Arthur McNeil, namesake of McKinney ISD’s McNeil Elementary, died last week at the age of 82. McNeil’s career with McKinney ISD began in January 1959 and partially ended in 1995 with his retirement; however, he went on to work part-time for MISD until August 2002.
McNeil first served in MISD as a sixth grade teacher. Over the course of his career with the district, he would go on to serve as a vice principal at McKinney High School, MISD business manager and eventually assistant superintendent of business affairs.
Reflections on his life tend to start with the sorts of qualities that marked the man himself – kindness, character, integrity.
“First and foremost, Arthur McNeil was a gentleman,” said McKinney ISD Superintendent Dr. Rick McDaniel. “Anyone that knew him personally knows that he was a first class individual who poured his heart and soul into McKinney ISD for many years.”
More than 40 years, in fact.
Eighteen years ago, when McKinney ISD built a school near the intersection of Hardin Boulevard and McKinney Ranch Parkway, McNeil’s name was chosen to adorn it. And, to those who knew him, that name on the front of the building declared with bold letters the commitment to excellence and character that MISD intended for that school.
Since then, thousands of children have passed through the classrooms of Arthur H. McNeil Elementary School. And, they enjoyed the rare gift of getting to know the person for whom their school was named. In their eyes, Arthur McNeil was a celebrity.
“They would just … look up at him,” said McNeil Principal Tracy Meador. “He was larger than life, I would say.”
Over the years, McNeil was a regular visitor at the school, always in attendance when possible at special events such as talent shows and the annual “Lighting of the Windmill” during the holidays. But, Meador and Assistant Principal Jennifer Harrison particularly loved his impromptu visits.
“He loved interacting with the kids,” Harrison said. “And, they loved him. He had such a great personality. He would interact with the students the way a teacher would. He just got the kids, and the kids thought that he was the funniest person. They were so mesmerized by him because the school was named after him.”
Born here in 1937, McNeil spent the vast majority of his life in McKinney. He was a member of the same church throughout his life and received all but his post-secondary education from MISD. A retracing of McNeil’s education reveals a sort of historical reference guide to largely forgotten MISD schools that either no longer exist or have been renamed or rebuilt over the ensuing decades.
McNeil attended first grade at J.H. Hill Elementary and then second through sixth grades at J.L. Greer Elementary. He spent his junior high years at L.A. Scott Junior High School and graduated from the original Boyd High School in 1955.
Over the course of 36 years with the district, among his many duties, McNeil would serve as a vice principal at McKinney High School, MISD business manager and eventually assistant superintendent of business affairs. After his retirement in 1995, McNeil continued to serve part-time with the district for seven more years.
He was good at what he did.
“I credit Arthur McNeil with the positive financial situation that MISD is in today,” said Lynn Sperry, who has been a member of the MISD Board of Trustees since 1984. “It was his careful and conservative way of approaching our financials that began the practices that I think we have in place now. He was so conservative and so careful with spending and how things were done that I think he started something good, and it’s only gotten better.”
McDaniel drives the point home. “We all stand on the shoulders of administrators like Arthur McNeil. McKinney ISD is the place that it is today because of administrators like Arthur McNeil, and I am proud to say that I knew him.”
The life of Arthur McNeil was one worthy of consideration – a life lived in service to others, marked by humility, kindness and integrity – a life that was about investing in future generations.
The world can always use more of that. Today more than ever.