PHOTOS COURTESY OF BISHOP McNAMARA HIGH SCHOOL
In a file photo, Rick Middleton helps a student at Bishop McNamara High School in Forestville. He died this past fall.
PHOTOS COURTESY OF BISHOP McNAMARA HIGH SCHOOL In a file photo, Rick Middleton helps a student at Bishop McNamara High School in Forestville. He died this past fall.
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The Bishop McNamara High School community in Forestville mourned the recent deaths of two long-time faculty members. Rick Middleton, who worked at McNamara from 1986 until 2013, died on Sept. 22, and E. Matthew Goyette, who taught at McNamara from 1978 to 2015, died on Nov. 30.

“Catholic educators, they live humbly and quietly, but they are so impactful,” said Marco Clark, the president and CEO of Bishop McNamara. “…These two Catholic educators, they represent all that Bishop McNamara and the Holy Cross brothers stand for.”

Middleton held several positions throughout his time at McNamara, including being a faculty member, director of personnel, director of student activities, director of discipline, senior class moderator, social studies chair, guidance counselor and administrator.

Every year, Middleton sponsored a student at McNamara and gave him or her what he called the “Holy Cross Brothers Scholarship.” The recipient of the scholarship was always one of the top students in the school’s Project PRIDE program, an admissions inclusion program that supports students who manifest one or more at-risk characteristics for school success. Since its founding in 1999, it has served about 350 students.

After his death, the school renamed the scholarship the Richard Middleton Project PRIDE Scholarship, and is establishing The Middleton Scholars Program, which will provide a community of support through mentoring, shared community experiences and overall student formation for students who come from at-risk socio-economic backgrounds.

When he retired in 2013, the school presented Middleton with the Holy Cross Caritas Award in recognition of his humble service and zeal as a personal witness to the brothers of the Holy Cross.

Rick is an inspiration and role model not to just students but to everyone he came in contact with,” said Clark when he presented him with that award. “Rick always brought a loving, calm, poised presence to our school community.”

Goyette taught English at McNamara, in addition to leading student council and being the moderator of the yearbook. In 1988, he was named principal of the school, and he continued serving in that role until 1997, when he returned to the classroom.

Through his teaching, he got students excited about difficult pieces of literature like Paradise Lost or The Odyssey, recalled Clark, who had Goyette as a teacher while he attended McNamara in the 1980s.

“He is inspirational. He helped break down the barriers of language and got to the core of the universality of themes,” said Clark. “He always taught about the injustices that occur, and he helped to inspire all of us to not only live a more just life but to recognize injustices and then to take action in order to live more according to the Gospel witness.”

Beyond the content area of his literature classes, Goyette served as an encouraging role model to many students.

“He really understood the importance of offering an encouraging word,” said Clark. “I can speak for generations of graduates that he really built their confidence to help them succeed. While Mr. Goyette may not remember what those words were, we do.”

During his time as principal, Goyette navigated Bishop McNamara High School through a time of low enrollment and helped it transition from an all male to a coed school.

“It took a lot of courage, not only on his behalf but (also) all of the leadership at that time,” said Clark, who noted that Goyette’s motivation was “mainly for love and belief and passion for the school.”

Clark points to Goyette’s influence as the reason why he decided to become a Catholic educator. He remembers getting dressed in the morning before his first job as a teacher and asking his parents, “Do I look like Mr. Goyette?”

Then, when Goyette stepped down from being principal of Bishop McNamara in 1997, it was Clark who came to take over that role.  

“My teacher passing that baton of leadership to me, what an honor,” said Clark. “I remember like it was yesterday the day that he and I sat down and began that transition plan. He was still my teacher. He is still my teacher.”

Once he returned to the classroom, Goyette became a mentor to many younger teachers who were starting their careers.

“It was not uncommon at all for teachers to sit with him in the lounge and get his advice and support,” said Clark. “He became for us our faculty dean in many ways.”

He became ill in 2015 and had to stop teaching, but had recently attended the school’s faculty and staff retreat, with the intention of coming back to the school as a writing coach.

“He was somebody who watched other colleagues of his retire, but he never wanted to retire,” said Clark, noting that Goyette would say, “As long as I still do it and love it and am reaching the kids, I am still going to do this.”

Every summer, Goyette would study in Oxford, and he founded the England Exchange Program at McNamara, which sent 20-25 students to study and sightsee in England every other year. An anonymous graduate created the E. Matthew Goyette Endowed Faculty Chair for teaching excellence two years ago in his honor, which provides one teacher each year with a $5,000 stipend and up to $5,000 in professional development and travel support.

“As I reflect on the 40 years that Matt Goyette was here at this school, his approach, his classroom demeanor…his quiet servant leadership has really shaped the ethos of this school, and I know that not only does his legacy live through the thousands of students that he taught, it really lives literally in the walls and the halls of this school,” said Clark. “Because of his example and the personal influence he had on so many teachers, I am confident his legacy will live on forever.”