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In Memoriam: Harry Vandergriff

Posted by Alan on August 30, 2012 9:23 AM | Filed in News |

Harry Vandergriff.pngHarry Vandergriff, former teacher, coach, administrator, and superintendent in the Fayetteville Public Schools and the namesake of Vandergriff Elementary School, passed away on August 29, 2012.

A memorial service was held on Tuesday, September 4 at First United Presbyterian Church in Fayetteville.

He will be deeply missed.

Here is his biography from the Fayetteville Schools Hall of Honor Album:

Born October 11, 1919, Harry Vandergriff came of age as World War II engulfed the world. Setting aside other career aspirations, he enlisted in the Amy Air Corps in 1941. His service included the first daylight heavy bomber missions flown out of England, 50 total combat missions, and awards of the Purple Heart and the Distinguished Flying Cross, these latter for wounds received, heroism, and resolute courage under fire in an aerial dogfight that resulted in his bomber crash landing.

Discharged in 1945, it was Fayetteville's good luck that Harry returned here for college and in 1948 accepted his first job with the school district, teaching at Jefferson Elementary school and serving as an assistant football coach at Fayetteville High School. Head football coach from 1949 to 1956 and district level administrator and assistant superintendent from 1956 to 1969, Harry was appointed superintendent of Fayetteville Public Schools in 1969, which office he held until his retirement in 1982, after 34 years of outstanding service to the Fayetteville Schools.

Harry's tenure as superintendent was marked by the goal that students deserved the best the community could give, and teachers must be encouraged and supported in reaching this goal. Advancing this goal, Harry brought Fayetteville to be a leader and model of innovative education in the state and region by his successful efforts to bring together people and resources from the entire community, provide innovative opportunities and problem solving for teachers and students, and implement enhancements to teacher education.

For many years Harry was a volunteer tutor at his namesake, Vandergriff Elementary School, and held many other volunteer community roles. Upon his retirement, one of his teachers wrote: "It has been said that the work of an educator is like a pebble dropped in a pool. Every day the influence of the work goes farther, lasts longer, and carries far more influence than anyone imagines. Congratulations and best regards on the special day honoring you and the influential ripples you have created."