It certainly makes for a good story: a scrappy kid from Baltimore flunks out of an English class at what is now Loyola University Maryland only to become an international bestselling author.
The problem is that the oft-told tale concerning Tom Clancy is just as fictitious as Jack Ryan.
“It was an urban legend that just wouldn’t die,” said Carol Abromaitis, the English professor accused of giving Clancy an F in her class.
For decades, Abromaitis urged English majors to let others know the truth. Her efforts bore little fruit.
“One major said to me, ‘Of course not. It makes us look smart,’” Abromaitis remembered with a laugh.
Clancy, who died Oct. 1
at The Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore following a brief illness, was, in fact, a friend of Abromaitis and her husband, Mike. The master of the techno-thriller sometimes played war board games with Mike Abromaitis. The couple also served as the godparents of Clancy’s eldest child, baptized at Immaculate Heart of Mary in Baynesville.
Author Tom Clancy is pictured in an undated photo at his home in Huntingtown, Md. Clancy, best known for works including "The Hunt for Red October" and "Clear and Present Danger," died Oct. 1 at age 66 after a brief illness at Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore. (CNS photo/courtesy David Burnett via Reuters)
At Loyola, Clancy enrolled in Abromaitis’ 18th-century literature course and an independent study focused on science fiction. The professor remembered her friend as a man with a “gifted imagination” who thoroughly researched his topic before taking on a project. When he showed up for his independent study, she said, he had a briefcase filled with books that he expected Abromaitis to read.
Clancy’s prodigious talent was evident very early on. He wrote a short story at what is now Loyola Blakefield in Towson, bringing it to Abromaitis for a critique when he began studying in college.
“It was just fabulous,” Abromaitis said. “It was about a man-eating tiger in India who had a mutation that made him have a human brain. It was totally fantasy, but it was a really good story.”
When Clancy began “The Hunt for Red October,” his first book, he sent galleys to Abromaitis. She was impressed with the work and soon hooked her husband, Mike.
“I think it was his best book,” she said.
Abromaitis noted that Clancy’s Catholic upbringing was reflected in his characters.
“He had a sense of right and wrong, good and evil,” she said. “He had a sense of the obligation to protect the weak.”
Others who knew Clancy remembered him as a man who always had a keen interest in military matters.
“I recall planning military strategies with him, playing with little toy figures of soldiers,” said Father Gregory Rapisarda, associate pastor of several Dundalk-area parishes and Clancy’s classmate at St. Matthew School in Northwood and Loyola Blakefield.
Don Lavin, a senior lecturer in economics and business at McDaniel College in Westminster, was Clancy’s classmate at Loyola Blakefield. Clancy was a member of the “brain class,” Lavin said.
“Those were the 22 or 23 people in our class who were the smartest guys,” Lavin said.
Monsignor James Farmer, pastor of St. John in Westminster and one of Clancy’s college classmates, said his friend will be missed.
“He was a very hardworking and interesting guy,” Monsignor Farmer said, noting that Clancy made contributions to assist children with cancer. “He held strong convictions and had a concern for people’s needs.”
October 07, 2013 11:03
By George Matysek
Cardinal Roger Mahony announced last week that the Archdiocese of Los Angeles is extending the school year for Catholic elementary schools by 20 days.
The Tidings, official newspaper of the Archdiocese of Los Angeles, has the story:
At a time when California public schools have fewer instructional days due to the state budget crisis, Catholic elementary schools in the archdiocese will be moving to an extended school year this fall, adding four weeks of instruction.
According to Kevin Baxter, archdiocesan superintendent of elementary schools, the plan as announced at a principals' meeting last week is for as many schools as possible to adopt a 200-day academic calendar for the 2011-12 school year, increasing instruction by approximately 20 days.
All of the archdiocese's 210 parish elementary schools, with an enrollment of 52,000 students, will be operating under the 200-day calendar by the 2012-13 school year. Local Catholic schools will retain flexibility in setting start and end dates for individual site calendars, though the academic year must conclude by June 30 each year.
The increase in the number of days will essentially add four weeks to the calendar, establishing an 11-month school year vs. the 10-month year currently maintained in alignment with California state requirements.
In 2009, due to the ongoing recession, the California legislature reduced the minimum number of days of schooling to 175 from the U.S. standard of a 180-day school year.
"The U.S. is kind of at the bottom with regard to length of the school year," Baxter pointed out. "A lot of countries --- like Indonesia, Japan, China and Singapore --- have 220-230 days and they outperform us on international tests because we're really in the middle of the pack."
He noted that extending the academic calendar is a school reform idea that has been heralded for years, including recently by President Barack Obama.
"The relationship between more substantive, effective time in an academic setting and increased student performance is clear and the elementary schools in the Archdiocese of Los Angeles are responding to this critical national issue in order that our students grow up to be successful leaders in the global workforce," said Baxter.
Under the extended school year plan, elementary schools will have 200 academic days, plus three designated teacher development days and one day allocated for spiritual retreat. The 10 percent increase in instructional time will result in a 10 percent increase in salaries for staff. An increase in tuition cost is expected at most schools, although anticipated enrollment increases may offset the level of increase.
January 30, 2011 07:04
By George Matysek
New York Archbishop Timothy Dolan, the ever-affable newly elected president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, made a recent appearance on "Fox and Friends." Using the national spotlight to plug Catholic education, the archbishop said a key to the success of parochial schools has been their accountability.
"Our parents can choose or not choose to send their kids there," Archbishop Dolan said, "so - darn it - we better produce! Because, if we don't, next year they're going to go somewhere else."
November 30, 2010 11:31
By George Matysek