Wootton High’s Assistant Principal Cheered Kids Across the Finish Line
Joe DuBoyce remembered for his enthusiasm, support for students
Joe DuBoyce, assistant principal at Thomas S. Wootton High School
Via Montgomery County Public Schools
Not one. Not two. But three overhead projectors were destroyed in the making of Joe DuBoyce’s teaching career with Montgomery County Public Schools.
His friend and coworker, Christopher Berry, said DuBoyce’s passionate history lessons and tendency to pound his points home were too much for the devices to handle.
“When a projector would break, we as his colleagues knew it as ‘DuBoycing’ an overhead,” Berry said.
DuBoyce eventually moved from teaching into an assistant principal role at Thomas S. Wootton High School in Rockville, but his enthusiasm for his work remained remarkable to those around him.
So when Wootton coach Kellie Redmond this week opened a text message saying DuBoyce had died suddenly at age 53, it was difficult for her to grasp. DuBoyce had seemed so youthful and alive.
“I was literally stunned,” the cross-country coach said.
The moment was especially surreal because two years before, almost to the day, she’d gotten a similar message informing her that Wootton’s principal had died from a previously undetected heart condition. DuBoyce helped anchor the school community as they mourned the loss of Michael Doran, 64, she said. Now, Wootton students are again dealing with the death of a beloved administrator in the weeks before classes start.
Jodi Glou said DuBoyce was the administrator assigned to mentor the Class of 2018, her son included. Her son, Justin, entered high school with a language-based learning disability, but his hard work and academic success often masked his internal struggles. DuBoyce became an advocate for her son, sitting in meetings with teachers to help him explain his learning challenges and why he needed certain accommodations. The growth of her son’s self-assurance in recent years has a lot to do with DuBoyce, Glou said.
Glou said her son is heavyhearted that he won’t get to thank DuBoyce when he walks the stage next year on graduation day. Neither will the other 530 rising seniors at Wootton, for whom DuBoyce acted as a father figure, she said.
“This was the year he was going to see his 2018 kids graduate,” she said. “[My son] asked me, ‘Whose hand am I going to shake now at the end of this?’”
DuBoyce also stood out for his support of the school’s cross-country team. Wootton parent Lynn Markenson remembers he would trot alongside her son, Josh, with shouts of encouragement.
“C’mon, Josh, you’re almost there! Run down that hill!” she remembers him saying.
He’d even keep track of Josh’s running times and prod him to shave off seconds.
Redmond said that when the girls’ team captured a runner-up state championship trophy last year, team members presented it to DuBoyce to keep in his office. The coach said she’s never met a school administrator who supported cross-country athletes like DuBoyce, who would dart from “spot to spot, just cheering on the kids,” on their miles-long running routes.
Berry said DuBoyce fell in love with the sport in part because one of his sons was a cross-country runner. When all was said and done, Berry said, DuBoyce’s life boiled down to three things: family, work and faith.
Born in New Jersey to a sheriff’s deputy and a secretary, DuBoyce never lost his connection to his blue-collar roots. Berry said he always admired his friend’s straight-shooting personality.
The two men first encountered each other when DuBoyce showed up at Col. Zadok A. Magruder High School for a job interview, which took place in the aftermath of a blizzard. DuBoyce had recently broken his leg and couldn’t walk through the snowdrifts that walled in the Rockville school. So, dressed in a suit and tie, he was carried into his interview cradled in the arms of his roommate, Berry said.
“I always joked with him and said you were preying on sympathy there,” he said.
The two new teachers at Magruder High School became fast friends, and their careers and personal lives often seemed to move in tandem, Berry said. Ultimately, Berry became principal at James Hubert Blake High School, and DuBoyce moved on to the leadership post at Wootton.
Berry said DuBoyce met his wife, Melissa, while working on a master’s degree in Irish history at Catholic University of America. The two were married for 24 years, according to an obituary published in The Frederick News-Post, and DuBoyce became father to six children.
Berry said that by the time Melissa DuBoyce went into labor with No. 6, the couple had lost their sense of urgency about rushing to the delivery room; she ended up giving birth to her baby boy on the side of Interstate 270 as they drove to the hospital in Shady Grove.
Berry said DuBoyce never picked up expensive or extravagant hobbies; he invested his spare time in his wife and children. Though DuBoyce and Berry no longer worked in the same school, they would still catch up over beers on Friday afternoons and played poker together every few weeks.
The last time the two men spoke, on Monday, DuBoyce was planning Berry’s retirement party. A few hours later, DuBoyce suffered a heart attack in his New Market home, shortly after returning from a run, Berry said.
Berry said their last phone call was typical of DuBoyce. Energetic. Friendly. Genuine.
“He really gave you his all, every day. He gave you $1.25 pay for a dollar’s work. Early riser. Never cut corners. … We helped each other be better teachers,” he said. “Friendships like that are rare, and to have that person in your life 25 years, day in and day out, was a gift.”
An earlier version of this story incorrectly identified the school where Berry and DuBoyce first worked. It was Col. Zadok A. Magruder High School in Rockville.