Full Circle - Walking on and Winning

As a freshman, Mike McNally ‘79, P’22 walked onto O’Connor field to try-out for varsity football knowing something the other hopefuls didn’t: his ability to outwork anybody. It’s a quality that has made success something synonymous with the rest of life.

As a young kid, growing up in Newton, Mike McNally wanted to go to CM – badly. The reason was his older brother who was a Knight, played football and had competed in the ’74 Super Bowl game. “I knew I didn’t want to go anywhere but CM,” says McNally. “I saw camaraderie and saw that they were winners.” McNally, one of four children being raised by a single, full-time working mother had his fair share of obstacles but credits his mindset and work ethic to the woman who kept the family together. “I was blessed with a strong mother who taught us to do the right thing. She’d grown up in the JFK era, and we lived out all the values of those times,” he recalls. Getting into CM was easy. Getting on the football team was another matter. If it took work, McNally had it in spades. The day, he tried-out for the football team, McNally knew what he wanted. “I wanted a starting position,” he says. “I walked out on that field and saw 90 tough kids who were all great athletes. I just said, ‘I’ve got to win this.’ And once I did, I was acknowledged by the upperclassmen, and I was family.” Good grades, athletic participation, class president both his junior and senior year, on the surface, McNally was an archetype. However, a closer look showed a young man for whom his final two years of school needed a way to pay for tuition. “One of our teachers, Daniel Burke, who knew what was going on, called me up and said, ‘Here’s what we’re gonna do. We’re gonna start a painting company. And you’re gonna work with us, and we’re gonna paint houses and I’m gonna hold your money. And we’re gonna pay your tuition this year, and then we’re gonna pay it next year too,’” remembers McNally. “And I worked. I worked hard.” That painting company would become the first of his many entrepreneurial forays.


McNally describes graduating high school, going to college, and starting a career as a period when he was “estranged” from CM. “When I left, although I stayed in touch with friends, there wasn’t that drawback to CM. Other than the football games we would go to… with obviously the big one being Thanksgiving. I was kind of on my own. I went to UMass, then transferred to Boston College where I went full-time nights and worked full-time days.” McNally labels himself as “basically unemployable.” But channeled his “rogue frontal assault approach,” as he calls it into building businesses. “I’ve got to thank Dan Burke for that. It was Dan Burke who I started that painting business with when I was 18.” Burke saw McNally as a natural entrepreneur. A snapshot of his career would go something like this: worked in construction; graduated; tried to get a job but found he was making more money than anybody wanted to pay a college graduate. He liked construction but always saw it as a means to an end, but continued with it, developing buildings in the US and Caribbean. In the late ‘80s he started a company in Russia and then Poland living in both those countries for several years. Today, he is the CEO/Principal of Maverick Corporation, a power and communications network infrastructure engineering, procurement and construction company. To this day, McNally credits a very palpable moment in his CM career that cemented that tenacity that got him to where he is today. “We came out on the field for that ’79 Super Bowl game,” says McNally. “The school we were playing was Chelmsford. And they had their big marching band marching up and down the field while we were trying to warm up. And I remember Jack Dahlstrom saying ‘To hell with them. Just run through them.’ And that’s what we did. We ran right through them.”  


For McNally, his return to CM was really a return to the spirit of excellence he had known during his years. He also knew that in that interim period the school had lost its way. In 2016. A football teammate of McNally’s, Dan Mee ’77 reached out. “We’re trying to build this athletic structure,” McNally remembers Mee saying. “We need to do it in six months, or six weeks. We need your help.” As McNally recalls, “So, I go over there and out comes this guy, Peter Folan.” McNally’s immediate reaction to the new school president sealed his commitment. “I talked to him for probably a half hour, 45 minutes, maybe longer. This guy had that spirit, that old spirit that I understood from CM and saw it come through him.” Since that time, McNally has helped build what is now the John Walsh Field House, has contributed as a member of the CM Board, become a major contributor to the school, and played a critical role in the $11M construction of the Yawkey Center. He’s also had his son, Michael Jr. ’22 go through CM wearing the same jersey number he wore as well as play in the Super Bowl…father and son both coming out on the winning side. And he isn’t done. “I’m not a bench warmer. I’m one of these guys that says, ‘Just give me the ball.’ I think CM speaks to you about who you are as a person, and what you want to be in life. To be a good person. And outwork anyone. It’s through our good work that makes us successful.”