John McLaughlin, executive vice president and director of research and analytics for ESA, will be honored on Thursday, Oct. 28 during Benton Hall Academy’s Founders Day celebration.

From the Williamson Herald: Benton Hall Academy to mark Founder’s Day Oct. 28

With a $2,000 investment, a dream to create a unique educational environment and a passion for others, in 1977, visionary John McLaughlin successfully launched Benton Hall Academy.

Thursday, Oct. 28 at 5:30 p.m., Benton Hall celebrates the man behind the school’s vision. McLaughlin’s dream has now become a reality having successfully educated over 2,000 students in the past 34 years.

“As we mark our second annual Founder’s Day, it is a pleasure to honor Dr. John McLaughlin, a man committed to social change, giving back to society and a true visionary,” said Rob McFadden, headmaster of Benton Hall Academy. “McLaughlin created a legacy by initiating a unique learning environment that changes lives by educating well-deserving students who may not have fared well in traditional settings.”

McLaughlin’s vision has offered others the gift of a lifetime through education, leadership and commitment to community. Although his career accomplishments are numerous, McLaughlin said Benton Hall is his greatest professional achievement.

“To know your small gift has contributed to the success of future generations is awe-inspiring and life changing,” said McLaughlin. “Benton Hall and its continued mission to educate students who might not fare well in other schools is by far my most significant professional success.”

BHA was born out of McLaughlin’s own frustration of traditional learning institutions. Some of his high school years seemed academically irrelevant, socially isolating and inappropriate for his learning needs. McLaughlin decided he could make a difference in education. As a product of the ’60s, he was committed to doing something socially relevant to positively impact future generations.

Reflecting on late 1970s, McLaughlin said his full wiry red beard, no necktie and the fact that he looked younger than his then 24 years were perhaps off-putting making people not take him seriously. However, he did not let perception of his outward appearance taint his inner vision.

McLaughlin now notes of the time, “I was simply lucky to have the opportunity and to be innocent enough not to realize how huge of an undertaking I had made.”

In 1977, McLaughlin borrowed $2,000 from Commerce Union Bank, put an ad in the newspaper seeking students and subsequently opened a school. With two teachers, one student and himself, Benton Hall Academy was launched. By the end of the first year the number of registered students had grown to 11; today, 80 students are enrolled for the 2010/2011 calendar year in classes ranging from third to 12th grade.

Today, McLaughlin continues his commitment to education. In his quest to improve how students are taught, he has worked tirelessly toward reforming education. After a decade at Benton Hall Academy, McLaughlin became a professor at St. Cloud State University in Minnesota. In 1992, he founded the Education Industry Group and began to publish The Education Industry Report, a monthly tracking of investments in education business, which he later sold and formed the John McLaughlin Company.

McLaughlin was engaged to initiate The National Council of Education Providers, a professional trade association, uniting the federal and state policy efforts of the nation’s sixth largest charter school companies. Since 1999, he has worked with the Nashville-based Educational Services of America, which operates over 140 schools for at-risk and special needs students in 18 states. He has also served on the boards of The Catholic Digest in St. Paul, Minn., and National Heritage Academies, the nation’s largest charter school company based in Grand Rapids, Mich.

Based in Williamson County’s Grassland community, Benton Hall Academy is a learning institution that provides individualized education by addressing students’ unique learning styles, cultivating independent thought, and promoting the building of character to enable students to contribute to their communities in meaningful, positive ways.