"Next" Magazine Vol. 3 Fall 2016 - Page 13

Alumna’s Lifelong Love of Teaching and UK Inspires Commitment to Furthering Education STORY BY BETH GOINS F rom early childhood, there was little doubt where Dr. Martha McCarthy would go to college or what field she would pursue. Her parents had met at the University of Kentucky, and both were educators – her mother teaching fifthgraders and her father instructing future engineers at UK. “I was brought up with an incredible love of teaching – and UK,” McCarthy said. As a girl, McCarthy joined Future Teachers of America and volunteered to read to kindergarten students. Those experiences cemented her career; she unequivocally wanted to teach. She completed high school and enrolled at UK, then the College of Education. From there, McCarthy’s life could be described as serendipitous. Immediately after graduation, she pursued a job at Ashland Elementary in Lexington. She didn’t realize at the time the school had a large population of underprivileged students, or what that would mean to the path her life would take. Those students sparked an interest in school equity issues. “I really resonated with being with the disadvantaged students,” McCarthy said. “I truly loved what I was doing.” McCarthy quickly blossomed as an exceptional educator. Not long after her teaching career began, McCarthy’s principal nominated her for a national award for teaching disadvantaged youth – and to her surprise, she won. The award opened a series of doors for McCarthy. Even though she was a young teacher, just three years into her profession, she was tapped to supervise teacher interns through the Teacher Corps program, a partnership between UK and the University of Louisville, in which people from other careers were trained to be teachers in the Louisville Public Schools. While in that role, McCarthy, who had by then earned a master’s degree in curriculum design and management from UK, began eyeing a Ph.D. She decided on a program in educational administration at the University of Florida, with the intention of returning to Kentucky. However, one of the members of her doctoral committee (which happened to include two people with close Kentucky ties) had a keen interest in school law. With this influence and her background working with underprivileged students, McCarthy found a focus for her dissertation: the right to an education under the United States Constitution. Thus began a long and notable career in school law issues. Instead of returning to UK, McCarthy was approached for a position teaching school law in the Indiana University School of Education, where she would remain for more than 30 years and would see an institute named for her in 2013: the Martha McCarthy Education Law and Policy Institute. She authored several books on school law and became a nationally recognized expert, traveling around the country to speak about church/state issues, students’ free speech rights, bullying and harassment, teacher evaluation, special education law, sex discrimination, punishment, equal access and other legal issues teachers and school administrators must navigate. She also has conducted several national studies on leadership preparation programs and their faculty. But just as McCarthy thought she was retiring, serendipity appeared on the scene again, by way of an invitation to apply for the Presidential Professor position in Educational Leadership at Loyola Marymount in California. McCarthy eventually accepted the position, where she remains with no immediate plans to retire. “I really like what I’m doing, and the students seem to be enjoying my classes,” McCarthy said, “so I’ll keep on doing it until I feel as though I’m not offering something to my students.” Despite her career path taking her elsewhere, McCarthy’s love of UK has not waned. She has connected with a group of UK alumni in the Los Angeles area, where they watch UK football and basketball games, celebrate the Kentucky Derby, and often gather for dinner. And because she is passionate about both the Big Blue Nation and education, McCarthy chose to invest in both by giving to the UK College of Education. McCarthy funds an endowed fellowship in Educational Leadership Studies, with plans to include an endowed professorship and research fund in her estate. McCarthy said she believes no field is more important than education. “We need to recruit and support the best and brightest students in education.” | 13