Former Hersey principal remembered as part of 'Golden Era'

  • Thomas O'Driscoll

    Thomas O'Driscoll

By Eileen O. Daday
Daily Herald correspondent
Updated 5/16/2017 4:56 PM

Thomas O'Driscoll, a career educator who worked at four different high schools in Northwest Suburban High School District 214, and helped open two, has died.

O'Driscoll ultimately spent 30 years in the district before retiring as principal of Hersey High School in 1991. He died May 12 at the age of 85.


"He had quite a distinguished career," said Robert Cudney, former assistant superintendent for District 214. "Tom was part of what we called the 'Golden Era of 214,' when we had unprecedented growth and were opening new schools."

O'Driscoll grew up in downstate Quincy, where he was a standout athlete and earned a football scholarship to play at Quincy College. He would go on to receive a degree in physical education and later a master's degree in guidance and counseling at the University of Illinois.

He began his teaching career in his native Quincy, but after earning his advanced degree in counseling, O'Driscoll headed north to take a counseling position at Arlington High School.

"We all came here for opportunity," said Cudney, who also taught in Quincy before moving to District 214. "This was the promised land."

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Within three years, O'Driscoll would move to the newly opened Elk Grove High School to serve as director of counseling, before being named athletic director of Rolling Meadows High School when it opened in 1971.

Ken Grams, who was among the opening faculty and coaching staff at Elk Grove, remembers O'Driscoll as a "kind, pleasant and upbeat" administrator, and one who kept a level head despite any sudden emergencies.

As a visiting coach at Rolling Meadows High School, Grams added that O'Driscoll was a fixture on the athletic fields, attending nearly every game.

"He really helped establish the identity of that place," Grams added.

O'Driscoll stayed at Rolling Meadows until 1984, when he was named the second principal of Hersey High School. He replaced the immensely popular founding principal, Roland Goins, but Hersey colleagues say O'Driscoll immediately won over parents, students and staff.


"Tom's personality, ability to listen, and sense of fairness were qualities that allowed him to not only calm the staff at a tumultuous time, but to move the school forward," said John Novak, assistant principal for student activities.

Under O'Driscoll's leadership, the school earned national recognition as a Blue Ribbon School of Excellence from the U.S. Department of Education, and even drew a visit from its namesake author, John Hersey.

He was preceded in death by his son, Thomas, and is survived by his wife, Janet, and children John (Julie) O'Driscoll and Marti (James) Heagney, as well as five grandchildren.

Visitation will take place from 4-8 p.m. Wednesday, at Smith Corcoran Funeral Home, 185 E. Northwest Highway, in Palatine. A funeral Mass will take place at 10 a.m. Thursday, at St. Thomas of Villanova Church, 120 1 E. Anderson Drive, in Palatine.

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