Joseph W. Gauld ’51 died on March 31, 2023, in Bath, Maine.
(The following was provided by the Portland Press Herald on April 2, 2023)
“Every individual is gifted with a unique potential that defines a destiny.”
– Joseph Gauld 1927-2023
Surrounded by family and friends in the comfort of his Bath home, Joseph Gauld surrendered his physical life to natural causes on March 31, 2023. However, as only he could, he did so after belting out a few verses of “St. James Infirmary” during a festive family sing-along just a few nights before.
Born Joseph Adam Warren Smith on July 25, 1927, in Springfield, Massachusetts, to Georgia Warren and Abiel Smith, his parents divorced during his childhood. When his mother married Brownlee Gauld, Joe took his stepfather’s surname.
With Brownlee an active advisor to the FDR administration, Joe’s childhood was spent in Chicago, Washington, DC, and suburban Boston. He graduated from Wellesley (MA) High School where he played in the famed Needham-Wellesley Thanksgiving football game and his classmates prophetically dubbed him “super salesman” in their 1945 yearbook.
Anxious to enlist in the U.S. Navy ASAP after graduating, Joe shipped out for Japan in the US Navy as World War II was coming to a close. Following his honorable discharge, he moved on to Bowdoin College, graduating in the class of 1951.
That same year, he married the former Blanche Evelyn Westhaver, “the girl” he had met on a blind date in high school. Their storied love affair was one that included a ten-year intermission in the 1980s. Ultimately declaring their ten-year divorce a failure, they remarried in 1990, with their three adult children – Georgia, Laurie, and Malcolm – giving the bride away.
After college, Joe embarked upon a sales career with Minnesota Mining & Manufacturing (3M). In short order, he found himself uninspired, constantly looking at his watch, unable to shake the realization that he had never felt more inspired than he did during the summer he spent as a camp counselor during his college years.
Thinking he would give teaching a try, he accepted a position at New Hampton School, a (then) all-boys boarding school in rural New Hampshire. Beginning with a grand salary of $1,450, he and Blanche spent fourteen years at New Hampton. Even then, he would never have predicted that he would go on to serve a total of seventy-one years as a teacher.
At New Hampton, Joe’s Advanced Placement calculus classes were legendary as was his coaching prowess in football, basketball, and baseball. In fact, New Hampton twice inducted Joe into its athletic hall of fame, once for the thirty-nine varsity teams he had coached and once in honor of his undefeated 1959 football team. (Ever the teacher, as recently as a few months preceding his death, Joe was hosting regular Zoom calls with the surviving members of that team, instructing some of them in the finer points of how to access a Zoom!).
In addition to earning a master’s degree in mathematics at Boston University, Joe’s tenure at New Hampton included a full range of administrative positions including director of admissions and athletics, chair of the math department, and assistant headmaster.
Throughout his steady ascension as an educator, Joe began to sense that some of his beliefs were at odds with the status quo of academia. He pinpoints his “Aha!” moment when he found himself giving his highest grade to a very bright student with a poor learning attitude and his lowest to a classic “plugger” with genuine curiosity. As much as he valued rigorous college preparation, he began to envision a school where character development would be placed deliberately front-and-center in the philosophy and program.
His first attempt at that vision began at Berwick Academy in 1964 where he soon realized that his entrepreneurial spirit was not likely to find a home in a traditional school setting. In 1966, he founded Hyde School in Bath, Maine, to test the above premise:
“Every individual is gifted with a unique potential.” Beginning with five words – Courage, Integrity, Leadership, Curiosity, Concern – he and the faculty made every effort to put “character first”. (Years later, in 1993, his first of several books was published: Character First – The Hyde School Difference.)
After beginning modestly with an enrollment of 60 boys, Hyde doubled in size the following year, became coeducational in 1971, and soon developed a reputation for out-of-the-box innovation that was ultimately featured on such media outlets as Today, 60 Minutes, Phil Donahue, 20-20, and NPR’s “All Things Considered.” For many years, he chronicled his experiences and viewpoints in “The Courage to Grow,” a weekly column in the Maine Sunday Telegram.
Perceiving Hyde as a private school with a public vision, Joe was a pioneer in striving to create opportunities for populations of students that could not afford the high price tag of a New England boarding school. This sentiment led him to spearhead the founding of Hyde public models in major urban centers such as New Haven, New York, Orlando, and Washington, DC. When Joe first put chalk to a slate board, he was motivated by a desire to make a difference in a few kids’ lives. Although he might not have imagined that his life’s work would result in over 1,650 students receiving a Hyde education in a given recent year, he took immense pride in the fact that over 90% of them were students of color, with the majority of them qualifying for the federal “free-and-reduced” lunch program.
As with any committed change agent, Joe’s indefatigable propensity to embrace innovation and growth inspired both supporters and critics. In 2016, he received perhaps his most prestigious recognition when Character.org honored him with the Sanford McDonnell Award for Lifetime Achievement in Character Education. After his rousing acceptance speech at Character.org’s annual conference in the nation’s capital, a group of teachers in attendance approached him and half-jokingly urged him to run for president. His son replied, “Don’t encourage him!”
Although he worked very hard during his career, Joe embraced recreation like a child at play. A competitive tournament tennis player known for his unreturnable left-handed serve and hot-tempered intensity, he transitioned to golf in his 40s. (A sport he played right-handed!) What began with him regularly, and solitarily, playing (and keeping simultaneous track of) four balls at once at the crack of dawn on the Bath Golf Course, evolved to a passion that ultimately found him winning several tournaments and shooting his age multiple times in his 70s and 80s. A lover of music, Joe had a special place in his heart for the jazz piano of Erroll Garner, Oscar Peterson, and Art Tatum. He also had an acumen and passion for any number of competitive card games, notably bridge and poker.
As great a teacher as he was, Joe was also a devoted learner, forever open to reinventing himself. In his 80s, his attendance at an intensive Hoffman Institute adult education workshop inspired him to return to using his childhood nickname. Whereas many elderly distinguished professionals might take on fancy titles in their final years, Joe Gauld simply wanted people to call him “Joey.”
But his greatest love and passion was his family. He always enthusiastically made time for each and every member. Predeceased by wife, Blanche (1991), son-in-law Paul Hurd, his four siblings, and grandson Harrison Gauld, he leaves his three children and their spouses and partners, nine adoring grandchildren, and three great grandchildren. He also leaves thousands upon thousands of former students ranging in age from 19 to 91.