Bridget Collins '90 Awarded Teaching Chair

From left: John Grega, Bridget Collins '90, and Vernon Wright '61.

During the opening faculty meeting in Tagart Memorial Chapel on August 25, Director of Religious Studies, Character, and Service Bridget Collins received one of the school's highest honors, the John T. Grega Teaching Chair. The Chair was established in 2003 by Vernon Wright ’61, his wife Lucy, and their two children, Dudley, Class of 1988, and Katherine. Both Vernon Wright and John Grega were on hand for the special announcement, which caught Collins completely by surprise.

As Collins accepted the award from Headmaster Charlie Britton, she received a heartfelt, standing ovation from her colleagues and was greeted by her family and close friends who had been waiting in the back of the Chapel to surprise her!

Britton's remarks about Collins follow.

Today, we honor an educator who has a long relationship with McDonogh, spanning more than three decades. Through the years, this person has taken on the roles of teacher, advisor, coach, program coordinator, committee member, and director. One colleague described this person as someone who has “earned the highest respect for [one’s] uncompromising integrity, positive attitude, and care and concern for the McDonogh community.”

The bulk of this person’s time at McDonogh has been spent in the Upper School where lessons of Chinese terracotta warriors of the Qin Dynasty and race relations during the Jim Crow South have been taught. This person’s unique choice of friends include Joe and Nunya. Joe who, you ask? Joe Mamma, of course! Nunya who? Nunya Business! To the Upper School community, we know her fashion-backward alter ego, Buffe, and, to everyone else, we know her as Elsa of the 2014 All-School Holiday Assembly.

Starting in her days as a scholarship student, Bridget Collins, Class of 1990, has been an influence in the development of strong character within the community. She led the implementation of the Honor Code during her senior year at McDonogh. And since returning to campus in 2000 to teach Upper School history, Bridget has been involved with the Honor Council, serving as faculty chair since 2002. In 2014, she assumed the role of Director of Religious Studies, Character, and Service. In accepting the position, Bridget wrote, “The opportunity to preserve the McDonogh traditions that have inspired me since I was a seventh grade student would be an honor.” How suiting that this recipient receive the Endowed Teaching Chair named in honor of her mentor and predecessor, John T. Grega!

Raised in a loving Catholic home in the Hamilton neighborhood of East Baltimore City with her mother, Peg, father, Tom, and sister, Colleen, Bridget transferred to McDonogh in seventh grade from the local public school. As a student, she excelled in sports, student leadership, and academics. Prior to her return to McDonogh in the fall of 2000, Bridget earned a Bachelor’s degree from Bucknell University and a Master’s degree from the University of Kentucky. She also was the maternity leave substitute for history colleague Marilyn Boyle in the spring of 1995. From 2000 to 2014, this McDonogh Athletic Hall of Famer taught exclusively in the Upper School, coached girls’ varsity soccer and varsity softball, served as co-director of the Rollins-Luetkemeyer Leadership Program, and chaperoned countless trips during which she has exposed students to such treasures as the Rocky Mountains of Colorado, the smooth jazz and Creole cuisine of New Orleans, the ancient ruins of Machu Picchu in Peru, and the westernmost extent of continental Europe in Portugal.

Now, the entire community is blessed to share this amazing educator and experience the joy of building relationships with her. On any given day, one will find Bridget partnering with a Lower School student in the making of ham and cheese sandwiches for the less fortunate, reading a story to kindergartners, or leading a Chapel lesson that ties together the monthly character theme with music and a hands-on project. If she’s not in any of those places, be sure to check in Finney Building where she may be teaching eighth grade World Religions or consulting with fifth grade students on a project-based language arts unit on building character. If you still can’t find her, follow the wafting aroma of pancakes and maple syrup on the first floor of Allan Building, or stop by her office in the Edward St. John Student Center, which she opens lovingly to students every day, or look on field #16, where she is likely to be warming up a goalie. On more solemn occasions, Bridget, who embodies both the heart and soul of the school, may be found sitting vigil at someone’s bedside or consoling someone bereft. It is, however, on those celebratory, joyous McDonogh occasions that we look forward to seeing her orange and black “spirit finger” gloves, striped knee-high socks, and Cat in the Hat-like hat.

Just as Bridget begins and ends each invocation and benediction with a quote, it seems appropriate to do so now. Rumi, a Persian poet, theologian, and jurist, and one of Bridget’s favorites, once wrote, “When you do things from your soul, you feel a river moving in you, a joy.” Bridget Collins, most definitely, has a river gushing through her that she shares with each one of us. One close friend writes of her, “This compassionate and joyous woman, teacher, coach, sister, daughter, aunt, and friend is notorious for introducing friends to things that she professes ‘will change your life,’ like Teva flip-flops and, her latest, Oikos Greek Frozen Salted Caramel Yogurt. What Bridget doesn’t realize, though, is having the opportunity to work with her is, undeniably, the best thing that “will change your life” forever.

The John T. Grega Teaching Chair is one of six endowed teaching chairs that recognize great teaching as well as commitment to the McDonogh community. Previous recipients of the John T. Grega Teaching Chair are Donna Ward, Peggy Moag, Rick Thompson, and Alice Margraff.

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