Saying his wide knowledge, calm manner, diligence, conscientiousness and collegiality has served the kids, faculty and staff of New Canaan Public Schools well through some of the district’s largest capital projects in memory, officials on Monday night honored Director of Facilities Bob Willoughby, who will retire after this academic year.
Superintendent of Schools Dr. Bryan Luizzi recalled that on being hired as New Canaan High School principal six years ago, he made an official visit to the town with his wife and daughters and “we jumped into the elevator to go meet the superintendent, Dr. David Abbey, and there was Bob in the elevator.”
“I always knew there wasn’t a problem you couldn’t solve or figure out, and I always looked to you for your experience and wisdom to do what’s right. It’s going to be hard to fill your shoes but you also taught all of us quite a bit, so we are better off than we would have been without you.”
The board presented Willoughby with a gift and he earned a long ovation from its members as well as about 20 people in attendance at the meeting.
They included New Canaan’s highest elected official. First Selectman Rob Mallozzi, who has said he was so impressed with Willoughby’s role in the school district that he created a counterpart position for the town, called the facilities director “a real pleasure to work with.”
“We hit it off immediately and it’s one thing for me to hit it off immediately with him but honestly everyone I know in town has hit it off immediately with this gentleman, and I will miss you incredibly,” Mallozzi said. “I appreciate all of your honesty and efforts. You have found more efficiencies in buildings than I could ever imagine, and you have been a real credit to the town.”
Board of Ed Chair Dionna Carlson acknowledged Willoughby’s wife, Roxanne, in attendance at the meeting and wished them “an amazing retirement filled with golf, boating and Tennessee football games.”
“And very few mornings of 4 a.m. calls and hour-long drives in the snow,” Carlson said. “You have set a very high bar for next facilities manager. The board has been impressed with the expertise that you brought to the role, and your unwavering commitment, providing the cleanest, safest and most comfortable facilities for the learning of more than 4,260 students in New Canaan Public Schools. And you did it with the highest standards of professionalism and courtesy. We can’t thank you enough for your commitment to the district.”
Hazel Hobbs, who served as chair of the school board at the time Willoughby joined the staff, said that she knew “no matter what the choice would be, whatever was best for the students was what you were working on.”
“It was a true labor of love for you and you are so conscientious,” Hobbs said.
Penny Rashin said she was “in denial” over Willoughby’s retirement after working with him not only as a Board of Ed member but also on the South School and Saxe Building Committees, “and in each one of those jobs and roles and responsibilities you brought your prodigious talents and impressed us and made every item a safer, better product for the schools.”
“So you basically upped our game so now we are going to have to stay at this new high level. I was impressed from day one by your confidence, by the pride you took in your work, by your commitment to it, and really by your collegiality. There were so many bumps in these building projects and in the schools—when the front of Saxe was coming off one year—and I always knew that you would find a solution that was economically efficient and get it done quickly and professionally. Your great contacts in the industry showed the strength that you had in this whole area, in your professional life. So thank you, personally, and mostly for the students and staff. You did a wonderful job. I am going to follow your golf handicap so I know when you turn talent and dedication to your golf game it will drop like a rock.”
Willoughby in brief remarks addressing the board vowed to get his handicap down, drawing laughter from the room, and said that in more than six years at NCPS, “I have really enjoyed everyone here.”
“This is a wonderful community. It’s easy to come to work withal of you and the staff, just a pleasure. Thank you all very, very much.”