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Alumni & Friends Profile: Rufus McGaugh, GPPSS Teacher

Grosse Pointe Celebrates 100 Years of Alumni Stories

As a 10-year-old, Rufus McGaugh sat in his 5th-grade social studies class, captivated by the images of the pyramids of Giza and the Great Wall of China, which sparked a profound longing within him. In that classroom, a dream took root— to see all the interesting, beautiful and unique places in the world. 

Years later, after teaching middle school for 36 years in Grosse Pointe Public Schools and traveling during his breaks, that dream became reality as McGaugh managed to visit every county, 261 in total, in the world. Rather than racing through countries, he embraced a singular objective.

"It took me 49 and a half years to do it,” McGaugh said. “You see some of these younger people now, and many people think they're insane for trying to see every country in the world in one year or 18 months, and the question to be asked then is, ‘What's the point? How much can you see? How much can you learn when you do that?’ So my goal was always to see the beautiful, the historic and the unusual.”  

This philosophy is reflected in the many trips McGaugh experiences. Through his journeys, McGaugh learned that exploring beyond the typical tourist areas reveals the most beautiful sights.

“I've been lucky that I've often explored off the coast of countries that I've already been to,” McGaugh said. “So to me, it seemed to me, seeing Paris and calling it a day, that if you took the extra steps, and the extra time and money, you could see stuff even more beautiful than what you see in the tour book.”

However, not all countries that McGaugh has visited were as a tourist.  His experience fighting in Vietnam with the Marines earned him a Purple Heart, as he experienced partial hearing loss from the war. 

“Every man in my platoon that I know of that I've kept in contact with, we're all in hearing aids now,” McGaugh said. “When I came back, they told me I had damaged hearing. But I was young, and I had previously had expert hearing that I was still okay. It was no problem, but you start getting a little older and then you have that issue.”

This firsthand history experience in the making undoubtedly influenced McGaugh's approach to teaching social studies. With 36 years spent in the classroom, McGaugh found himself shaping young minds and fueling his wanderlust while exploring the globe during breaks, summers, and holidays. 

“If I had never [become] a teacher, I would not have traveled, there's no doubt about that,” McGaugh said. “You know, you'll never get rich teaching, but the job paid well. So I had all those summers, all those weeks or 10-day breaks at Christmas and Easter, and I put every one of them to work added to that. If you would, the icing on the cake is I taught social studies.” 

Although McGaugh is now done traveling, his outlook on adventure is still evident. He extends his wisdom to former students eager to embark on similar adventures, sharing valuable advice to aspiring travelers. 

“My advice would be, if that's your dream, and you've got to do it, do it like I did,” McGaugh said. “Every year, I help anywhere from five to 20 students plan out their trips to go someplace and often tell them it takes a lot of time, a lot of effort, a lot of money. You go through a lot of physical abuse, harsh climate, and so forth trying to do every country. I'm not sorry that I spent the time, effort and so forth to see every country, but I have to admit it was pretty tough and it took a lot of time, effort and money.”


Want to Nominate Someone to be Profiled?

To celebrate the first 100 years of educational excellence at Grosse Pointe Public Schools, student writers in Grosse Pointe North’s journalism classes are partnering with Grosse Pointe Alumni and Friends to profile alumni from our illustrious first century.  

Are you or someone you know interested in being profiled in a story that will be distributed district-wide across various social media and school news platforms?

Start by nominating yourself or someone you know here.

Be sure to check out the latest edition of GPPSS student newspapers, North Pointe Now, and The Tower Pulse.

About the Author

Hi, My name is Mia Schultz and I am the Editorial Section Editor for North Pointe. I have been a member for two years now. I am a sophomore at North and I am in Interact Club. In my free time I enjoy driving around with my friend Gianna, baking and reading and I like watching hockey, baseball and football. I'm excited to see where this year takes me and excited that I took on a bigger role this year. I enjoy journalism and want to make a career out of it someday.I look forward to the 2023-24 North Pointe school year.


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