RIP Father McGrath


Fr Ed McGrath XLRITucked away in the steel city of Jamshedpur is India’s first B-School. XLRI was set up in 1949. When a leader inspires a whole generation with his vision, a building evolves to become an institution. Fr Ed McGrath was that leader. He passed away yesterday at the age of 94 and reminded us that even legends are mortal.

When I joined XLRI as a student, he was still teaching a class on Basic Managerial Skills. How do you introduce a speaker? What is the right way to write a resume? How to read better… the list goes on. He was never Fr McGrath for us. The students called him Maggie. On second thoughts XLRI had Maggie long before it was conceived of and launched.

On Sunday mornings he would teach us to play baseball. In the evening he would show up at the basketball court and teach the best of basketball players of our batch a trick or two. Occasionally we would see him ride out a Royal Enfield motorcycle to Bistupur market. I am sure Elon Musk was inspired to speed up the Hyperloop after riding the pillion with Maggie.

Above all he taught us compassion and humility. He would say, “Your dreams must have place for the less fortunate. Else it is only ambition.” He spent years together running a centre for tribal youth making them more employable. Everyone in my batch truly believes that his bestselling book Basic Managerial Skills for All made all of us more employable.

When I was writing my first novel Mediocre But Arrogant (as play on “MBA”), I decided to set in a B-School in Jamshedpur. The novel had a character called Fr Ed Hathaway that was loosely inspired by Maggie. When the protagonist leaves the B-School after two years, Fr Hathaway (endearingly called Haathi by the students), he gets a letter that puts higher education in perspective. All I had to do was to imagine what Maggie would have done in such a situation.

Here is the letter from Haathi to Abbey – the protagonist.

Dear Abbey,

As you step into the world of work, you are bringing to it the freshness of ideas and the power to change things. And yet, there is the danger that all too soon you will forget why you came to a place like this. 

NO, you were not here to understand the corporate sector or the intricate theories of management. You came here to understand yourself and your strengths. To believe how easy it is to make a difference. That is the power of higher education. To instil in you the belief that you can make the world a better place. 

Whenever you feel unhappy about something around you, remember, you have the capability within to improve it. So whether you choose to change it or choose to walk away and just complain, you have made a choice. As a professional manager you will have opportunities to make things happen. You have had the education that will tell you what to do and how to do it. But it is only your heart that will tell you why you ought to. 

There are no limits to how we can grow as human beings. Every morning we get up and make a choice about how much we will do to make a difference. Every day we choose how much we will touch the lives of the less fortunate. Too many people give up the opportunity because they do not believe they can change things. I do hope this education has given you that belief within. 

Never underestimate your ability to make a difference. Nihil Ultra – nothing is beyond. 

Yours truly 

Ed Hathaway

Rest in peace Fr McGrath. Thanks for teaching us that dreams must always have space for the less fortunate.


First published in the Times of India <click here>

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  1. B R Bowley says:

    This comes in memory of the legendary Fr McGrath, My association with Fr. McGrath started in 1964 and continued until he breathed his last. he was one of those rare individuals who brought the best in everyone he met. His smiling face and unassuming manners won the hearts of many. In 2000 he visited me in New jersey, and during our conversation, I asked,” Fr. when on earth will you retire from teaching and holding seminars?’ He smiled and said,” The old professors don’t retire; they simply stop talking.” On August 4, 2017, he did become silent, but his voice will echo in the depths of his students’ and friends’ mind in their life time! Good bye, Fr. Mac, but you still live after your death! B R Bowley (in USA)

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