Retired Administrator of the Year Dave Urquhart had a heart transplant at age 48. He recovered and was able to return to serving as a school administrator for another 16 years before retiring.
Urquhart shows new meaning to giving back
July 26, 2021
Name: Dave Urquhart Award: Retired Administrator of the Year ACSA highlights: Member since 1985; Tuolumne Chapter of ACSA president, two years; director, six years; V.P. Programs, 14+ years; Every Student Succeeds program coordinator, 25 years; Conference and Awards Committees, six years; Region 7 representative, Legislative Policy Committee, three years.
ACSA Administrators of the Year graphic.
Dave Urquhart had already established himself as a resourceful and enthusiastic ACSA leader in Region 7, where he has served the Tuolumne Chapter of ACSA for more than two decades. Upon retiring as superintendent of Big Oak Flat-Groveland School district in 2018, Urquhart’s commitment to ACSA did not falter. He volunteers his time coordinating a number of region events that recognize students and staff, including an annual Administrative Assistants Dinner and the Every Student Succeeds reception.
In addition, he and his wife founded the WINGS Fund, which assists disadvantaged families when their children are hospitalized outside of Tuolumne County.
“In light of ACSA’s mission and vision, Dave Urquhart puts all those guiding principles into action for our local educational community,” wrote Jeff Winfield, superintendent of Soulsbyville School.
What’s your favorite book or quote on leadership? A book that made a difference for me and my staff is “Hillbilly Elegy” by J.D. Vance. The book adeptly highlights what generational poverty is, and the monumental effect it has on victims. There are many families in my most recent district who suffer from poverty. After reading, we gained a better understanding of the students who live in poverty and learned how to better support them in school.
What’s the best advice you’ve been given? Of the many bits of advice I gained over the years, “Don’t make hallway decisions” is the one I tried to stick with. This advice came from the superintendent of my wife’s district while she was the principal at Don Pedro High School. There is nothing much worse than agreeing to something on the spot, and after there is time to think about it, realizing it is something that you can’t support. Going back to the person with a change of mind, whether it is a staff member, student or parent, is challenging and difficult.
What’s your best strategy for work/life balance? Work-life balance is a tough one. With work as a school administrator being so demanding, and personal life so important, there has to be give and take, help from co-workers and understanding at home. When we adopted our baby girl, my wife reduced her teaching assignment to part time and my co-worker, Denny Wong, made sure to take my extra-curricular assignments whenever I needed help. My wife Teree soon became a school principal, which made our work schedule even more interesting.
What would people be surprised to learn about you? I had a heart transplant in 2002. I had been healthy and athletic for my first 38 years, and had been in my administrative position for six years after teaching for eight. Then, with no rhyme or reason, my heart started to enlarge and deteriorate. For 10 years my wife did everything possible to assist my survival with medical research, alternative health practices and emotional support. Finally, at age 48, I was sent to Stanford where, thankfully, a heart was waiting for me. To make a long story short, I wasn’t sure if I would ever return to work, but after a tough recovery, and being out of my position for six months, I returned as the principal of my high school. I continued in administration for another 16 years and I have run the Bay to Breakers each year since my transplant.
What is your proudest accomplishment? There are many things I am proud of accomplishing — most of them having to do with improving students’ lives directly or indirectly. I am also proud to have remained in education for 40 years and holding the ACSA VP of Programs position for our charter for nearly 25 years. During those 25 years, we recognized and honored hundreds of staff members and students, especially those who may not have been acknowledged through the usual channels.
How has ACSA supported you in your career/current position? ACSA has been a tremendous support system for me throughout my career in education. I joined ACSA in 1985. Meeting and working with exceptional educators, attending workshops and conferences each year, being part of the charter and region leadership programs and acknowledging both students and educators in many ACSA recognition programs has been very rewarding. Some of my mentors include Denny Wong, Bob Price, Bill Draa and Bob Lee. They helped me grow as an administrator, and showed me how to enjoy the oftentimes difficult work we do. ACSA provided a conduit for success.
What has the impact of the COVID-19 worldwide health crisis taught you? COVID has impacted me differently than currently working administrators since I am retired. With that said, my wife and I had our second- and then third-grade grandson with us while distance learning was going on at his school. Since we are comfortable with curriculum, we did pretty well keeping him up to speed, but we could certainly sympathize with teachers and the challenges they faced delivering instruction to children at home.
ACSA's 2021 Retired Administrator of the Year Dave Urquhart.
ACSA's 2021 Retired Administrator of the Year Dave Urquhart.
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