Theresa Dougall, distinguished Bishop Stang educator, passes away

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By Becky Aubut
Anchor Staff

NORTH DARTMOUTH, Mass. — Theresa E. Dougall, 70, of Marion, entered eternal life, Dec. 12, 2016, surrounded by her loving family and friends after a long and courageous battle with myelofibrosis. Born in New Bedford on Dec. 3, 1946, Dougall was the daughter of the late Lionel and Mary (Ponte) Perry. 

A graduate of Our Lady of Mount Carmel School in New Bedford and Bishop Stang High School in North Dartmouth, she earned her undergraduate degree from Stonehill College in Easton, and her master’s degree from Bridgewater State University. She returned to Bishop Stang in 1968 and began her 44-year career in Catholic education. 

Over those 44 years as a distinguished educator, award-winning field hockey coach, and administrator, Dougall touched the lives of thousands of Spartans and inspired many alumni to pursue careers in medicine and other science-related fields. The Sigma Xi Society of UMass Dartmouth named her Teacher of the Year. Dougall earned several Coach of the Year titles, and her field hockey teams won many state and league championships. Dougall was appointed principal in 1987, and the first president of Bishop Stang High School in 1994. 

Christine Payette, director of Admissions at Bishop Stang, had Dougall first as a teacher and field hockey coach and then, when Dougall and Payette’s mother became close, she was an integral part of her family.

“Terry had always been a part of my adult life, so when I had kids, they weren’t going to call her Mrs. Dougall; she was more important than that,” said Payette. “So we asked her what she wanted to be called, and we thought it was kind of neat our kids have only French grandparents — they’re all mémères and pépères — and we always thought it was a blessing they had a Portuguese grandmother in there, so they called her vovô. Since the moment they were born, she was a true grandmother to them.

“There are so many people she has touched. For me, personally, she was an incredible mentor. She set the bar really high. As a colleague, she was so open and giving. Whatever questions [you had], she had this great, open door where you could go in and rattle off whatever was bothering you, and she had great, clear perspective to see where you needed to go.”

Kathryn Crosson, teacher and chairman of the Science department first met Dougall when Crosson began teaching at Bishop Stang 39 years ago, when Dougall was chairman for the science department: “This is my first full-time teaching job, and Terry was a great, great mentor to me. She was such a fabulous teacher, and she led by doing. She led by example. She was one who made me want to be the best I could be as a teacher, to go above and beyond and really think of the students. I really credit her for being the greatest influence in being the teacher I am today.”

Crosson said Dougall was part of a larger group of Stang faculty who were friends inside and outside of school, often taking trips together. Crosson said Dougall became known for her great sense of humor.

“She was known for her corny, ‘Terry jokes,’” said Crosson. “Somebody would say something, some corny joke, and we would be like, yep, that’s a ‘Terry joke.’ During the last couple of days when we would visit by her bed, we didn’t think she would be listening; we would then say something, and she would pipe out with a statement, and we would burst out laughing. She would have this grin on her face, so to the very end, that was part of Terry.

“She put her whole heart and soul into everything, and that’s why she had so many people who respected her. She inspired so many people, especially in the field of science. There are so many doctors out there now that would probably say to you that it was Terry who inspired them. She was a fabulous teacher, and she would motivate the students to want to do well and excel.”

President and principal of Bishop Stang, Peter Shaughnessy knew Dougall during her last three years at the high school, when he worked alongside her as principal while she was president. Now having spent eight years at Bishop Stang, Shaughnessy said he appreciates everything Dougall taught him, and the legacy she has left at the school.

“There’s no question when you spend any amount of time with Terry at all, you are impressed by a person of great intelligence, great faith, great integrity and tremendous wit, as well,” said Shaughnessy. “What Terry had was tremendous authority. When Terry spoke, people really listened because you had the sense that this person has a wisdom that truly derives from a deep relationship with God.” 

For the first time in its history, Bishop Stang High School recognized some of the key people who have become the bedrock on which the Catholic high school was built when it inducted an inaugural class of six into the newly-founded Hall of Honors a few months ago, and among those “pillars of our community, really the founders of our school, Terry was one of them,” said Shaughnessy. 

He added, “Terry started the financial aid and scholarship program at Stang, which is a tradition we very much continue because that’s part of the legacy and core mission of our school. That’s a key element to her legacy. Another one is the number of people that she hired here; I think the best thing about our school is the people we have, the faculty and staff. Terry’s legacy lives on in the people she brought in here.”

In the greater community, Dougall served as a volunteer EMT for the town of Marion. She also served in different leadership positions of the National Catholic Educator’s Association for many years, and was the recipient of the NCEA Catholic Secondary Education Award. She served as chairman on numerous reaccreditation teams through the New England Association of Schools and Colleges; she was one of the founding board members of the Catholic Educators Collaborative at Stonehill College. It was under Dougall’s leadership that Bishop Stang High School was named a nationally recognized Blue Ribbon School of Excellence. 

Dougall is survived by godchildren Pamela Baptiste, Paul Rapoza, and Simone Payette, and many cousins. Dougall is also survived by her very dear friends, Cecile and Ron LaRochelle and Jean Revil, and many other friends who considered her “family.” Terry enjoyed spending time with her family and friends and traveling. 

Her Funeral Mass was celebrated on December 16 at St. Julie Billiart Church in North Dartmouth, followed by her burial in St. John’s Cemetery. 

Donations may be made in Dougall’s honor to Bishop Stang High School, 500 Slocum Road, North Dartmouth, Mass., 02747. 

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