Graduate students from DeSoto Parish will benefit from a scholarship created to honor long-time educator and administrator Douglas McLaren, who passed away April 20 at age 85. The scholarship was created to offer assistance to students seeking advanced degrees in education at Northwestern State University.
“Education was his first love,” said his wife Patricia Todd McLaren of Natchitoches. “He believed in education and he believed in higher education.”
McLaren was born in Flora and graduated from Provencal High school in 1950. He served four years in the U.S. Air Force during the Korean War and was honorably discharged in 1954. He graduated from Northwestern State with a degree in education and from Stephen F. Austin with a master’s degree in guidance and counseling, administration supervision, psychology and sociology and completed an additional 30 hours towards his doctorate degree.
McLaren’s long career in education began as a math, English and history teacher at Logansport High School where he also coached football, basketball and track and served as guidance counselor and assistant principal. McLaren was appointed supervisor of special services for DeSoto Parish Schools in 1965 and was elected superintendent of schools where he served 13 years and developed the Four Phase program, a quality education initiative that received national attention for easing the transition during public school integration. He also initiated reading and math laboratories and provided kindergarten programs for all schools in the parish. He was active in the Louisiana Association of School Superintendents and was named Who’s Who in Louisiana by the U.S. Public Relations Service. In 2015, he was inducted into Northwestern State University’s Hall of Distinguished Educators.
McLaren was also active in his community as a member of Phi Delta Kappa, Kappa Delta Phi, the Masonic Lodge, the Kiwanis Club, the Chamber of Commerce and the DeSoto Parish Hospital Association. After moving to Natchitoches, he enjoyed the Walter Ledet Coffee Club and attended Trinity Episcopal Church.
McLaren was one of five brothers and the only one to finish high school. He was the first person in his family to graduate from college.
“Doug loved school. He was determined to get his education,” Mrs. McLaren said. “He only lacked his thesis to complete his doctoral degree, but he was made superintendent of schools and was too busy being superintendent to finish the doctorate. His life was very interesting.”
McLaren had a lasting positive influence on many of the students he taught and coached who would write him letters later in life and one who named a child after him.
The Douglas McLaren Scholarship is one of few offered to graduate students in education and his family intends to add contributions to celebrate Father’s Day and other holidays in lieu of flowers.
“He was a kind and gentle man,” Mrs. McLaren said. “And he was all about the students.
For information on contributing to the Douglas McLaren Scholarship, contact NSU Development Officer Jill Bankston at (318) 357-4414 email firstname.lastname@example.org or visit northwesternalumni.com.