Kellie McGarrh's Hangin' in Tough: Mildred E. Doyle, School Superintendent

Kellie McGarrh's Hangin' in Tough: Mildred E. Doyle, School Superintendent

Kellie McGarrh's Hangin' in Tough: Mildred E. Doyle, School Superintendent

Kellie McGarrh's Hangin' in Tough: Mildred E. Doyle, School Superintendent


In the tradition of Southern school superintendents, Mildred E. Doyle was a former athlete, a jock, and a "good old boy" politician in a tailored suit. She was also a great character (courageous, mischievous, and contradictory) both beloved and considered odd. In Doyle's biography, McGarrh analyzes issues that interest educational historians and feminist scholars: women's struggles to attain and retain administrative positions; differences in the ways men and women supervise and lead; and the impact of homophobia on those who are not stereotypically "masculine" or "feminine". Kellie McGarrh's Mildred E. Doyle was characterized by ambiguity, contradictions, and paradox, and her life served both to confirm and confound generalizations about women leaders.


Clinton B. Allison

Kellie McGarrh and Mildred Doyle were two extraordinary women whom I admired and cared about very much. Doyle was eighty-four years old in 1989 when she died at home, comforted by her loving companion of many years. She had been the most powerful and best-known female politician and educator in Tennessee. Her life’s work behind her, she died full of honors bestowed by a grateful community and state.

McGarrh was thirty-four years old and full of promise with her first university teaching post when she was killed by her longtime companion in her new home in 1995. She had just received her doctorate from the University of Tennessee, and the college of education community was outraged and heartbroken by the tragedy; and, in a crowded memorial service in the college, graduate students, professors, and administrators alike met to talk of their memories of her competency, scholarship, and humor. She was deeply involved in the sweeping reorganization of the College of Education; she administered the New College office, a job that would normally be reserved for a senior staff member rather than a graduate student. in a faculty and administration forum that was called to review the New College planning document, her stature and respect were such that when she argued for the inclusion of an antibias statement on sexual differences in the recruitment of students and faculty, there was no public opposition.

I was Kellie’s professor in several classes, a member of her dissertation committee, a research partner, and a friend. Despite differences in age and gender, we enjoyed working together. She possessed a mischievous (but never mean-spirited) sense of humor, and she enjoyed teasing me about being an old, white, heterosexual guy—hopeless, she supposed— but there didn’t seem to be anything that I could do about it. Biography . . .

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