Paul D. McElroy, 67, led training of school principals at Morgan State

July 20, 2002|By Alec MacGillis | Alec MacGillis,SUN STAFF

Paul D. McElroy, a longtime professor of educational administration at Morgan State University who oversaw the training of dozens of school principals, died Monday at Carroll County General Hospital at age 67. The cause was complications from hernia surgery he underwent in March at Union Memorial Hospital, his family said.

In his 32 years on the Morgan State faculty, Dr. McElroy served as dissertation adviser to aspiring school administrators from Maryland and abroad. He also helped create city and state certification programs for school principals. Dr. McElroy retired in 1998.

His ventures into the state's classrooms were not exclusively related to the training of administrators. An amateur magician, he delighted his daughters with visits to their elementary school classes to exhibit some of his tricks, which he'd also showcase at their childhood birthday parties.

The interest in magic dated back to Dr. McElroy's childhood in Youngstown, Ohio, where he discovered a book on magic by English barrister Angelo Lewis (pen name "Professor Hoffman") at the library. His fascination grew with age as he joined the Magic Collectors Association, attended magician's conventions, collected antique lithographs of magicians, and assembled a closet of magic supplies.

His specialty, said his wife, Evelyn Tucker McElroy, was sophisticated memory-based tricks with numbers or cards.

"He maintained this youthful, childlike interest in life," said Mrs. McElroy. "He practiced all his life. He always had something in his pocket."

The son of an orthopedic surgeon who wanted him to be a physician, Dr. McElroy first majored in premedical courses at Allegheny College, but switched to English literature. His interest in teaching led him to the Johns Hopkins University, where he received a master's in education and met his mentor, John Walton.

After a four-year stint teaching at a private school in Colorado - during which he met and married his wife, a Colorado native - Dr. McElroy returned to Baltimore to study for his doctorate in educational administration under Dr. Walton.

He arrived at Morgan State through a cooperative teacher training program called Project Talent, run by Morgan and other local colleges; when the program ran out of funding, he stayed on at Morgan. There, he coordinated the master's program in education administration, and later helped establish the Aspiring Leaders program, which gave promising Baltimore educators the credits needed to qualify for principal's jobs.

Dr. McElroy also helped the Maryland Department of Education develop statewide academic requirements for school principals, said Iola Smith, the chairwoman of Dr. McElroy's former department.

"He was always someone I could depend on to do what was needed to strengthen our credentials and counsel students," said Dr. Smith, who started at Morgan the same year Dr. McElroy did. "I still have doctoral students come to me and talk about what an inspiration he was for them."

Sometimes, Mrs. McElroy said, it seemed her husband's doctoral students had moved into their house in Homeland, so closely did he work with them. "He helped them a lot more than most professors," she said. "He would get them through, no matter what."

In addition to his academic articles, Dr. McElroy co-wrote, with his wife, Children and Adolescents with Mental Illness: A Parent's Guide, which was inspired by his experiences with one of his daughters. He was the first president of the Maryland chapter of the National Association for the Mentally Ill.

In retirement, Dr. McElroy and his wife divided their time between Baltimore and Bradenton, Fla.

Funeral services will be held today at 11 a.m. at the Towson United Methodist Church, 501 Hampton Lane, Towson. There, fellow amateur magicians are expected to perform the "broken wand ceremony" customary at magicians' funerals.

In addition to his wife, he is survived by daughters Colleen McElroy Aler of Westminster and Denise McElroy of Towson, and a grandson.

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