Alumni and staff celebrate Patton Middle School golden anniversary01/30/2023 02:32PM ● By Steven Hoffman
Dozens of Charles F. Patton Middle School alumni and administrators gathered Friday to pay tribute to the building’s golden anniversary and the founding principal whose name it bears.
The school opened 50 years ago alongside the high school in East Marlborough Township to make room for the expanding population of the Unionville-Chadds Ford School District. In the intervening years it has been led by four principals in succession and gained widespread reputation and accolades for enhancing the education of young adolescent students.
In 1992, the year he retired, Patton was honored at a surprise unveiling ceremony during which it was announced the school henceforth would be named for him. He died in 2014.
Welcomed to last week’s anniversary event were students who attended in 1973 and those who worked there at the time. Among the celebrants as well were two of the original teachers, Carol Little and Ray McKay.
The three principals who followed Patton are Bruce Vosburgh, 1992 to 2012, Tim Hoffman (now assistant superintendent), 2012 to 2017, and Steve Dissinger, 2017 to present. Each spoke during the celebration.
Also appearing at the microphone to lend her words was Patton’s daughter, Nancy, who said, “He would be proud today.”
Patton was praised throughout the ceremony by his three successors. They all credited him with creating an environment in which “students gain a sense of belonging.”
Dissinger, who served as the master of ceremonies, effused how grateful he has been to teach and then serve as Patton’s principal. He also thanked teacher John Walsh, who organized the event.
Dissinger recalled how, when he graduated from Penn State, his professor Victor Dupuis took him aside and advised him to visit Patton and the Unionville-Chadds Ford School District to interview for a job.
“They get it,” Dissinger was told by DuPuis.
What he found when he arrived at the school was a principal who believed from his heart in running a school specifically for the needs of young adolescents.
Dissinger said he was especially impressed with the middle school’s “basic instruction” – an hour out of each day when they all played basketball, kickball, street hockey and other recreational activities. The school also had a two-night camping trip each year (now discontinued) for the entire school population.
Vosburgh, who succeeded Patton in the principalship, said he spoke with his predecessor many times.
“Charles loved to teach. He was passionate about middle schools. He came back often to teach algebra,” Vosbergh said.
Referring to Patton Middle School, Vosbergh said, “There is a lot going on in education these days, and this is one of them.”
Hoffman, who now serves as the assistant superintendent, reflected on the growth of humans and how it relates to the growth and alterations in a building. Patton Middle School has undergone many building changes since its beginning. “Schools are a lot like people. We’re responsible to rejuvenate and reinvigorate them. Relationships need maintenance,” he said.
Teacher Brian Kelly, who had been present at Patton’s memorial service years ago, added, “He was a good listener to parents, students and the community. He was everywhere. Imagine going to a school where kids feel they matter.”
In the early minutes of the celebration the school PTO presented Dissinger with a new and much larger podium with the Patton insignia on it. He unwrapped it in front of the group.
The alumni, who were treated to a cake reception in the library, appeared excited and pleased to see old friends. They spoke of school time memories including the move from the high school to the newly opened middle school, during which they hauled over their desks, chairs and books.