Former Manhattan prof Brother Ray dies at 74

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Every morning Brother Raymond Meagher, a former professor at Manhattan College’s School of Education and Health, told students to say three things to themselves: “I am amazing.” “I am awesome.” And, “I am great.”

“I remember when he first said it, I really thought it was him trying to bring your ego out,” said Charles Zazzera, Meagher’s former student who just graduated this past year. “But what I realized is that, no, you should think you are awesome in your skin. And not to a point where you think you’re cocky or above anyone else.”

Brother Ray, who taught at Manhattan since 1994, died July 18. He was 74. In fact, he just retired from the school this past May.

Students and faculty at Manhattan recalled a friend, colleague and mentor who encouraged everyone to become their personal best.

“He made you realize how important you were no matter what,” said Marissa Acosta, a 2016 alum and former graduate student. “If you felt horrible about yourself, he was there to reassure you that you had a purpose in this world.”

Acosta remembered how Brother Ray supported her decision to transfer from Manhattan because of the grind of the daily commute. Meagher told her to carefully weigh the pros and cons of her decision, and later wrote Acosta letters of recommendation when she applied to other grad schools.

In addition to seeking his counsel, Meagher also became a trusted friend. “He and I would talk about basically everything,” she said.

In a conversation shortly before she graduated, Acosta recalled an inspirational quote that came, from all places, the Broadway play “Wicked.”

“I’ve heard it said that people come into our lives for a reason, bringing something we must learn,” according to the play. “And we are led to those who help us most to grow if we let them, and we help them in return. Well, I don’t know if I believe that’s true, but I know I’m who I am today, because I knew you.”

Meagher really wanted people to be happy, Zazzera said. That meant people loving who they were, and never compromising that for anyone else.

“His real goal was that the teachers going out to the schools would set up classrooms,” said Karen Nicholson, dean of Manhattan’s education school. There “everyone was encouraged to be their best self, and be willing to share things that they were proud of.”

Brother Ray would begin classes asking students to share something special going on in their lives, Nicholson said. It was a way for the students to get to know each other and build relationships with their peers.

Meagher and Nicholson were academic advisors to Manhattan’s chapter of the international education honor society Kappa Delta Pi. There they would embark on service-learning trips to countries like Italy and Namibia.

“He was the lead,” Nicholson said. “He was the inspiration. He was the motivation. I was the logistics person.”

Brother Ray was most proud of one of the group’s last trips to Northern Ireland, Nicholson said. There, students worked at an integrated school where Catholic and Protestant students learned together in the classroom.

Nicholson also remembered the large turnout for Meagher’s retirement party, put together with little more than a day’s notice. She got the word out through Facebook and text messages, and the event included hundreds of current students and alums.

Prior to joining Manhattan, Meagher served at St. Raymond’s parish in the Bronx where he was the high school and elementary school principal as well as the director of education and social services. He received his undergraduate degree from The Catholic University of America in 1966, his master’s from Columbia University in 1978, and his Ph.D. from St. John’s University in 1996.

A Bronx native, Meagher was the first and only member of his family to get an undergraduate degree, according to Manhattan’s student newspaper, The Quadrangle. He also was a Lasallian Christian Brother, part of the order Fratres Scholarum Christianarum.

Even Meagher’s name had meaning: “Raymond” means “wise protector,” Acosta said. “He was what his name exemplifies.”

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