Rockville Names Bridge for Wootton High Principal Whose Death Devastated School
A former high school student led the effort to honor Michael Doran
Via Kathy Lavinder
A three-lane bridge on Wootton Parkway in Rockville will bear the name of Michael J. Doran, the beloved Thomas S. Wootton High School principal who died in 2015 just two weeks before classes started.
The Rockville City Council earlier this month decided to dedicate the bridge to Doran at the request of a Wootton graduate, Jon Glaser.
The bridge, which had been under renovation, is a fitting tribute because it will serve as a connection point, like Doran, who linked students, educators and parents, Glaser said.
“He went above and beyond to not only have a visible presence, but he took the time to talk with students individually and know everyone’s name,” Glaser wrote in an email.
Doran spent 12 years at the helm of Wootton High, and his wife is still hearing from the students who meant so much to him. He had an uncanny ability to make a connection with almost everyone he met, his wife, Kathy Lavinder, said.
“He might forget his keys and what day of the month it was, but he always remembered his students’ names,” Lavinder said.
In one high school staff meeting after Doran’s death at age 64, almost everyone began their remarks by saying, “Well, you know, I was Michael’s favorite,” his wife recalled.
“That was not anything artificial or phony. Every single person he looked in the eyes felt that connection and felt that caring,” Lavinder said.
Doran was born in Northern Ireland, and his family moved to England when he was a child to escape the conflict that had divided their native region. As a youngster, Doran attended a secondary school that had set students on a vocational track since it was founded in the 1890s, but he was encouraged by a headmaster to pursue higher education.
Doran became the first person in his family and the first Battle Secondary School student to graduate from university, Lavinder said. After he earned a degree from Southampton University, he secured masters and doctoral degrees from Columbia University.
His personal background fueled his passion to help students succeed, his wife said.
“It was the mission. It was his life’s work. He wanted to touch the lives of students and help them,” she said.
Doran worked in education for four decades in schools in Boston, New York and D.C. He arrived at Wootton after serving as principal of Thomas W. Pyle Middle School in Bethesda.
A previously undetected heart condition led to Doran’s sudden death on Aug. 19, 2015, as the school year was about to begin. More than 3,000 people turned up at his memorial service, Lavinder said.
“His vision and strong commitment, combined with a wonderful sense of empathy and a sharp wit, made him a beloved member of the Wootton community and every community in which he worked throughout his career,” Montgomery County school board members Patricia O’Neill and Michael Durso said in a statement released after Doran’s death.
Lavinder of Bethesda said she still goes to Wootton for work related to the scholarship fund created in her husband's name, and her visits will take her past what is now the Dr. Michael J. Doran Memorial Bridge.
“It will be something that touches my heart every time I see it,” she said.