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Take Only Memories; Leave Nothing But Footprints*

Our school’s 61st year will be long remembered not for its post sexagesimo anniversario accomplishments, but rather as the year of Mr. Thomas A. McLellan’s retirement.  Mr. McLellan’s retirement at the conclusion of his 41st year at Saint David’s, and 42nd teaching, is a reason for celebration, not only because Tom lasted so long in his chosen profession, but more that he touched so many and accomplished so much right here with us on 89th Street. His level of sustained energy, devotion and commitment is rare in today’s world.  There would have been, in a tenure as long as Tom’s, many opportunities—attractive, you can be sure—to make a change, to move on to something new.  Fortunately for a thousand Saint David’s boys, he remained with us.

Exceptional schools require exceptional teachers. They need teachers who inspire and energize, challenge and defend, teachers who can instill in a boy, at just the right moment, as much excitement as they can, “an element of fear.”  Mr. McLellan is one of these exceptional teachers.  Unlike Shakespeare’s Holofernes and more like Twain’s Bixby, Tom knows just when and how to connect with boys.  His talent derives from natural instinct to be sure, but is also more than that.  It is the consequence of decades of finely tuned, critically refined and thoughtfully executed pedagogy; a lifetime of applied practice and learned experience. It is the direct result of a deeply felt love and passion for the teaching of boys.  “When the student is ready,” an old Buddhist proverb says of exceptional teachers, “the master appears.”  And so it is with Tom.

Within the Native American culture that Tom holds so dear, it is often said “Listen to all the teachers in the woods. Watch the trees, the animals and all the living things—you'll learn more from them than books.” For Saint David’s boys taught by Mr. McLellan this is all they had to do.  Never one lost for words, nor shy to opine, Tom’s slightly irreverent humor, larger-than-life personality, and endless enthusiasm for the job at hand have defined his era. Tom takes with him now a thousand memories, but leaves behind, deeply imbedded in the fabric of this school, a thousand footprints.

* Chief Seattle, Duwamish Suquamish


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