HUDSON — A man who led the city school district for a dozen of the 36 years that he worked in the system is being remembered for the enormous contributions he made.
Gerald “Jerry” M. Reeves died on Feb. 2 at the age of 84. Mr. Reeves served as superintendent of Hudson City Schools from 1981 to 1993, assistant superintendent from 1973 to 1980, and teacher, coach, assistant principal and principal from 1957 to 1972. That period of time included a stint as head football coach from 1959 to 1964.
Yolanda Reeves said her husband put family first and noted that three of their four children became teachers.
“He was definitely a role model for them,” said Yolanda Reeves, who added Mr. Reeves attended his children’s events, too. “He was caring, he was humble. He definitely had a lot of integrity.”
Noting her husband spent his entire career in the Hudson City School District, Yolanda Reeves said both the schools and the community were “very important to him,” and continued contributing to those entities after his retirement.
The district’s current leader complimented Mr. Reeves on his accomplishments.
"Jerry's impact on the Hudson City Schools is quite evident today,” said Hudson City Schools Superintendent Phil Herman. “I hope that everyone takes a moment to remember Jerry, his vision and legacy of educational leadership, and please keep his family in your thoughts and prayers."
Two retired employees who worked with Mr. Reeves praised him for his approachability, work ethic and multiple achievements.
“He left quite a legacy,” added Ed Sogan, a friend of Mr. Reeves who worked with him in the district for 17 years. “He was a force.”
Sogan, who was a teacher, as well as a head football and track coach, said Mr. Reeves was the “last of the old-time superintendents” where nearly everything that happened in the district was handled by its CEO.
“The top guy was in charge of just about every facet of the district,” noted Sogan, who is currently the president of the Hudson City Schools Foundation. When he became the head football coach, Sogan said he interviewed with Mr. Reeves instead of the athletic director.
He recalled, with a laugh, that Mr. Reeves as superintendent would station himself in the press box to operate the game clock.
Bob Mottice, who worked in Hudson City Schools for 30-plus years, said Mr. Reeves invited him to be an assistant football coach when they first met at a faculty meeting. Mottice said he and Mr. Reeves — whom he knew for nearly 60 years — both taught social studies. Mottice said he served as an assistant principal of the high school for about a year and a half, and then became the junior high principal after Mr. Reeves vacated the spot to become high school principal.
Mottice noted Mr. Reeves asked “for input from other people” before making a decision.
“The ultimate decision was his … but at the same time, he always had an ear open to listen to people and always tried to make a decision that would be for the betterment of everybody,” said Mottice.
Mottice added Mr. Reeves was “a personable man” who “was very supportive of what you did …He was always someone you had the utmost confidence in.”
Calling Mr. Reeves “approachable,” Sogan said he often sought advice from his boss on decisions he was trying to make.
“It was a treat to work with him,” said Sogan.
Reeves was a leader of the district as the community increased in size, new buildings were constructed and additions were built at existing structures.
He was involved in the construction of the high school, all three phases of the former junior high school, now East Woods, the construction of McDowell Elementary, two additions to the former high school, now the middle school, Lavelli Stadium, the former field house and the Ada Cooper Miller Natatorium.
He was inducted into the Distinguished Hall of Fame in 2013 after leading the district through a large amount of growth.
“He was a person that was able to bring people together to get things done,” said Sogan. “He was a driving force behind a lot of that foundation.”
Sogan observed that Reeves was a “focused” person and noted that once a path was determined for a project, “He was going to get the job done.” He added Reeves’ last project — constructing the new high school in 1992 — “turned out to be a great one.”
Yolanda Reeves noted she felt the high school project was one of the major highlights of her husband’s career.
“That [project] was extremely important to him,” said Yolanda Reees. “I think he had a lot of foresight in the planning of the high school and the surrounding properties.”
Though Reeves had been a football coach, Sogan said he was “very supportive” of all of the district’s extracurricular activities.
Mr. Reeves created the Hudson Public Schools Endowment Fund, which provides thousands of dollars in scholarships each year to graduating seniors. Established in 1990, the endowment fund received its first gift from Donald Barlow, a 1933 graduate of Hudson High School, in memory of his wife, Emily.
In 1984, Hudson High School and Junior High School became one of the first schools in the nation to be selected by the U.S. Department of Education for recognition in the Secondary Schools Excellence in Education Program.
As a football coach, Mr. Reeves won a league championship in 1963. Sogan said the next title was not captured until he won one in 1988.
Honored in 2018
Mr. Reeves was the guest of honor at a ribbon cutting ceremony that celebrated the $450,000 in renovations of the high school’s media center in August 2018. At that program, the facility was named after Mr. Reeves to honor him for his work in the district.
At the time of the dedication, Mr. Reeves said, “It’s wonderful. It’s very special.” Yolanda Reeves said her husband “was very honored and humbled” that the center was named in his honor.
Board President David Zuro at that program recalled moving from New Jersey to Hudson in 1986.
“As so many families do, we chose this community for the schools,” said Zuro, who has three children. “As a grateful father, I owe a debt of gratitude to Jerry Reeves. In my years on the Board of Education, I’ve come to appreciate the role of superintendent. The superintendent sets the goals and the vision for the district.”
Sogan added he was “so happy that [Reeves] was alive to receive that recognition. It was a well-deserved tribute to his contributions to the district.”
“He had a very, very full life,” stated Sogan.
Editor’s note: Reporter April Helms contributed to this story.
Reporter Phil Keren can be reached at 330-541-9421, firstname.lastname@example.org, or on Twitter at @keren_phil.