Snapshots of St. George's

Dean Blanchard Jr. (1929-2017)
Posted 06/15/2017 10:20AM

Faculty

We share with you today news of the passing of one of St. George’s longest-serving faculty members, math teacher Dean Blanchard. Mr. Blanchard died on Thursday, June 8, 2017. He was 87.

Recalled as “quiet and understated,” as well as “thoughtful and kind,” Mr. Blanchard devoted his life to the school from 1962-1994. During his 32-year tenure at St. George’s Mr. Blanchard was Head of the Math Department and held administrative posts as Head of Scheduling, Director of Testing and Director of Studies. He also sat on several committees, including the Curriculum and Admissions committees and was an advisor to dozens of students. His favorite sport was baseball, which he coached for many years, along with several seasons of JV football. For 11 years, he also worked in the St. George’s Summer Program. Following his retirement, Mr. Blanchard was named the C.P. Beauchamp Jefferys Chair and Head of the Mathematics Department emeritus.

On the Hilltop Mr. Blanchard lived for many years in the Class of 1929 House on Faculty Drive with his wife Janet, who died in 2011. The couple had two daughters: Linda Blanchard Brandao, who passed away in 1998, and Sandy Blanchard Joyal, who now lives in Brooklyn, Connecticut. A graveside service for Mr. Blanchard will be held at Wildwood Cemetery in Winchester, Massachusetts, on Sept. 9, 2017, at 11 a.m.

The Rev. John Rogers, who served on the St. George’s faculty from 1976-1999, said Mr. Blanchard “personified patience, discipline, and high standards in the classroom and on the ball field.” Indeed, Mr. Blanchard was known for his quiet reserve, though those closest to him say he had a self-deprecating sense of humor. Many envied his close friendship with fellow math teacher and famed football coach Alan “Porky” Clark. The two were known to meet in King Hall for breakfast, and “hold forth and discuss the pros and cons and ‘ought-to-be’s’ of life in our school community,” according to longtime colleague Steve Leslie, Director of Marine Affairs and Head of the Science Department emeritus, who retired in 2011.

In an article published in St. George’s alumni magazine upon Mr. Blanchard’s retirement in 1994, former Head of the Science department Ted Hersey wrote of his friend’s remarkable 32-year-career, calling him both a “traditionalist and a visionary.” “While he had a strong traditional background and great awareness of the roots of St. George's School, he was never negative about the changes that times required of the place,” wrote Mr. Hersey, who died in January 2016. Mr. Blanchard “embraced the advent of the TI-81 and TI-82 graphing calculators with great enthusiasm,” Mr. Hersey added, and he oversaw the dramatic expansion of the computer science curriculum at St. George’s.

Mr. Blanchard was also lauded as a good listener. “The faculty recognized Dean as an accomplished diplomat who dealt with strife in a calm, professional manner,” wrote Mr. Hersey. “To him, no question was ‘dumb.’ He always treated the individual with the utmost dignity.” The Rev. Rogers said Mr. Blanchard “wanted to know your opinion and then he would share his wisdom. … He seemed, on most subjects, to be driven by the ancient adage: ‘Come, let us reason together.’” 

English teacher Jeff Simpson, who joined the faculty in 1982, recalled that Mr. Blanchard, then Director of Studies, put him at ease when he was “a nervous young teacher with zero experience.” He had a “calm and kind manner,” Mr. Simpson said. “I worked with Dean for 12 years and never saw him lose his temper, even when dealing with anger from others. He was firm, conscientious, and principled, always the consummate professional. He treated colleagues and students with respect and courtesy.”

In his free time, Mr. Blanchard was a “passionate and talented cyclist,” according to Assistant Head of School for External Affairs Bob Weston, who worked as an English teacher across the hall from Mr. Blanchard in the early 1990s. The two were both Amherst College grads and sometimes went on early morning rides together — Mr. Blanchard on a deep green bicycle he’d made by hand. On one 50-mile ride Mr. Blanchard talked about a few summers he’d spent riding his bike from St. George's to Martha's Vineyard, where his wife, Janet, had a summer job. “He would get up early on a Friday morning and ride his bike to New Bedford and take the ferry; then he would do the trip in reverse on Monday morning,” Mr. Weston said.

Both Mr. Weston and Mr. Leslie noted Mr. Blanchard’s not-widely-known skills as “a meticulous craftsman” and “a fine woodworker and cabinetmaker.” “Whether with wood or metal, Dean had a talent for making things,” Mr. Weston said. Mr. Leslie reported that in Mr. Blanchard’s retirement years he crafted exquisite pieces of furniture out of the discarded wooden organ pipes left over following the rebuilding of the St. George’s Chapel organ.

Mr. Blanchard’s craftsmanship, in fact, seemed to mirror his philosophy on life, Mr. Leslie noted. “He sought to not overlook the value of the past, nor to take its lessons too lightly,” he said. “His craftsmanship in furniture-making extended to his craftsmanship in forming an academic community dedicated to the highest standards and the personal reward of disciplined effort and academic achievement.”

Current Chair of the Math Department Julie Butler shared a mutual love of math and Maine with Mr. Blanchard, which were catalysts for a 28-year friendship. One of her favorite memories was when she first learned how quickly Mr. Blanchard graded his exams. “On a January afternoon, he called members of the department a mere two hours after the exam ended to ask how our students had done,” she recalled. “He was so interested in his students’ successes that he put off everything else until his exams were graded.

“He was a wonderful teacher and loyal friend,” she added.

Mr. Leslie said Mr. Blanchard “though not a flashy or charismatic persona” was respected and relied upon. That came clear, he said, the morning that Mr. Blanchard arrived in King Hall for breakfast “badly bruised and abraded from a bicycling accident the day before.”

“The community gasped collectively,” Mr. Leslie recalled, “as we all realized right away how this quiet, understated teacher and colleague was so vital to each of us personally — and to the school community collectively.”

Please share your own memories of Mr. Blanchard on our memorial webpage.

A Coeducational Boarding and Day School for Grades 9 Through 12
St. George's School
372 Purgatory Road Middletown, Rhode Island 02842
401-847-7565
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