I am deeply saddened to learn that Sandy McDonnell died yesterday of pancreatic cancer at age 89. While he was perhaps best known as a business giant (CEO of McDonnell Douglas Aircraft), we educators will remember him as the founder of the Character Education Partnership (CEP), the organization he founded in 1993 to promote character education in our nation’s schools. At risk of understatement, Sandy was deeply committed to the cause. A quick story illustrates this point.
In September, I spoke at CEP’s annual conference in San Francisco. During the opening reception, a social affair attended by hundreds of character educators, Sandy and his wife Priscilla were mobbed by friends and well-wishers. I decided to wait my turn and introduce myself. Although we had met nearly 15 years before at a conference he sponsored in St. Louis, I assumed he would not remember me. Much to my surprise, before my introduction was out of my mouth, Sandy interjected, “So tell me… How’s that Brother’s Keeper thing going at Hyde?”
I was floored. I mean, the CEP conference was a three-ring circus, and yet Sandy zeroed in immediately on a very specific aspect of Hyde’s program as though he were an informed alumnus. (I did not know then that he had pancreatic cancer.) It turned out that he and Priscilla had a son who attended the US Air Force Academy and he was especially interested in honor codes and had high respect for Hyde’s efforts to so much as attempt one at the secondary school level. We went on to have a nice chat and he concluded with, “Give my best to your Dad.”
Thanks, Sandy, for your inspiration and the difference you have made in so many lives. (I hear you also made some pretty good airplanes too.)
Onward, Malcolm Gauld