Delaware Lost a Great Man

April 6th, 2015

Category: News

John%20Taylor%20small%20picDelaware lost a great man on Saturday.

Many fond words and remembrances will accompany the next few days. A prolific writer like John Taylor wouldn’t have it any other way.

John was one of the first people I met when I moved back to Delaware 11 years ago to head up the Rodel Foundation. His bushy eyebrows and his raspy directness intimidated me at first, but before long, John was making me laugh.

He was a fierce proponent of improving education and fairness for children throughout Delaware, and became a founding member of the Vision Coalition—then called Vision 2015. He was with many other Delaware education leaders at the table in 2004 when the group first began putting thoughts and ideas toward Vision 2015, which would go on to become one of the most impactful and enduring public-private partnerships in the country.

Thanks to people like John, more Delaware children are getting strong early childhood educations, and more are getting into college than ever before. U.S. Senator Tom Carper on Sunday night pointed to Delaware having the third-fastest student achievement growth nationally based on NAEP scores over the last 20 years. Said Carper: “That achievement doesn’t belong to any one person or group of people, but John Taylor really helped us move the needle in Delaware, and for that this and future generations of parents and children should be grateful.”

John knew firsthand what it meant to live the unique life of an educator, and his gifted knack for sharing information and connections impacted our work tremendously. He began his career as a teacher, and also served as superintendent for Wilmington’s Board of Education.

Over the years, I grew to know John as not only a dear friend, but my go-to guy on all things Delaware. He knew everyone and everything. And he was trusted by everyone because he spoke the truth, even when the truth was painful to hear.

He was a lion of a man; he feared no one. At the same time, he was incredibly humble and funny.

The work to improve educational inequity has always been challenging, but John was always clear-headed, direct, and courageous. His moral compass on complex issues was unfailing, and his willingness to speak truth to power came naturally. I can’t count the number of times John raised his hand to have a hard conversation to a legislator, or even a governor. And whenever, in his gravelly voice, John said, “I’ll take care of it,” we all knew it would get done the right way.

Through his work at The News Journal and the Delaware Public Policy Institute, he pushed important issues to the forefront, everything from education and the environment, to nonprofit governance, to the arts.

Generations of readers recognized his editorials because he told it like it was. For those who grew up watching him in WHYY, he was Delaware’s Walter Cronkite.

To put it simply, John Taylor was a Delaware treasure. I don’t know a Delawarean who has given more back to this community.

Many hope to live a good life, others hope to live a meaningful one. John was one of the few who succeeded in both. He will be sorely missed and my love and prayers go out to his family and many, many, friends.

We love you John.

To honor of all of John’s work toward improving the quality of education for Delaware students, we hope you’ll consider making a tax-deductible contribution to The Taylor Family Fund Builder (TA1419), an endowment fund that John and his wife Maria established at the Delaware Community Foundation to make Delaware a better place for all.

Checks should be written to The Delaware Community Foundation, noting Taylor Family Fund in the memo line, and sent to:

P.O. Box 1636
Wilmington, DE 19899

Paul Herdman

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