Jerry W. Lybrand grew up in Redfield and graduated from White Hall High School in 1960.
His life became fodder for a “local boy makes good” story, as he retired 39 years later as one of the White Hall School District’s most respected and beloved superintendents. In his 33-year education career in the district, he developed a reputation for devising easily workable solutions to potential problems and helping to enable a number of milestone achievements.
In the process, he utilized an uncommon ability to calm rising storms and boost the morale and confidence of students and his fellow teachers and administrators.
“He was a one-of-a-kind guy,” WHHS Principal Doug Dorris said of Lybrand, who died Tuesday at the age of 71. “He encouraged everyone and lifted their spirits. I consider myself very fortunate to have been one of his students and to have worked for him.
“He was one of my biggest influences,” Dorris said. “He’s been a part of my life since I was 15 and he was my (White Hall Junior High School) football coach. He was like a father figure to everyone. If you knew him, you admired him, and you never wanted to disappoint him.”
WHSD Assistant Superintendent Bill Mitchell — hired by Lybrand and then-Superintendent Julius Brown nearly 40 years ago — said Lybrand possessed unusual positive influence.
“Everything he dealt with brought success to the district,” Mitchell said. “He impressed me from the first day I met him, and I credit him in part for my career. He was an ultra-successful administrator and mentor. He was a truly fine man, and I can’t say enough good about him.”
Twenty-year White Hall School Board member Raymond Jones said the district made a number of advancements under Lybrand, who was superintendent from 1991-98.
“He really brought our district forward,” Jones said. “He put us on the road in technology, and he was instrumental in our building program.”
Jones said that if the district needed information on a technology matter, Lybrand would determine where a meeting on the particular subject was scheduled. Lybrand would attend and obtain details on what the district needed to do to add the feature to its offerings.
Jones also praised Lybrand on his decision making.
“Whatever actions he took on an issue were always equitable to all involved,” Jones said, noting that Lybrand was sensitive to all sides in a situation and always just in bringing about resolution.
Lybrand’s skills as a communicator contributed to his proud legacy as the district’s chief executive.
Jones said that for several years, the district operated on annual deficits of up to $400,000 because of problems within figuring on state education funding. Lybrand teamed with longtime White Hall state legislator Jay Bradford in engineering a cure to the woe, and Bradford put his ability to work in garnering legislative approval for revisions that resulted in WHSD becoming financially secure.
But even when the district was scrapping for money, Lybrand would often come up with means of providing salary increases for employees. Jones said some teachers had previously gone without raises several years, so they naturally appreciated Lybrand’s financial wizardry.
Dorris said Lybrand offered a perfect illustration of the premise that actions are just as important as words.
“He inspired me by his actions to become a football coach,” said Dorris, who wound up serving in the post for more than 20 years.
Dorris said Lybrand had a habit of pushing his co-workers to continue their educations.
Education was also a priority within Lybrand’s family. His wife, Glenda Burton Lybrand, retired as a longtime WHSD counselor. The couple’s daughter, Carol Lybrand Taylor, is an elementary teacher in the district.
Jones said he’ll remember Lybrand for his loyalty and devotion to the district.
“He cared about the White Hall School District,” Jones said. “His heart was in this district.”
Funeral services are scheduled for 2 p.m. Saturday at Bethany Missionary Baptist Church. Burial will be at White Hall United Methodist Cemetery by Ralph Robinson and Son Funeral Directors.