By Celine Klosterman
DAVENPORT – In naming one of its newest buildings after graduate Richard McCarthy, who served his country in World War II and his community as a lawyer, St. Ambrose University hopes to inspire students to share their gifts as well.
Sister Joan Lescinski, CSJ, the university’s president, said as much Aug. 14 during a dedication ceremony for McCarthy Hall. Built in 2008 and containing housing and classrooms, the former West Hall now honors a member of the St. Ambrose class of 1946.
“If I may borrow some words from Dick’s good friend John Callas, ‘we hope the students who pass through these doors will understand that success in life has everything to do with a genuine connection with people … that’s who Dick was,’” Sr. Lescinski said.
Born in 1922 in Rock Island, Ill., McCarthy graduated from St. Joseph High School in that city and later served in WWII in the 771st Field Artillery and 26th Infantry Division, noted Callas, trustee of the Richard McCarthy Trust. The veteran earned a Purple Heart after being wounded in Belgium in 1944, and received four Bronze Stars. After returning home in 1945, he studied business at St. Ambrose. In 1950, he graduated from DePaul University College of Law in Chicago. He returned to Rock Island to work as an assistant state’s attorney for Barney Moran and later served as assistant attorney general. In 1997, the firm McCarthy Callas Fuhr and Ellison was established.
“Dick never married and had no children,” Callas said. “He arrived to work at approximately 6:15 every morning and stayed until after 7 p.m. until he reached approximately 80 years old…. Every Saturday morning he would see clients. Every Sunday was 7 a.m. Mass and then down to the office for a private meeting of politicos where a number of candidates and races would be discussed and vetted.”
McCarthy’s love for people and sense of humor endeared him to clients, lawyers and judges, Callas said. “Dick was successful in his practice because he genuinely liked helping people…. He was equally at home visiting with an uneducated, unemployed farmhand at the local diner as he was visiting with a judge, elected official or large company president or board member.”
Besides practicing law — which McCarthy did until several weeks before his death on April 26, 2008 — McCarthy served as a Democratic Party precinct committeeman for 40 years. “Dick took pride in his ability to operate at a grassroots level and assist people, including lawyers, in obtaining elected and/or appointed offices,” Callas said. “…Dick worked in the background without the need or desire for publicity. But everyone who wanted to run knew who they had to call first on the list.”
McCarthy’s donations of more than $2 million to St. Ambrose were planned for in his will, Sr. Lescinski said. “These gifts are helping the university grow and also provide financial assistance to veterans from Rock Island who wish to attend St. Ambrose.”
At the dedication of the St. Ambrose Health Sciences Education Center at Genesis three years ago, St. Ambrose named that building’s student commons area in his honor.
During the McCarthy Hall dedication, students prayed for all who would live or teach in the building, which also includes an interfaith space and cardio room. Bishop Martin Amos then blessed a plaque in McCarthy’s memory. “May all who pass by and through this building be reminded of your goodness and love and of the faithful commitment of Richard W. McCarthy to his country, to the community and to his alma mater, St. Ambrose University,” the bishop said. “May all who live and study in McCarthy Hall always see you, oh God, surpassing every good and the source of love and service to their neighbors.”