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Introducing The Henderson School, remembering Patrick O'Hearn

There was a rather remarkable event held in one of Dorchester’s public school buildings this week. An assembly of students, teachers, parents, and public officeholders gathered at the Patrick O’Hearn School on Dorchester Ave. to mark the retirement of its longtime principal, Dr. William Henderson.

Now the retirement of a 59-year-old educator is not in itself an unusual event, but this one marks the completion of Principal Henderson’s 20-year span as leader of a school that has become a model for diversity, inclusion, and achievement. And it was at the event that the Boston School Committee announced a name change for the O’Hearn: henceforth, it will be known as the William W. Henderson Inclusion Elementary School.

The site at the corner of Dot Ave and Centre Street once showcased the Elbridge Smith Elementary School, which was demolished in 1957 to make way for a modern one-story structure built around an interior courtyard. The new school was named to honor the late Patrick O’Hearn, a former city building commissioner and the founder of the Massachusetts Cooperative Bank in Fields Corner.

Now, 52 years later, the school has a new name and takes on a new life in honor of a contemporary educator who has been a trailblazer in the city’s public schools.

A jubilant Neil Sullivan of Dorchester, whose four children benefited from Dr. Henderson’s tutelage, said in an interview this week that “the William W. Henderson Inclusion Elementary School was actually founded in 1989, but it took us 20 years to get around to changing the name.”

But Patrick O’Hearn’s name will not be lost, as the committee chose to place a commemorative plaque in the foyer of the school that reads:

Welcome to the Patrick O’Hearn Foyer

“Coming to Boston as a young man without friends or influence, he rose to prominence in business and public life by his industry, his honesty, and his conspicuous ability.

As builder, banker, and building commissioner of the City of Boston, he devoted himself to the welfare of his city and its people with such fidelity and integrity as to merit universal respect and honor. Truly a citizen of rare value, he set a lasting example for all who would live by the ideals of service to God, country and fellowman.”

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