This article has been reproduced from the Fall 1991 McDonogh Magazine.
The Ray Oliver Story
The Ray Oliver Story
classmate, colleague, teacher, and friend.
Please read on and reminisce in the stories of a man who will always be a special part of the McDonogh family.
* * * * * * *
Former Headmaster - William C. Mules
"Quietly, our loudest fan"
In the center of the Allan hallway ... with a visage that gives lively expression to his audit of a student's explanation ... calm and with evident interest in an issue of seemingly vital importance to his young friend. A firm handshake ... and the sudden and strong pull ... an arm drag ... and he's behind the unsuspecting opponent like a mongoose on a sleepy snake. The guest, a former McDonogh wrestler, knows that he's been taken down ... and memories of days gone by are vivid and comforting. "If you hyenas will get quiet, you could learn some math." The adroit use of chalk and erasers ... not always at the board ... stay with the traditional ... weather the distractions of new math and set theory and calculators ... facing confusion, and lethargy, and disbelief ... square pegs into round holes. Hands that gesture ... giving emphasis and punctuation to the gentle but firm speech ... a finger points for demarcation ... a sweeping hand shows the comprehensive nature of a point well made ... signals in the trading pit of student affairs ... Sugar Ray, bobbing and weaving through the benevolent turmoil of a School day ... definition and control, unambiguous, ever present ... the NCAA wrestling championships ... precise, accurate, fair ... caring and kind. "What's wrong with being shy?" Students learn so quickly that beneath the gruff veneer lies a well of warmth and compassion ... none fear Mr. O. ... always seeking to see the best in young people, friend of the forlorn and unkempt ... he knows how bad their fathers were ... peering over the top of the spectacles, barely disguising a wry smile, alert to the foibles and the feints ... head and heel ... another takedown. "Don't bat those baby blues at me!" Prodding for more and better from his charges, applauding every achievement, leaning against the wall of the gym, collar upturned, quietly the loudest fan in the room. The Ray Oliver that students have known over five decades -- so sensitive, so sensible -- caring, always encouraging -- will, upon his retirement this June, leave an immense void. Ray is the very best, the vintage "Old McDonogh," who has so enthusiastically led the evolution to the "New McDonogh." He has silently slipped the moorings of days gone by, while holding to the course set for him and the School by Doc Lamborn. In his own time, he is a Renaissance -- and this School and all its students, parents, and faculty will miss -- and will fondly remember -- this man who has touched all our hearts.
* * * * * * *
Former Classmate - Dr. Albert H. Dudley, Jr. '40
Knowing Ray Oliver -- a series of privileges
Ray joined our class in 1934 in the seventh grade, the level at which the majority of scholarship students were then admitted. He withstood his first year indoctrination, described by a career Marine as "more rigorous than boot camp at Parris Island," without faltering. Before the end of that year, he had gained the respect of students, staff and past faculty giants such as Doug Smink, Mose MacHamer, Murray Campbell, Charles Kinard, Paul Carre, Jim Hall, Bob and Willis Lynch, and the list goes on. It was fascinating to watch the mutually bantering but respectful relationship develop between Ray and his mentors. In fact, as I have seen Ray occasionally in his interchange with today's students, this same bantering relationship persists to everyone's benefit. For six years, Ray and I shared classes, teachers, coaches, and activities. The scholarship boys were then all boarders, going home perhaps one weekend a month, and living at School all summer to work, and gain additional schooling. Ray was recognized, at a young age, as having leadership capacities in organizing the student work group, both scholarship and pay-students, during the school year. This group did most of the grounds work, janitorial work, vehicle driving, snow removal, dining room service, and trash removal. Ray and I, by some means, accumulated excess time to take elective courses, and we each chose typing and shorthand, no homework and easy exams. Our typing grades from Lefty Graham were based on speed. The races which Ray and I had daily were usually won by Ray since he had fewer mistakes. The last semester of our senior year, I studied math with Ray; he had an easy grasp and I had a struggle. He got me through. Our student leaders were then appointed by the administration and in our first senior semester the leadership was rotated among four students, one of which was Ray. Our thought then was that the administration must feel that we had no competent leaders. Now looking back, the career successes of the four say that the leadership capacities were so multiple that the choice was difficult. Parenthetically, being deeply entrenched in middle management, I was not one of the four. My next privilege was having Ray as a friend and co-worker at Doc Lamborn's Camp Red Eagle in Plattsburg, New York, the summer following our graduation. Much of our free time was spent together indulging in mutual interests, and I was privileged to enjoy a summer with a good friend. Then came the gap of World War II and Ray's return to McDonogh. His abiding interest in mathematics prompted his service to McDonogh since 1947. There was no question who should succeed Mr. Alvin Chilcoat as department head upon his retirement. Meanwhile, I was afforded the ultimate privilege for any physician: to participate in the health care of Ray's family. Then next privilege was having my three sons exposed to his teachings and examples. They have repeatedly expressed to me that Ray was a major advantage of their McDonogh experience. Serving with Ray on the 50th Reunion Committee of our Class of 1940 was again a privilege. He was immediately elected treasurer in view of his exquisite integrity and arithmetic prowess. Having the opportunity to articulate this tribute to Ray's participation in the life of the School and its students. We all say "thank you."