The Rivers School community was plunged into mourning this week over the sudden death of longtime math teacher Dan McCartney. According to his family, Dan passed away unexpectedly on Saturday, January 4, as a result of complications arising from his recent battle with a chronic illness.
“Dan was an absolute natural at teaching who channeled his joyful engagement with others into loving, patient attention to students and colleagues alike,” says Leslie Fraser, Upper School Dean of Faculty and longtime friend of Dan. “He made everyone whose lives he touched feel special and known, making him a true embodiment of Rivers at its best. The loss of Dan’s daily presence on campus will be felt for a long time. But his many contributions both as a teacher, mentor, and endless champion of all things Rivers are etched into the fabric of Rivers.”
Dan joined the Rivers faculty in 2004 and immediately taught his math classes in a way that made all students believe they could succeed, even if they were not confident math students. His mantra was “It is not you against me, it’s us against the math.” Dan drew on his warmth, charisma, and sense of humor to connect with students and bring math alive for them while simultaneously helping them navigate the many challenges of adolescence.
These same characteristics made Dan a superb Chair of the Math Department. During his eight years in this role, he fostered incredible teamwork through which seasoned teachers continued to grow and new teachers received careful mentorship. “Dan not only taught me how to be an excellent teacher, he taught me that leadership is rooted in showing people that they are valued,” says newly appointed Chair of the Math Department Elizabeth Wendorf. “I greatly hope that I will carry on his legacy by supporting the personal and professional growth of my colleagues in the same way Dan supported me.”
Rivers recently called on Dan to use his talents in the newly created role of Director of New Faculty Development, where he extensively participated in the hiring and mentoring of new teachers across all departments. Head of School Ned Parsons called Dan “an extraordinary teacher, mentor, and friend to everyone. His positivity and exuberance about working with young people are legendary here, and we will miss him desperately. Our thoughts and prayers also go out to Dan’s family as they struggle to deal with this incredible loss.”
“Faculty and students on campus are bereft but are leaning hard on the foundation of community that Dan himself has helped create,” says English teacher Meghan Regan-Loomis. “We are taking good care of each other. We know that alumni all over the world are having to cope with this stunning loss, as well, and we feel both their pain and their support.”
In addition to teaching math, serving as an advisor to students, and mentoring young teachers, Dan has served as head coach of the Middle School football team and faculty director of the math club, stock market club, DECA club, and business summer internship program. He was a frequent participant in alumni events and worked closely with the Admissions office to explain the benefits of a Rivers education to prospective students and families. All of his roles at Rivers over the years drew on his irrepressible desire to connect with students and colleagues.
Prior to joining Rivers, Dan was Partner and President of BBG New Media, an internet marketing, consulting, and development firm that he joined in 1991. He earned his B.S. in electrical engineering from Tufts University. Dan leaves behind his wife, Angela, and their three children, Stephanie ’08, Jaclyn, and Joseph ’15.
A wake for Dan will be held on Friday, January 10, from 4:00 to 8:00 p.m. at Lane Funeral Home, 760 Main Street, Winchester, Mass. The funeral service will be held on Saturday, January 11, at 11 a.m. at St. Raphael, 512 High Street, Medford, Mass. A full obituary for Dan can be found on the funeral home website.