Tag Archives: Dr. Gerald Kuroghlian

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)

Bill Mitchell, Gerry Kuroghlian Earn Kudos From Kolbe

Westport is filled with men and women who give and give, then give some more. When there’s a job to be done or an organization to help, they’re the first to volunteer.

But it’s hard to imagine any 2 people who do more, in more ways, than Bill Mitchell and Gerry Kuroghlian.

Bill Mitchell

Bill Mitchell

Bill — a 1961 graduate of Staples High School — remains connected to his alma mater through Staples Tuition Grants, Players and sports. He’s been president of Rotary, deacon at Saugatuck Congregational Church, honorary chair of Homes With Hope, and a board member of the Levitt Pavilion, YMCA, St. Vincent’s Medical Center, Sacred Heart University and the Jewish Home for the Elderly. He’s offered his store — Mitchells — to help raise millions of dollars for groups like Near and Far, and the Inner City Foundation.

Gerry — a Fairfield native with a Ph.D., who spent nearly 40 years as a Staples English teacher, where he influenced thousands of students and colleagues — now serves as an ESL instructor at Mercy Learning Center, and a master’s degree student teacher at Sacred Heart.

But both men have found some of their most meaningful volunteer opportunities at Kolbe Cathedral High School.

The Bridgeport private school — 80% of whose students need financial assistance — has a proud record. Last year, every graduating senior was accepted to college. Together, they earned $15.2 million in scholarships and aid.

Bill and Gerry’s contributions to their successes are profound.

Kolbe Cathedral logo

In 1999, Bill joined Kolbe’s Shepherds program. He sponsored and mentored freshman named Marques Brown, providing one-on-one support (and cheering at his basketball games). They became lifelong friends. In 2010, Marques — now a successful adult — established the William E. Mitchell Humanitarian Award, for a Kolbe graduate with “concern for others, compassion, a positive attitude and a big heart.”

Bill continues to aid Kolbe by securing speakers for fundraisers, sharing networking contacts with students and staff, and providing leadership opportunities for all.

Dr. Gerry Kuroghlian

Dr. Gerry Kuroghlian

Gerry’s volunteer work includes national education organizations, cancer and diabetes groups, Westport Library and United Church of Christ.

But Gerry spends nearly every afternoon at Kolbe. He’s a tutor, SAT and ACT advisor, and college application essay guide. He has arranged for 1,000 books to be donated to the library.

Gerry also organizes cultural field trips to Fairfield University and New York City. He attends sports events, chaperones the prom, and continually shares his philosophy that it is the responsibility of each individual to make a difference.

Now Kolbe Cathedral is giving something back to these 2 very giving men. On Sunday, May 1, the school’s annual “Making a Difference Celebration” celebrates Bill Mitchell and Gerry Kuroghlian.

It’s a fundraiser, enabling Kolbe to continue making a difference in the lives of teenagers.

They — and their school — are just a few miles from Westport. It’s a journey Bill Mitchell and Gerry Kuroghlian take often.

What a difference it makes.

(Kolbe Cathedral’s Making a Difference Celebration begins at 5:15 p.m. on Sunday, May 1 with a mass at St. Mary’s Parish in Greenwich. Dinner at Gabriele’s Steakhouse in Greenwich follows at 6:30 p.m. For more information, or to make a donation in honor of Bill Mitchell or Gerry Kuroghlian, call J0-Anne Jakab at 203-368-2648 or email jjakab@kolbecaths.org.)

Bill Mitchell with Marques Brown (Kolbe Cathedral '03).

Bill Mitchell with Marques Brown (Kolbe Cathedral ’03).

Gerry Kuroghlian and Bryan Tacuri. The Kolbe Cathedral senior has been accepted at 7 colleges, including Fairfield, Sacred Heart and the University of Connecticut.

Gerry Kuroghlian and Bryan Tacuri. The Kolbe Cathedral senior has been accepted at 7 colleges, including Fairfield, Sacred Heart and the University of Connecticut.

 

Party Like A Gatsby

If you weren’t at Gerry Kuroghlian’s fascinating talk about F. Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald’s time in Westport last Saturday — well, the event was last Saturday; they were here in 1920 — you were not alone.

F. Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald slept -- and partied -- here.

F. Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald slept — and partied — here.

The only folks who heard the beloved former Staples English teacher were the lucky 20 whose names were drawn after attending WestportREADS events all last month. (The book WestportREADS read was The Great Gatsby. The talk was held in the actual home the Fitzgeralds lived in during their wild time here.)

In addition to snapshots of Westport back in the day — most of the town was farmland, Saugatuck was an isolated area populated by immigrants, Green’s Farms was the wealthiest part of town — “Dr. K” painted a vivid picture of Westport’s wild side.

  • A Marmon.

    A Marmon.

    In the summer of 1920, Scott and Zelda put most of their money into a 1917 Marmon. They set out on a drive to the country, even though neither of them had had driving lessons. They stopped in Rye, but Zelda didn’t like it. So they headed for Lake Champlain, stopping in Westport for lunch. With Zelda at the wheel they crashed into a fire plug on Main Street, near what is now Onion Alley. The car was gutted.

  • They ended up living for a few months at 244 Compo Road South. Built in 1758, it was known as a “Switch House” — a switching station for people coming from downtown by trolley to switch to another trolley to get to the beach. Obviously, if you’d just gutted your car…
  • F. Scott and Zelda partied hard, hitting all of the speakeasies around. (There were plenty.) Their favorite drink was orange juice and gin.

Kuroghlian said that Fitzgerald’s books The Beautiful and the Damned and The Great Gatsby were heavily influenced by his time in Westport. The house was strong enough to withstand huge parties, while Westport — which voted against Prohibition — was a perfect place for the hard-living couple.

Great Gatsby partyIf you missed Saturday’s discussion — or any other WestportREADS event — you’ve got one more chance. And this final chapter may be only slightly less crazy than F. Scott and Zelda’s high-flying summer.

This Saturday night, the Westport Library turns into a speakeasy. There will be  swanky gin cocktails (legal, now), live jazz and dancing.

The only way to attend is by registering online (click here). You’ll receive a password to get in.

Guests are encouraged to wear Roaring ’20s garb.

Which, according to some reports, is a lot more than F. Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald wore to some of their Westport parties.

Thank You, Dr. K

Gerry Kuroghlian retires this month, after 42 years as a Staples English teacher.

Yesterday, hundreds of colleagues and friends feted him at The Red Barn.  Their words were heartfelt and loving.   Here’s my contribution:

Dr. Gerald Kuroghlian

Dr. Gerald Kuroghlian

It’s a typical Monday, 7 a.m. in the Staples cafeteria.  A few teachers discuss their weekends:  grading papers, doing yard work, maybe a movie.

Gerry describes his:

I went to a funeral, a baptism, 2 bat mitzvahs, a christening, a Sweet 16 and the Peruvian Feast of the Ignoble Saints Street Fair.  Then Ellen and I flew to Phoenix for my 2nd cousin twice-removed’s 95th birthday party.

Last night we went straight from the airport to New Haven.  It was my 1st grade teacher’s ex-husband’s  neighbor’s daughter-in-law’s play.  She was the assistant lighting director.

It was great.

I get exhausted just hearing about Gerry’s weekends.

He does things like that every single day. The man goes to more celebrations and events – for himself, his family, fellow teachers, students past and present, secretaries, custodians, random strangers – than anyone I know.  He’s a politician without the self-serving need to please.  Half-Armenian, Gerry is 100 percent mensch.

He’s also a Renaissance Man.  Gerry knows all there is to know about literature, art, religion, drama, dance – almost everything in the world.

Except athletics.

That doesn’t stop Gerry, though.   He attends Staples sports that even the International Olympic Committee never heard of.  He has no idea what he’s watching – but he knows the kids, and that’s important.  In return they know he’s there — and they know he cares.

When Gerry says “Weren’t they awesome?” he doesn’t mean “Wasn’t their play (or recital, science fair, art show or water polo game) good?” It means:  “Isn’t it awesome that young person is following his or her passion, developing and maturing and being human?”

Yes, it is awesome.  And the reason those youngsters grow into such wonderful human beings is that Gerry helped set a tone, helped create an environment, at Staples – and in Westport, Fairfield, and well beyond – that allowed them to.

Thank you, Gerry, for all you’ve done for all of us.  Soon, your breakfast buddies look forward to hearing how awesome everyone is at the Mercy Learning Center.

Your new school’s gain is your old school’s loss.  Our profound, deep — and awesome — loss.