My husband’s Uncle Jim Regan passed away last week. He was the President of the Board of Education in New York City during one of the most tumultuous times in its history. During his tenure in the early 1970’s, the system almost went bankrupt, the mayor laid off over 10,000 teachers and the city was in turmoil. Who would want that job? Uncle Jim.

Even during the most divisive times, each day Uncle Jim would enter the downtown offices of the Board of Ed through the basement. Holding a styrofoam cup of coffee in his hands, he would have a light-hearted morning chat with the maintenance workers, then the receptionist and work his way up to his office on the upper floors. When his actual work day began, he was prepared to handle anything thrown his way.

Always the Irish charmer, Uncle Jim had a way with stories. During his last six weeks of life, though, there were no stories. Barely a syllable. Within hours of his passing and unclear as to how much he was understanding, one of his daughters asked him if he needed anything. Surprisingly and out of the blue, he said:

Just a kind word.

In a recent post, I shared Alye’s video. Silently, she was asking for the same.

Many responded online but I was incredibly touched by the kind words shared on the video below created by students at Ramapo College.

These students took the time and effort to reach out. Their direct messages to Alye have probably helped thousands more. Uncle Jim would have approved.

As the President of the Board of Ed, he touched the lives of hundreds of thousands of students and teachers but you never know how he may have touched the lives of the workers in the basement or the receptionist on a bad day. He always made it clear that their kind words on some of those tough mornings gave him courage.

James F. Regan was always a good teacher. He will always be loved.

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