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Tim McCarthy ’93 doesn’t get much sleep.
There are tasks to do, things to write, people to see. Whether on campus or off, often he is greeting and hugging someone. His phone is usually buzzing, and he hardly has time to recuperate from a cold.
“I live my life at a pretty breathless pace,” he said. “You only get one shot at this!”
His one shot has been pretty productive so far. Raised in a boisterous, working-class, Irish-Italian Catholic family, McCarthy said the focus then was on “being your brother’s keeper, your sister’s keeper, your neighbor’s keeper.” That ethos “animated my family and dominated my childhood.”
McCarthy has been involved in the community for as long as he can remember. As a Harvard College student, he worked with the First-Year Urban Program, the Phillips Brooks House Association, and in local schools. That commitment to helping others and to social justice has defined his life and continues to shape it.
Since 2001, McCarthy — an adjunct lecturer on public policy — has taught an American history course to low-income adult students as part of the Clemente Course in the Humanities, a free, nationwide course available to individuals experiencing adverse conditions or economic hardship. He directed the course in 2002-2003, and again from 2005 to 2011.
This year, McCarthy received the course’s first-ever endowed chair, the Stanley Paterson Professorship in American History.
The yearlong course, which offers six college credits through Bard College and is administered through the Codman Square Health Center in Dorchester, is comprised of five classes on art history, American history, literature, moral philosophy, and writing and critical thinking. Students ages 17 and up are eligible, and most of them live in Dorchester. The late journalist Earl Shorris founded the course in 1995, and there are now dozens of Clemente Courses across the country and world.
“Tim is not only an extraordinarily gifted and generous teacher of American history, he has been the charismatic soul of the Dorchester Clemente Course in the Humanities for more than a decade,” said David Tebaldi, executive director of Mass Humanities, which sponsors the course. “The Stanley Paterson Chair in American History is the first endowed chair at any Clemente Course in the country. No one deserves to occupy it more than Tim.”
“I’m obviously super honored,” said McCarthy. “I’ve long had a deep connection to the community in Boston in ways that have been very important to my life. This course in Dorchester has allowed me to continue that longstanding commitment to my community as a neighbor, as my brother and sister’s keeper. I believe that this kind of education should be available to everybody. And that’s really the driving vision of the Clemente Course, that everybody — no matter your economic status or social position — should have access to studying great books and great works of art and great works of literature and history in all their dimensions.” read more