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‘Jack O’Connor Memorial Center for the Arts': Rededication a dream for students, colleagues

Photo Credit: illustration
Photo Credit: illustration
Photo Credit: illustration

ONLY ON CLIFFVIEW PILOT : A chorus of support is rising behind teacher Toni Fellowes and her online petition asking trustees to rename the Union City High School Performing Arts Center in honor of Jack O’Connor.

The performing arts center at Union City High School (CLIFFVIEW PILOT photo illustration)

“When we lost Jack so suddenly and unexpectedly, I was deluged with texts and emails from students and colleagues, not a few of which suggested that the performing arts center should be renamed after Jack,” Fellowes told CLIFFVIEW PILOT .

So she created a Facebook page: The Jack O’Connor Memorial Center for the Arts

Four days in, she has nearly 400 names. Once word spreads, she said, the roster should swell quickly.

“My goal is to get at least 1000 members to present to the Board of Education,” said Fellowes, who worked with the popular English, Drama and Journalism teacher for 25 years.

The outpouring of love for the late educator has been matched only by the overwhelming grief at the loss of a man who, as one former student said, “taught us about patience, inspired us to look beyond our surroundings and, most importantly, to believe in ourselves.”

A memorial in O’Conner’s name could be an extremely effective way of channeling that grief into something vital, organic.

Fellowes (r.) needs 1,000 people to JOIN

“The students we shared were the most talented, bright, and devoted workers I’ve ever seen,” Fellowes, a computer math teacher who worked on multimedia productions, told CLIFFVIEW PILOT .

“I wish I could say I had something to do with it, but I was just along for the ride,” she said. “It was all Jack who inspired them.

“I’ve seen him enrich the skills of students who were destined for the Ivy League. But that was a walk in the park for Jack. He also drew out the genius of an autistic student and made him our theater critic. He also taught students with less than popular points of view, to use the nuances of language so that the reader walked away not muddled with emotion but with a better understanding of the subject.”

Tribute pages on Facebook, by their nature, tend to draw young adults and teens. But Fellowes’ online petition features fellow educators and former students who’ve gone on either to outstanding schools or are in the middle of notable careers.

The next Union City Board of Education meeting is scheduled for this Thursday at 7 p.m., followed by an Aug. 26 session.

However, Fellowes is keeping her goals modest, pointing toward a September presentation to the board.

“Jack O’Connor had such a long and illustrious career,” she told CLIFFVIEW PILOT , “I can’t imagine we’ll get any opposition.”

To add your name to the petition, go to the Facebook page The Jack O’Connor Memorial Center for the Arts and click “Join.” You can also forward invitations to others to join, as well.

Educator taught students to believe in themselves
Vigil turns tearful: “Stand By Me”

R.I.P. Jack O’Connor

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