Dr. Laura Fisher McIntyre
Father Really Does Know Best
At the age of 17 in April 1961, graduation was just around the corner. I was busy making plans to "begin my life" and just like any fearless teenager short on experience, I thought I had it all planned out. No income. No place to live. After high school, my friend and I were going to move to New York City. Manhattan.
The dreaming was fun until reality intervened. One afternoon, my dad drove me to our parish St. Anthony's in Canton to have a talk with Father Patrick O'Leary, our priest. Father O'Leary loved me a lot and knew our family well. He sat there and patiently listened to my big dreams to move to New York and ditch Ohio State Nursing School where I was already accepted. He listened and then he started to talk to me about another possible future - teaching education. As he told me about Walsh College and the Youngstown Diocese cadet program, I found that after a lifetime of Catholic upbringing…I simply could not disagree with him. Especially with my father sitting there!
I grew up in a close knit Canton community of hard working families, mostly Italians. There were 12 kids in our family - I was the sixth. My parents stressed education and kept a close watch on what we were learning in school. My dad worked in the mills, Republic and Timken, and we were all expected to do chores around the house to help out. So it doesn't surprise me that I can't actually remember making the decision to attend Walsh College - but I don't remember resisting the idea either. I just accepted what Father O'Leary and my dad were telling me - and trusted that they knew what was best.
My dad made all the arrangements. And I accepted them. That's just what you did in my family. He even paired me with another girl from Central Catholic, Mary Bordner so that I would have someone to commute with to Walsh.
I was from Canton, with dreams of New York City, and even though Walsh was only 15 minutes from my home, it felt like culture shock for me to be out of the neighborhood. My journey down Market St. was like entering another world to me. I was from a working class neighborhood with 11 brothers and sisters all sharing…well everything…especially clothes. The Walsh girls all seemed sophisticated to me and most of them knew each other from Central Catholic. But I never felt excluded. That's what is so wonderful about Walsh. We were all a part of the whole. I remember the classes were hard work with Brother Robert expecting no less than a B grade on any test.
The girls in the cadet program took classes Monday to Friday from 2 to 6 pm and Saturday mornings. We never saw the young men on campus. I think they had to be off the grounds by 2 pm so that we wouldn't cross paths. I'm sure this was one of the things that my dad and Father O'Leary approved of about Walsh.
I left Walsh and continued my education and career earning my master's and doctorate in education from the University of Akron. I taught for 29 years in Canton City Schools and only recently retired. Those connections I made 48 years ago at Walsh have stayed with me as I would often cross paths or work alongside many of the young women I met in the Walsh Cadet Program.
So that's how I ended up at Walsh on June 10, 1961 only 2 days after my high school graduation from Canton McKinley. I never did make it to New York City, but I certainly have no regrets.
Dr. Laura McIntyre is best known as the mother of music artist Macy Gray, but she is accomplished in her own right as an experienced educator and urban school advocate. She credits her father Frederick Douglas Fisher and family priest Father Patrick O'Leary with starting her on her life's career path in education at Walsh College.