|The Extra Mile
I have no quarrel with anyone
But in this life, so hectic,
I felt the truth would not agree
With science, geometric.
They said the shortest distance,
If you really cut it fine,
Between two given points in space,
Is simply a straight line.
The next thing they would tell us,
And never even smile,
"The shortest distance to the top
Is to go the extra mile."
How can you go the extra mile
And not turn from the way?
I thought that it could not be done,
Try it as you may.
For I had set a lofty goal
And on it kept my eye.
I trod a straight and narrow road,
Yet others passed me by.
And so I took a closer look,
And a simple truth I find,
The extra mile's for going back
to help the man behind.
Ray's abiding interest in young people -- not only in their minds, but in their characters,
in their hearts, and in their physical well-being -- marks him as an outstanding educator.
Highly respected by his colleagues, deeply appreciated by those past and present
students for whom he has gone the extra mile, and openly admired as a voice for honor
and integrity, Ray Oliver has led hundreds of McDonogh students to live by Jiminy
Cricket's simple but profound motto: "Let your conscience be your guide."
* * * * * * *
Former Student - Jennifer Osborne '90
Question: What is faster than a speeding bullet, more powerful than a locomotive, and
able to leap Allan Building in a single bound? Superman you might say? Close. Guess
again. Ray Oliver, you ask? How did you guess?! For over forty years Mr. Oliver has
been one of the strongest, most powerful and certainly most endearing persons of
When I first came to McDonogh as a fifth grader, I realized right away that Mr. O. was a
"famous" person on campus. Like Dr. Mules and Maj, he had two very important
characteristics that made him famous around campus to me -- first of all, he had grey
hair, and second, he was surrounded by kids wherever he went.
It was not until my junior year, however, that I realized what a truly extraordinary person
Mr. O. was. I remember a specific incident as clearly as the ringing of the Carillon: I had
had one of those terrible days at School. I guess that it was about the first week of
School, during my junior year, and as junior class president, everything was going
wrong. I was learning one of the fundamental lessons of democratic government: you
can't please all of the people all of the time -- yet I was desperately trying to, and I
realized that I couldn't. It was a miserable, hot and humid Indian summer day, and after
hockey practice, I hung my head and returned home, feeling like a failure.
I checked the mail, and amidst the twenty letters from McDonogh one of them was for
me. I opened the small envelope to find three or four sentences from Mr. O., which said,
"Hang in there, J.O." and that he was proud of my efforts. Did he know that he made my
day, my week, and through his innumerable other gestures of kindness, the remainder
of my McDonogh career? What a lesson I learned that day when I discovered that it is
the small things which people do for you that make the differences of a lifetime.
The gestures of Mr. Oliver's kindness were never ending during my remaining years at
McDonogh. One afternoon in the spring, we had a lacrosse game, and the game had
recessed for the half. The coach was trying to give us a pep talk, when suddenly we
noticed that half of the fans had formed a semi-circle around two kids that were wrestling
on the hill behind Rollins Hall. When the match finally broke up and one of our
classmates had been successfully pinned, we watched the victor triumphantly rise to his
feet. Indeed, it was Mr. Oliver, who forty some years after his graduation from
McDonogh was still winning his matches. From then on, boys ran the other way when
they saw Mr. O. coming down the hall, not only because they were worried of what
disciplinary action they were being accused of this time -- but more importantly they
were worried about whom Mr. O. would pin next.
It has been said that one of the highest forms of a compliment that one can receive is to
be imitated. I wish that I could count the number of times people have said, "Well, I'm
not bad for a Monday!" with that warbled Mr. O. voice. I must admit, though, that of the
hundreds of Mr. O. imitations that I have heard, the best by far goes to Andy Lipman
'89. Mr. Oliver would always buy two doughnuts at the Wednesday doughnut sales --
one for himself, and one for Mrs. O. who was downstairs running the duplicating office.
One Wednesday, I saw Andy stick his head into the duplicating office yell, "Evelyn, I've
got your doughnuts here!" Mrs. O. came trotting out! I think that Andy got pinned for
I believe that Mr. O.'s strongest characteristic, however, is not one of the athletic nature;
it is one of the heart. How I admire the few people who are able to express love with a
simple gesture, or a few short words. Mr. Oliver is a living example of unconditional and
genuine love. How many times were you called into that small office when you were a
junior to be reprimanded for a cut class or a bad grade, yet when you saw the
trench-coated figure in Lamborn for lunch an hour later, you were still put into that
friendly and comforting head lock that Mr. O. gives to everyone.
Remember the familiar scene of walking down the halls of Allan to class, you looked up
to see someone drive his first right into the air and call your initials out loud? There
were one hundred thirty-five people in my class, and Mr. O. knew the initials of every
single one of us. When I was little, I would think to myself, "That man can never
remember anyone's name!" Yet, as I grew up under his influence, I saw that with him,
you were lucky enough to be a set of initials.
For all of the times in School that I thought that no one noticed, someone did -- Mr. O.
He knew which students pulled their grades up, and he congratulated you when you
did. If you needed help, he saw to it that you got it -- whether you wanted it or not. For
all of the students at McDonogh who ever wrestled with a problem, Ray Oliver was
always there to pin it for you, and for every time you might have basked in the glory of
an achievement -- whether it be passing a math class, winning an MSA title, or even
graduating -- chances are that it was Mr. O.'s love and strength that got you there.
* * * * * * *
Former Colleague - Cecilia E. Millar
When You Wish Upon a Star
Step into Ray Oliver's office and you will discover an interesting array of mementos and
objects d'art collected over the years: a framed, hand-lettered rendering of "The
McDonogh Uniform" with border illustrations by his long-time friend and tennis partner,
Ed Kenney; an autographed photo of Pam Shriver with a personal message; and -- one
of my favorites -- a small statue of Jiminy Cricket.
It seems to me that Ray Oliver and Jiminy Cricket have a lot of things in common. Each
is small of stature but big of heart. Friendly, dapper, gentlemanly and wise, each
possesses an appreciative eye for the ladies and a soft spot for the underdog. And
each plays a critical role in the life of his charge: Jiminy as conscience to Pinocchio and
Ray as conscience to a school.
Mr. O., as the kids will tell you, is big on doing the right thing. Recognizing that students
may, in a moment of temporary confusion, have trouble discerning what is the right
thing, Ray never hesitates to point it out to them and to guide them gently but firmly
along the path of righteousness. While he needn't worry that a student's departure from
truth will result in unprecedented growth in certain facial features or that playing hooky
will bring on the appearance of donkey's ears, Ray is nonetheless quite concerned
about the consequences of breaking the rules. He can be overheard admonishing guilty
parties with all sorts or horrible punishments for the purported crimes, including his
apparent favorite: a challenge to settle differences with a tussle on the wrestling mat
after school. Although I have no personal knowledge of such a match actually occurring
(at least in recent memory), I also have no doubt that Mr. O. would emerge the winner!
His insistence on doing the right thing spread, very naturally, into his teaching.
Generations of McDonogh boys and, more recently, girls remember Mr. Oliver
badgering and baiting them into greater understanding of the Law of Sines or the
Fundamental Theorem of Calculus. With carefully chosen words of -- uh --
encouragement, no doubt lovingly administered, he exhorted each reticent
"Cro-magnon" to take "your brains out of your back pocket" and get to work. Of course,
these insults were received with good grade and are now fondly remembered because
Ray's own particular brand of warmth, interest in youngsters, and strength of character
belied any hint of malicious intent. Everyone knows that Ray wants only one thing from
each of us -- our very best effort in every endeavor.
In Ray's eyes, however, doing one's best at all times is not to be misconstrued as an
excuse for using ambition to turn every situation into an opportunity to advance one's
own cause on the edge of ruthless competition. Ray has devoted a lifetime to urging
youngsters to look out for each other as well as for themselves. Compassion, loyalty,
and simple human kindness run side by side with his exhortations to pursue excellence
Several years ago, I happened on a verse in Middlebury College's alumni magazine.
Penned by a graduate of the school, the poem teaches a valuable truth about the
pursuit of success and it always makes me think of Ray: