Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Tribute To a Man Who Died Too Young

Ralph Board was only 58 years old when he died suddenly.  All of his friends, former students, and colleagues share in a stunned, wide-eyed horror at how he could just be here one day and gone the next. His loss reminds us all of the importance of valuing every second, for not one more is guaranteed. And it also cautions so many of us who have been less than diligent about keeping in touch with loved ones just how vital it is that we not be so derelict because we never know when the last thing we say to someone will indeed be the last thing we say to him or her.  

I worked for and with Ralph for his entire tenure at PHS. In fact, I was on the committee that hired him. Frankly, there were some who didn't like him or appreciate his leadership style.  Even more frankly, I was sometimes among the people who questioned his decisions. But that is hardly an indictment of the man. No principal, or leader of any kind, will please all of the people any of the time. Sometimes he made decisions with which I didn't agree. But those were policies, not matters of morals or ethics, something about which he and I definitely agreed.

I learned early on in my time with him that he was on my side. I had been accused of something I didn't do by a student with an axe to grind. He could have thrown me under the bus, but he believed me. I was fortunate in that the student's story was a weak one and involved another student who was as puzzled by the accusation as I was, but the point is that Ralph advocated for me to the board office and the situation, one that could have turned ugly had it gone further, was dealt with quietly and without any damage to my reputation. Sadly, I'm not sure I ever told him how much I appreciated that.

Another thing that no one ever questioned was that Ralph Board was a Big Red through and through. To have been hired as the principal of his alma mater was, he regularly made clear, one of the proudest moments of his life. Every student who went through the doors of our school knew what Ralph's favorite saying was.   That slogan was more than just a group of words to him. To him, PHS was a close-knit community made up of everyone who had ever attended or worked there, and the members of that community should take care of each other. He lived those beliefs daily.

I didn't realize how much Ralph's death had affected me until I tried to talk about it this morning with my first period class and struggled to choke back tears. Though I rarely saw him since he changed jobs, when we did run into each other, his greeting was always genuine and warm; it saddens me to think I'll never shake his hand again, or hear him say those immortal words:


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