When Rick Curry (classmate of John Deady and cousin of Adrienne Chapman) graduated from SFDS Parish School in 1957, the IHM sisters cautioned him that his career choices would be limited. The popular student took this as a challenge, graduating from West Catholic HS, earning a BA from St. Joe’s, MA from Villanova, and a PhD in Educational Theatre from New York University. He became a professor of Catholic Studies and Theatre, as well as director of the Academy for Veterans at Georgetown University; advocated for actors with disabilities; and worked with the Veteran’s Administration on healthcare and rehabilitation for wounded veterans. As a Jesuit lay brother, he trained as a baker. With special Vatican dispensation, he was ordained a priest, and kept so busy that you might barely notice his single arm.
Dog Tag Bakery, a “thriving bakery and an immersive classroom,” named for military ID tags, was one of his most important projects. Father Curry, who lived with his condition from birth, wanted to inspire and empower those coping with life changes – especially those injured while serving their country. The bakery, which he co-founded with Constance Milstein in 2014, provided a unique way to use all of his talents, training, and experience to help others.
Tales of Father Curry from Dog Tag Bakery:
St. Joseph Story
Before the construction of the bakery building in Georgetown, DC, it was taking an awfully long time to get the building permits. Father Curry recommended the tradition of burying a statue of St. Joseph to help move things along. While other members of the team were skeptical, they figured it wouldn’t hurt. They got a small statue of St. Joseph and buried it upside down on the lot. 3 days later, the permits were approved and the team received the green light to begin building.
Stage in the Bakery Story
Because of his background, Father Curry strongly believed in the power of theater to heal and transform. In 1977, he founded the National Theatre Workshop of the Handicapped (NTWH) in New York City, and eventually expanded the program to a residential theatre school in Belfast, Maine, that grew to include a bakery program where Father Curry and his students baked and sold breads as part of an annual fundraiser.
When he started the program for veterans with service-connected disabilities, military spouses, and military caregivers at Dog Tag in 2014, he knew he wanted the performing arts to be part of the experience. His vision included a stage area within the bakery building, and as part of the program, a storytelling course called “Finding Your Voice.” To this day, at the end of the program, each Dog Tag Fellow performs their story on the stage (or the virtual stage, during COVID), as part of the culmination of their 5-month journey. Many fellows and alumni have pointed to this event as one of the most transformative parts of their experience.
Father Curry died in 2015, but his legacy lives on. Visit Dog Tag Bakery if you’re ever in Georgetown, DC, and check them out here at their website: https://www.dogtaginc.org/ His two cookbooks – on bread and soup — are also highly recommended. And if you ever watch the old TV detective show Monk, look out for the episode with the “asymmetrical” psychologist – that’s him!