“The school is in good hands and I can move on,” said Willie Summerville on his last day at Dwight. He is moving on by moving back to his home town of Aliceville, Alabama, and leaving a host of students, faculty, and administrators sad to see him go.
After 42 years of dedicated employment, Willie will be missed by the entire community. A fixture on campus for generations, he was the first to open the doors in the early morning and wish everyone a great day with a smile beneath his signature hat — or hats — 50 of them! His favorite among them is a black Kangol with a brim.
Willie first donned a hat when he arrived in New York City and found the weather to be “cold, cold, cold! So I got a hat and just became used to wearing it,” he reports. The year was 1969. Willie had left his small town, where he grew up rising before the sun to work on a farm before heading off to school. Upon arrival in New York, Willie found employment at the Bentley School, an elementary and middle school, which merged with Dwight in 1974.
“It has been a pleasure working here and I’m sorry that I can't do more,” Willie says, remembering when he first met Chancellor Spahn. “He welcomed me right away and I’m so appreciative of him for everything he’s done. I’ve seen a lot of people come and go and many changes, but Mr. Spahn has always been here.”
Willie’s days at school began at 6 am. Working as a member of the Maintenance team, he saw the campus change and grow over time and cited the brownstone at 22 West 89th Street as a wonderful addition. “It's beautiful now and I’m happy for Dwight. Maybe next year, we’ll see another brownstone open up!”
When asked about the best part of working here, Willie said without hesitation, “seeing all the students. They say hi, ask if you’re ok, and wish you a great day. That’s the best. And when I see alumni at class reunions, they always ask, ‘Are you still here?’ I’m happy to say, ‘Yes, yes, I’m still here.’ The next question, he says with a laugh is the inevitable: ‘Is that the same hat?’!”
Known for his loyalty, positive outlook, and dedicated work ethic, Willie is a man of few words, but he has many, many friends who can’t imagine a Dwight without him.
“Dwight is my home. I spent all of my life here. I will miss it. I might get a computer, so I can keep up with everything going on at Dwight and hope to come back for alumni reunions.”
After a send-off celebration, where Chancellor Spahn, Director of Facilities Joe Dowling, and colleagues shared personal memories of working with Willie and wished him a relaxing, well-earned retirement, Willie did the unexpected: He took off his hat. For good. Willie is retiring his hats.
Check out this
video bidding farewell to Willie!