McCourt teaches through speech

Jessie Markovetz

Frank McCourt pauses for just a moment in his speech while the audience laughs about some of his experiences observing cheating as a teacher. There is a point in the author sharing these stories.

“As a teacher, you have to admit that, like everybody else, you tried to get away with things,” he said.

His sharp sense of humor and knack for highlighting valuable life lessons were McCourt’s calling cards last Saturday night, when the writer of “Angela’s Ashes” and “’Tis” delivered the Parents Weekend address in the Pavilion to a crowd of about 2,185.

McCourt focused his talk on education, his passion for 30 years as a public school teacher in New York and the subject of an upcoming book.

“If you want to live an adventurous life, become a teacher,” he said. “I’ve learned more as a teacher than I have doing anything else.”

However rewarding it was for McCourt, teaching provided its share of trials, he said, including plagiarism, drug use and typical adolescent issues such as relationships.

Plagiarism has become a particularly difficult subject since the advent of the Internet, McCourt said. “They have these smart notes now to help you understand the deeper meaning of ‘Angela’s Ashes,’” McCourt said. “I wish they’d tell me.”

McCourt also discussed the bureaucracy faced by state educators.

“In education, the further you get from the classroom the more you get paid,” he said.

Dr. James Murphy, director of the Irish Studies program, introduced McCourt, and he mentioned the close ties the University’s track program has to Ireland, including alumnus Ron Delaney’s gold medal in the 1956 Olympics when he won the 1,500m in Melbourne, Australia.

“I knew this was a place where they trained runners,” McCourt said of Delaney’s feat.

“I remember listening to it on the radio … every kid in Ireland wanted to come to Villanova,” he added.

Following his address, McCourt entertained questions from the audience, which included several former students. He then spent about 20 minutes signing copies of his books for fans.