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A Tribute to Eileen McGowan

A beloved mentor and teacher, McGowan retired at the end of the academic year.
Eileen McGowan

Eileen McGowan, 2007

Photo: Tom Kates

Over the course of her 15 years on HGSE’s faculty, Lecturer Eileen McGowan has nurtured graduate student development across all of HGSE’s degree programs, especially the Ed.L.D. Program. Her focus on formal mentoring and reflective practice has helped countless master’s students thrive at HGSE and beyond. To celebrate Eileen on the occasion of her retirement, we present the following tributes, written by her students and colleagues in her honor.  

A Tribute by a Student, written as a nomination for the Morningstar Teaching Award

Eileen truly embodies everything one hopes for in HGSE faculty. She is creative, adaptive, and most of all: understanding. She somehow created incredibly personal and deep relationships with everyone in our course; I think everyone felt truly seen by her. She brought all of us to tears during her final sign off, which I think pays testament to how much she meant to her students. And to do that during virtual learning! The love and respect she has for the people around her radiates through the screen.

A Tribute to Eileen McGowan

By Senior Lecturer Judith McLaughlin

For those of you who never happen to glance in or step into Eileen McGowan’s office on the fourth floor Gutman Library’s eastern-most corridor, you missed something very special. Into the Brutalist style architecture of Gutman, Eileen added an oriental rug, soft lighting, wall hangings, and beautiful artwork. Entering her office, you felt as if you’d left the cold concrete building behind and had moved into the intimate and elegant sitting room of a Beacon Hill brownstone.

But it wasn’t just Eileen’s wonderful design sense that created this special feeling. Eileen does that herself in how she treats everyone. Eileen listens carefully, giving people her complete attention; when asked for comments, she responds with a rare combination of kindness, empathy, and perspicacity. These qualities have made her a gifted researcher, a beloved teacher and adviser, and the linchpin of the many programs she has led and worked in during her years at HGSE. I know that many of her colleagues and students in these programs wonder how they could possibly have succeeded without her! And she’s done all of this in her wonderfully thoughtful and modest way. Eileen doesn’t demand attention; in fact she turns it on others rather than on herself. That’s why I was so glad to be asked to give this tribute to her today.  

Eileen, mentoring has been an intellectual focus of your work. You have studied, written, and consulted about mentoring — and you’ve mentored so many of us without our always realizing or acknowledging it. Even though I know retirement is the right decision for you, a decision that you made, typically, with much deliberation and care, it truly is a great loss for the school. Eileen, you have made HGSE a much better place for your students, and for your faculty and staff colleagues, since you arrived here 20 years ago. We will miss you greatly.

A Tribute to Eileen McGowan

By Senior Lecturer Mary Grassa O'Neill

It’s an honor to talk about our wonderful colleague Eileen McGowan who is retiring this year. I admire her very much for so many reasons:


  • is an extraordinary teacher and leader who prepares students to change the world. 
  • played a leadership role in the School Leadership, Doctor of Education Leadership, and Urban Superintendents’ Programs and as drector of the Specialized Studies Program.
  • integrates formal mentoring and reflective practice to produce transformational change in teaching, leadership, and enhanced, robust internships.
  • pioneered fully online graduate courses to rave reviews.
  • empowers others to be their best and surely many of us are better teachers, leaders, and people because of her influence.

It’s such a joy to salute someone who’s wise, thoughtful, thorough, caring, creative, and devoted to excellence, rigor, and humanity. And on a lighter note, let us never forget that she keeps many of us up-to-date on the latest styles, fashions, and hairdos.

Our talented colleague and dear friend, the incomparable Eileen McGowan, we offer you our heartfelt congratulations and wish you an abundance of blessings in retirement. 


1973–1988: Taught students with special needs, grades K–12, at Hanover, Massachusetts, public schools

1991–1996: Named adjunct faculty and supervisor of graduate student teachers at the Lesley University School of Education

1997: First came to HGSE to pursue an individualized Ed.M. with a focus on adult development 

2000–2005: Served as principal of Mentoring Strategies, a consulting firm specializing in the creation of more effective mentoring programs in urban school systems, higher-education programs, and nonprofit and for-profit organizations

2004: Earned her Ed.D. from HGSE in administration, planning, and social policy 

2004: Acted as director of evaluation for HERS (Higher Education Resources Services)

2005: Joined HGSE as an annual lecturer on education

2010: Promoted to lecturer 

2021: Received 28 nominations from students in seven different programs for the Morningstar Teaching Award

Today: Retires from her invaluable positions as the director of Doctoral Student Professional Development, the director of the Field Experience Program, and the Spencer Research Training Grant Coordinator at HGSE, as well as the faculty director of the Specialized Studies Program.

Quotes from McGowan's Time at HGSE

“If my classes are to be relevant, I must plan to engage the array of histories, orientations, and experiences sitting before me and make space for those varied reactions and voices. If I care about the integration of personal and intellectual selves, I must listen really carefully and push for the meaningful 'so what.' If I believe adult development depends upon sharing vulnerabilities, I must model that, as uncomfortable and awkward as it is.”

“Research shows that good mentoring is regenerative. If students and alumni enjoy productive relationships now, they are likely to return as mentors down the line. This not only helps the mentors and the protégés, but the field of education itself.”

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