Former school board member Eleanor McGrath was 81


Correction appended

Eleanor McGrath, a longtime advocate for students and secretary to the Dean of Students at Manhattan College, died Sunday after a battle with pancreatic cancer. She was 81.

A lifelong resident of the Bronx, Ms. McGrath has spent time in two of the borough’s most prominent colleges. She earned a degree from Fordham University and went on to work at Manhattan College in the Office of Dean of Students/Director of Residence Life for 22 years before retiring in 2001. She was an advocate for students throughout her life, serving three terms on Community School Board 10. She also served on multiple community councils and co-founded a library at St. Margaret of Cortona School. At Manhattan College, she often worked directly with students and their parents and always had a jar of candy and tissues ready for students who came to speak with her, according to Manhattan College Telecommunications Phone Coordinator Rosemary Jimenez, who called Ms. McGrath her mentor.

“She was very good with the students,” Ms. Jimenez said. “She was like a second mother to them.”

She was also an advocate for her colleagues at MC and would send college employees home, telling them they couldn’t “help everybody in one day,” and that work could still be done tomorrow, Ms. Jimenez added.

During the first weeks of a semester, Ms. McGrath would spend her time alleviating the fears of new freshmen. During the summer, she would work with parents who were about to send their kids off to college, Brother Robert Berger, associate professor and Residence Director at Jasper Hall, recalled. 

“She was the first person they would meet when they came into the office,” Brother Berger said, adding that Ms. McGrath was always a willing and loyal employee. “You knew when you went to her that it would get done.”

Brother Berger said she was also a woman of faith, serving on the St. Margaret of Cortona advisory board, and was devoted to her family.

She is survived by her husband of 58 years, Philip McGrath Sr.; her daughters Maura and her husband, Howard, Johannssen and Elizabeth Ann; sons Philip and his wife, Catherine, Maurice and his wife, Bette and Matthew and his wife, Theresa; her sister Betty Ann Kirchhofer and her husband, Donald; and sister-in-law Anne Smith.

She was predeceased by sons Brendan and Paul, as well as her sister Peggy Brundage and brothers Philip, Edward and John.

Services will be held at St. Margaret of Cortona on Friday, July 27, at 10:45 a.m. Condolences may be sent to the McGrath family at 5550 Fieldston Road Apt. 8E, Bronx, N.Y. 10471.

In lieu of flowers, Riverdale-on-Hudson Funeral Home has asked that donations be made to Calvary Hospital or St. Margaret’s School Fund.

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