Saturday, November 23, 2013

Farewell To My Friend Patricia McGuire Rock


Patricia McGuire - aka Pat Rock aka Sister Louis Marie

  • Born in Rock Springs, Iowa
  • A Sister of Humility (As in a Nun)
  • A public school teacher
  • A professor at the NYU Gallatin School of Individualized Study
  • This Inspirational Gallatin professor was one of the first recipients of the School's Excellence in Teaching Awards
Hardly the kind of credentials that would make one like me, someone lost in the creative explosion of thought and world affairs, shed a tear.  But this Patricia McGuire was no ordinary teacher and I was no ordinary kid, or so she said.
Pat died last April 29, 2013 in Selinsgrove, Pennsylvania.  Our last conversation was just a few months earlier when she told me she was not feeling well but still wanted me to come up and see her.  I hoped to make the trip this past summer.  Her obit was impressive but grossly understated.  It went as follows:
"Pat was a lifelong educator and held teaching positions from grade schools to professorships at St. Thomas Aquinas College in Sparkill, N.Y., and New York University in New York City. She was a specialist in the works of Shakespeare and taught legions of students about his poetry and plays. She was the inventor of the Great Grammarian, a successful board game she developed to teach the nuances of grammar skills, a particular interest of Pat’s over many years.

She was born in Rock Rapids, Iowa, and grew up in a large, loving and joy-filled family.

Pat was an active member of her religious community, the Sisters of Humility, Davenport, Iowa, and served in many roles over the course of her life. She was a faith-filled and loving member of the church, a zealous proponent of peace and justice and an unflagging opponent of their absence in her world view. Above all else, she was a gentle woman whose legacy to her family and friends was in her modeling of the Christian ideals. She will be greatly missed but held forever in our hearts.

THE GREAT GRAMMARIAN(R) Home School Edition is a junior version of an adult educational game that has been used by many Fortune 500 companies to train their employees. These games were developed by Patricia Rock, who has taught English from elementary through graduate school. She currently teaches graduate and undergraduate courses at New York University, and has also been a national consultant in Written Communications for over twenty years. She has received numerous grants and awards and has been a speaker for a variety of national associations.

Longtime Gallatin faculty member Pat Rock died on April 29 in Selinsgrove, Pennsylvania. She was 83 years old and had taught at Gallatin for 25 years. She was one of the first recipients of Gallatin’s Excellence in Teaching Award just before her retirement in 2011. “Pat was one of our great teachers,” said Dean Susanne Wofford. “Year after year, her courses--Shakespeare and the Uses of this World, The Medieval Mind, The Meaning of Home, The Simple Life--filled to capacity, and in their evaluations students praised Pat not only for her knowledge and passion, but for her profound impact on their lives.”

She was born in Rock Rapids, Iowa, and over the years she was a grade school teacher as well as a professor at St. Thomas Aquinas College in Sparkill, New York, and at Gallatin. A specialist in the works of Shakespeare, she also invented a board game called the Great Grammarian, to teach the fine points of grammar. She is survived by a brother, James McGuire, a sister, Kathleen McGuire Pareti, many nieces and nephews as well as friends and colleagues.

“Pat had such a special spirit,” said Gallatin Professor Steve Hutkins, “loving, caring, giving, selfless and sweet. She was always so there, so present. She truly loved teaching at Gallatin, and we are fortunate that she had such a long career here. We will miss her dearly, but her spirit will forever be a part of this place.”

“Pat loved teaching and loved her students,” said Professor June Foley, “and she inspired not only students but colleagues--especially me. Her Shakespeare courses and the courses she created, The Meaning of Home and The Simple Life, opened hearts and minds and changed lives. And she practiced what she preached: On retiring to her Pennsylvania home, she launched a passionate, full-time campaign against fracking. How many truly good people have any of us known? Pat was the rare real thing.”

“Pat and I spent two weeks in France,” recalled Professor Jean Graybeal, “exploring Paris, visiting friends, basking in a saltwater spa on the Mediterranean. Pat was happy to be wherever we found ourselves, thrilled with every meal, able to fall asleep in minutes on a futon, ready for changes of plan, changes of mind, changes of weather. Flexible, free, open, curious, communicative; when I asked her to be sure to say if she had some wishes or preferences her response was this: “I’m like the little three-year-old who had never talked. When they finally asked him why, he answered: ‘Everything has been fine so far.’” Something tells me that everything is still fine with her; it is only we who need time to adjust to this latest change.”
ROCK RAPIDS - In 1871, Patrick and James McGuire were the first known Catholics of the original 13 families in central Lyon County.  I bet they were the ancestors of Patricia McGuire of Rock Rapids, Iowa.
Nice words were written about her but wholly inadequate for the contributions Pat made to us, those fortunate enough to have been taught by her.
I first was her pupil in 6th grade in Ottumwa, Iowa, St. Mary's School.  At the time I felt she targeted me for torture.  In time I came to understand she was doing it out of fear that we were not learning from her.
In my senior year in high school she came back and she pushed just as hard but with college and Viet Nam facing me I stopped fighting her and grew to really appreciate the knowledge, discipline and persistence she sought in us so we might understand and master such boring things like grammar, punctuation and spelling.
There was the explosion of creative thought she worked to instill in us and the appreciation for all the poets, writers, philosophers, musicians, playwrights and anyone who understood the sheer power of words and grammar.
Because of Pat words became my best friends and the proper care and feeding of words my passion in life.  Now most stories like this end with the former student coming out of the woodwork to say how much Pat had influenced their life back in high school.
For me, my second time having her as my teacher was only the beginning, not the end of an ongoing relationship that lasted over four decades.  About 20 years after being taught by her in high school I wound up in New Jersey working for the governor.
Destiny had an old classmate contact me to say she heard Sister Louis Marie left the nunhood and was a teacher at NYU in downtown Manhattan, just across the river from where I worked at the time.
So I tracked her down and found she was teaching all these fascinating courses at NYU under the name Pat Rock, and it seemed every class was filled long before open enrollment started.
One day we met for coffee in Greenwich Village to renew our friendship and about once a month I journeyed to Manhattan for tea, or wine, and an endless series of conversations on the world.
By 1991 I was working full time in New York City and we met often to discuss her concerns over the collapse of English comprehension and grammar in America and she never stopped pushing me to expand my mind, focus my creative energy, and do something to help people.
Many times Pat would bring other teachers or students to our sessions and they often were Broadway performers or television and movie producers.  She was surrounded by creative people attracted to her dynamic mind and heart warming personality.
There were books she wanted me to write.  Places she wanted me to see.  We even started to collaborate on a fiction story intertwining our respective experiences in life.  She laughed at my stories and prodded my imagination for more.  To Pat, life was a Big Chief Writing Tablet waiting to be filled with words.
In spite of her superstar status in the world of words one day I asked her if she would edit my first book, a mystical and spiritual adventure called The Joshua Chronicles.  She seemed pleasantly surprised that I might attempt to string together a couple hundred thousand words and still be coherent so she said she would at least read it.
A few days later we met and she said she would edit it, surprising even herself.  It needed a lot of work but she had to do it because I was the only person she ever taught who thought he was a speech writer for God.  The book was about the discovery of a missing journal of a scribe who spent 26 years following Jesus and recording his words first hand.
She loved the concept because she felt it was a worthy challenge to my abilities and spiritual messages needed help to reach people.  Perhaps she loved the concept but she was a ruthless editor as she convinced me to change the main character from a man to a woman, causing a rewrite of over one third of the book.
Pat always gave you a lesson when editing explaining why she suggested changes and how they would help the reader understand the depth of the message.  Her edits made the book far, far better than before and we were both pleased with the result.
She then edited a second, third and fourth book for me and said she enjoyed every minute and word because I was finally starting to get what she started trying to teach me in grade school, how to appreciate and use words and t0 respect and be aware of their consequences.
The first, The Joshua Chronicles, was a work of fiction about Jesus and the Prince of Darkness.  The second was a massive journal titled Dancing the Tightrope about kids growing up from birth through high school in the 1950's and 1960's.  Autobiographical as in Irish fiction.
The third was Take Me Now God!, a fun-filled semi-autobiographical story about the search for meaning in life and the pitfalls along the path.  I referred to it as enhanced non-fiction.
The final was a historical non-fiction work detailing the untold history of Communism, Nazism, Hitler and Stalin using recently declassified and missing documents from the American, English, French, and Russian archives and the Hitler SS  film footage that disappeared during Hitler's death and the fall of Berlin.  I called it Saviors of the 20th Century, Hitler & Stalin - the war of annihilation between the Communists and Nazis.
For the first time "teach" was happy grading my work.  We spent hours going over books, manuscripts, ideas for new works, world affairs, and her work as a National Consultant in Written Communications.
She was genuinely concerned that the kids of today were rapidly losing their English and communication skills.  Perhaps this is where Pat truly stood out from the pack.  Classroom teaching was never enough as I watched her teaching evolve from grade school to high school to university to Fortune 500 corporate boardrooms.
By 1979 Pat was a National Consultant in Written Communications and was employed by many Fortune 500 companies to teach Oral and Written Grammar, Business Writing and Introduction to Sales Writing.
Her desire to help people communicate was relentless as her workshops evolved and her games became far more popular.  She was a long time consultant to The New York Times writers, editors and executives.
So concerned was Pat about the disintegrating quality of education, especially in reading and writing, that she took the Great Grammarian game board she developed in 1985 to teach communication and grammar to corporate clients and then adapted it for kids in homes and home schooling.
We horse-traded services, her editing for my marketing help.  From the mid-1990's on I was her business consultant and she was my editor.  Ironically, neither of us liked to talk about ourselves so we worked together to help each other.
She wanted to pursue development of a game for homes so parents could learn along with their kids.  I pushed her to do it and over the years she did develop game boards for corporate, then home and finally home schooling use.
In 2003 the College Board, administrator of the SAT exams, finally acted on the continuing decline in English writing and grammar proficiency and revised the SAT to include "critical reading" and "writing" components.
When the SAT board announced they were reinstating Reading and Grammar into the SAT exam and giving it much greater weigh in the scoring she was elated and the need for her games became even greater.  They could be the difference in SAT scores and acceptance into the best schools.
The Great Grammarian Home Edition was the result and for generations to come America's youth will benefit from the tireless and lifelong effort of an Irish girl from Iowa who could never give up on her mission to help prepare kids to make a difference in our world.  A woman whose love of the arts drove her to encourage kids and adults to pursue careers in television, film and stage.
To me Pat will always be a Saint because she devoted her life to helping others find their potential.  When she didn't feel she was doing enough in the classroom she created workshops, then games, so that thousands more people could benefit from her genius.  She never gave up on believing with the right tools for effective communication America could lead the world.
Her contributions will be felt long after her death because of the thousands of lives she touched through teaching.  It will be felt in the books, movies, Broadway plays, writers, speakers and others she touched and influenced.  She was the epitome of selfless dedication and a model for humility.
Once when I was pushing her to give me more of her background in order to help establish the credentials behind her Game she wrote me, "This tooting my own horn sounds pretty offensive to me."  How could you not love someone like that?
For 2 years when I was young Patricia McGuire, the brilliant and demanding Irish lass from Rock Springs, Iowa was my teacher, and for 31 years after I grew up Patricia McGuire was my friend.
Soon, my friend, we will be seeing you again.  As your beloved Shakespeare would say, "If music be the food of love, play on."


Mike Melton said...

Really a great gal and teacher too. I remember a good friend of mine saying about her, she was the hottest teacher at Ottumwa Walsh (an all boys high school at the time) and that was at our 50th class reunion. He was pretty smart recognizing what was under that habit. Only 90 boys were at Walsh, but I would bet there isn't one of them today that wouldn't remember Sister Louis Marie, she was truly a great gal!!!
Mike Melton

irate1 said...

Jim you have written/said so many wonderful words about a person who happened to be the best teacher. She never taught you, she talked with you and listened. She was so patient with me when I bit that Coin boy on the arm. She just looked at me and asked if I had had my rabies shots this year. As a sixth grade kid, I thought I was going to go to jail. She just wrapped his arm and smiled at me. Then sent me Sister Anita Rose the principal. Thank you for writing this beautiful tribute to a beautiful person. I know you have lost a very loyal and loving friend. You can hear it in your words. Thank you, again.

Maureen said...

I never noticed Sr. Louis Marie was "hot" but I sure did benefit from having her a teacher! She is one of many teachers at Walsh and St. Marys who inspired me to teach! She was the ultimate professional...knew her subject well and liked kids. (students truly do know this.. when a teacher actually likes them) She always gave respect and we gave it back a million-fold. She truly left the world a better place...who knows how many were affected? She sure taught me a lot!