Fortunately for the thousands of Boston schoolchildren and families who would come to know and learn from Dan Kearns as a teacher, coach, principal and superintendent, his choice of an education career was the perfect one.
Now, thanks to a $1 million gift from Kearns' lifelong friends, James '52 and Carolyn Birmingham, the Daniel E. Kearns '51 Chair in Urban Education and Leadership has been established in the Lynch School of Education.
The Kearns chair, which honors the dedication, skills and accomplishments of this distinguished professional educator and administrator, will be awarded to an LSOE faculty member and scholar with particular expertise in urban education and innovative leadership.
The chair will be formally dedicated in a ceremony at Burns Library on Nov. 19.
"This gift honors a man who embodies the Lynch School's commitment to Boston public schools," said LSOE Dean Mary Brabeck. "It is a great tribute to the work of the many Lynch School faculty members who have worked to improve the academic achievement and life chances of urban students."
"I always thought that a [University] chair is something that was named for wealthy donors or famous people," quipped the unassuming Kearns. "I was just a 'working stiff' - somebody who spent all of his time in a school."
James Birmingham, who grew up with Kearns in Dorchester where both attended St. Gregory's Elementary School, politely disagrees. "Dan did a truly wonderful job during his career in education," Birmingham said. "He accepted many difficult assignments and was able to turn schools around. He quickly earned the trust of teachers and students by demonstrating that he would be very firm, but always fair."
Kearns' success in Boston's schools was rooted strongly in his Jesuit education, according to Birmingham. "Dan could always quickly frame problems and resolve them logically and with disarming clarity. He could stay calm and cool under very trying circumstances, and everyone from the kids to the principals liked and respected him."
Kearns followed his initial tenure at the Edison School with a teaching assignment at the Mary E. Curley Junior High in Jamaica Plain. There he was a member of the staff charged with implementing controversial desegregation and busing policies that were applied to Boston's public schools in the wake of a 1974 federal court ruling.
In 1979, Kearns was named one of Boston's assistant school superintendents, and from 1980 to 1984 he was community school superintendent for public schools in the city's Jamaica Plain, Roslindale and Roxbury neighborhoods.
When Boston's school districts were restructured in 1989, he was appointed principal of the Elihu Greenwood Elementary School in Hyde Park, and in 1994 he was called from retirement to become director of the Boston Association of School Administrators and Supervisors. He currently serves as executive secretary of BASAS.
"This chair not only honors Dan Kearns, but also all of the teachers and principals in our school systems who don't get enough recognition for the very difficult job that they do," said Birmingham.
"Dan's life and career exemplifies Boston College's admonition 'Ever to Excel,'" Birmingham continued. "We hope the Boston College students will follow his lead.
"Carolyn and I have long recognized how important education is to our society," Birmingham said. "As we celebrate our golden anniversary reunion year, we are happy to make this gift to Boston College to help them continue to produce outstanding educational leaders."
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