A former CCSTA Executive Director and Higgins Award winner passed away last month.
W. Gregory (Greg) McNally died in Perth, Ontario on Aug. 13, 2015, following a five-year battle against cancer. He served as the CCSTA Executive Director from 2004-2010 and was awarded the Justice James Higgins Award in 2013 for outstanding contribution to Catholic Education.
An educator for 40 years, McNally got his start at St. John Separate School in Perth, Ont. in 1970 teaching religion, English, history, math, physical and health education to students in Grades 7 through 10. From there, he became vice-principal and then was appointed principal, spending 17 years in total at the school, spanning 1970 to 1987.
From there, McNally became the Superintendent of Education for the Lanark, Leeds and Grenville County Roman Catholic Separate School Board, in Smiths Falls, Ont. McNally came into that leadership position at a time when change was afoot in terms of defining geographic boundaries of Catholic school boards. Amalgamation had just begun and he witnessed reconfigurations throughout Ontario, specifically the large-scale amalgamation in 1998, which established the Catholic District School Board of Eastern Ontario. Seeing the board through the transition of amalgamation, McNally continued in the role of superintendent of education for the newly-formed CDSBEO.
In 2000, McNally was appointed to the role of director of education for the board and served as such until he retired in 2004. During this time, he served as chair of about 10 regional and provincial committees through the board. After retiring from his post with the CDSBEO, McNally accepted the position of executive director for CCSTA, where he stayed for almost six years until retiring.
With CCSTA, McNally successfully moved the national office to Ottawa from Toronto and oversaw the Toonies for Tuition campaign designed to assist students in provinces with partial or no public funding, in addition to facilitating the renewal of CCSTA’s vision.
“I have always been a strong supporter of the role of the trustee – whether it’s at the local level, at the school board level or at the national level, because I see that the Catholic school trustee and trustees in every education system are the voice of the people. They speak for the people, and we really need that role in education,” McNally said.
CCSTA President Mike St. Amand said Greg was one of the most genuine, caring and compassionate people he’s ever met. “His passion for Catholic Education and Toonies for Tuition were second to no one. He was, to a lot of people, the face of Catholic Education in this country. He will be truly missed.”
Former CCSTA President Bonavenutre Fagan says that Greg’s passing was in the front and center of hearts across the country.
“We so greatly appreciate all that Greg did for Catholic education, and what was most affirming was the way in which he did it – gently, without fanfare, simply making the phrase ‘servant leadership’ real. And over and above that, I am delighted to say he was a wonderful friend.”
Greg leaves behind his wife of 43 years, Laurie, as well as his four children: Beth (Matt) McNally; Walter (Lauren) McNally; Susan (Russ) Borrowman; and, Cathy (Toby) James. Greg has eight grandchildren and he enjoyed spending his retirement years with family and friends.
When Greg accepted the Higgins Award in Winnipeg in 2013, his words resonate when it comes to keeping the Catholic education fire alive:
“It is up to us to keep the torch lit for Catholic education and hold it high. We hold the torch high, not in ways to brag or boast but to light the way because we have a gift to offer,” he said. “We hold the torch high because we know that when we teach well the mind and body, we touch the heart and when we touch the heart, we reach the soul, helping to create a better community, a better world. We hold the torch high because, all of us are teachers in some manner as we answer our calling. We hold the torch high to shine the way as we build the kingdom of God.”