| G. Michael Dobbs
SPRINGFIELD – The late Antonette Pepe and Michael Rodgers, both of whom served on the School Committee, shared one important value, according to School Superintendent Daniel Warwick: “One thing they had in common was students first.”
The two late public officials were honored at the Roger L. Putnam Vocational-Technical Academy on March 11 with the naming of the Media Center for Rodgers and the Sheet Metal Shop for Pepe.
Both members of the School Committee were passionate about Putnam. Rodger’s widow Dawn said her husband spent many years at Putnam – the school at which she worked – mentoring students well before his days on the School Committee. Christopher Collins, current vice chair of the School Committee noted that Pepe’s husband Russ is a long-time member of the Sheet Metal union and naming that shop after her is very appropriate.
“I’m sure it makes Antonette happy,” Collins said.
Friend and colleagues remembered the two officials at a ceremony before going to the areas in the school dedicated in their memory. Pepe passed in 2015 and Rodgers in 2012.
Collins remembers that Antonette was known for her passion about issues affecting the city’s students, teachers and paraprofessionals.
“She was always aimed at the issue, never at the individual,” Collins recalled. “At the core of her debates were the students of Springfield.”
Former City Councilor Tim Rooke, Michael’s life-long friend, said, “Mike would be extremely flattered to be recognized by his peers.”
Dawn said of her late husband, “He knew what a challenge we faced with students … He would do anything for anyone.”
Mayor Domenic Sarno said, “The bottom line is they always cared about the children, the students … they never looked for accolades or a pat on the back.”
Russ said, “I can’t describe how happy I am.”