His Life’s Work Continues
In December 2011, I received a call from Carolyn Root. It was a typical call for me: Mrs. Root was calling to inform us that her husband had passed away recently, and his trust included a gift to Ohio State. Over the next several months, I worked with Carolyn and her son-in-law, Tony Lush, to administer the gift. I came to know them well, which is not amazing. What is amazing is that I also came to know a man of remarkable integrity and dedication – the man was Darrell Root, Carolyn’s late husband. Even though I will never meet him face to face, I have had the privilege of learning about someone whose entire life reflected a deep commitment to people – especially children and those who teach them.
Dr. Root’s calling to education came early, as a teenager in Trenton, Ohio. He earned a Bachelor’s degree in education from Miami University in 1950 and his Master’s and PhD from Ohio State later on. Other than a brief term of service in Military Intelligence during the Korean Conflict, Dr. Root spent the next 60 years in establishing standards of excellence inside and outside the classroom.
Here is a sampling of his career accomplishments:
- He was a math teacher, coach, principal and district superintendent.
- He was project manager of the Ohio State Evaluation Center – the first of its kind in this country
- With David Basarob of Motorola, he literally wrote the book on evaluating the effectiveness of corporate training programs
- In his classes at the University of Dayton, Professor Root challenged every student to reach higher and further than ever before.
- He never stopped thinking of ways to improve the professional development of school teachers – even contributing to establishing standards for evaluating e-learning programs as education moved into a new, modern phase.
There was one reason why he had such drive that resulted in a distinguished career – he loved children. Dr. Root believed at the very core of his being that every child deserved to have not just an education – but a good education. He wanted every teacher that entered his classroom at UD to leave it a better quality teacher; one that would return to his or her school with an undeniable focus on each student as an individual. He taught by example – giving each student exactly what he or she needed so they could in turn do that with their own students.
Despite the many, many professional accomplishments he achieved, Dr. Root was a humble, self-effacing and modest person. Many of his closest acquaintances had no idea what a leader he was in his field. They simply knew a wonderfully bright, cheerful and kind man who cherished his close connections with others.
Dr. Root also valued family – he did not marry until late in life. Carolyn always joked that Darrell married her for her grandchildren. He was as warm, caring and supportive with her family as if they had been his all along. They spent time on vacations in Florida and in beautiful Jackson, Wyoming. He loved a party, and the family told me of the joyful times they shared over the 22 years they knew him.
Without a doubt, every one that met Dr. Root knew that he was a Buckeye – he said that Ohio State had given him the tools and opportunities to pursue his life calling, and he was grateful for that. He saw it as an imperative that other educators be given the same opportunities he had so that leaders in education could continue to have influence and relevance into the future. That is why he and his wife, Carolyn established the Darrell K. and Carolyn R. Root Endowed Scholarship. Dr. and Mrs. Root gave not only during his lifetime. Because they knew that a gap may exist at his passing, they made estate gift arrangements in the trust I mentioned earlier. Ohio State and Miami University both received gifts, and many more inspired teachers and administrators will be changing education for the better in perpetuity.
Ralph Waldo Emerson defined success this way –
“ To laugh often and much- To win the respect of intelligent people and the affection of children – to earn the appreciation of honest critics – to appreciate beauty – to find the best in others. To leave the world a bit better, whether by a healthy child, a garden patch or a redeemed social condition – to know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived – this is to have succeeded.”
Darrell Root was a truly successful man. While he was not a wealthy man, he gave us many gifts – the gift of laughter, of family, of friendship, and especially the gift of learning. However, the ultimate gift he gave to us at Ohio State was the privilege of continuing his life’s work. We are humbled by the honor.
Please share your thoughts:
What is your life’s work? – What do you want to invest in that will outlive you?