Local teacher and alumnus visits every country in the world, publishes book about his experiences

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Rufus McGaugh
Rufus McGaugh with former student Leo Posada

Upon returning from serving the U.S. Marines in 1971, nothing could stop Rufus McGaugh from registering for classes. On his first morning home, the Purple Heart recipient drove his mother to work so he could use the family car to get to Wayne State.

Once he arrived, McGaugh waited outside the College of Education. He greeted a secretary on her way to work, and she told him he would not be able to register until August. Determined to enroll, McGaugh said, "No way, lady! I've waited too long to leave without proof that I am a student at the College of Education."

Recognizing McGaugh’s persistence, a man in a sports coat asked him to come to his office and tell him his story. Afterwards, the man dated and signed a piece of Wayne State letterhead that included this message: "As dean of the College of Education, I recognize Mr. McGaugh as a student of the college on this day."

The rest, as they say, is history. McGaugh earned a bachelor’s degree from the college, and after working a number of blue collar jobs, he became a social studies teacher in the Grosse Pointe Public Schools in 1974. Fueled by a desire to travel, McGaugh visited every country. He began his quest in the 1970s, always returning home excited to share what he learned with his students.

“We are all more alike in our values and belief systems — especially when it comes to family and our goals and aspirations— than we are different. People are the same from one end of the globe to the other,” said McGaugh. “Second, we, as Americans, don't know all the answers or have all the solutions to the multitude of problems facing civilization. It is interesting to see how other cultures and countries attempt to solve issues that face their citizens and the world today.”

For nearly 40 years, McGaugh exposed his students to various countries and cultures, integrating valuable lessons and perspectives into his teaching. He completed his mission when he crossed Libya off his list. Now semiretired, he teaches part-time in Grosse Pointe middle and high schools and continues to share his love of travel with students so they can become informed citizens who are knowledgeable about current events, world geography and international politics.

“My goal as teacher was always to expand the knowledge base of my students, have them consider multiple positions about various issues and use critical thinking skills to decide how a situation might be resolved or what candidates they might want to support and vote for,” said McGaugh. “The rock and foundation of democracy is knowledge, not propaganda.”

Book coverThe Vietnam veteran recently published his first book, Longitude and Latitude, with Attitude: One Man's Quest to See the Entire World. An educational and entertaining exploration of his adventures, it chronicles his nearly 50-year journey to reach his goal.

“I did not come from money and grew up in the south end of Warren (the city). We didn't have much except parents who valued education. I was the first in my family to earn a college degree and became an educator because it was a profession that I felt was prestigious and in which I could make a difference,” said McGaugh. “The training and education to become successful and to live the American dream was facilitated by Wayne State. Graduating from college and being successful in my career were among a number of events that helped me realize there were many goals I could achieve with hard work and determination. Visiting every country and land in the world was just one of them.”

 

by Tracy A. Walker