Deceased January 10, 2023

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In Memory

My father entered Amherst College at age 16 from Amherst (Mass.) High School on a full scholarship. He rode his bicycle across town to attend classes. High school was easy for him, but he wasn’t prepared for the workload at college; he failed one course and lost his scholarship. He worked for a year on the assembly line at Prophylactic Brush Co. to earn tuition and returned to Amherst College. He managed to get his scholarship back through good grades. He then left college again, intending to join the Air Force during the Korean War, but failed the physical and went through spinal surgery. Finally, in January 1953, he returned to complete his degree in history with a minor in political science. My dad joked that he was in the classes of 1951, 1952 and 1953 and had to choose one, so he picked 1952 as the average and attended its 50th reunion with my mother.

He had no idea what type of job he would get with that degree. One day, he was walking downtown, and the junior high school principal stopped him and asked if he would like to be a substitute teacher for the rest of the year. That is how he began his commitment to secondary education as teacher, principal and district superintendent of schools. In 1999, one of his schools was honored by U.S. News and World Report in its “outstanding American high school” category, an achievement publicly noted by the Massachusetts Senate.

In retirement, he did educational consulting; served as trustee of Old Sturbridge Village, which is very popular for educational field trips; traveled; played golf; enjoyed the grandchildren; and spent winters with Lucille in Boynton Beach, Fla., before he died Jan. 10, 2023. He never looked back in regret at losing his scholarship. 

Mary Canavan Contompasis