Donald E. McBrien, former director of pupil services for Howard County public schools who earlier held the same position in Baltimore County public schools, died Wednesday of congestive heart failure at St. Agnes Hospital.
The longtime Ellicott City resident was 79.
"Don was a good friend and perfect for that job because he had great empathy for people who needed guidance or help," said Robert Y. Dubel, who headed Baltimore County public schools for 16 years until retiring in 1992. "He was friendly, compassionate and was very good at his job."
The son of a printer and a homemaker, Donald Edward McBrien was born and raised in Hagerstown, where he graduated in 1952 from Hagerstown High School.
He earned a bachelor's degree in 1956 from what is now Towson University and began his teaching career at Arbutus Middle School.
"We started together at Arbutus Middle School. I taught math and science, and Don taught English and social studies. We even carpooled to worked together," said Robert F. McNeish.
"As a person, Don was a jokester. He was charming and always had lots of friends. He was a very kind guy," recalled Mr. McNeish, who was associate superintendent for Baltimore County schools at his retirement in 1992. "He was also a great teacher who enjoyed tutoring kids on Saturday who were trying to get into Calvert Hall, Boys' Latin or Loyola. He also brought a great sense of camaraderie to his work and was very popular with all of the teachers."
From 1962 to 1964, he was a junior high school counselor at Johnnycake Middle School. In 1964, after earning a master's degree in education and school counseling from the University of Maryland, College Park, he served as a junior high school counselor and guidance department chairman at Lansdowne High School.
He earned a doctorate in school counseling and administration and supervision also from the University of Maryland in 1974.
Dr. McBrien was named supervisor in 1968 of Baltimore County public school's Office of Guidance Services, a position he held until 1978, when he was appointed coordinator of the department.
In 1987, Dr. McBrien became director of pupil services for Baltimore County public schools. He supervised the training and program development for school psychologists, counselors, nurses, and pupil personnel workers.
"First of all, Don was extremely bright and had wonderful insights into the needs of kids," said Rowland L. Savage, who retired from Baltimore County public schools, where he had been coordinator of school counseling.
"He was also a master staff developer and had a very large staff of 300 school counselors in Baltimore County. He loved training and working with them," said Mr. Savage. "He was very popular and an extremely kind man. Most people are afraid of their bosses, but we looked forward to Don's visits to our classrooms because he was so kind."
From 1989 until retiring in 1997, Dr. McBrien was director of pupil services for Howard County public schools.
During his 41-year career in education, Dr. McBrien was responsible for initiating numerous programs, including the Accountability Model for School Guidance; Work Experience Program for vocationally trained students; the Career Opportunity Program for at-risk ninth-graders; and mediation approaches for all grades in which peers helped each other resolve conflicts.
Dr. McBrien also developed a program that integrated the services of the school counselor, school psychologist, pupil personnel worker and the school nurse into a collaborative system within each school.
Dr. McBrien also taught courses for the Johns Hopkins University School of Continuing Education from 1970 to 1998, and counseling in the middle school course at Loyola College from 1974 to 1975. From 2005 until 2012, he taught the internship in school counseling course for Loyola University Maryland.
As a young graduate student, Ann Elizabeth Miller studied counseling with Dr. McBrien at Hopkins from 1977 to 1979.
"He was a wonderful teacher and very dedicated. We had a variety of students from a multitude of disciplines, but Don was able to make the class interesting and applicable. He made it useful," said Ms. Miller, who retired in 2001 from the Community College of Baltimore County, where she taught nursing. "And he always interjected his classes with lots of humor and plenty of anecdotal stories."
Dr. McBrien was president of the Maryland Association for Counseling and Development, Maryland Association for Counseling Education and Supervision, Maryland Career Development Association and the Baltimore Area Counselors Association.
He also was chairman of Lutheran Social Services of Maryland and the Howard County Drug and Alcohol Abuse advisory board.
Dr. McBrien was an avid Ravens fan. He also enjoyed playing golf, traveling, gardening and home construction projects.
He was a member of First Evangelical Lutheran Church, 3604 Chatham Road, Ellicott City, where funeral services will be held at 11 a.m. Tuesday.
Dr. McBrien is survived by his wife of 24 years, the former Claudia Nopulos; a son, Donald Scott McBrien of Hampstead; two daughters, Denise Morris of Catonsville and Jennifer McBrien Kidner of Hampden; a brother, Gary McBrien of Felton, Pa.; and seven grandchildren. An earlier marriage ended in divorce.