Tag Archives: Rich Rollins

Thank You, Mr. McKelvey

Last month — spurred by the incredible praise heaped upon Rich Rollins after he died — I suggested that “06880” readers might want to thank a favorite teacher or two before they die.

The post drew some thoughtful, thankful comments.  Over 30 people named men and women who had pushed, pulled, cajoled, motivated or otherwise inspired them.

One man actually tracked a teacher down.

“I’m sure you don’t remember me,” he wrote to James McKelvey.

I was an Alfred E. Newman lookalike in the 1961-62 9th grade class of Bedford Junior High School.  I had you in the middle annex building, first class to the right.  I remember well.

You were the first teacher to treat me, a complete goofball, with some respect and actual belief that I had some writing ability.  As a result of your recommendation, I was in Honors English classes at Staples and enjoyed the teaching skills of Higgins-Decker-Chalk.

I still remember that I wrote a paper for you titled “Tricks of the Trade,” regarding techniques a writer uses to convey words.  It might have been my first “A” ever.  I was overjoyed and my parents, always impressed with my older brother’s achievements, took note of my skills.

For this, I will always be indebted to you.  You opened the door for me, as I am sure you have for countless others.

The former pupil described all that had happened since then:  His eventual law degree, followed by an MFA in creative writing — and a dozen books.

He ended with thanks again — from his many old Westport friends, too — and concluded, “You meant a lot to all of us.  Your teaching skills and encouragement remain with us to this day.”

Soon, Mr. McKelvey responded.  His handwriting was a tiny bit shaky — and the penmanship came from a forgotten era — but his sentiments were strong and clear.

“Thanks for the generous compliment you paid me on the website,” he wrote, “as well as for the kind remarks expressed in the letter you mailed me last week.”

With help from your class yearbook, I was readily able to identify you from your picture.  I have enclosed a copy of that page in case your own yearbook has strayed.

As you might image, it is most unusual for a now retired teacher to hear from a former student after nearly a half century.  Even more satisfying and comforting to the retiree is the student’s perception that the teacher had played a major role in inspiring the student to seek and achieve significant success.

With all good wishes for your continued good fortune, I am,

Gratefully yours,

James McKelvey

Think of it:  A former student, now around retirement age himself, finding and thanking someone he spent just an hour a day with, for only 10 months, 50 years ago.

The teacher, the student now realizes, was not much older than he back then.  (In fact, he still is not.)

But the wisdom of those few years — and the fact that he taught, and taught well, and cared about his students — has shaped the younger man’s life forever.

For half a century, the teacher never knew that.

Now he does.

The former student taught his “old” teacher something about remembering, and gratitude, and caring.

And now both of them have passed that lesson on to all of us.

Thank A Teacher

When Rich Rollins died suddenly in April, generations of Westporters mourned.  Nearly 100 former students posted comments on “06880.”

Rich Rollins

They remembered the middle school teacher-coach’s passion, warmth, humor, sensitivity, care, concern — and ability to make both math and swim practice fun.

There was only one problem:  Rich wasn’t around to read the praise.

But plenty of teachers — active and retired — are still alive.  So, as the end of the school year nears — remembering Rich Rollins, and many other educators who are gone — “06880” has an idea:

Say nice things about favorite teachers before they’re dead.

Click the “comments” link.  Share a memory of an educator who made an impact on your life.  Thank him or her.

Think of all the times you’ve remembered Mr. X, or told stories about the unforgettable Ms. Y.

Now’s the time to let them — and the world — know how you feel.

This is one time “telling tales out of school” is the right thing to do.

Memorials, Donations Set For Mollie Donovan, Esther Kramer, Rich Rollins

Westporters have a variety of ways of honoring the lives of 3 local icons, all of whom died this month.

Mollie Donovan:  This Sunday (May 1, 11 a.m.to 1 p.m.) the public is invited to a celebration of life at the Westport Historical Society.

Memorial contributions may be made to her favorite causes:

  • Westport Historical Society, 25 Avery Place, Westport, Connecticut 06880
  •  The Westport Schools Permanent Art Collection, c/o Nancy Harris, Westport Public Schools, 110 Myrtle Avenue, Westport, Connecticut 06880
  • The Douglas Donovan Scholarship Fund, c/o Staples Tuition Grants, PO Box 5159, Westport, Connecticut 06881-5159.

Esther Kramer:  A memorial celebration of her life will be held at the Unitarian Church, 10 Lyons Plains Road, on Saturday, May 7 (2:30-4:30 p.m.).  The public is invited.

Rich Rollins:  Donations in his memory may be made to the Salvation Army, and sent to: 30 Elm St., Bridgeport, CT 06604.

Rich Rollins Update

Former Staples swimming and diving team member Dan Vener reports:

Rich Rollins

I’ve been in touch with Rich’s sister Ann.  I asked her to recommend a charity that would have been significant to Rich, and I also directed her to this blog.  Her response was:

The blog comments are amazing. Rich had no special charity. That said, he always bought presents for Salvation Army kids at Christmas and gave money to the Red Cross.

She went on to tell the following tales of her brother, which I’m sure will bring a smile to all:

He just did an adult ed class on “what makes a good barroom brawl”; finished his first half marathon a month ago.  At my husband’s wake a couple of years ago he introduced himself to people as the bus driver (there was no bus), and signed the visitors register as Alice Cooper.

Lastly, at my insistence, she provided her address:

Ann Rollins
2280 Van Buren St
Eugene, OR 97405


Westport Mourns Rich Rollins

Rich Rollins — a long-time Westport math teacher and swim coach — died Friday morning.  The cause was an apparent heart attack.

Rich Rollins

Rich began his Westport teaching career at Long Lots Junior High School in 1967, and later taught at Bedford Middle School.  He coached boys and girls swimming at Staples (not concurrently) over a 25-year span.

Generations of students knew him for his ever-present smile, true love of teaching (and the students he taught), and ability to make even tests fun.

After retiring in 2004, Rich divided his time between his homes in Englishtown, Nova Scotia and Tuscaloosa, Alabama.  He pursued his interests in Celtic music and culture of Cape Breton, southern Civil War history, and visiting as many minor league baseball stadiums as possible.

He leaves his girlfriend Penny Haisten Kavanaugh; a sister, 2 nieces, and thousands of former students and their families.

Following his wishes, there will be no services.