Former Catholic schools director remembered as advocate

| October 24, 2014 | 0 Comments

It was a special time for Tom McCarver when the National Catholic Educational Association held its annual convention in Minneapolis in 1997.

Tom McCarver

Tom McCarver

The 13,000 educators from around the country set an attendance record, and, for McCarver, then director of Catholic Education and Formation Ministries in the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis, the NCEA convention was an opportunity to showcase programs in Catholic schools in the Twin Cities area.

“He reached out to Catholic educators in our archdiocese to share with others what we were doing in Catholic education,” recalled Gary Wilmer, who is director of personnel and planning for the archdiocese’s Office of Catholic Schools.

“Tom was very proud of the national attention our schools and religious education programs received, and of the long-range vision for Catholic education in our archdiocese, in particular support for our urban schools, and his passion in finding ways to financially support them,” he said.

McCarver, a lifelong teacher and education administrator, and a passionate advocate for Catholic schools, died Oct. 20 in St. Paul at the age of 80.

G. Thomas McCarver, a native of Memphis, was initially a member of the Christian Brothers. He was a teacher or administrator in schools in Illinois, Wisconsin, Missouri, Tennessee and Iowa as well as Minnesota, where he taught religion, history and English and coached football, basketball and hockey coach at Cretin High School in St Paul.

Before joining the faculty of the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul, he was assistant academic dean and academic advising director at St. Mary’s College in Winona and served as academic vice president and academic dean at Clarke College in Dubuque, Iowa.

Innovative educator
McCarver is remembered especially for proposing and establishing the Murray Institute at St. Thomas, which provides free graduate education to Catholic school teachers.

McCarver chaired the education department at St. Thomas when, in analyzing enrollment data for graduate-level programs through a scholarship for Catholic school teachers, he noticed an alarming decline in participants.

From 1985 to 1989, Catholic school personnel taking advantage of the one, tuition-free course dropped from 139 students to 37.

He concluded that rising tuition rates and the low average salary of $16,000 were preventing Catholic school faculty from continuing their education beyond a bachelor’s degree.

McCarver proposed that money in the John Gregory Murray Fund be used to deliver a three-year, tuition-free graduate degree program for Catholic school teachers and administrators who pledged to continue to serve at Catholic schools for a minimum of three years.

The Murray Institute program has provided advanced degrees to hundreds of students since 1993.

McCarver was director of archdiocesan Catholic Education and Formation Ministries from 1994 to 2005, when he was named vicar for urban Catholic education in the archdiocese, a position that grew out of the need for funding of inner city Catholic schools.

Wilmer, who interacted with McCarver as a principal and as president of the Association of Catholic Schools principals of the Archdiocese, recalled McCarver as “a very thoughtful and a soft spoken person,” a good listener who was always respectful of the people he professionally worked with.

“Tom always had a concern that our Catholic schools need to be available not only to all children, but in particular to serve and educate the poor and underprivileged, and he worked at finding ways to support them so they could receive a Catholic education,” Wilmer said.

“Tom also encouraged parish leadership to find ways to provide a living wage for teachers and principals as part of our obligation regarding the Church document on social justice,” Wilmer added.

Upon retiring, McCarver put his energy into fundraising, helping to create FOCUS, Friends of Catholic Urban Schools.

He is survived by his wife, Josanne, and children Chris, Thomas and Megan.

Visitation is from 4-7 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 26, at O’Halloran & Murphy-Woodbury Funeral Home, 8700 Valley Creek Rd.

A funeral Mass is at 10 a.m. Monday, Oct. 27, at Guardian Angels, 8260 Fourth St. N., Oakdale.

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Category: Obituaries