Editorial: Founder’s death a blow to Durham boys’ school

May. 19, 2013 @ 06:59 PM

“We’re hurting really bad today.”

Those words, spoken to The Herald-Sun’s Dawn Baumgartner Vaughan on Friday, came from Kathryn DuPree. She’s been the administrative assistant at Durham Nativity School for eight years.

The night before, the school’s founder, Dr. Joseph Moylan, had died unexpectedly at age 74.

He had visited hours before his death, walking the halls of the private, tuition-free middle school that focuses on inner-city boys from low-income families. This year, the school, which he opened in 2001 with his wife, Anne Carole McGurkin Moylan, has 33 students.

“He’s always in the building,” DuPree said. “He knows each boy by name.”

Dr. Moylan’s accomplishments stretched back to his days as chief of trauma service and professor of surgery at Duke University. He helped shepherd in the age of the modern trauma center and was part of the team that formed Duke University Hospital’s Life Flight program.

But his son Brendan said that Dr. Moylan considered the boys at DNS to be “his greatest achievement.”

“Outside of his own family, his favorite topic was the successes of ‘his boys’ at the school,” Brendan Moylan wrote in a statement on behalf of the family.

Dan Vannelle, head of school, said that Dr. Moylan wanted the best for all of his students.

“He wanted to provide for them an opportunity for a better life,” Vannelle said. “He saw education as a way to do that.”

And although Dr. Moylan was a deeply religious man, a member of Immaculate Conception Catholic Church for 38 years, he also had a practical, grounded sensibility that helped fuel his generous spirit.

In his wallet, his son said, he carried a written note with words borrowed from Edmund Beck: “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.”

A mass honoring Dr. Moylan’s life is scheduled for Monday at 11 a.m. at Immaculate Conception.

We’re glad that, although the DNS community is hurting right now, they’ll have the chance to celebrate his accomplishments and start healing.