In memorium: History teacher shared passion

[media-credit name="file photo" align="alignright" width="300"] Former history teacher Alan MacDougall taught at this school for 33 years and is remembered for his annual performance of the title role of “Rocco.”

by Connor Vasu

Mr. Allan MacDougall, a history teacher at this school from 1971 to 2004, died Tuesday from a heart attack. He was 69 years old.

He is survived by his wife, former math teacher JoEllen Hillyer, who taught at this school from 1970 to 2006.

A funeral service was held for Mr. MacDougall Thursday at the Memorial Church in Harvard Yard.

Mr. MacDougall started the legendary elective American Pop Culture in 1974, where students look at U.S. history through popular culture. One of the assignments was to watch television for 18 hours and keep a log of what was on, according to history department head Jonathan Bassett.

Bassett said Mr. MacDougall was a “total character and that he loved everything about popular culture. He was also extremely well-read in American history.”

Every spring Mr. MacDougall and a group of student actors performed a musical review called “Rocco.” According to Bassett, “Rocco was like his alter ego, and he completely transformed every year.”

Proceeds from the show, totaling over $100,000 over the many years that it ran, benefited Amnesty International, Barry and Adams House Scholarships and the Phil Ochs Scholarship, given to seniors every year.

English teacher Michael Fieleke said, “MacDougall was one of the sweetest, most generous people I have ever know. He was a profoundly caring person who believed deeply in inclusion.

“One day when I was a new teacher and was still quite shy, we were walking together, and we approached a student who was in a wheelchair and for whom it was a challenge to form words. While I might have pretended not to see her, he stopped in front of her, said ‘hello,’ made a few jokes, got her laughing, and she then told a funny story of her own. He changed me that day. He taught me the value of really noticing and appreciating people for who they are.”

In 1997, Mr. MacDougall was the recipient of the Charles Dana Meserve Award, given to teachers that excel in and out of the classroom. He also won the Elicker Award in 2004, an award for excellence in and dedication to teaching.

Fieleke said, “Rocco shared what he loved, and he is a model for us all. Long live Rocco!”

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