Three Principals Honored on the Tree of Life Memorial

September 2014, Volume 38, Issue 1

NAESP has honored three principals with leaves on the Dawn Hochsprung Tree of Life Memorial.

The Tree of Life Memorial, housed at NAESP headquarters in Alexandria, Virginia, was created to honor elementary and middle-level principals who made an extraordinary sacrifice during their career as an educator. Dedicated in February, the memorial is named for late Sandy Hook Elementary School principal Dawn Hochsprung.

The memorial “tree” features a trunk comprised of the interwoven bodies of children, or “angels,” that leads to a large blossom of leaves. The three latest honorees’ names will be engraved on leaves, and will have a scrapbook page created in their honor. In addition, each honoree’s state association will receive a certificate to commemorate their submission to the memorial.

Here are the Tree of Life honorees’ stories.

John Moffatt
Lewistown, Montana

On December 4, 1986, John Moffatt demonstrated selflessness for his students and teachers when the unthinkable occurred in the hallway of Fergus High School. A 14-year-old student shot and killed a substitute foreign language teacher and, in the course of running away from the classroom, ran directly into vice principal Moffatt, who was moving toward the commotion. The student fired the gun at Moffatt, who was struck in the torso and fell to the ground. While Moffatt was on the ground, the student fired another shot at his head, but missed.

Moffatt, after recovering from his injuries, served as an elementary school principal in Lewistown for the next ten years. Moffatt’s commitment to serving his community’s children and families as they healed from the devastation of this school trauma is an outstanding example of school leadership, integrity, and compassion.

Eugene Segro
Spring Garden, Pennsylvania
October 25, 1951—April 24, 2003

Eugene Segro was well-liked by his students and teachers, and had a special way of connecting with his students. He enjoyed his job at Red Lion Area Junior High School in Red Lion, Pennsylvania, where he was principal for seven years. On April, 24, 2003, tragedy struck. In a cafeteria full of 350 students, Segro was mortally wounded by a gunshot from an eighth-grade student. The student took his own life shortly after shooting Segro.

“His memory lives on in this district and he continues to still have a positive impact on our community,” says superintendent Scott Deisley. “Red Lion Area School District is a better place because of Dr. Segro.”

Segro’s motto, “Learning is our number one priority,” continues to shape the school district to this day.

Norina Bentzel
York, Pennsylvania

Norina Bentzel, currently principal of Locust Grove Elementary School in Red Lion Area School District, spent fourteen years as principal of North Hopewell-Winterstown Elementary School. It was there that she put herself in peril to protect her students.

On February 2, 2001, a man carrying a machete followed a parent into the building. When Bentzel confronted him, he slashed at her stomach and was cut extensively on her hands. and Bentzel scrambled to her office to signal a lockdown. She was able to leap onto the assailant’s back and he finally dropped the machete and slumped over a chair.

Bentzel’s quick actions and her determination to protect her students and staff is credited with saving many others that day. As the local police stated, Bentzel’s actions were nothing short of heroic.

For more information about the Dawn Hochsprung Tree of Life Memorial, contact your state association or NAESP’s Kara Boyer.

Copyright © 2014. National Association of Elementary School Principals. No part of the articles in NAESP magazines, newsletters, or website may be reproduced in any medium without the permission of the National Association of Elementary School Principals. For more information, view NAESP’s reprint policy

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