LEWISTON, Maine — Robert V. Connors, 75, who served as Lewiston school superintendent from the late 1970s through the 1990s, died Wednesday morning at the Hospice House with his family at his side.
Connors of Lewiston, whom everyone called Bob, was elected to the Lewiston School Committee at age 73 in 2011. He resigned in March due to declining health.
Lewiston Mayor Robert Macdonald called Connors “a very nice person, a friend of mine. I’m sorry that he has passed away.”
Retired Lewiston Middle School teacher Roger Labbe said he was sad to learn of Connors’ death. “I knew Bob very well. He was my first principal.”
In 1972, Labbe, fresh out of college, was interviewed and hired by Connors, who was principal of what was then Lewiston Junior High School. Labbe described Connors as fair, a principal who had an open-door policy and helped mentor teachers.
“If I was doing something wrong, he was right there to help. If you had a problem, you could come in and talk to him about it,” Labbe said.
Sue Martin, chief academic officer for Lewiston schools, said Connors was superintendent in 1984 when she was a new principal at Farwell and Wallace elementary schools.
“He was incredibly supportive of his administrators,” Martin said. “He had a way of knowing what might be stressful, trying to help you navigate it.”
Martin recalled a situation where she had a difficult parent meeting, and Connors coached her about it.
Another time, she went to his office upset about something.
“He was perceptive enough to know, as my supervisor, he could only support me in a certain role.” Fifteen minutes later, a fellow principal checked in on Martin, asking her how she was. “He called somebody and said, ‘Go talk to Sue.’”
George Veilleux, director of instruction for the Lewiston schools, said he first worked with Connors when Veilleux was a speech therapist and Connors an assistant superintendent.
“He was a champion of education and teachers,” Veilleux said. “He was a person who had a finger on the pulse,” understood and was involved in the city. “He displayed a longevity you seldom see in a position that is stressful.”
After serving in the Army, Connors began his career in education in 1962 as a Lewiston High School teacher. In 1969, he became principal at Montello Junior High School, then Lewiston Junior High School. He later became assistant superintendent and in 1977 was promoted to superintendent.
He retired in 1998 after a 21-year career, the same year he was honored as the Maine Superintendent of the Year. After retirement, he served as interim superintendent for districts in Sabattus, Waldoboro, Lisbon and Bath.
In the fall of 2011, when no one stepped forward to run for a Lewiston School Committee’s at-large seat, Connors ran as a write-in candidate. He was elected over two other write-ins.
He offered to run because of his experience in education and ,“there were no other candidates as far as I knew. I thought somebody ought to be running,” Connors said during a 2011 interview.
In the year that Connors was a board member, “I found him to be a very conscientious public servant in Lewiston,” said Lewiston Superintendent Bill Webster.
Connors also served as a Lewiston city councilor and Planning Board member. He was also involved in the Rotary, the board of Catholic Charities and St. Patrick’s Catholic Church Council.
He grew up in Lewiston, attending St. Patrick’s Elementary School. He graduated from Lewiston High School in 1955, the University of Maine at Orono in 1959 where he was a graduate of the ROTC program and commissioned as a second lieutenant in the Army. He later received advanced degrees from the University of Maine and Nasson College.
He is survived by his wife, Janice, two daughters, seven grandchildren and one great-grandson.