Durham Nativity School founder dies
Durham Nativity School, a middle school for boys, is mourning the death of its founder, Joseph Moylan Jr., M.D., who died Thursday night at 74. Dr. Moylan visited Durham Nativity School during the school day on Thursday.
Kathryn DuPree, administrative assistant at DNS for eight years, said he was very much involved in the school and was there Thursday talking to the students.
“We’re hurting really bad today,” DuPree said Friday. “He’s always in the building. He knows each boy by name. We’re really hurting today,” she said. “One boy asked [Moylan] if he was ready for graduation, and he said he’s always ready for graduation,” DuPree said.
There are 33 students at DNS, a private, tuition-free middle school for inner city, under-resourced boys. DNS is an 11-year program, supporting the boys through college. On Friday, students put up a picture on Dr. Moylan’s office door that one student had drawn of a road to heaven. “I know you’re there,” the student wrote. “Dr. Moylan, we’re going to miss you,” was followed by all the boys’ signatures.
DuPree said Dr. Moylan’s impact on the students was remarkable. He founded the school in 2001 with his wife, Ann Carole McGurkin Moylan.
Dr. Moylan was also chief of the Trauma Service and professor of surgery in Duke University’s Department of Surgery from 1975 to 1994, and part of the formation of the hospital’s Life Flight program. He left Duke for three years at the University of Miami, then returned in 1997 as a professor of surgery until his retirement in 2007. He remained an attending surgeon at the VA Medical Center in Durham.
Son Brendan Moylan, one of six Moylan children, released a statement on behalf of the family: “In a life of accomplishment, Dr. Moylan considered the young men at the Durham Nativity School as his greatest achievement. Outside of his own family, his favorite topic was the successes of ‘his boys’ at the school.”
“The school is rooted in his deep faith and simple belief that we are here to make the world a better place. In his wallet he carried a handwritten note, with a quote from Edmund Beck – ‘5 Theological Truths: Life is hard. You will die. In the big picture you are not important. You are not in control. Life is not about you, it's about everyone else.’ On behalf of the Moylan family, I would like to thank you for sharing his dream and continuing his legacy,” Brendan Moylan wrote.
DuPree said there is a gospel song with the words, “Let the life I lead speak for me.” “That’s what he did. He loved these children,” she said. Even those students who left the program, even in prison, Dr. Moylan would go see them, she said. “He said, ‘They still need to know someone cares about them.’ ”
Dan Vannelle, head of school at DNS, said that Dr. Moylan had a deep love for the students and an incredibly generous heart.
“He wanted to provide for them an opportunity for a better life,” Vannelle said. “He saw education as a way to do that.” Dr. Moylan was steadfast in going after what he needed for the students, Vannelle said.
“He never gave up on any of them, kept reaching out to see what he could do to help,” Vannelle said.
Dr. Moylan was a member of Immaculate Conception Catholic Church for 38 years. A Mass of Christian burial will be offered at 11 a.m. Monday at Immaculate Conception. The entire Durham Nativity School will attend.