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The Gift of Giving: Mac’s Legacy

Richard 'Mac' McCarthy

July 2013

To hear John Callas talk about Richard McCarthy '46 is to hear a son tell stories about his father. Because to Callas, that is exactly what McCarthy was. A father. A confidant. A friend.

"When Tom Brokaw talks about the Greatest Generation, he's talking about people like Dick McCarthy," Callas will tell you. "He grew up during the Great Depression-which meant he grew up hungry. For food, yes. But really, hungry for life. It is the way he lived every single day."

Though he never married and had no children of his own, McCarthy, who passed away in 2008 at age 85, considered Callas his son. He hired Callas right out of law school and mentored him into the "attorney I am today," Callas said.

"Dick was like a rabbit. He was in the office by 6 o'clock every morning, was already full throttle by 7, and always had some commentary about the previous evening's Larry King Show the minute I walked in the door," remembered Callas. "His clients knew that if they wanted to see Dick, it was best to drop by first thing in the morning because by 8 he would have three different clients in three different offices."

Illinois Supreme Court Judge Thomas Kilbride, who credited McCarthy with helping him rise to his current rank, called the early morning whirlwind The McCarthy Tornado.

"It was amazing what he could juggle-and do so with accuracy and attention and integrity," Kilbride said. "Even when he had those three different clients in three different offices, you had his full attention. To this day, I've never seen anything like it."

A veteran of World War II, McCarthy earned a Purple Heart and four Bronze Stars-honors most of his friends didn't know about until shortly before his passing. He participated in the invasion of Europe at Utah Beach and fought at the Battle of the Bulge.

After the war, he enrolled at the DePaul University School of Law, where he sold peanut butter and jelly sandwiches during lunch to pay for school.

At the dedication of the St. Ambrose Health Sciences Education Center at Genesis three years ago, St. Ambrose honored McCarthy's contributions to the Quad City community by naming the new building's student commons area in his honor.

In August, his legacy at St. Ambrose will be further celebrated when West Hall is renamed McCarthy Hall.

"He probably would have hated that his name was on a building," Callas said, "but we hope the students who pass through its doors will understand that success in life has everything to do with a genuine connection with people, loyalty, honor, and putting your head down to do the work. That's who Dick was."

Ed Littig, PhD, former vice president for advancement at St. Ambrose, described McCarthy as a strong, intelligent man, a "quiet force" with a variety of interests who never wanted to be the center of attention. "But that quiet force was a force to be reckoned with," Littig said.

McCarthy practiced law in Rock Island County for more than 60 years, first as assistant state's attorney and assistant attorney general. He was a founding member of McCarthy, Callas and Feeney, where he worked until his death.

McCarthy's financial gifts to St. Ambrose—in excess of $2 million—came as legacy gifts, which he planned for in his trust. In recent years, gifts from will and estates have composed more than 20 percent of the philanthropic support received by SAU, said Sally Crino, assistant vice president for advancement.

"Legacy gifts allow the donor to shape how they want to leave a mark on a community-it can be for an academic program or scholarship or for a building," Crino said "In Dick's case, he was interested in helping the university grow while also offering financial assistance to veterans from Rock Island interested in attending St. Ambrose."

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