School Building Authority Director Jack McCarthy ’76

Massachusetts School Building Authority (MSBA) director Jack McCarthy has led a fruitful career committed to public service, serving in a variety of roles including work on the Norwood town committee, the Inspector General’s office, and his current position in the MSBA.

Raised in Roslindale to two Bostonian parents, McCarthy attended Boston College after graduating from Boston Latin School. His siblings and him were the first in his family to attain a secondary education. 

McCarthy found an early passion for work in the public sector, as he deeply enjoyed being able to help other people through his professional roles. He cites his childhood heroes as being those who worked for the greater public good, and a brief detour to work in the private sector reaffirmed his excitement for public service work.

As the current MSBA director, McCarthy oversees the funding and approval for new school building designs and additions in the Massachusetts Commonwealth. When asked about his job, he eagerly states that working for the MSBA has been the best position he’s held, as there’s nothing he enjoys more than “building new schools for kids.”

-Elizabeth Resner WF’20


Growing up watching local baseball games in Roslindale’s Fallon Field, Jack McCarthy knew that he always wanted to make the world a better place by going into government. As a young man, he idolized the Kennedys and fancied being an elected official. Nonetheless, after decades in public service, working in various roles such as Senior Assistant Inspector General and Chief of Staff at the Office of the Secretary of the Commonwealth, McCarthy finds his work at the MSBA to be the most rewarding. 

Despite having a deep passion for public service, McCarthy has worked in the private sector for several years. After graduating from Boston Latin and Boston College, McCarthy worked at Raytheon Technologies, while taking night classes at Suffolk Law School, and a public relations firm. 

“Working in the PR firm didn’t give me the sense of accomplishment I was looking for. Taking the detour was good for me. It told me that I didn’t belong where I am,” McCarthy said. 

McCarthy took on the role of Executive Director of the MSBA in 2012, and has repeatedly described it as his “favorite job,” and one that has been able to give him that “charge he feels after helping others.” He loves the collaborative and collegial atmosphere at the MSBA. 

McCarthy recalls the East Somerville Community School as one of the most memorable and impactful projects he has worked on. 

“I saw kids playing basketball in the outdoor courts. It gets used way more than the 6-7 hour school day. The school showed how a building can become the center point of a community.”

Aside from loving the work he does at the MSBA, McCarthy lives in Norwood and enjoys spending time with his family. He has collected a gold mine of stories from his career and personal life, ranging from funny ones about the video game Assassin’s Creed San Gimignano to heartwarming ones about the people he has helped. 

He leaves two pieces of advice for young people: “One person can make a difference” and a modified quote from Voltaire, “Don’t let perfect be the enemy of very good.”

-Jasmine Wong WF’20


Jack McCarthy, Executive Director of the Massachusetts School Building Authority (MSBA), wanted to be involved in public service ever since he was young, at one time “fancying [himself] to be an elected official”. Born and raised in Roslindale, Jack attended Latin School, graduating in 1976. Following his BLS career, McCarthy went on to Boston College, landing a job at Raytheon following his graduation. Later, looking for a career change, Jack decided to enroll in Suffolk University Law School, and take night classes, eventually graduating and becoming an attorney. After a short stint in private practice, as well as time spent working at a PR firm, McCarthy decided that his true path was public service, and he later became Chief of Staff, and de facto Press Secretary for Massachusetts Secretary of the Commonwealth Bill Galvin, eventually being named State House Press Secretary of the year by the State House Press Team. Later, Jack began working in the Inspector General’s office, becoming an investigator in the infamous Sal DiMasi corruption case. Following that, Jack began his work with the MSBA, eventually being named Executive Director. He describes this position as his favorite job to date, as it has the greatest direct positive impact on the greatest number of people, in this case, students. His work at the MSBA has gone on to renovate many old, dilapidated public schools across the state, as well as building new, innovative buildings for school districts to last lifetimes. Jack’s work in public service truly has furthered his personal belief about the field–how it should help people.

-Ben Lee WF’20


“If you’re driven to help people, [public service] is the spot for you” is MSBA Director Jack McCarthy’s guiding attitude towards his illustrious career. From the inception of our acquaintance, his cordial invitation for his Ward Fellows to call him “Jack” demonstrated his humble connection to the people of Massachusetts. Inspired by public officials since his childhood, Jack envisioned himself as an elected official with the mission to create an impact in his community. He established his education through Boston Latin School and Boston College, eventually getting a Juris Doctor degree from Suffolk Law School and becoming elected as Moderator of the Town of Norwood. Jack became experienced with the intricacies of problem-solving and building contracting, the skills which he used to tackle one of the greatest challenges in his career – building a system to link 351 municipalities together as a Secretary of the State to allow the Motor Voter law to function in an age where computer technology was scarce. Having worked in the private sector, Jack realized that he valued the consequences of his actions and its impact on the people more than monetary gain. Although he was getting paid more at his former job, the impact he would have on the Boston community working in the MSBA nowadays is comparatively invaluable. One of Jack’s major accomplishments at the MSBA is reducing the $10.1 billion of debt that his department had to reimburse to a mere $200 million. By auditing many projects and taking advantage of the moratorium given to his organization, he was able to satisfy monetary demands every year using the smart fund.

The numerous accomplishments in Jack’s career result from his extraordinary commitment to the Commonwealth’s mission of benefitting the people. Jack’s involvement with the construction of the East Somerville Community School was his first experience in the MSBA directly impacting a community with his work. The school became a center point of the community in addition to serving its purpose as a hub of education; the entire neighborhood began using it much more than its intended operating hours for miscellaneous, community based events. This experience of benefitting many people is what he considers “priceless” even after 8 years of serving as a director. Another prime example of the fulfillment he derives from his career is his experience in equipping a school with a ramp to benefit movement-impaired kids. To this day, he still remembers a kid named Matt Brown thanking him for the fact that “now, [he] can go through the main door like all the other kids”. Whenever there would be obstacles and challenges in a workday at the MSBA, Jack’s resolve would be restored by the recollection of this memory.

Another cause of Jack’s dedication to public service stems from his work environment. He explained that everyone who works at the MSBA prospers and lives in the “vision and mission” of the organization. The workplace is very collegial: everyone wants each other to succeed for the greater benefit of the organization and the public. According to Jack, he has never worked in a place such as this, where people strive so much to improve the end product instead of improving their own reputation. The number of people who work in the MSBA because they truly believe the mission of the organization amazes him.

Among the various experiences in his life, one main theme remains: “Never do anything just for the money. You gotta be happy in what you do”. When he was asked to define public service, Jack said that it all came down to the question of “how do I help people?” This question, which served as his guiding light throughout his career, led him to hope that more people will direct their focus onto serving the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, instead of serving individual interests, which is an important moral in the fight against corruption. For those passionate about serving the public today, he advises showing respect for one another despite differences, especially in this time of division in the country. However, there are also certain topics, such as racism and abuse of human rights, that cannot be tolerated.

Perhaps most importantly of all is Jack’s six-word key takeaway from all his years of public service: “One person can make a difference”.

-Xiangan He WF’20