Dr. Ed McFarlane retires again

Published 7:33 am Tuesday, June 22, 2010

MERRY HILL – A decade ago, Dr. Ed McFarlane retired to eastern North Carolina.

The veteran educator was content to spend weekdays writing and weekends with family. Then he accepted an offer to provide assistance to Lawrence Academy on a part-time basis.

“The man building my house had children here,” Dr. McFarlane said. “When he found out about my background, we began talking and one thing led to another.”

The relationship with Dr. McFarlane and Lawrence began with him doing a training session for the Board of Directors. It will end on June 30 when he reenters retirement, this time permanently.

After four years of service on the board, Dr. McFarlane accepted the post of Headmaster at the school in January of 2009. After 18 months of service, he will head into retirement June 30.

“My agreement was for 18 months when I took over as Headmaster,” Dr. McFarlane said. “They asked me to stay for another year and originally, I said that I would. Six to eight weeks later, I didn’t feel like I could.”

Dr. McFarlane, 70, said he started work daily at 7 a.m. and continued until 6 p.m. unless ball games or meetings kept him on campus later.

“I found I was tiring,” he said.

In looking back over his tenure, Dr. McFarlane said he had enjoyed the time at Lawrence and felt it was an overall great experience.

“It has been terrific,” he said. “I have really enjoyed being back in a school setting.”

Overall, Dr. McFarlane has spent 48 years working in education, most of which were at colleges, universities and boarding schools.

Starting as a coach at the collegiate level, Dr. McFarlane worked at Slippery Rock University in Pennsylvania as an assistant basketball coach. He left his alma mater to start the collegiate program at Cuyahoga Community College in Cleveland.

In addition to coaching basketball, he also served as Athletic Director of the school which had over 18,000 students.

After deciding to raise children in a small town, he accepted a position with Blue Ridge School in St. George, Virginia. He spent 12 years as Head of School before retiring for the first time.

Dr. McFarlane, who had experienced some health issues, got those worked out and began consulting with schools and others on fundraising matters before retiring for the second time when he moved to eastern North Carolina.

When he took over as leader of Lawrence, it was the first time he had served at a day school. The experience is one he said he will treasure.

“Every generation of kids is different,” Dr. McFarlane said. “On the whole, this is the nicest group of young people you want to run into. The vast majority are serious about education.”

The retiring Headmaster also said he was proud of the staff he worked with during his time at Lawrence.

“The faculty and staff challenge students to gather information and make good decisions,” he said.

Another major plus for the school is the Student Honor Code, Dr. McFarlane said.

“People sometimes think an Honor Code doesn’t work, but it does,” he said. “It’s an excellent tool for a school.”

As he looks to the future for Lawrence, Dr. McFarlane said there were two areas the school would need to address as it continues its mission.

“First, Lawrence must actively address the diversity issue,” he said. “I feel very comfortable that the board knows that is exactly what they need to do.

“Even though our students are around people of color, it is important that the school be diverse, from the board to the students to the faculty,” he added.

The second area is use of technology.

“Over the years, the school has been able to stay up with technology, but it is important that better use is made of it in the classroom,” he said. “We need to incorporate more technology into teaching.”

Dr. McFarlane also said it was important to find more ways to raise funds for the school, including but not limited to increasing the number of students.

“We have been on the down slope for the past several years and part of it is the economy, but that’s not all,” he said. “In the last 18 months, we have begun to curb that and move forward. Hopefully, under the leadership of Dr. (Ed) Clouse, there will continue to be a major impact.”

As for pluses of the school, Dr. McFarlane said he believed the draw from seven or eight counties was a major benefit.

“A lot of people assume everyone knows each other, but we have students drive from an hour each way,” he said. “That means that some people live two hours apart. It’s been good to see the relationships develop among parents and students.”

As he prepares for his retirement, Dr. McFarlane said he will spend much of his time writing.

“No one is interested in what I’m writing about, except my family,” he mused. “We have a United Nations type family. If you look at our photo, it’s like the UN.”

He said because of the diversity in his family, he was trying to trace the ancestry for his grandchildren so they would have it to look back on.

“I’m looking forward to getting back to that,” he said.

In the meantime, he is working with Dr. Clouse, who will become interim Headmaster in July, to make the transition a smooth one.

“Ed and I have spent a lot of time together bringing him up to speed,” Dr. McFarlane said. “He was responsible for day-to-day operations already and that allowed me to do other things. What I’m sharing now is stuff that only the head of school should have access to.

“Basically, it’s just a matter of getting ready for him to move in the seat and me move out,” he closed.

Dr. McFarlane will officially retire for the third and, in his own words, “final” time on June 30. Dr. Clouse will assume the role as of July 1.