the citizens were torn on one of the most critical issues that defined the War: emancipation.

The McDonogh’s founding fathers may have had Black applicants early on. The records, however, show that there were no Black applicants in the admissions pool until 1946. Historically, a large percentage of Baltimore City’s population was Black. It seems inconceivable that given the prevalence of Blacks in the military and the population of Blacks in Baltimore that none was interested in McDonogh. Rather, the theory was that Blacks were educated in separate but equal schools, but that theory is a falsehood. The first Black child never matriculated. Instead, Major Lamborn helped that first Black applicant (1946) to secure admission to a New York Quaker school, where he knew the school head. Lamborn was ahead of its time.[59]

Then in 1954, with the Supreme Court’s decision, Brown vs. Board of Education, the country had established a rule of the land that dictated the admissions policies be open to African Americans and all minorities. The trick for the schools was implementation. With many of the private and parochial schools in Maryland waiting on the sidelines to see what would happen, McDonogh joined its peers, watched and waited. It wasn’t until 1959, five years after the Supreme Court ruling, that McDonogh admitted its first Black student.

Once again, similar to going from semi-military to civilian, the Board at McDonogh laid back and waited for the emotions of the society to shift. The admissions policies followed the national trends, and did not set the trend. This in September of 1959, qualified African American boys were admitted to the first grade class. Those trailblazers graduated in the class of 1971.[60]

The admittance of female students to McDonogh Schools in New Orleans, mentioned in other sections of the original will, was not on the radar at the Baltimore farm school for most of its history. There was a full complement of all-girls schools in Baltimore, as the tradition of single-gender education thrives to this day. It was not until Doc. Lamborn arrived on the scene that the topic of inclusion of girls at McDonogh was debated.  In 1947 the Samuel Ready School for Girls in Baltimore was going through some serious financial difficulties.[61] When asked for his advice, Lamborn sketched out a plan for relocating the girls’ school in some woods near McDonogh. He was testing the feasibility of a “program of coordinated education.” The Board acted quickly and voted down the proposal, but commended Maj. Lamborn for the excellence of his report and suggested that he take other consulting jobs with schools, because of the strength of his work.[62]

The next coeducational venture was made in 1970 when another private girls’ school, Garrison Forest School, experienced construction difficulties. Again the possibility of a coordinated education program was discussed, only to be discontinued by the Board one year later.[63] Again in 1972, while discussing the future of the school, a special committee favored the idea of coeducation. The topic was a key element in several of the long-range planning committee documents reviewed by the Board.[64]

Finally in 1975, after thoroughly canvassing the alumni, parents, students, prospective parents, other independent schools, and the society at large, McDonogh accepted women to its ranks. This time instead of starting with girls in the first grade of Lower School as they did with Blacks, they were admitted to all grades. The first female graduates were in the class of 1976 and the school was gender integrated in one year instead of twelve.


Mrs. Barbara Bagli and Mr. Ray Oliver in Lamborn Hall

After five years, and a thorough evaluation of the process of making the school equal for boys and girls, and not just a boys’ school that admitted girls, the Board called the integration a success. It seems that many of the disgruntled alumni, who had once violently opposed having girls at McDonogh, were now vying to have their daughters and granddaughters admitted into the school.[65]



Has McDonogh School changed? From one perspective the answer must be YES. Consider the following points:

  1. The classroom teachers no longer have the “armchair philosopher” role; they are all trained professionals who are gifted at their craft.
  2. The school no longer uses forced Calvinistic, religious training; it has a larger purpose than helping deprived children from falling into sin.
  3. The school in no longer concerned with “terminal education;” it is a college preparatory school in every sense of the word.
  4. Further, the school is now non-military (civilian), racially integrated, and coeducational.  The school may have needed the larger society to arrive at these positions before the school did, but they arrived there and the place has been changed for the better for those advances.

It is interesting to note that in 1980 there have been some other changes:

  1. McDonogh School has revived choral singing for the students and faculty alike.
  2. The school’s long-range planning committee on Moral and Religious Education suggested that the school reintroduce a course on the Bible as literature and that a full-time chaplain be hired.
  3. The History Department has added a strong geography section to its ninth grade curriculum.
  4. The Latin classes have been extended to the Middle School curriculum.

These changes, when considered with the more basic curriculum, including the 3 R’s, closely mirror the courses of instruction outlined by John McDonogh in his original holographic will, which he wrote in 1835, and the first statements by the Board of the “school Farm” by the overseers in Baltimore. When one also considers the fact that the three major curriculum changes discussed in this paper (non-military, integration, and coeducation) were also inherent in McDonogh’s will, one has to wonder if the school has changed at all!

In public schools no change can be forced upon a system. If something is forced, before it has been carefully evaluated and analyzed, it will surely be doomed, like “the latest new math,” to fail. Private schools react in the same ways to new ideas and change. They have traditionally been independent of governmental restrictions, but that does not last for long. They do, however, have the luxury of time: time to watch the outside world, check out what the weather is like, and see what direction the wind is blowing, before they react.

When McDonogh School first accepted day/pay students, the place changed. The most fundamental change was the ideal notion of “independence.” Instead of just being accountable to the courts, or the Board, the institution was then accountable to the parents, alumni and donors. It became harder to fail a student for not measuring up. No family wanted to hear that their darling had “invincible dullness.” No longer could the school instruct everyone in Presbyterian or Calvinist principles. As Robert Smoot emphasized, “Sermons that preached ‘Hell, Fire and Brimstone’ during Sunday vespers were increasingly unpopular with the non-Christians in the audience.”[66]

mcdonough - APG News

McDonogh Civil War Reenactment in history class, circa 1978

In short the acceptance of day/pay student at McDonogh shifted the emphasis of the school to the agnostic, non-denominational stances, which were more neutral than it had ever been before. The changes in the school under Allan, Moreland, Bowman, Childs and the others had been significant, but the relative loss of religious values, and the ultimately to its independence, were far more significant.

Independent schools, like McDonogh, have also experienced more of the governmental intervention, which the public schools have been screaming about for years. Federal milk and lunch funds, federal grants, corporate gifts, matching funds, and the strings that go along with accepting those funds all have natural consequences and people to report to. Independence is a tricky thing to navigate and harder to keep pure. Alumni fundraising, annual gifts, capital gifts and bequests are the life blood of independent schools. They need these sources to survive. Things have changed.

In 1876 Col. William Allan stated, “The experience of the past is no certain guide … Questions as then decided may have been properly settled, and yet in the face of our present civilizations, and the means at hand, may require a different solution.[67] McDonogh has always and will always seek different solutions to the same penetrating questions. Why then is the curriculum so unchanged? It is true that the 1980 formal curriculum has some striking similarities with the curriculum of former times, but is seems evident that the similarities are more coincidental and cyclical than anything. In the ebb and flow, we are in a flow period.

McDonogh has been changing with the times. Whether headed by Allan, Bowman, Lamborn, Michaux, Mules, Dixon, Britton or their successors, there is an indomitable hope that the school will have the ability and resiliency to adapt even more effectively in the future.


Appendix A

John McDonogh’s Rules for Living

  • Remember always that labor is one of the conditions of our existence.
  • Time is gold; throw not one minute away, but place each one into account.
  • Do unto all men as you would be done by.
  • Never put off till tomorrow what you can do today.
  • Never bid another do what you can do yourself.
  • Never covet what is not your own.
  • Never think any matter so trivial as not to deserve notice.
  • Never give out that which does not first come in.
  • Never spend but to produce.
  • Let the greatest order regulate the transactions of your life.
  • Study in your course of life to do the greatest possible amount of good.
  • Deprive yourself of nothing necessary to your comfort, but live in honorable simplicity and frugality.


Explosion at Maryland school injures child, 2 adults - ABC News

Appendix B

Food as Curriculum

In many regards the school did miss many opportunities in the formal curriculum to take advantage of the farm school setting.  In the informal curriculum, however, as well as in the hidden curriculum, McDonogh took full advantage of the campus and the 800+ acres of farmland, horse pastures and forest.

The students in particular used the campus effectively: one pastime was the collecting and hulling of walnuts. On “Walnut Day” the dirty hands associated with the hulling, were often a cause for work list; the task has always been a dirty, black stained one.  Walnut taffy was a prized confection. It was made by combining molasses, sugar, butter and walnuts. Boy’s developed fierce territoriality with their prized walnut trees. Enterprising young men could turn a quick profit by selling their taffy to school mates, teachers, and at Lexington Market in Baltimore.

The Essential Guide to Everything you Need to Know about Growing ...

And they developed the same sort of territoriality when it came to hunting rabbits. A popular practice was the trapping, skinning and eating of rabbit. The art of catching and tanning of hare was the easy part; the hard part was avoiding the skunks, which often ended up in the rabbit traps. The boys hands-on approach helped them learned tremendously by doing.

Wednesday dawned a splendid day for hog-killing…” began one passage in The Week. (December, 1883) On that day 41 hogs were slaughtered by the boys and farm hands, yielding 1,000 pounds of sausage, 400 pounds of pudding, 800 pounds of lard, and a grand total of 5,268 pounds of meat. How a boy involved in such a process would not immediately become a vegetarian is a great question. Even wanting to know how a boy could stomach bacon after that pig rendering, proves a good question.


Large crops in many other food groups were still part of the formal and informal curriculum: corn, beans, carrots, squash, tomatoes, potatoes, fruits and lots more. A bumper crop of strawberries yielded 3,089 quarts of berries in 1905; vegetable canning in 1917 yielded 2,310 gallons and 2,100 quarts of string beans, apples, plums, corn tomatoes and lima beans.

Sale of goods farmed by McDonogh students went on sale at the Lexington Market, which helped the boys with bookkeeping, arithmetic, and general accounting. The sale of goods rarely brought in more than $100 to the boys, but the experience from farm to cash was worth its weight in gold. The sale to the public was stopped in the late 1930’s because all of the crops were used for personal consumption on campus.


In 1959, for the first time in the school’s history, an outside food service was hired, ARA-Slater System. In 1969 the school employed the Action I Kitchens, but their stay was short lived. In 1970 the Marriott Corporations was hired and they remained at the primary food purveyor for many years.

Food is always one of the primary areas of complaints of a school child, as it is for many adults. When the food is good, though, people have no “scapegoat” for their frustrations. Wholesome, hot lunches have always been an important facet in course of the McDonogh day, and hot lunches, along with the McDonogh bus system, are a strong draw to busy parents. Other schools have abandoned their lunch programs, preferring to have the students pay for meals separately from the rest of the curriculum. McDonogh feels differently and has kept meals central to the Boarding program and the daily routine. Everyone, or nearly everyone, is present in Lamborn Hall for the mid-day meal. Lunch is a time for announcements, prayers (“Grace”), awards and thoughts-for-the-day.

The lunch table provides interesting instruction in setting a table, table manners, waiting tables, clearing a table, and being of service. Roles such as “Table Heads” (usually faculty), “Student in Charge” and “Biddies” have become part of the culture and the vernacular of the school. It looks to this writer as if the school will keep these traditions for a long time to come.


John McDonogh - Wikipedia

Portrait of John McDonogh


[1] Maj. Louis E. “Doc” Lamborn, in a conversation with Mr. Robert Smoot and Mr. Hugh Burgess, said this line as they were preparing their book: McDonogh School: an interpretive chronology, (Columbus, Ohio: Charles E. Merrill Publishing Co., 1973). This quotation is included on a frontispiece of their book.

[2] This line is one of Dr. Seymour Sarason’s “catch phrases” as well as the title of one of his books.  He used it often in a course I took under his guidance through the Department of Social and Policy Studies at Yale University, 1974-1975.

[3] Dr. J. Abner Peddiwell is the pseudonym for Harold Benjamin in his satirical and thought provoking book, The Saber-Tooth Curriculum, (New York: McGraw Hill Book Co., Inc., 1939).

[4] Mr. Kingman Brewster, Jr. stated this line as the opening words of a speech I heard him deliver to an alumni group in Los Angeles on March 18, 1977. Brewster was speaking about the future prospects of the University to local Yale alumni in Southern California, in conjunction with The Campaign for Yale, its largest fund-raising effort at the time.

[5] Harvard was founded in 1636, William & Mary in 1693, and Yale in 1701. The benefactor of Yale, its namesake, Elihu Yale, left the school $500 and his personal library of books and manuscripts. His desire was to found a school for Connecticut boys who did not want to travel to Harvard in Massachusetts, or William & Mary, all the way to Virginia, to get an education.

Bust of John McDonogh - Wikipedia

Bust of McDonogh in Duncan Plaza, New Orleans, removed in 2020

[6] Burgess and Smoot, op.cit p.6.

[7] William T. Childs, A Freshman at McDonogh, (Baltimore, Maryland: Maurice Leeser Co., 1946) p. 9.

[8] Although many biographies of McDonogh bring forth his kindnesses and humanity, one conversation with Mr. Paul Carre’ best brought McDonogh to life. Mr. Carre’, who is the McDonogh archivist and deeply whetted to his philosophical bent, spoke eloquently of McDonogh freeing his slaves. McDonogh found slave trading easy; he found freeing his slaves job killing. Plus McDonogh’s stance toward emancipation was an affront to all of his customers and neighbors. Yet he did it anyway, believing it was the right thing to do. My conversation with Mr. Paul Carre’ was at his home on March 22, 1980.

[9] Burgess and Smoot, op.cit p.6.

[10] In a conversation with Mr. Hugh Burgess at his home on April 22, 1980, having been to the area in Louisiana owned by McDonogh, he described it as “a huge muddy morass, infested with alligators and mosquitoes.” Sounds like quite a garden spot to me.

[11] What McDonogh had not anticipated was the Civil War. The conflict had a serious negative impact on the Louisiana and McDonogh’s vision for his estate. The delirious effects of the war would drag on for decades far beyond the South, throughout the US. Since McDonogh’s assets were illiquid, essentially frozen in land, or should one say, “stuck in the mud,” the estate he had accumulated would take years to unwind. The courts had to overturn the McDonogh will to make sure that it was fairly valued and eventually sold.

[12] Childs, op. cit., p. 9. William T. Childs claims that McDonogh was one of the land wealthiest men in the world, which, without further research, seems a stretch to this writer.

John McDonogh High building to go to Bricolage, elementary school ...

John McDonogh High School, New Orleans, LA.

[13] This expression was from Hugh Burgess. A glance at Appendix A, and John McDonogh’s Rules for Living, and we can see that McDonogh was a principled and religious man.

[14] Another one of Dr. Seymour Sarason’s gems is “Time is a resource!” He urges that everyone should value it and account for it in their planning.

[15] Burgess and Smoot, op.cit p.5.

[16] Ibid., p.3.

[17] Childs, op. cit., p.11. The major points of the will and what they meant for the school were clarified for me by Mr. Hugh Burgess. He echoed the figures that William Childs had in his book and commented further upon them.

[18] Burgess and Smoot, op.cit p.4.

[19] Ibid., p.34.

[20] Although Mr. Paul Carre’ never studied under Col. William Allan, he is as close as one could get. The main figure of the Allan years, who was still at McDonogh when Mr. Paul Carre’ entered the program was Duncan Campbell Lyle. Misters Carre’ and Lyle together span the whole of the school’s history. Even in 1914 the emphasis on the southern Civil War victories remained part of the history curriculum,” so recalls Mr, Carre’.

[21] McDonogh School and its “armchair philosophy” were encountered when I read W. Marion Sparks’ curriculum revisions in the bound copies of The Week, September 20, 1924, p. 56. Mr. Paul Carre’ also referred to this condition in the early days. The ideas of the plain English education and the terminal education are rampant throughout the McDonogh will and the conversations I noted.


McDonogh Statue, Lafayette Square, New Orleans, LA.

[22] Burgess and Smoot, op.cit pp. 22-23, 25, 28.

[23] The difference, sometimes subtle, sometimes not, between and orphan school and a normal school, was described for me in conversations with Mr. Hugh Burgess. The incoming student and the outgoing citizen is often at the nub of educational debate.

[24] Mr. Hugh Burgess put forward the notion of a bevy of Horatio Alger’s growing from McDonogh furrows, which seems apt for a farm school.

[25] Although the college admission process was not a going McDonogh concern or asset until many years after Allan left the school, Mr. Hugh Burgess assured me that several boys were indeed “popped through” to college.

[26] Programs like those at Calvert School, Gilman School and St. Paul’s School for the Blue Book members of Baltimore did not need the competition and schools like Loyola High School, Mt. St. Joseph’s and Calvert Hall College were catering to a less affluent Catholic crowd. The real competition was from the exceptional public schools such as Franklin High School in Reisterstown, MD, and Baltimore City College and Baltimore Polytechnic.


McDonogh Statue post card from New Orleans

[27] Burgess and Smoot, op.cit pp. 43-44.

[28] Burgess and Smoot, op.cit pp. 45.

[29] Ibid, p 78.

[30] Ibid, pp. 118-126. Outside evaluators can often be very cruel, as Dr. Seymour Sarason often points out. Unless the school has the internal tension and resilience to clarify problems, things will remain in turmoil. When Mr. R.R. Reeder sent the school his report, the gong was struck. The change in leadership did little to change the culture; however, and it took a few years to hire the right people to change things from the inside out. One key hire, Mr. Marion Sparks, helped become the change agent needed to improve accountability and actions for the betterment of the school.

[31] This is Mr. Paul Carre’s characterization of Morgan Bowman.

[32] This is Mr. Hugh Burgess’ expression about Bowman. In self-defense, not all Yalies are effete intellectual snobs, but this Eli certainly did his bulldog best to keep up frigid barriers, even years after he left the place for cooler climes.

[33] Childs, op. cit. In numerous chapters in Childs’ book he refers to the use of punishment caused by using the POKIE, which was a stick designed for corporal punishment. Mr. Bowman wanted it banned, as he was helping the school become aware that the national trend disapproved of severe beatings on the hand, back of the legs and buttocks, which were commonplace at McDonogh.

[34] Mr. Hugh Burgess, an English teacher as well as the Dean of Faculty, came up with the best literary analogy for Bowman, depicting him as the main character in the often taught F. Scott Fitzgerald novel of the era.

McDonogh School - Dragon Yearbook (Owings Mills, MD), Class of ...

[35] A fabulous set of portraits of Mr. Duncan Campbell Lyle hang in one of the corridors of the Allan Building at McDonogh. (One is a formal portrait, the other “Old Man Lyle” speaks for itself. The boys in the background of the latter are as slovenly dressed as Lyle, sporting the green jackets of Hill School.) These portraits, by Col. Edward Kenney, the Chair of the Art Department, were painted with the clarity of McDonogh sentiments of the time.

[36] This is the same W. T. Childs who wrote several books on McDonogh School. My grandmother, Eleanor Evans, recalls Mr. William Childs as a wonderful man and a careful banker. He had excellent training in stocks and bonds, when he worked with my grandfather, Gen. Henry C. Evans, at Stein Brother’s & Boyce, a brokerage firm founded in 1853. The firm has now long since been absorbed into Bache & Co. and then Citigroup, and the name disappeared from the investment banking landscape.

[37] Mr. Paul Caree’ always uses circus phrases when he speaks of Doc Lamborn, this was just one of many I heard him use.

Louis E. Lamborn Alumni Memorial Field House - Campus & Facilities ...

Aerial view of McDonogh School Campus, Owings Mills, MD.

[38] Mr. Hugh Burgess likes this expression of Doc Lamborn.

[39] The image of the May Pole comes from two people: Q.D. Thompson and Hugh Burgess. Yet the clearest picture of Doc Lamborn came from my interview with William C. Pacy, a McDonogh alumnus, Trustee and parent. At a meeting with the faculty and parents, in November, 1978, Mr. Pacy reiterated how much Doc Lamborn had affected his life as a mentor and second father. He was brought to tears, when he retold of his affection and desire to dance for his beloved Doc. Lamborn.

[40] The amount of strength, warmth and paradox exhibited by Doc. Lamborn was best conveyed to me by comments from Mr. William Pacy and Mr. Hugh Burgess

[41] Burgess and Smoot, op.cit p. 171. For a more thorough description of the Food as Curriculum at McDonogh, please see Appendix B.

[42] Ibid.

[43] Ibid.

[44] Ibid., p. 181.

[45] Ibid., p. 175.

[46] The idea of creating a multi-linear curriculum, yet still receptive to change, was an important one in this period of its growth. At the same time the school had its own future in perspective. The administrators were not trying to make a school that would please everyone all the time. They were taking advantage of the marvelous 800+ acre campus to put the most into the program. They had faith that their efforts, though against the tide, would be worth it in the long run.

Maj Louis Emmar “Doc” Lamborn (1890-1972) - Find A Grave Memorial

Maj. Louis E. “Doc” Lamborn

[47] The auto shop, as well as the drivers’ education courses at McDonogh are examples of how Lamborn said the school must change. The drivers ed class was a very difficult course, but a practical one as well. Once the boys had learned how to sagely drive a car, they were recruited to drive the vehicles in the morning to pick up day students.  The “Day Bus” system was born at this boarding school. The best information about this aspect of the innovations is found in Burgess and Smoot, op. cit., pages 199-200, 240.

[48] Burgess and Smoot, op. cit., pages 198.

[49] Mr. Paul Carre’ used the crew rowing imagery, when describing Maj. Doc Lamborn.

[50] Burgess and Smoot, op. cit., pages 172.

[51] When Mr. Hugh Burgess asked me why I felt Doc Lamborn may have left the school, I was not sure of the right answer. It seemed that the school had grown so quickly and so large that perhaps it was experiencing growing pains. Major Lamborn, as I envisioned him, was at a crossroads between the growth of the school and his own ability to control the perfect formula. I saw him as the sorcerer’s apprentice trying to control the flow of water. Or he was the Pillsbury dough boy who put too much yeast in the bread: it was expanding beyond the oven. Levity aside, when the Board asked the Principal to “take a vacation,” the job was definitely getting too big for one man to handle.

[52] Burgess and Smoot, op. cit., pages 219-220.

[53] Mr. Paul Carre’ remembers much of the military program. The reasons for and against it the program were best spelled out by Mr. Carre’, who deserves the credit for articulating these principles and ideals.

[54] Burgess and Smoot, op. cit., pages 79.

[55] Ibid., p. 161. During a trip of military schools around the country in 1925, Mr. William Childs found that many schools with military heritages were moving toward even stricter compliance with military decorum and discipline, rather than loosening or moving away from them.

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Edward Carey Kenney, Art Instructor at McDonogh School

[56] Mr. Paul Carre’ remembers much of the school’s military drills and training during World War II because he was asked to assume the responsibilities as Commandant, when many of the younger faculty members were drafted into active duty.

[57] A vocal group of alumni and parents formed the Save Our Cadets (SOC committee.  When the Board followed through with its intentions to drop the military, two SOC parents removed their children from the school, only to re-admit them the same year.  Burgess and Smoot, op. cit., pp. 326-329.

[58] McDonogh may not be too self-congratulatory for taking a firm stance, because it waited for the larger general sentiment in society to take that position, before it made the change to non-military.

[59] Burgess and Smoot, op. cit., p. 236. The school grappled with the integration issue at length in 1946. The Board wanted to be sure of the stance the institution took with Blacks and other minority groups before it created a truly open admissions policy. Despite having the open door policy to all races and creeds at its founding, it would take years to realize that vision.

[60] Ibid., pp. 270, 323. The first Black student to be admitted and to graduate from McDonogh was Mr. Milton Belcher in the class of 1971. He was the only African American to make it through all twelve years. Mr. Belcher helped push McDonogh to accept several new subjects into its curriculum: Black Literature, Black History and African American Studies. These courses slowly found their way into the curriculum. These courses, like many other shallow-academic courses before them, have received a bare minimum of attention, and will need beefing up to remain rigorous and vital to McDonogh’s educational experience.

Milton Belcher, McDonogh ’71

[61] It is ironic that Col. William Allan, the first significant force in the school, was credited specifically with drawing up plans for the Samuel Ready School. It is only appropriate for McDonogh’s second most influential leader, Major “Doc.” Louis Lamborn, to help pull the Samuel Ready School through serious difficulties by his recommendations.

[62] Burgess and Smoot, op. cit., p. 240.

[63] Ibid., pp. 316, 321.

[64] Ibid., p. 337.

[65] The Director of Admissions, Ms. Robin Coblentz, intimated that the admittance of girls had a rough start and a pleasant outcome. Former alumni antagonists became some of her strongest allies. And Ms. Barbara Bagli, Guidance Counselor, who had been hired to make sure the school lived up to the high standards of the all-female schools in the area, helped the Board in their review and 5 year assessment process.

[66] Mr. Robert Smoot, in addition to writing my main book source, proved an invaluable resource for me, particularly in the planning stages for the paper. His personal memories helped me to focus the paper and his insights are sprinkled throughout. For those fertile ideas I am very grateful.

[67] Burgess and Smoot, op. cit., frontispiece. Col. Allan delivered this address to the Board of Trustees.



Burgess, Hugh, & Smoot, Robert, McDonogh School: an interpretive chronology. Charles E. Merrill, Columbus, Ohio, 1973.

Childs, William T., A Freshman at McDonogh. M. Leeser Co., Baltimore, Maryland, 1946.

Peddiwell, J.A., The Saber-Tooth Curriculum. McGraw-Hill Book Co., Inc., New York, 1939.

Sarason, Seymour, The Culture of the School and the Problem of Change. Allyn & Bacon, Inc., Boston, 1971.

Sarason, Seymour, et al., Psychology in Community Settings. John Wiley & Co., New York, 1966.

Silberman, Charles, Crisis in the Classroom. Random House, New York, 1970.

The Week, the McDonogh School newspaper, is bound in many volumes and may be located in the reference section of the McDonogh School Upper School Library in Allan Building.

The McDonogh Papers, The reference books bound, and stored in a private place. Specific materials were borrowed for background reading from the McDonogh School museum curator, Mr. Frederick “Butch” Maisel, and returned to the school collection.

Toffler, Alvin, Future Shock. Random House, New York, 1970.

Wiles, Jonathan, & Bondi, Joseph, Curriculum Development: A Guide to Practice. Charles E. Merrill Publishing Co., Inc., Columbus, Ohio, 1979.



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