Kirk Gaddy, an advocate for education in East Baltimore who had recently been named principal of St. Frances Academy, died of a stroke and heart attack June 20 at the University of Maryland Medical Center. The Windsor Mill resident was 55.
A candlelight vigil for Dr. Gaddy was held Wednesday night at the Hoen Building on East Biddle Street. Nearly 100 persons attended the event sponsored by the Club at Collington Square and Strong City Baltimore.
“Kirk was a role model and mentor to so many young boys — and girls — in East Baltimore,” said Carl Stokes, the former city councilman and recent City Council president candidate. “As an educator he worked in some of the toughest places in Baltimore and had an amazing success rate in getting his students into some of the best high schools in the area.”
Born in Baltimore and raised on East Preston Street near Greenmount Avenue, he was the son of John Gaddy, a Mercy Medical Center worker, and his wife, Beatrice. A Roman Catholic, he attended the parochial schools at the Saint James and John parish as well as St. Wenceslaus. He was a 1983 graduate of St. Frances Academy, where he would later serve.
As a child he helped clean the schools he attended and also mowed grass at Most Holy Redeemer Cemetery.
Dr. Gaddy earned a bachelor’s degree in psychology and a master’s degree at Loyola University Maryland. In 2004 he received a doctorate in education leadership from NOVA Southeastern University in North Miami.
Dr. Gaddy returned to his high school, St. Frances, in the later 1980s as a teacher and dean of students. He served as assistant principal of St. Katherine of Siena school on Rose Street in East Baltimore and was principal of St. Alphonsus-Basilica School on Saratoga Street from 1994 to 1998. He returned to St. Katharine School as principal in 1998 and served for a decade.
“He really did a fantastic job at St. Katharine’s,” Mr. Stokes said. “The neighborhood had drug dealers on the corners. His students were essentially the same as the children going to public schools, but he managed to get them into the best private and public high schools in the area.”
A 2003 Sun article discussed his work in East Baltimore. He said he felt Catholic schools were making a difference for students in poor and neglected neighborhoods.
“We are trying to lift them out of poverty by providing the children with a good education,” he said.
“Education is the only way to change the cycle of poverty. The schools are really important to the communities they serve,” he said.
The Sun article described Dr. Gaddy as “part administrator, part fund-raiser and part counselor.”
It said he made St. Katharine’s the center of the Collington Square neighborhood and raised money to start a family health program and to fund after-school activities.
“He expects his students to do their best, and in return, he writes letters of recommendation for admission to Catholic high schools, the city’s top schools and to some private schools offering scholarships,” the article said.
In 2008, he became a founder and headmaster of the Bluford Drew Jemison-STEM Academy, also in East Baltimore.
In 2012, he became an administrator at St. Francis International School in Silver Spring. He spent his summers teaching at Louisiana’s Xavier University at the Institute for Black Catholic Studies beginning in 2008 and was named its associate director in 2014.
He was also a volunteer teacher at the Baltimore City Detention Center.
Dr. Gaddy was the master of ceremonies for the Mother Lange Awards, an event held by the Archdiocese of Baltimore’s Office of Black Catholic Ministries.
Dr, Gaddy was a member of St. Francis Xavier Church on Caroline Street. He was parish council president and for 16 years was chairman of the board of its Head Start program. He also served on the boards of the Institute of Notre Dame and the Cardinal Shehan School.
“A man like Kirk Gaddy comes one in a lifetime,” said Darlene Thomas, a member of his parish. “His death has left us in a disrupted state. He was so supportive of the young men in this community. He gave himself to them.”
A funeral will be held at 11 a.m. July 3 at St. Frances Academy, 501 E. Chase St.
Survivors include his wife of nearly 30 years, Crystalyn Owens, a correctional officer; a son, Kirk E. Gaddy of Baltimore; two daughters, Courtney Gaddy of Jersey City and Kirby Gaddy of Baltimore; three brothers, Kevin Gaddy, the Rev. Kenneth Gaddy, associate pastor of Sacred Heart of Jesus/Sagrado Corazón de Jesús in Highlandtown, and Kerwin Gaddy of Baltimore; a sister, Kimberly Gaddy-McNeill of Baltimore; and a grandson.