Former students remember long-time educator, Bob McCarthy

For Tuesday night’s special dedication, Superintendent Gary Cialfi asked food services to dig out an old recipe, in honor of Trumbull educator Robert E. McCarthy.

“Betty Sinko found the original recipe for peanut butter bars,” Cialfi said.

The bars were a favorite of McCarthy, who joked with Cialfi in the past that he put on a little weight during his tenure at Trumbull High because of the treat.

“I think a principal would be incarcerated today for carrying around peanut butter bars,” Cialfi joked.

It was a different time when McCarthy served as principal for Trumbull High School, a position he held for 15 years, though, the impact he made there has lived on, according to those who spoke Tuesday, when the Trumbull High Auditorium was dedicated in his memory. The peanut butter bars were one of many idiosyncrasies and fond memories mentioned. McCarthy’s family, including his wife, sons and grandchildren were present for the dedication.

The longtime educator, who died in 2008, started his career in Trumbull in 1964 as a teacher at Nichols Elementary. He was later named assistant principal at Hillcrest, and then became principal at Middlebrook Junior High School, which later became Madison. He was later Trumbull High principal.

First Selectman Timothy Herbst, who was a student at Trumbull High when McCarthy was principal, said he recalled the principal always helping the janitors clean up during lunch. He would push around a garbage bin to help clear the tables.

“I asked him, ‘Mr. McCarthy, why do you do that,” Herbst said. “He said ‘because I want to students to see me and know I’m here for them.’”

Herbst and others who spoke Tuesday said McCarthy treated every student who came through like his own.

“You had a parent at home but you had a parent here too,” Probate Judge T.R. Rowe, a former student of McCarthy’s, said.

Judy Zakim was a student at Trumbull High when McCarthy was principal, and later was hired by McCarthy to be a guidance counselor at the school. She recalled his way of bringing people together and always being there for both staff and students.

T.R. Rowe was a student a Middlebrook when McCarthy was still principal there and he recalled a difficult time when a student tried to commit suicide.

“There was confusion and angst as we dealt with it but he handled it with a sensitivity and a depth that still impresses me and stays with me,” Rowe said. “He spoke to every class and back then he didn’t have that crisis training that, unfortunately, our educators need to get today.”

Rowe said, when he moved on to Trumbull High, and McCarthy became principal there, he recalled seeing him the first time, in one of his signature bright-colored outfits, pushing a large green garbage can down the halls “at 40 miles per hour.”

“We students loved him immediately, for as long as we were there and beyond,” Rowe said.