REMEMBERING REDMOND C. S. FINNEY, 1929-2019

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Memories of Mr. Finney from Gilman Alumni and Friends

In the spring of 1959, the Gilman JV lacrosse team played Loyola for the MSA private school championship. Our team was comprised primarily of freshman and sophomores with maybe a few juniors sprinkled in, whereas Loyola, because their program was relatively new, was permitted to play its varsity in the JV league. When Loyola appeared at Gilman for the game, it was obvious that they were older and definitely bigger than we were, A number of them having been on the Loyola football team. Frankly, I think we were a bit intimidated. In any case we played like it in the first half and by Halftime we were losing 5 to 2. That’s when Reddy read us the riot act. To say he was upset would be putting it mildly. But he was not upset so much that we were losing but that we just weren’t playing our best, for whatever reason. In any case, his message to us was that if we did play our best we not only could win the game but we should win the game. Being thus inspired by a coach whom we respected and admired so much, we went out in the second half and Outscored Loyola 7 to 1, winning the game and the championship 9 to 6. Looking back, I think what motivated us was that we knew what Reddy expected of us, we knew he was right to expect it and we just didn’t want to disappoint him. Just a remarkable man, in so many ways. Unforgettable.
- Tom Caskey '62
 
Mr. Finney was sui generis. There was none like him and there never will be again. None-the-less, I am certain that generations of Gilman boys (including me) have attempted to emulate his leadership, integrity, intensity, passion, and compassion in our various walks of life over the last half-century. If any of us have been even remotely successful in doing so, one can only imagine the remarkable legacy that Mr. Finney has left behind.
- David Cameron '76
 
I was captain of the Gilman football team in 1961. I idolized coach Finney and would have run through a brick wall for him. He was a wonderful coach, mentor, friend , and tremendous example for all the football players and students at Gilman. I remember the summer before my senior year working with Eddie Supplee at Reddy's farm installing a large wooden fence. It took all summer and neither of us got rich digging holes, but we were absolutely buffed out by the beginning of fall practice. We even beat Calvert Hall for the first time that year. I miss Reddy and all he was.
- Randy Plummer '62
 
I have so many memories of Mr. Finney.  Thinking about him brings a smile to my face.  He was the strongest and most gentle man that I have ever known. Playing football for him on the 1965 and 1966 Gilman teams was a lesson in being wholehearted. His commitment to us was complete. He was our mother hen, our drill sergeant, our motivator, and our greatest supporter. He taped our ankles, developed efficient practices, relentlessly drilled us in the fundamentals of blocking and tackling, constructed shrewd game plans, and then made sure we were ready to play with “reckless abandon” on Fridays. “Believe in yourselves.”  On Mondays, we found a thick mimeographed play-by-play report in our mailboxes.  He let us know what we had done right and wrong.  He gave each of us a grade, and, believe me, there weren’t a lot of A’s! I don’t think he had nearly as much fun being headmaster, but he was a wonderful one – inspiring and wise for both students and teachers. One quick story from his headmaster days. Mr. Finney was well into his 50’s.  Late in the afternoon, dressed in baggy khaki pants and a flannel shirt, his preferred after school attire, he unobtrusively showed up at wrestling practice, no doubt looking to relax as an idle spectator after a tough day of dealing with the problems that make life so challenging for school administrators.  “Mr. Finney, Ty needs a partner.”  Our headmaster couldn’t refuse the bait.  A few minutes later, he was sweaty and grinning ear-to-ear, and Ty, who had new respect for the out-of-style switch, was pleased as well.  After the “live” action, Mr. Finney treated us all to a step-by-step, gung-ho dissertation on one of his favorite moves, the hammerlock. Mr. Finney loved us and believed in us, and we loved him in return. 
-      Chris Legg '67
 
We are honored to have the Finney Tunnel at the US Lacrosse headquarters, a testament to the impact he had on his players. “Play with Honor, Integrity, Respect, Humility, and Excellence” are the final words of wisdom that players see before taking the field at US Lacrosse. His legacy will live on, reminding generations of lacrosse players of what's most important.
-      Collette Dixon, on behalf of US Lacrosse
 
What a wonderful man, an amazing life, and an inspiration for us all! Mr. Finney hired me in 1990 when I was fresh out of college. I remember that he came down to meet me in Ron Culbertson’s Office in May or June of 1990. I had been given two minutes to eat a turkey club sandwich that the School had placed before me in between a stream of interviews. I did not think I could manage the five-inch-high sandwich, but since I hadn’t eaten since 5:30 that morning, I shoved a handful of potato chips into my mouth just as Mr. Finney entered the room. He graciously pretended not to notice my full mouth and warmly shook my hand and had me sit down beside him to ask me one key question, ‘Now Nicole, tell me, why do you want to be a teacher?’. I said something really profound like, ‘Well, I don’t know...I just always really wanted to be a teacher!’ I guess I made up for a lack of substance with the courage of my conviction...Mr. Finney got up, walked over to Mr. C’s assistant, Betty Scheder, and said, ‘Betty, get this girl a contract!’ I could not stop smiling from ear-to-ear. And so began my Gilman career. It is in large part Mr. Finney’s impact and his legacy that makes me proudest to be a part of Gilman School. Mr. Finney embodies the Gilman Five. I consider it an honor and a privilege to have served during his tenure. Another remarkable thing about Mr. Finney is that he always remembered people by both their faces and names. I was touched by that. Years could go by, and it never made a difference. He always greeted and treated every human being warmly and respectfully. He was a gift to all of us.
-      Nicole Kramer Mitchell
 
I loved Mr. Finney! From his pockets full of trash to his shuffling bobble-headed walk. I hated/loved sitting next to him at home wrestling matches for fear of getting accidentally decked during a particularly tough match. I had not seen Mr. Finney in many years, but he came to my father's memorial service last Spring in Baltimore with son Stewart, who was in my younger brother Fritz' class at Gilman. When I shook hands with him, he told me to call him Reddy, which I could not! When I told him that one thing that has always stayed with me from my days at Gilman was when he told my class, “Gentlemen, why go to bed late and pay when you can go to bed early for free? Life is not a marshmallow!” He grabbed me hard and fast and said quickly, “Still true, isn't it?” What a great human, none like him!
-      Lecky Haller ‘75
 
Reddy was a tremendous soul in so many ways. When my father died at the start of junior year, he took me under his wing and helped me get through a very difficult period. I had not seen Reddy since the day I graduated, yet in 2002 when he was doing a book signing for “Summers with Percy” in NE Harbor Main, I met him again. As I got to the front of the line for him to sign my copy, he looked me up and down and without hesitation said, “Jon Ehrlich, how have you been.” It amazed me that he recalled not only my name but seemingly everything about me. Rest in peace.
-      Jonathan Ehrlich ‘71
 
I recently had the chance to watch the PBS documentary on Mr. Finney’s life and the Social Justice he fought for. While watching it, I came to the realization that so much of who o am was shaped by the values he instilled in me throughout my 12 years under his leadership. My decision to send my child to what my community had labeled a failing school was motivated by my strong desire to create change and choose a more difficult path because it was the right thing to do. With hard work and a strong, dedicated community, we helped reshape the image and created a neighborhood school to be enjoyed by all. We live in one of the most diverse communities in the country. So much attributed to what I learned from Mr. Finney and Gilman. I have and will always carry those values with me!
-      Graham Ayers ‘88
 
In addition to family members and friends, Mr. Finney was a big part of whatever I've accomplished, so far, in my life. I entered Gilman in the 9th grade, in 1979, after having spent years K-8 in Baltimore City public schools. Those K-8 schools were made up almost entirely of black students. Gilman was a big change, both academically and socially, and I got off to a rocky start there. Looking back on it, perhaps I should have been asked to leave. But I guess Mr. Finney saw something in me and simply wouldn't let me screw things up, no matter how much I tried. :-) I got to know him pretty well. In fact, there was a time during my four years at Gilman, when he had me coming to see him weekly. We were supposed to talk about school work, and sometimes we did. But I recall us also talking about anything else that was on my mind. Additionally, Mr. Finney arranged for teachers to intervene on my behalf whenever I needed help with something. Over time, things improved at Gilman, and I ended up getting into Western Maryland College, now called McDaniel College. I graduated from Western Maryland back in 1987. Western Maryland was the only campus I visited before starting college. And, consistent with how he supported me throughout my time at Gilman, Mr. Finney was the one who drove me to that campus visit. I'm now a professor at Hunter College in New York City. Back in 1979-1983, the years I spent at Gilman, I never imagined I'd be doing what I do now. Perhaps, Mr. Finney did.
-      Michael Lewis ‘83
 
Mr. Finney shared valuable lessons on citizenship and character. I remember how he taught us that a first-class citizen is someone who not only doesn't litter but picks up after others who do. There are times when I will remember this lesson and pick up litter in the street. Beyond what I learned in the classroom and on the athletic field, this is one of the many ways that I proudly carry my Gilman education into the world to make it a better place.
-      Jeffrey Himeles ‘78
      
Besides being one of the nicest, kindest people I ever met, he had the strongest handshake I've ever encountered. In my eyes, he is Gilman.
-      Keith Christian
 
In the past few days, I have read many references to the 1st, 2nd, and 3rd class citizen speech, a great metaphor for how we should strive to live our lives. I am as fond another one of Mr. Finney's quotes - “it takes years to build a reputation and seconds to destroy it.” I feel lucky to have known Mr. Finney. I never heard anyone say a bad word about him.  I wish his family and friends well as they reflect on his beautiful life, and all of the lives he continues to touch.
-      Andy Fine ‘87
 
Mr. Finney was congealed energy with a smile.
-      George Shipp ‘60
 
My late husband worked at Gilman as a teacher, coach and in the Upward Bound program. My son's Marlon and Lamar are Gilman graduates. We are proud to have known Mr. Finney. He was an inspiration and role model for us. We often speak of him. My granddaughter graduated from Brynn Mawr School. She was accepted in the B.E.S.T. Program. So you can see Mr. Finney was all around us. He will truly be missed. Love the Martin Smith family.
-      Rachel Smith
 
Lost a great man and a good friend. R.I.P. Reddy
-      Errol Phillips, Business Manager 1975-1977
 
Redmond was a very strong leader and one of the reasons I wanted to help Gilman wrestlers become better during my early years in Baltimore 1959-68. He believed in Athletics and strong coaches that would influence young people in the best of ways both in their competitiveness in the arena but also in the classroom...The world has lost one of its best human products.
-      Leon Harbold
 
I worked with Reddy as Development Director of The Baltimore Educational Scholarship Trust. The beauty of Reddy was that he always assumed that people would do the right thing, do what they said they would do, and do it in the best possible way. And because he expected it, you did it. That, and the wonderful twinkle in his eye. That was Reddy.
-      Fran Gunther Minges
 
I share with you, the Gilman School community, this brief note about the headmaster emeritus, Redmond “Reddy” Finney. I grew up running the Gilman track with my father, who lived in Roland Park and had many close friends at Gilman. We used to play badminton in the old gym and many years later, I spent plenty of time on the wrestling mats in that old gym. I loved playing football and lacrosse on the Gilman fields over the years, watching Reddy on the sidelines, and it was great to win.... I even held the Gilman School sign in my basement for a year or so, swiped by a couple of adventurous RPCS students! You see...I didn't attend Gilman. I went to McDonogh School. Reddy Finney epitomized The Gilman School in my era, period. I admired him and also wanted to beat his students in everything we competed in. My dean at McDonogh considered Reddy a good friend and always counseled me to be respectful of him and his School--however, please beat the hell out of them in competition. Reddy used to have a funny way of moving his head around--everybody knew this. When I was in college I picked up an abandoned puppy who had a funny way of moving his head around when he walked...so I named him “Reddy”, after Redmond Finney. That dog was my best friend for ten years and then I gave him to my Dad and he became his best friend for another five, when he died happy. Reddy Finney was a man of his time.
-      Fred Stuart ‘72
 
I was in the very first class of Upward Bound at Gilman School headed by Mr. Finney and Mr. Campbell. During the bus strike or 1968 he would drive a group of us drive a group of us to School before he taught at Gilman every day before he went to teach a Gilman. He was a kind considerate just man Rest in Peace Mr. FINNEY.
-      Larry M. Stewart ‘71
 
BMS Grad 2001: Out on your picnic table, Mrs. Finney brought us iced tea... we sat and talked. You asked me, ‘What are you passionate about?’ You took notes with a pencil on lined paper. Later on you would submit a hand written letter of recommendation for me for college. You were so warm and kind and easy to be around that afternoon but also incredibly intimidating... it was clear you were the definition of BIG TIME... a leader, someone so great... yet you still made me feel welcome. Now, your granddaughter is one of our favorite babysitters... a true light that shines so bright. I love that my daughters know her and love her and feel that light. 
-      Carey Fetting-Smith ’01
 
To this day, approximately 40 years after I first heard him describe it, I regularly tell people about My. Finney's taxonomy of citizens:1st-class citizens: people who pick up littler.2nd-class Citizens: people who neither little nor pick up litter. Third-class citizens: people who little. This concept applies to much more than littering. It is a powerful insight into what makes an organization or even a society work.
-      David Treadwell ‘85
 
The Finney handshake. Even as a young kid, when I met Mr. Finney for the first time, the firm handshake was the biggest memory that always stood out. Ironically, I was just teaching my own son about the Finney handshake a few days ago. Even now, whenever I give a funny handshake, it always reminds me about Mr. Finney's leadership, grace, and humility.
-      Paul Simms ‘01
 
I was a brand new Gilman student in 1984, entering the ninth grade. It was more than a bit intimidating on the first day, only knowing a few other students and entering into a new community that was already so well-established. I'll always remember how Mr. Finney welcomed me so warmly on that first day, greeting me by my first name, which caught me by surprise that he would know that so quickly. I was also pleasantly surprised that he turned out to be my 9th-grade Religion teacher that Fall, which allowed me to get to know him a bit more, and witness how embedded he truly was in the entire Gilman community. I'll always be grateful to Mr. Finney for being so instrumental in helping me acclimate to Gilman and begin to feel comfortable at my new school. May he rest in peace.
-      Jon Guth ‘87