Remembering a 'legend:' Board chooses name for auditorium

Longtime Trumbull educator and administrator Robert E. McCarthy was remembered fondly last Tuesday as the consummate school leader. Those who worked with him recalled that he looked at the cafeteria as his classroom, respected his staff and students and had a habit of keeping peanut butter bars in his pocket, as a pick-me-up on a rough day.

Superintendent Gary Cialfi called McCarthy a “legend” in the Trumbull School District . That legend will live on when the district dedicates the new Trumbull High School auditorium in his memory.

The Board of Education voted last week to approve naming the auditorium after McCarthy, based on a recommendation from a committee formed to explore possible names for the school site.

“I used to say, ‘If I’m half as good as Bob McCarthy, then I’ve done a great job,’” board Vice Chair Deborah Herbst said.

McCarthy, 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 finally Trumbull High principal for 15 years.

Board member Michael Ward praised McCarthy’s gift for relating to all students.

Trumbull High House Principal Lucinda Timpanelli also spoke at last week’s meeting, saying that McCarthy was a mentor and that kids enjoyed coming to school when he was in charge.

“He had extraordinary interpersonal skills,” Timpanelli said. “He used to sit and talk with the kids at lunch — he used to say, ‘The cafeteria is the principal classroom.’”

His wife, Marilyn McCarthy, and son, Robert McCarthy Jr., came to the meeting to thank the board for the honor.

“I know he would have been very moved,” Marilyn McCarthy said.

Board member Rosemary Seaman, who is a former principal in the Trumbull School District, said part of the reason she wanted to become an administrator was so she could work with McCarthy.

“At the time I was the only female house principal, and he assured me I would be treated like everyone else,” Seaman said.

Chairman Stephen Wright recalled that he was a student at Middlebrook when McCarthy was called in to help handle some discipline issues at the school. McCarthy had things in order in about a week, Wright said.

“I don’t think anyone disliked him, even the so-called tough guys,” Wright said.

While the board voted to approve the naming, there will be a formal dedication ceremony later.

The naming committee members included First Selectman Timothy Herbst, Judge of Probate T.R. Rowe, Trumbull High House Principal Lucinda Timpanelli, Trumbull High world languages Chair Nicandra Perusi, Trumbull Early Childhood Education Center coordinator Matthew Wheeler, parent Linda Bartolucci, and two Trumbull High students, Alexa Bragg and Kunal Jhaveri.