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Gainesville school board remembers Gus Whalen
Whalen, Featherbone Communiversity founder, graduated in 1963
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In other business

The Gainesville City Schools Board of Education recognized at its meeting Monday several community groups who are collecting school supplies and backpacks for children returning to school in a few weeks.

Maria Calkins, school board member and resident services coordinator for the Gainesville Housing Authority, said Gainesville Rotary made a $2,000 donation to the housing authority for the purpose of buying school supplies.

“As a result, 500 backpacks with school supplies will be given to our children in public housing,” Calkins said. “It’s a huge grant.”

Calkins added that the school system has about 750 children living in housing authority residential communities.

Additionally, Adrian Niles, director of maintenance and operations, said his church, Faithful Christian Worship Center, will meet Saturday beginning at 9 a.m. at the Fair Street Neighborhood Center to distribute school supplies.

“We will have about 200 backpacks and school supplies that we will give out to kids, elementary through high school,” Niles said.

Gainesville City Schools are still mourning the loss of one of their most notable and best-loved Red Elephants.

“The Gainesville City Schools lost a good friend and supporter three weeks ago with the passing of Gus Whalen,” said Delores Diaz, school board chair, at the board’s regular meeting Monday.

School board member Sammy Smith said Whalen, founder of the Featherbone Communiversity, was a member of the Gainesville High School class of 1963.

“Very prophetically, he was voted ‘Most Talented,’” Smith said. “One generally thinks that might mean talented in terms of art or the arts, but in Gus’ case, it was in art and really in life.”

Featherbone Communiversity allows people of all ages to come together to collaborate and “to engage in the flow of ideas.”

“It’s a real collaboration,” Smith said. “That’s one of educators’ favorite words.”

Countless students from Gainesville and surrounding schools have been educated by Whalen and the Communiversity. Whalen also instituted the Masters Series at Featherbone, which toasts local professionals, artisans, craftsmen and teachers who excel in their field.

“It’s something for real, blue-collar folks who work hard for a living,” Smith said.

Diaz called Whalen “one of the kindest people” she’s ever known.

“He was most generous with his time and his resources,” she said.

Willie Mitchell remembered Whalen’s commitment to service and the two terms he served on the school board.

“When I first came on the board, way back when dinosaurs were roaming, Gus was a member of that board,” Mitchell said.

Whalen, they all agreed, will be long missed and remembered by the board, the school system and the students who knew and were taught by him.

“He loved his high school, and he loved his community,” Smith said. “Gus loved living.”

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