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John Gilligan, One of CAS School's Most Inspiring Visitors Ever

The National Center for Community Schools mourns the passing of John Gilligan on August 26, 2013, at age 92. He served as a U.S. Representative and the 62nd governor of Ohio, and was a champion of community schools until the end of his life. He is the father of Kathleen Sebelius, US  Secretary of Health and Human Services and the  former Governor of Kansas.  Mr. Gilligan was one of the most inspiring and brilliant visitors our schools ever had, and without a doubt one of our “best students,” as he used what he learned during his time with us to establish a beacon Community School system in Cincinnati.  We would like to share thoughts from a dear colleague, Darlene Kamine, who describes below how Mr. Gilligan’s dream and his devoted efforts transformed Cincinnati’s schools and neighborhoods.  Darlene is the founder and executive director of the Community Learning Center Institute.

“Imagine that a former governor, a former U.S. Congressman and a distinguished academic from Notre Dame would devote himself so completely to a local board of education as the last chapter of his career!  I was always in awe of Jack Gilligan's intellect, his energy and his pure, genuine idealism. Despite the decades of power and prestige that came with the various offices he had held, Jack was interested and excited by anyone with a good idea and a willingness to engage in the effort to improve the quality of life for our community.  He spent countless evenings in our community meetings throughout the city, listening and participating in the visioning and planning for the community learning centers he had set in motion.

He hosted visits for some of our most energetic neighborhood leaders to let them see what had excited him when he visited the Children's Aid Society's community schools in New York, and he arranged to bring Jane Quinn and Marty Blank to Cincinnati to inspire the whole community about the possibilities of transformation of schools to thriving neighborhood hubs.

The seismic realignment of community will and resources to support our community learning centers would not have come about without Jack's leadership.  At a ceremony honoring his retirement from the board of education in 2008, I said in my remarks that if our Cross Boundary Leadership team could sing, our song for Jack would be Bob Dylan's classic, If Not for You. Dearest Jack, if not for you, our community's children would not have the opportunity to live the kind of life we would all want for our own children.”

Photograph by David Kohl/Associated Press