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Gathering of Gratitude

CharacterPlus 35th Gathering of Gratitude 
Reflections from Linda Mckay
Founding Director

Being Grateful.
When I saw the invitation for the CharacterPlus 35th Anniversary was called a” Social Gathering of Gratitude,” I thought how perfect a theme. It gave me pause to reflect on our past and an opportunity to express heartfelt gratitude to the many who brought CharacterPlus to what and where it is today.


Beginning with the group of Educators who had a vision for what character education should be in every school, the CharacterPlus story, as shared by those at its’ very beginning, goes like this.


A Story for the Ages!
Thirty-five years ago, area School District Superintendents received a letter from Sandy McDonnell, then CEO of McDonnell Douglas Aircraft Corporation (now Boeing), asking them to join with him and bring character education to our schools through a program the corporate community would gladly fund for them. 


Seven Superintendents responded to Sandy’s letter and sent representatives from their districts to learn about this program. This group represented teachers, counselors, principals, and district administrative staff. After hearing about the program, the group met and decided that they felt character education was important for their schools, but the solution could not be an off-the-self or “canned” program.


What Approach? 
This original group of educators firmly believed that for Character Education to be effective, it had to be inclusive and organic to the school community. To that end, character education must be a schoolwide process involving staff and students. Lastly, the originating group knew that schools could not do alone and needed to involve the home and community. 
As we now know, 35 years later, the vision of this small group is the CharacterPlus of today.

Bigger Than We Knew!
What is less widely known is that this character education process determined by the founding school districts became the process adopted by Congress when federal funding was passed for character education.  I knew this firsthand because, as CharacterPlus’s Founding Director, I later found myself appointed to the Department of Education in Washington, D.C., and as part led efforts to get the federal legislation passed. 

It was incredibly humbling when an elected official told me many people were leading the way to gain support for character education in education. Still, CharacterPlus showed, with evidence of success, that it could be done in public schools.


The Firsts.
Tonight, as Mike introduced – one of the original Superintendents, who received the letter from Sandy, and some of the members of that original seven districts are here.

Terry and Karen Profit (Ferguson Florissant), Liz Hinds (Ritenour), Dr. Ron Paul (Melville), Dr. Vic Lenz (Lindberg), and Deb Holmes (University City).

Please join me in thanking them. 

Just like the vision and support of this small group, CharacterPlus has continued to have others provide excellent vision and unwavering support.

Measuring Success.
Like the CharacterPlus Superintendents who from our very beginning said we had to support evaluation for understanding effectiveness along with Sandy, who said, “We need to inspect what we expect.”  

With that charge, we’ve been committed to evaluating program effectiveness from our beginning to today. We have evidence-based results showing increased academics and improved student behavior thanks to federal evaluation grants covering a 9-year period, coupled with a dedicated CharacterPlus and school district’s staff.  

Liz Gibbons led this federal grant effort, serving as CharacterPlus Director during this time. Please join me in thanking her. 
Or like 35 years of corporate, community support providing everything from facilities to host training, joint projects, board leadership, and money.  Examples with us this evening are representatives from Bank of America, where Marvin Anderson, SVP, serves as CharacterPlus Secretary, Rob Fasoldt of St Louis Cardinals, a CharacterPlus Board Director, Veronica McDonnell, prior Board Chair and who established Friends of CharacterPlus, and our long close relationship with the University of Missouri St. Louis led by Dr. Marvin Berkowitz, a CharacterPlus scholar advisor and Board of Director Ex Officio. 

Same Mission, Even Stronger Today.
CharacterPlus has been truly blessed and continues to be blessed with dedicated staff, educators, and community supporters. All continue to work together to ensure quality character education for our schools by listening to the voices of the school districts, helping us develop the resources, training, and processes that meet their needs.

This has especially been true over these past three years as CharacterPlus faced the challenges of COVID-19. Thanks to the leadership of Mike Park, CharacterPlus has emerged strong. Please join me in thanking Mike and his staff.


Beginning with Sandy McDonnell’s vision, board leadership, never-ending commitment, and steadfast community support, many incredible people have made CharacterPlus what it is today. All of whom did and continue to work collaboratively to help our youth know and understand what it means to be a person of character.

In doing so, I believe it helps fulfill one of society’s most important responsibilities -- raising young people to be educated, responsible, respectful, caring citizens.

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