Before the age of iPads and Smartboards, Michael Dubin would stand in front of a classroom of students on the edge of a new millennium and spill the contents of his mind into theirs.
“He was the type of guy who would command the entire class with his lectures,” said Craig Papach, who started working in the Athletics Department at Kennedy 27 years ago and looked up to Dubin as one of the school’s veteran teachers.
Dubin taught social studies at Kennedy High School for 30 years, beginning when the building opened in 1966 and ending when he retired from teaching in 1996.
“He would stand in front of the room and talk,” Papach continued. “And he had every kid captivated.”
It’s been roughly two decades since Dubin walked the halls of Kennedy High School, but his impact will last for generations, said John DeTommaso, the superintendent of the Bellmore-Merrick High School District.
Dubin died last year after retiring to Arizona. In his will, he left roughly $500,000 to Kennedy High School, to be dispersed in two installments. The first, $250,000, was accepted by the Board of Education at its June 7 meeting and the second, $234,845.90, was accepted at the Board’s Jan. 3 meeting.
“It’s just an amazing tribute to the school because Mike spent so much his career there and loved JFK,” DeTommaso said. “It will impact the students for generations.”
The first installment of Dubin’s donation will go toward the creation of the Michael J. Dubin Memorial Scholarship, which will award $2,000 each year to a Kennedy student interested in pursuing history in college. The money will be given to the student in $500 installments over four years.
The second will go toward the renovation of Kennedy’s library, which hasn’t been touched since the school opened roughly 50 years ago. The district renovated Merrick Avenue and Grand Avenue middle schools last year, and planned to do Kennedy next. The library will be named after Dubin and include a section dedicated to his favorite history and political science books.
Brian DeGaetano, a Kennedy phys. ed. teacher, began teaching in 1994 and, like Papach, also revered Dubin. “I was the youngest guy on staff and Mike took me under his wing,” he said.
In addition to his impact in the classroom, Dubin impacted the way the Bellmore-Merrick district operates, Degaetano said. “The backbone of why our district is so great is the relationships we have [within the community],” he said, adding that Dubin brought educators together by helping create the Bellmore-Merrick United Secondary Teachers, a union.
Each staff member who spoke with the Herald described Dubin as an avid mentor who loved Kennedy High School and the Bellmore-Merrick community.
One of his greatest passions at the school was the wrestling team, and throughout his tenure, he acted as an assistant coach, Degaetano said. He was also the records keeper and provided knowledge about wrestling not only at Kennedy, but also across Nassau County.
In 1973, Dubin wrote a guide to Nassau County wrestling that detailed its history dating back to the 1930s. “There’s stuff in there that you can’t even find online,” DeGaetano, Kennedy’s current coach, said. Even after retiring, Dubin would reach out to DeGaetano to check on the team and send an annual donation.
The $500,000 donation was a surprise to the district, as DeTommaso said that officials were only notified after hearing the news that Dubin had died. However, DeGaetano said that it only made sense for Dubin to contribute in such a way. “He loved Kennedy,” DeGaetano said. “And he loved everyone here.”