McLaughlin Heads Hale House
By Randy Nichols ’75
Randolph McLaughlin ’75 has been appointed
executive director of Hale House, a nonprofit organization in Harlem
dedicated to building better futures for children and families in
McLaughlin has dedicated his career to serving the underserved.
After receiving his J.D. from Harvard in 1978, he began his fight
for civil rights at the Center for Constitutional Rights in New
York City. One of his first major cases was a successful lawsuit
against the Chattanooga (Tenn.) Ku Klux Klan.
McLaughlin became Hale House counsel in 2001, when he was appointed
to work with the Attorney General’s Office in resolving an
investigation by that office. He fell in love with the institution
and the children it serves, and he stayed on as counsel after the
investigation concluded. Several months ago, he was appointed interim
executive director, and in September he accepted the Board of Directors’
offer to hold the position permanently.
The first institution in the nation to house and care for infants
born to drug-addicted mothers, Hale House offers 24-hour infant
and toddler residential care, developmental childcare programs,
supportive housing, family stabilization efforts and community outreach.
More recently, its mission has expanded to care for children whose
mothers are incarcerated or unable to care for their children. Under
McLaughlin’s leadership, construction has been completed on
the Mother Hale Learning Center, located in a Hale House-owned apartment
building adjacent to Morningside Park. “Just this year,”
McLaughlin adds, “the house signed a contract with the City
of New York to provide homeless families with fully furnished apartments
in two Harlem apartment buildings owned by Hale House.”
’75 is executive director of Hale House, his latest
position in a career dedicated to serving the underserved.
PHOTO: PACE UNIVERSITY LAW SCHOOL
McLaughlin says, “I could have done a number of things differently
in my career, such as work for a large Wall Street firm. But community
service always has been important to me, and this is just a different
chapter in the same book. Professor Jim Shenton ’49 was an
inspiration, and he taught me the value of community service.”
McLaughlin has a passion for his work at Hale House, which presents
different challenges from those found while working in the traditional
legal field. “The stakes are so high,“ he explains,
“with children’s lives to save and improve and families
to rebuild, continuing the legacy established by [Hale House founder
Clara] ‘Mother’ Hale.” McLaughlin’s passion
for the children is evident whether he is hugging one after another
or teaching them to play Senegalese Jembe drums. He says that the
greatest benefit to working at Hale House are the incredible staff
members, who work above and beyond the call of duty.
Since 1988, McLaughlin has taught at Pace Law School, where he
was the founding director of the school’s Social Justice Center.
He will continue to teach at Pace part-time during his Hale House
McLaughlin is married to Debra Cohen, a fellow lawyer, with whom
he worked at the Pace Social Justice Center. She is an adjunct professor
at Pace, and together they teach a class on civil rights law. They
have strong ties to Columbia — he proposed to her in front
of Alma Mater. When asked why he was not a member of the Columbia
E-Community (https://alumni.college.columbia.edu/ecom), McLaughlin said he was not yet aware of it; by the
next morning, he was one of its newest members. Welcome!