On June 2, trailblazing Austin Principal Jacqueline "Jackie" McGee died.
On July 16, we published a profile of the former athlete, outstanding teacher and first woman to run a large urban high school in Texas.
Readers quickly chimed in with their memories of McGee. We’ve selected a few — trimmed and lightly edited — to share.
Karen Cannatti: Thank you for recognizing and acknowledging the excellence of undoubtedly the finest person — man or woman — in the teaching profession in Austin, in Texas and arguably anywhere. Two of our children were fortunate enough to attend and graduate from Austin High School during the time she guided that school to excellence in all areas. She set high goals and expectations for each of her students and focused on and encouraged each student's successes. My husband and I worked closely with McGee during the five years our children were at Austin High.
Even when macular degeneration forced her to retire, she continued to learn and to enjoy life. After her retirement, her many friends and school parents supported an effort to name a new high school after Jackie McGee. It was not to be.
Even more now, it would be entirely appropriate to honor her by naming a school after her. No one else could come close to surpassing her as a model for excellence in the teaching profession and in life, a person to be emulated without peer. Thank you very much for such fine recognition to a life so well lived.
Frank Jannuzi: Yes, she was quite amazing. She stopped the "head shaving" ritual that had been a part of bullying eighth-graders who were entering Austin High School. She created a new policy on absenteeism greatly strengthening attendance by calling credit into question for unexcused absences.
The newspaper was nationally recognized — I still have the old UIL and other judging comments about our paper. Red Dragons Theater troupe (had) so many really amazing accomplishments. I think she was probably one of the first principals in Austin who wasn't a former football coach.
And although football and marching bands and pep rallies were very much a part of Stephen F. Austin — and what's not to like? — so were the German club, theater, arts, politics, philosophy and honors chemistry. My year we had graduates go off to Harvard, Yale, Columbia, Duke, Smith, Vanderbilt, Wellesley, Dartmouth — not the "normal" list.
Kay Braziel: Although Jackie and I went to the same schools — except for elementary school —our paths didn’t cross until much later, since she was around 10 years older than I was. I did follow her path to two of our alma maters, Allan and Austin High, but at different locations from where we went, and with my being a librarian.
When I met Jackie for the first time while I was the librarian at O.Henry, little did I know that I was being interviewed for a position as a librarian at Austin High. In fact, I didn’t know until I received a letter assigning me there. It was a special time for me to be there since I had already had had many of the students at Barton Hills and O.Henry, including our two children.
Jackie ran a tight ship at Austin High but was always willing to listen to new ideas. I loved how she allowed you to follow your bliss and creativity. With my having a low threshold of boredom, I was always looking for something new to do.
One day I found out how much one of our history teachers loved Western art, and so we decided to have a Western Art Week. We had a man from Austin, who had bought, with several other men, the entire collection of the works of an artist who had painted many of the Saturday Evening Post pictures for their stories in the magazine.
Since my husband and I had seen the entire collection at Fenn’s Gallery in Santa Fe and been impressed with it, I was very excited to share it with those at Austin High.
John Watson: Thanks for the interesting story about a remarkable woman and educator. She was my senior by eight years, so I never had an overlap with her in school. We did, however, follow an almost identical path: Metz, Allan, Austin — although I was in high school when both McCallum and Travis opened in 1953 and wound up graduating from McCallum in 1955, the second graduating class.
And I lived about a block from her home on Canterbury Steet on Willow Street. My house was just 1/2 block from the moonlight tower, which of course us neighborhood boys climbed despite the barrier designed to prevent such high jinks.
One thing that struck me was that both Metz and Allan are now history. (Note: The final verdict on Metz is still out.)
Yet during that era, Austin public schools provided what I now believe was an excellent education for students from all parts of town, even those of us in the often-neglected East Austin area. Some of us went on to do fine at UT and beyond. Good to read about one who excelled and furthered the educational opportunities for others.