Patrick J. Mogan (Photo (c) by James Higgins)
We learned earlier today about the passing of Dr. Patrick J. Mogan—teacher, planner, dreamer, and tireless enthusiast for Lowell. I had the privilege of working for him and with him. He was a mentor and guide to me. His purposeful and joyful commitment to bettering his adopted city inspired countless people. He could be a tough critic when he saw something that he considered to be unfair or wrong-headed. He knew where he wanted to go with a good idea. He amazed people with his relentless advocacy of the core concepts about learning and community redevelopment that he had arrived at through experience, study, and imaginative analysis. He was forever citing nuggets of wisdom and sensible insights that he had picked up through reading or meeting other smart people; at times he seemed to be speaking in proverbs, many of them based on his own observations. A nimble thinker, he was especially good at synthesizing complex thoughts and applying them to the situation at hand. He was the type of person who could see around the corner or over the edge of the horizon, figuratively, which invested his proposals with a depth of importance that made people pay extra attention.
He didn’t suffer fools, and he wasn’t fooled by self-righteous experts and officials, but he sought out and welcomed substantive expertise and serious scholarship. He always remembered that he was working for sincere Lowellians in whom he had so much confidence—and for whom he had so much respect. One of his central worries was that the revitalization of Lowell would turn Lowell residents into “spectators of their own culture.” It was important to him that the cultural revival upon which he had staked so much maintain its authentic Lowell character and be animated by Lowellians—without lapsing into provincialism or becoming stale. As a teacher, he favored learning by doing and place-based learning. He said, “Don’t confuse knowing something with understanding something.”
A couple of years ago, at the wake for his wife, Mary, he thanked me for attending and two minutes later gave me a homework assignment having to do with starting a foreign-language academy in Lowell that would be a sure-fire bet for public funding because of the national-security angle. He never stopped imagining ways to make Lowell “a good address” even after the address had been substantially improved. I will miss him. We will miss him. There is zero chance that he will fade from our collective memory. Lowell was lucky to have him for as long as it did.
Thank you, Pat.