Scholarship Honors Fr. Dick McCurdy
Bill Hogan ’55, who sat in Dick McCurdy’s English class at SI, describes him as a “hurricane of fresh air.”
Hogan’s classmate Mark McGuiness goes further: “Dick McCurdy was a fantastic human being — one of the people God singled out to help our youth.”
McCurdy — who served at SI as a lay teacher, Jesuit scholastic, assistant principal and principal — died July 21, 2006, just shy of his Golden Jubilee as a Jesuit. On Nov. 3, 35 members of the Class of 1955 gathered at SI’s Orradre Chapel to honor this man who inspired them for half a century.
They also helped to establish the Fr. Richard L. McCurdy, S.J., Scholarship to help students coming to SI from the Megan Furth Academy — a new school formed from the combined Sacred Heart and St. Dominic’s Grammar Schools.
Given Fr. McCurdy’s long history at SI, Hogan, McGuinness and their classmates hope that everyone who came into contact with this great priest, teacher and administrator would consider contributing to this scholarship. (See box on the next page.) Thus far, the scholarship has $29,500 and needs to reach $100,000 to be fully endowed.
At 24, one year after he was baptized a Catholic, McCurdy came to SI in 1954 to teach English, moderate the literary magazine and direct plays.
“I’ve had only two great classroom teachers,” said Hogan, “and he was one of them. He would curl up on the windowsill and ask questions that would set our heads spinning. He guided our questions and led us to answers we had never before considered. He analyzed literature in a way that was infectious, and he helped discover techniques used by a particular writer.”
Many other students were drawn to work on McCurdy’s 1954-55 productions of The Mikado and Harvey.
“We went from being theatrical amateurs to professionals because of him,” said McGuinness, who ran the stage crew for McCurdy.
“He had many friends at the Actor’s Workshop, which later became ACT, and he called on them to show us how to create professional backdrops. Our plays were as professional as any I’ve ever seen.”
“I spent 25 years working in TV,” added Hogan, “and what I learned from him at SI about directing and acting and how a script functioned was what I lived by during my professional life. I owe him a huge debt, and I’m not alone in the class.”
McCurdy taught at SI between 1954 and 1956 before deciding to become a Jesuit. He joined the Society of Jesus and returned in 1963 for two years as a scholastic. He came again to SI in 1972 to serve as an assistant principal and later as principal until 1981.
As an administrator, he worked to make SI more inclusive. He came from Sacred Heart Parish in the Fillmore, and knew the wisdom of the Jesuit philosophy of offering a “preferential option for the poor.”
Sr. Cathryn deBack, O.P., principal at Sacred Heart School in the 1970s, didn’t believe SI would be a welcoming place for her students. McCurdy told her that he would accept any student she recommended, and he did. He helped transform SI in his tenure as principal, making it more diverse than it ever had been.
After the November memorial service, members of the Class of ’55, including Fr. Charles Gagan, S.J., pastor of St. Ignatius Church, decided upon Megan Furth students as beneficiaries of the McCurdy scholarship. Fr. Gagan has done much to support St. Dominic’s and Sacred Heart Schools and continues to support Megan Furth Academy.
Other members of the class who spearheaded the scholarship drive along with Hogan, McGuinness and Fr. Gagan included Gil Ribera, Baxter Rice and Dave Clisham. They know that this scholarship will honor Fr. McCurdy’s promise to Sr. deBack and honor the memory of a great priest, principal and teacher.
If you are interested in contributing to this new scholarship, contact the SI Development Office at (415) 731-7500, ext. 211, or email firstname.lastname@example.org.