The recipients of the first annual George Peabody Legacy Award were announced on Thursday, February 28 at the Peabody City Council meeting. Peabody Education Foundation Chairman Dave Gravel, who is also a Councilor-at-Large, noted that the committee received 19 individual nominations for the award, with many nominees receiving more than one vote from community members. The PEF introduced the award and initiated the nomination process earlier this year with a desire to honor educators who contributed significantly to Peabody’s schools and the community as a whole.
Of the 19 nominees, the PEF has selected six individuals to receive the first George Peabody Legacy Awards. These individuals will be honored in an event at City Hall on Thursday, May 2; additional details of that event will be available shortly. Gravel commented that the six recipients each represented the type of positive impact on the community that the award aims to recognize, and that all six “have given their full careers to this city.”
The six recipients are as follows:
- John E. Murtagh – John’s entire career was dedicated to the Peabody Public Schools starting as a Teacher at the Keefe School, serving as Assistant Principal at the Keefe School and Principal at the Burke School, and finishing his career as a principal of the Higgins Middle School. John was also employed under Title 1 with the Migrant Education Program as a program organizer, curriculum specialist, and a liaison for the Department of Education. Among his many achievements were the development of staff, the development of children, coaching, advocating and putting the concerns of education in the City at the forefront of his agenda. John was instrumental in establishing the Middle School structure which still stands today, and was instrumental in the transition to education reform during its infancy.
- John “Jack” Murtagh – A lifelong Peabody resident who spent his entire career in the Peabody Public Schools. Another Murtagh who worked his way through the ranks from teacher to principal and ended his career in the schools system as the principal of the Kiley School. Jack, who was often referred to as “Big Jack,” was described as a gentleman in all aspects of his life. The teachers and students who nominated Jack talked about his caring for his staff and his students and his genuine concern for ensuring “his” students got the best education. Jack is still very active in the community, volunteering at the Council on Aging and the Torigian Life Center, and is a member of the Peabody Credit Union Board of Directors.
- Helen Apostolides – Helen served the Peabody Public Schools for 34 years, finishing her career in Peabody as an administrator and Principal of the Welch School. Among her many accomplishments was assisting with the establishment of the Pride in Peabody award; she served as the Pride in Peabody K-12 coordinator for 12 years. She was a regular volunteer at any Peabody event, championed the gifted and talented program, implemented the Baystate Readers Program and Empowering Children to Survive and Succeed Program. Helen is also credited with the development and implementation of the first full day kindergarten program in the City. A renaissance woman, Helen was a hardworking, dedicated champion for the children of Peabody.
- Frank Hardy – Having spent in excess of three decades in the Peabody Public Schools, Frank Hardy retired from the school system as a Department Head. Frank is known as the person who resurrected Student Government Day in Peabody, and anyone who has attended or participated in one of these events can tell you how significant this is to the development of our student’s understanding of government. Mr. Hardy working with Andrew Metropolis launched the Peabody Exchange Program. He also spearheaded PVMHS ROTC, Human rights Awareness Day, and the Hugh O’Brien Youth Leadership Award. Frank still works as a tireless volunteer for the community serving his church and working with North Shore Elder Services. Frank hardy is an educator and a great human being whose work has touched many lives in the city.
- Tom Hosman – A veteran of 38 Years with the Peabody Public Schools, Tom graduated from the classroom to the guidance office where he sought to shape the lives of the students under his care. Tom was a guidance councilor at the Kennedy, the High School and the Higgins. Tom earned the respect of students and families alike by showing and teaching respect. He had a passion for education and conveyed this to all around him. He too was a long time coach and a friend to many creating a lasting impression on all those who had the pleasure of knowing him. Tom continues to support the students of the Peabody Public schools with encouragement at the many sporting events that he attends.
- James Geanoulis (awarded posthumously) – Known to his students and friends alike as Mr. G, Jimmy Geanoulis was a caring, gentle person who was loved by his students, his peers, and his superiors. No job was too large or too small for Jim. He knew how to extract the best out of every student by making his classes interesting and fun. Those who nominated Jim spoke of his passion for education and for instructing children. He took this passion to the classroom as well as to the sports fields, where he was a coach and a referee. While many people say “it’s for the kids,” few mean it as much as Mr. G did. He was noted for stopping games to instruct players to help them understand better the rules of the sport. When he coached, he realized that the self-esteem of the children he was instructing was far more important than winning. Jim Geanoulis was taken from us far too early in life, but his mark was left indelibly on the lives he touched in his career in Peabody.
Congratulations to all the recipients of the George Peabody Legacy Award for this well-deserved recognition of their achievements and contributions to the City of Peabody, its schools, and its students.