Unsung Hero #14

As a new school year begins, it’s appropriate that this week’s Unsung Hero is a former teacher.

Generations of Staples High School students revered Gerry Kuroghlian. For nearly 40 years, “Dr. K” — his doctorate was from the University of Illinois, with an undergrad degree from the University of Virginia — taught Westport teenagers how to write, how to think, and how to act.

Dr. Gerry Kuroghlian

His challenging classes like “Myth and Bible” were as demanding as college-level courses. But he never forgot that he was working with still-unformed boys and girls. His greatest delight came from helping mold them into active, concerned citizens of the world.

Kuroghlian was totally invested in the life of Staples. If there was a play, concert or athletic event, he was there.

He never missed an Eagle Scout ceremony, celebratory dinner or parent’s funeral either.

When Kuroghlian retired in 2008, some people wondered how he’d fill his days.

They needn’t have worried.

Kuroghlian quickly became one of Mercy Learning Center‘s most active volunteers.

He taught ESL at the heralded Bridgeport women’s literacy and life-skills center. His new students — women from Mexico, Bangladesh and all points in between — loved him.

He returned the admiration.

“These are heroic people,” Kuroghlian says admiringly. “They’re moms, housekeepers, breadwinners — they do it all. They’ve got multi-tasking down to a science.

Kuroghlian calls these women “the best students I’ve ever had. They get up, get their kids ready for school, catch a city bus, and arrive promptly by 9 a.m.

“No one is ever late. No one ever has not done the homework,” he says admiringly. “They’re motivated to learn, and they’re completely unafraid to ask questions if they don’t understand something. They’re amazing.”

After class, the women work on computers. They also go on field trips. When Kuroghlian took them to a library, they learned how to get library cards for their kids.

Kuroghlian is equally involved at Kolbe Cathedral High School. He spends most afternoons at the Bridgeport private school, as a tutor, SAT and ACT advisor, and college application essay guide. Thanks in part to his help, virtually every graduate for nearly a decade has gone on to college.

Gerry Kuroghlian works with a Kolbe Cathedral senior on his college essay.

At Kolbe, Kuroghlian organizes cultural field trips to Fairfield University and New York City. Just as he did at Staples, he attends sports events, chaperones the prom, and continually shares his philosophy that it is the responsibility of each individual to make a difference.

He also arranged for over 1,000 books to be donated to the library.

In his spare time (!), Kuroghlian works with national education organizations, cancer and diabetes groups, the Westport Library and United Church of Christ.

Nearly 10 years after “retiring,” Dr. K. shows no signs of slowing down.

Why should he? He’s continuing the work he loves: Showing teenagers how to make their mark on the world, by doing it himself.

(To nominate an unsung hero, email dwoog@optonline.net. Hat tip: Lynn U. Miller)

24 responses to “Unsung Hero #14

  1. Dr. K! Forever one of my favorite teachers at Staples. Glad to hear he’s still inspiring young minds!

  2. Anne Rutherford and the Fenn kids

    A true hero!

  3. Gerry, you have always inspired us kids in and out of the classroom. You are a terrific friend and example for all of us. You invite us along the way. Thanks for your love and joy.

  4. Well deserved honor. Mary Condon

  5. Gerry was not one of my teachers but I was always aware of his wonderful reputation.

  6. Nancy Powers Conklin

    I share Fred Cantor’s opinion above. I never had him as my English teacher, but I sure wished that I had!

  7. Marta Campbell

    Great hero choice. A man who “walks his talk.”

  8. Congratulations to Dr Kuroghlian on a great career at Staples and a retirement that is being well used! Always a truly good guy and a respected great Staples teacher! And now recognized as a Dan Woog Hero as well!

  9. Chip Stephens SHS '73

    Yea Dr K. Gerry you know we all love and respect you, no matter what they say. You are the Meister of Mentors Well deserved and way overdue.

  10. Dr. K! I remember your classes well. They were inspiring and challenging. Thank you for that, and for continuing to inspire others. (Staples class of ’86)

  11. Gerry Kuroghlian

    Thanks a million Dan. Having some medical problems so we are still in WI You made a miserable day much better. I’m blessed to have a friend like you! Gerry

    G. Kuroghlian

  12. Werner Liepolt

    What a well-deserved tribute! From the beginning to the end of his long, exemplary teaching career in Westport Gerry the K put the needs, achievements , and well-being of Staples students first. I witnessed this as an admiring colleague and the parent of one his well-served students. Gerry’s is a memorable career that is justly memorialized in your “unsung heroes” series.

  13. Gerry, I’m so sorry you’re having medical problems. You are truly a marvel, an inspiration to me and so many others. Thank you for all you do!

  14. Simply: A great man.

  15. Steven Halstead

    Westport’s kids and parents have been blessed to have had Dr K for so many years. Truly exceptional. Thank you and the best to you in your continuing journey.

  16. Dr. K is an exemplary colleague – warm-hearted, quick-witted, smart as a whip, bringing years of expertise to bear when problem-solving together. I miss him here at WPS, but am still learning from him as I observe his remarkably fulfilling choices in retirement.

  17. As a former student of Dr. K., I’m not surprised by all of the wonderful jobs you has taken on since retiring. I have such fond memories!! I hope those medical issues are behind you soon, and that you are able to get back to your lovely work. xoxo Tracy Flood, SHS “76

  18. Even as a defiant teenager, I could not cross Dr. K. Winning approval for one’s work from Dr. K was the highest honor at Staples, and still one of the significant achievements of my intellectual life. This appreciation shows why: the man is 100 percent authentic. What he seemed to love and believe in–words, art, learning–are exactly what does love and believe in. He knocked the cynicism right out of me.

  19. Tracy Mergenthaler Robinson

    Dr. K was the BEST! His ability to make difficult literature and concepts FUN was amazing.

  20. A wonderful and excellent resource that that has that has served our community and the rest of Fairfield County for many years first rate and first class.

  21. Eric William Buchroeder SHS '70

    Gerry, I have every faith that you will quickly put any medical problems behind you. Like a fine wine, you get better with age.
    With respect and high regard,
    Eric Buchroeder SHS ’70

  22. Gerry the K was and is a well respected colleague. Always ready, willing and able to stand up to anyone he thought did not have the student’s best interests in mind, always a great ally to have on your side.

  23. Dr. K is a local treasure! He has been a gift to the young men & women of Kolbe Cathedral High School. We were truly blessed the day he walked through the doors! He is a highly skilled professional who is warm, caring and tireless! Thank you, Dr. K!

  24. Tom Nistico Sr

    One of the Great men ever to teach at Staples !