By DAN TOMASELLO
LYNNFIELD – Retiring Lynnfield High School Principal Bob Cleary has historically preferred staying out of the limelight.
The LHS Class of 2023, along with the high school’s faculty and staff, did not get the memo last week. The Class of 2023, educators and staff repeatedly honored Cleary over the course of Senior Week and during the 64th LHS graduation ceremony held at Pioneer Stadium on June 2.
Cleary has served as the high school’s principal for the past 15 years, and previously worked as the high school’s assistant principal for six years. He also served as the head coach of the girls’ basketball and volleyball teams back in the day. He grew up in town and graduated from LHS in 1979.
During Senior Awards Night on June 1, LHS Assistant Principal Brian Bates announced that the longtime Pioneer Pride Scholarship’s name was being changed to honor Cleary’s contributions to the high school.
“This award recognizes a student who exemplifies Pioneer Pride, including promoting a positive school culture, school spirit and leadership,” said Bates. “I am honored to announce that beginning this year and moving forward, this award will be changed to the Robert Cleary Pioneer Pride Scholarship in recognition of Mr. Cleary and his endless contributions to promoting Pioneer Pride. The winner of the first Robert Cleary Pioneer Pride Scholarship is Ava Zalvan.”
Zalvan and Cleary were both given a round of applause during Senior Awards Night. Cleary had no idea the scholarship name change was going to happen.
Valedictorian Maddie Daigle said the LHS Class of 2023 enjoyed having Cleary as their principal.
“Throughout my high school experience, I have viewed Mr. Cleary as someone kind, approachable, understanding, but also commanding of respect,” said Daigle during her graduation speech. “I still remember the first time I met Mr. Cleary at Freshmen Orientation. After sitting through the assembly, my mom and I walked out and the first thing she said was how personable and rational my new principal was, and I nodded in agreement. And Mr. Cleary has never failed in that regard.”
Daigle said she and the rest of the Class of 2023 were “grateful” to have Cleary as LHS’ principal for the past four years. She said the graduates appreciated how Cleary “emphasized relationships” and “made us laugh with his usual appearences in our classes.”
“I cannot imagine Lynnfield High School without your presence,” said Daigle. “We wish you the best in retirement and thank you for making Lynnfield High School an academic, but still enjoyable and safe environment for us all.”
Cleary thanked Daigle for her “kind words.”
Senior Class President Sahil Akhter called Cleary “the foundation at LHS,” and asked the graduation ceremony’s attendees to give him a round of applause. Right on cue, the ceremony’s attendees gave Cleary a round of applause.
“I speak on behalf of everyone here today that we will miss you dearly, and your impact on this school has not gone unnoticed,” said Akhter.
Superintendent Kristen Vogel thanked Cleary for his “31
years of service to the students and families of Lynnfield.”
“Over the past 31 years, Bob has been a coach, assistant principal and principal at Lynnfield High School,” said Vogel. “Bob has always done what is best for students, and it is the relationships he has built with the students at LHS that will be his legacy.”
Cleary thanked Akhter and Vogel for their kind words as well.
After the 135 graduates received their diplomas, Class of 2023 advisors Jen Goguen and Elizabeth LaMonica also gave Cleary a diploma with the assistance of Vogel and School Committee Chair Rich Sjoberg. Cleary, along with the graduates, was given a round of applause.
Cleary, who was smiling from ear-to-ear, held up the diploma after receiving it. He thanked the Class of 2023 for making his last year leading Lynnfield High memorable.
“Maybe that’s because we are walking out the doors together,” said Cleary during his graduation speech. “But I have to admit that the Class of 2023 will always hold a special place in my heart. Thank you to the Class of 2023 for your contributions to LHS and for making my job as principal a little bit easier and a whole lot more enjoyable.”
Cleary wrote in an email sent to the Villager that he was touched by the recognition he received last week.
“It was a great ceremony and I am glad that we were able to get it in before the bad weather,” Cleary stated. “It really meant a lot to me to have our students say some nice things, and the honorary diploma was a thoughtful gesture from Kristen. It was a bittersweet moment to be at my last graduation.”