Lynn R. McKain (Baltimore Sun )
Lynn R. McKain, longtime director of communications at McDonogh School, died Sunday of breast cancer at Stella Maris Hospice in Timonium. The Sykesville resident was 53.
"Lynn was just a beautiful person, and she was a wonderful colleague," said Charles W. Britton, headmaster of McDonogh. "She understood the school's mission and could tell the McDonogh story time and time again in a warm and articulate way. She was an artful storyteller."
"Lynn has been here close to 13 years, and she was in a position that in many ways was a flash point. But when it came to dealing with difficult situations, she brought a consummate grace to it," said John T. Grega, director of religious studies and character at McDonogh.
"When all hell was breaking loose, Lynn was the person you wanted in the room. She gave us the ability, no matter how difficult a situation, to deal with it in a positive way. She never tried to spin a story," he said.
"She was a gift for McDonogh. That's what she was for us," said Mr. Grega. "And her approach to the job was like a duck taking to water. She just took to it and loved the kids. Everything was about the kids."
The daughter of a Baltimore County public school administrator and a kindergarten teacher, Lynn Ritter was born in Towson and raised on Chestnut Avenue.
After graduating from Towson High School in 1976, she earned a bachelor's degree in three years in 1980 from Hampshire College in Amherst, Mass.
In 1986, Mrs. McKain earned a public relations specialist certificate from Goucher College, and a year later, completed a CASE Summer Institute in communications at the University of Notre Dame.
She began her public relations career in 1982 as director of publicity for the Liberty Publishing Co. in Cockeysville, where she planned and coordinated publicity for 65 nonfiction paperbacks and software packages.
From 1986 to 1988, she was assistant director and later acting director of public relations at what is now Loyola University Maryland.
Mrs. McKain was for a decade director of public relations and publication at Notre Dame Preparatory School in Towson, where her responsibilities included not only maintaining media contacts and crisis management, but also writing, editing and coordinating production of all school publications.
She also established a website and supervised the students' maintenance of the site, wrote foundation proposals and was recording secretary to the school's board of trustees.
Since 1999, Ms. McKain had been director of communications at McDonogh.
"Lynn was always calm and collected whenever there was a crisis. She was very thoughtful and always knew who needed to be called," said Nina C. Sinnott, associate director of communications at McDonogh. "She could connect with people in a very soothing way."
Heather N. McPeters, who worked with Mrs. McKain for 13 years, is also an associate director of communications at the Owings Mills private school.
"She changed the paths of a lot of people's lives, including mine," said Ms. McPeters. "We both had a different way of looking at things, but we complemented one another."
"No matter what she was working on, when you went into her office she put it aside. She was patient and a good listener, and if she was on deadline, she'd never let you know it," said Mrs. Sinnott. "She also had the ability of making you feel as if you were the only person in the world."
Four years ago, Mrs. McKain was diagnosed with breast cancer.
"When she was first diagnosed, we were getting calls from so many people asking about Lynn. I urged her to start a blog," said Ms. McPeters. "She was extraordinarily understanding when it happened, and in the blog didn't sugarcoat anything."
"On my 53rd birthday I found out that my invasive lobular carcinoma, a type of breast cancer, had invaded widely. I am what's known in the cancer circles as stage IV," wrote Mrs. McKain on her blog. "That's the terminal stage. There's still hope, however."
Mrs. McKain was a lifelong swimmer and recently with several other friends reached the goal of raising $3,000, which ensured their participation in Swim Across America.
"When she was healthy, Lynn was swimming three miles a day and was an open-water swimmer," said her sister, Holly Reasner of Hydes.
In February, the McDonogh Alumni Association presented Mrs. McKain its Distinguished Service Award.
"Lynn loves this school, Lynn loves us, Lynn loves the children that are the heart and soul of this campus," said Mr. Grega in his remarks at the presentation ceremony. "If there is 'no place like McDonogh,' it is due in no small part to the service and dedication that Lynn has expended on our behalf."
Among Mrs. McKain's papers was a handwritten note on McDonogh stationery, on which she had written: "Coming to work at McDonogh was one of the best moves I have ever made."
Mrs. McKain was especially fond of her two West Highland white terriers, Maggie and Fletcher, family members said.
Services will be held at 10 a.m. Saturday in the Tagart Chapel on the McDonogh campus, 8600 McDonogh Road.
In addition to her sister, Mrs. McKain is survived by her husband of 27 years, William G. "Greg" McKain, director of supply chain management for QIAGEN Inc.; her mother, Carolyn Naumann Ritter of Towson; a niece; three nephews; and two great-nephews.