A huge void was left at Whitefish Bay Middle School this week, after Associate Principal Chuck Orvold passed away Monday due to complications associated with pancreatic cancer.
Orvold began his career at Whitefish Bay Middle School 22 years ago as the school's associate principal, a position he held up until he passed away. He was 54 years old.
Remembered for his sense of humor, his Harley-Davidson motorcycle and his tough-but-fair disciplinarian role, Orvold was well-respected by students. He was often greeted in the lunchroom or at football games by kids chanting "O" and forming the letter "O" over their heads.
A colleague of 22 years, sixth grade social studies teacher Anne Liccione said Orvold was "universally loved" by the student body.
“I think that speaks volumes about his character,” she said. “He was able to hold kids accountable but also have them know that he genuinely cared about them.”
Orvold would often hold in-school suspensions in his office, so he could spend the day mentoring the students. Liccione said she can think of several kids who wouldn’t have continued with school if it wasn’t for Orvold’s mentoring.
“When we learned that he had cancer, one of the students who he had disciplined several times said ‘Mr. Orvold is supposed to be bulletproof,” Liccione said. “That’s who he was. He was a rock for a lot of kids who didn’t have a rock.”
Middy Froemming, Orvold's secretary of 12 years, said his presence is missed in the middle school hallways.
"He touched so many lives. He really did. He broke barriers with students that were tough to reach," she said. "He was just a wonderful person who loved his job and loved his family. Everything was always all about the students for Chuck."
Seventh grade math teacher Joe Wieland – a colleague of 22 years – said the two of them had fun outside of the school by ice fishing, duck hunting and turkey hunting over the years. He said Orold was determined to explore new hobbies and try to be the best at them.
Although Orvold mostly dealt with the same 10 or 15 percent of students through his disciplinary role, Wieland said he found ways to interact with all of the students by jumping into a pick-up basketball game or asking students about their schoolwork over the lunch hour.
Former Middle School Principal Lisa Gies said she saw Orvold's impact on students during her seven years working with him.
"Whether lunch room duty, track official, hallway patrol — Chuck came to life with kids around him. I will not only miss him as a friend, but I feel a deep sadness for the Whitefish Bay Middle School in that he no longer walks those halls. However, I do have comfort knowing his spirit will forever be present in the school," Gies said in an email. "He served many students, families and educators through his years in the Bay. He made great sacrifices to serve other peoples' families."
Gies is out of the country on a Franciscan pilgrammage, but said her thoughts and prayers are with the Whitefish Bay schools and community during this tough time.
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The school district issued the following statement about Orvold Wednesday:
"As a former math teacher, Chuck took pride in using his leadership and organizational skills to meet the needs of all students. He worked hard to make Whitefish Bay Middle School a safe and inviting place to learn and work, and he was very proud of the achievements of the students and staff. Most importantly, Chuck had a tremendous sense of humor and enjoyed the many positive and meaningful relationships he had with kids, staff and families. His leadership, work ethic, professionalism, and pride in his school make Chuck a great example of a Whitefish Bay educator. The School District of Whitefish Bay owes a lot of its success to the contributions of Chuck. For all of us who knew Chuck, he will be sorely missed.
District officials also expressed their sympathies to his wife Julie and his sons Ben (daughter-in-law, Hope) and Chris.
Parent Katie Commer also remembered Orvold for his sense of humor and his genuine personality.
"He was such a funny person, but he was also very respected by the students at the school," she said. "It's a really fine line to have kids like you and respect you at the same time, but he really perfected that over the years."
A Facebook page has been created in Orvold's memory, and many former students have shared their memories from their interactions with him.
"He was probably one of the coolest administrators in middle school, always good for a laugh or small talk, didn't matter if you were constantly in his office being reprimanded or if you were a really quiet kid," said Linda Ste Marie, a former student, on the Facebook page. "I love what he did for the district and the impact he had on students around him including those he didn't know personally."
Before joining the middle school as associate principal in 1990, Orvold taught mathematics in the Shorewood School District for nine years. He received his bachelor's degree in elementary education and mathematics from the University of Wisconsin-Platteville and his master's degree in administrative leadership and supervision from UW-Milwaukee.
A visitation will be held from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. Friday at Schmidt and Bartlet Funeral Home in Sussex, where Orvold's family lives. The family will also greet relatives and friends on Saturday at the funeral home from 10 a.m. until the 11 a.m. memorial service. In lieu of flowers, memorials in Chuck's name may be made to the American Cancer Society or Pancreatic Cancer Action Network.