On June 2, AP Physics teacher Greg Devine, who retires this year after 23 years teaching and mentoring students at Delbarton, received the Delbarton School 2021 Distinguished Educator Award. Arriving at Delbarton in 1993 as a Williams College graduate, Devine taught for three years, took a break to earn an Ed.M from Harvard, then returned to Delbarton where he has taught and inspired his students and colleagues ever since.
Delbarton Director of Admissions Dr. David Donovan served as master of ceremonies and presented the award during the final faculty meeting of the year.
The award recognizes area educators who have "a significant impact on the lives of young people." Since the award's inception in 1975, forty-five educators have received this distinction and were acknowledged as models of ability and devotion in educating the young people of New Jersey. During the ceremony, Dr. Donovan praised Greg Devine as "a true educator who found a job and a place where his gifts, his will, and opportunities aligned. His craft was his calling," said Donovan, introducing a video assembled by teacher Jake Ross that summed up Devine's tenure at Delbarton.
Donovan then introduced Devine's longtime colleague, Junior Guidance Counselor Kelly Gleason, who alluded to a song from the musical Hamilton, The Room Where It Happens, to describe Devine's impact.
"Greg is the center of that room, his physics classroom and jazz room in Old Main, in the early years, were where the magic happened," said Gleason. After Devine's years at Harvard, she said, "He came back with a bound. He truly knew that this was where he belonged, and he had a vision for how things could be." She described Devine's many arts-related innovations, including launching the Jazz Ensemble, adding rock band performances at morning meetings, and inviting the community in for all-school previews of plays and winter musicals. "Greg Devine combines passion, perspective and patience," Gleason concluded in her eloquent tribute to her colleague and friend.
Next, what Donovan had earlier described as an "eclectic crew of former students, and a Mount Rushmore of physics and musical talent", took to the stage to pay homage to their teacher and mentor. Peter Badenhausen '14 (Dartmouth) lauded Devine's Socratic teaching method, instructing by asking questions as "a profound way to learn". His former teacher's infectious eagerness to learn more also was contagious, and strengthened Badenhausen's self-belief that has sustained him "in college, career and life."
Next, Delbarton junior Jack Finning '22 said that Greg Devine had made each student better in his own way, and was a mentor who had successfully hooked Finning on robotics and engineering. "Most importantly, he taught me how important failure is to learning," said Finning.
Pianist Robert Frech '10 (Columbia) described himself and Devine as "total music nuts" and recounted the many jazz greats and classic venues he and his teacher had experienced together. Devine had also taught him the inspirational power of listening to -- not just playing -- music. He also drew a laugh from the audience as he described the first F he ever earned in school when he failed a particularly challenging AP Physics problem set. When he sought advice from Devine, the conversation was brief...
"I think I know what you need," said Devine.
"No. A bailout."
He added that Mr. Devine had taught him never to give up, another valuable lesson for any young person to learn.
Peter Godart '11 (MIT) who is earning a Ph.D in mechanical engineering at MIT, said that "to describe Devine as an 'educator', distinguished or otherwise, is an understatement."
After two physics classes and four years of robotics competitions, said Godart, "I learned more from observing Mr Devine as a human." He described Devine's problem-solving, and his passion for music, math, science, engineering, driving fast cars, and British TV shows. "He inspires me to always be my whole self and follow my curiosity wherever it may lead," said Godart. In conclusion, he spoke movingly of the comfort and power of the Cannonball Adderley tune, Mercy, Mercy, Mercy, then sat down at the piano to play the song.
We doubt that there was a dry eye in the house.
Dr. Donovan introduced Headmaster Fr. Michael Tidd to present Greg Devine with the 2021 Delbarton School Distinguished Educator Award. Quoting from his favorite play, Robert Bolt's A Man for All Seasons, Fr. Michael described a scene where Sir Thomas More counsels Richard Rich on the transformative power that a good teacher can have. Fr. Michael then announced that a perpetually endowed fund has been created in Devine's honor, the Gregory Devine Fund for Science and Excellence. "The Fund will support the kind of spirit we heard about today that will continue for future generations of Delbarton students," said Fr. Michael.
Assistant Headmaster for Academic Affairs Josh Hartle read Devine's acceptance speech in which Devine thanked Delbarton administrators, including former Headmaster Br. Paul Diveny and former Faculty Dean Anne Leckie, for being so caring and supportive as he continued to work in the classroom while dealing with the many physical challenges of Parkinson's Disease. "One mark of a good school is to hire good people, give them what they need to do their jobs, and then get out of their way...it has been a honor to work with you all," he wrote to his colleagues.
Describing the smart, energetic, hard-driving Delbarton student body as a 'hurdling train of teenagers' he wrote, "The greatest strength is our student body and their parents. Gentle steering and corrections guide them as they move through this place." He especially appreciated their parents, describing his students as 'good people from good families'. "I’ve learned more from my students than I should probably not admit, and I owe my deepest thanks to them for inspiring me." Finally, he wrote, "I cannot conceive of another place I would rather be than here."
Devine's colleagues gave him a standing ovation, and the ceremony was witnessed by his sister Barbara Rebak, her husband Ed, and his niece and nephew Grace and Andrew (a second nephew, Joseph, was not present) as well as a wonderful contingent of Devine's former students, there to honor a man who has so influenced their lives and careers.
Greg Devine grew up in Upper Saddle River, NJ and graduated from Northern Highlands Regional High School in 1989. He majored in physics and music at Williams College, graduating in 1993, after which he began his first stint at Delbarton, teaching physics, directing ensembles in the Music Department, initiating the engineering program and working on the Admission Committee.
After three years at Delbarton, he entered the Graduate School of Education at Harvard where he earned an Ed.M in 1997. After a year teaching physics and music at another school, he returned to Delbarton to continue teaching. He started the Jazz Ensemble in 1999 which he directed along with the Brass and Wind Ensembles until about five years ago. He served for many years on the Academic Council, taught AP Physics, oversaw the engineering program and led the North Caucus of the Admission Committee.
Greg was honored to be receive the Princeton Prize for Distinguished Secondary School Teaching in 2010 and the Northwestern Prize for Secondary Teaching in 2012. In addition, he was designated three times by student recipients of the Star Ledger Scholar Award as their most influential teacher and twice by Presidential Scholars from Delbarton.
The Delbarton community salutes our 2021 Distinguished Educator Greg Devine for his outstanding teaching career at Delbarton. For proof of Devine's impact as an educator, look no further than the close relationships he continues to enjoy as a mentor for generations of Delbarton alumni doctors, scientists, engineers and teachers. The power of his committment to teaching and to the young men of Delbarton lives on in the lives and careers of his former students.
Enjoy these photos from the ceremony on June 2...