Gary was an English teacher and coach, the kind you would want your children to have in school. He devoted his life to young people, spending 65 hours a week on the job and extra hours with students in their homes or in our own living room talking with, advising, and helping them.
Though Gary coached many state championship athletes and teams, he was most proud of receiving the Ohio coaches award for Sportsmanship and Ethics.
He was a champion for those whose lives presented daunting challenges. On the track, he gave equal support to those who ran slowly or struggled even to finish. In the classroom he had a gift for working with students who fell through the cracks. He pioneered and spent 17 of his 30 years teaching students in danger of dropping out of high school. He met with their parents, supervised them at work, encouraged them to become runners. During his career he was asked to be best man in former students’ weddings, to see them off to the army, to counsel them when they ended up in jail; he attended funerals, parties, weddings, bought running shoes, took students to dinner, and even welcomed them into his home when they had nowhere to live. In 1998, as he lay dying of cancer, he coached his state championship athletes by phone from his hospice bed. Gary’s life exemplified what he considered most important, what he called “caring about kids.” He chose to live with a compassion that he backed up with action. After his diagnosis, he said that he still woke up every morning and decided how he wanted to live. And this is what he had taught his students: to live consciously and with purpose.
Gary died on the last day of his last year of school. And in the depths of great sorrow, Gary’s children and I were cared for by his students: bed-sheet signs grieving Gary were hung along the whole length of the fence at the track, candles were burned, notes and varsity letters were left for him and us, cards and calls came from all over the world. Gary’s students and athletes gave back the love and appreciation they had gotten from him. About 800 people including former students and parents from as far back as the 1960s, coaches from around the state, colleagues, reporters, friends, and family came to his memorial service.
Recognition of Worthington, Ohio teacher or other school employee who has gone above and beyond normal classroom effort and hours to help a student with personal or academic needs. This teacher may have aided, counseled, listen to, guided, tutored, and/or advocated for a young person in ways that changed the student's life. The key characteristics of the selected
educator is outstanding compassion toward young people that is backed up with action. A small honorarium accompanies the award.