By Mark DiMaio
Last spring we lost our dear friend and colleague, John Taylor. John was an integral part of the Chamber family and his leadership as president of the Delaware Public Policy Institute moved Delaware forward on significant policy issues. Most importantly, John had a deep dedication to improving education in Delaware. Throughout his professional career, John was an educator. He began his career as a teacher, then served as the assistant to superintendent for Wilmington’s Board of Education. John’s education background and his ability to share information and make connections served him well as he rose to become the editorial page editor for The News Journal.
As founding member of the Vision Coalition, John’s leadership and directness were instrumental in building an impactful public-private partnership advocating to improve education in Delaware. His leadership style was always straightforward, clear-headed and often unwavering. At the same time, he was a humorous and truly humble man.
In honor of John’s leadership and commitment to education, the Delaware State Chamber of Commerce has created the John H. Taylor Jr. Education Leadership Award to recognize someone in the community who has provided sustained leadership in advancing Delaware education and who, by doing so, has also made our community a better place to live and work.
This year’s Superstars in Education program is proud to present the inaugural John H. Taylor Jr. Education Leadership Award to Dr. Jack P. Varsalona, president of Wilmington University. We recognize Dr. Varsalona for his 40 years of leadership, vision and personal contributions advocating to improve Delaware education. He is one of the founders of the Delaware Association of Independent Colleges and Universities and a member of the Ursuline Academy Board of Trustees. He is also a member of the Fresh Start Scholarship Foundation Advisory Board in addition to being the 2013 recipient of the Fresh Start Scholarship Foundation’s Muriel E. Gilman Championship Award for his outstanding contributions to the success of the Foundation. Varsalona’s passion for excellence in education is also apparent in his work as a team chair with the Middle States Commission on Higher Education, the accrediting body that helps other colleges and universities to maintain high scholastic and student life standards.
Varsalona is heavily involved with community organizations, including the United Way of Delaware, the Wilmington Renaissance Corporation and First State Innovation. He also sits on the board of directors for the Boys and Girls Club of Delaware. In 2014, Varsalona was the inaugural recipient of the Father Roberto Balducelli Appreciation Award for his extensive work in the Italian-American community and support of Italian artistry. Varsalona was named Advocate of the Year by Goodwill of Delaware and Delaware County in May, 2015, for his substantial scholarship support and other contributions to Goodwill’s mission of helping individuals to overcome barriers to improving their lives.
The John H. Taylor, Jr. Education Leadership Award will be presented on Monday, May 9 at the Superstars in Education Reception & Awards Ceremony.
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James DeChene is the Chamber's Senior Vice President of Government Affairs.