|Lucinda Doersam in 1945.|
She was a teacher, coach, principal, and even worked as superintendent for time.
She was an educator for four decades in the Groveport Madison school district whose legacy is reflected in the many students whom she helped light the way to learning.
She was Lucinda Doersam.
Doersam graduated from Ohio State University in 1917 and came to Groveport Madison armed with a bachelor’s degree in education. (In later years she did graduate work at the University of Michigan.) Her breadth of knowledge was impressive as records at the Groveport Heritage Museum show that throughout her teaching career she taught math, biology, English, French, and history before eventually becoming high school principal. While principal she even served as acting superintendent during World War II when Superintendent J. D. Macklin was called to duty.
Doersam spent her entire career at Groveport Madison retiring as high school principal in 1956. It was a career that saw her teach in three different Groveport Madison high school buildings – the school built in 1884 on College Street; Groveport School, built in 1923 (now Groveport Elementary); and what is now Groveport Madison Junior High School, built in the 1950s next to Groveport Elementary.
She not only saw the district modernize its school facilities, but also as it changed from a predominantly rural school district anchored to a small town, to a district that exploded in population with the post World War II "baby boom."
She worked with the people of the district as they recovered from the demands World War I placed on the country, as they weathered the Great Depression of the 1930s, as they sacrificed during World War II, and as they embraced the rapid technological changes of the 1950s. A dizzying array of challenges for any educator, but Doersam was up to the task.
Throughout all these venues and turbulent times, her past students today talk of how Doersam held true to the notion that learning makes a person better and that education can light the darkness.
Earl Watkins, class of 1941, remembers Doersam as a helpful guide.
"She was very good and responded well to kids," said Watkins. "She made math interesting and she is the reason I liked math. She would make time to help you if you needed it, even after school."
Another former student, Ed Rarey of the class of 1948 recalled Doersam as "stern, but personable," but added quickly, "she liked kids."
"She was thorough and her expertise was math," said Rarey. "She was dedicated. I never knew of a day when she wasn’t at school. She was the first there each day and the last to leave."
Anne Parrish Rarey, class of 1947 said, "I liked her a lot. She was nice and was in tune with the kids and could talk to us in our own language. Teaching was important to her and she was serious about it. She worked hard to have you understand."
My father, Jim Palsgrove, class of 1947, added, "She was fair and didn’t raise her voice. But you knew she was in charge. She was the boss."
A winning coach
Doersam was not only a positive presence in the classroom and as an administrator, but also as the girls varsity basketball coach.
Her teams dominated the old Franklin County League in the 1920s and into the 1930s. At one stretch her teams did not lose a home game for three straight years in the old gym in Groveport Elementary.
As a coach Doersam received high praise from the students. She was in her eighth year as coach when, according to the 1926 school yearbook, "The Oracle," the students proclaimed "by her splendid work as coach (she) has made Groveport a name to be reckoned with…"
Betty Woods, my aunt and a member of the class of 1957 who played on Doersam’s Girls Athletic Association (GAA) teams in the 1950s, said Doersam was "enthusiastic about girls sports."
After World War II girls varsity sports disappeared from Groveport Madison until the federal enactment of Title IX in the early 1970s.
To fill the girls’ athletic void in the post war years, Woods said Doersam pushed to have the GAA club instituted at Groveport Madison High School.
"It was rare for the county schools to belong to the GAA back then," said Woods. "Miss Doersam was able to schedule games for us against the area private schools who were fielding varsity teams."
Doersam’s GAA teams of the era played field hockey, basketball, and softball, according to Woods.
"She (Doersam) made a point of making sure we could share the use of the gym with the boys. She made sure we had access. She gave us a chance to play," said Woods.
Woods, who went on to play AAU basketball and semi-pro women’s softball after graduation, credited Doersam for helping her attain her athletic goals.
"If not for Lucinda Doersam I wouldn’t have gotten into sports," said Woods.
In a show of respect no doubt reflected by all the students who she taught over the decades, the class of 1950 dedicated their yearbook to Lucinda Doersam because of, "Her encouragement of our ambitions, her sympathetic understanding of our problems, and her fellowship with us during the four years of our high school life."
I never knew Lucinda Doersam as her teaching career was long over by the time I entered a classroom. But it’s clear from talking with people who did know her, and who learned from her, that she was a special person who cared deeply for her students’ mental and physical well being and betterment – elements that make for a great teacher and a great person. The Groveport Madison school district is all the better that she once passed this way.
Rick Palsgrove is editor of the Southeast Messenger.