In Response to: The Altruist

Published online July 6, 2017

A tip of the hat to Constance Hale ’79 and Steve McNamara ’55 for describing the many challenges and deep satisfaction of working with some residents of San Quentin (cover story, March 22). The article should be required reading for all those decamping from Tigertown to the Tinsel Towns of Big Government, Big Business, and Big Law in search of fame and fortune.

One of 3,000 volunteers running more than 70 programs designed to rehabilitate 3,806 men sentenced to the “Big Q” for crimes from theft to murder, McNamara has found a calling in what many believe the least likely of places: far from a gilded office, sitting at an ordinary workspace many would consider disreputable. Working with men exiled at San Quentin in the middle of San Francisco Bay is hardly what he might have anticipated on the steps of Nassau Hall in the spring of ’55.

Publishing the San Quentin News and mentoring 13 inmates, McNamara was described by a parolee as “nonjudgmental, didn’t brag … and took the time necessary to earn the respect [of the inmates].” On retirement, Steve asked himself, “What motivates some people to do good things, others bad things?” The answer came from how the men were starting to trust each other and becoming a family moved by unselfish collaboration. By and large, they wanted to be seen as the persons they could become, not as the crimes they had committed.

Yes, Virginia, there is hope for happiness upon retirement, and maybe even before.

Walter Corey ’62
Scarborough, Maine