My friend, colleague, and boss Gaynor McCown died this week, leaving this earth far too soon at the age of 45. Gaynor started as Executive Director of The Teaching Commission during the same month that I started at the National Council on Teacher Quality. She set up a lunch so that we could meet and talk about how our two organizations could work together. I thought I was going to have lunch with a man - a misunderstanding I didn't hide very well when I saw this petite blonde waiting for me at the restaurant - but Gaynor reacted with grace and laughter. We immediately hit it off, discovering not only that we held very similar views about teacher quality issues, but also that we shared similar backgrounds. We had both gone to colleges in the same town at about the same time. After college, Gaynor did social justice work in Latin America and became life-long friends with a woman who had been my college roommate and bridesmaid but with whom I had completely lost touch. Gaynor made it clear she thought that was disgraceful and then made it her personal mission to make sure we reconnected.
Gaynor McCown epitomized graciousness. She knew all along that relationships are the most important thing about life. She knew absolutely everyone. Everyone loved her from the instant they met her, drawn in by her self-effacing humor and that charming Southern accent still so prominent after years of living in Manhattan. Any time I needed a door opened for NCTQ, Gaynor knew whom to call and was always happy to provide an entree. Without her personal support and eagerness to help, I know that our organization would not be thriving today. She was determined to help us succeed, having decided from the start that NCTQ should carry on the teacher quality work of The Teaching Commission when it closed its doors as scheduled. Inspired by Gaynor's gentle, but determined soul, our daunting challenge feels a little lighter.
- Kate Walsh
Kate Walsh is president of the National Council on Teacher Quality. Gaynor McCown chaired NCTQ's board.