A former Medomak Valley High School principal who left a lasting impact on his students is being remembered for his commitment and dedication to his school and his community.
Ronald Dolloff, 79, of Waldoboro, served with distinction as principal from 1970 until his retirement in 1994. He passed away on the afternoon of Wednesday, Jan. 27, following a six-month battle with metastatic lung cancer.
Prior to his time as principal he was a math teacher at Waldoboro High School from 1958 to 1968 and Medomak Valley High School from 1969 to 1970.
Dolloff was born on a dairy farm in Gray and graduated high school with honors from the Pennell Institute in Gray in 1954.
He would go on to receive a bachelor’s degree in mathematics from Bates College in Lewiston in 1958. He married Lillian Maureen Brown, of Gardiner, and moved to Waldoboro the same year.
Dolloff earned his master’s degree in education from the University of Maine at Orono in 1966.
Dolloff’s mark on Medomak is readily apparent to those attending concerts or functions in the auditorium bearing his name, an honor bestowed upon Dolloff following his retirement from the school in 1994.
An accomplished piano player, Dolloff was integral to the success of the school’s performing arts program during his time as a school administrator.
Rick Ash, a current visual and performing arts teacher at Camden Hills Regional High School, put on more than 100 shows in his 19 years teaching theater and film at Medomak Valley with Dolloff’s guidance and support as principal.
“He was completely devoted. Whatever we needed to do in production, he allowed us to do it. We had a lot of fun and the kids loved him,” Ash said.
Ash said Dolloff was a hands-on administrator who earned the respect of his colleagues at the school.
“He was a very special person that everyone looked up to,” Ash said.
Ash said the impact Dolloff had on his career as a young educator influenced his career path.
“He gave of himself so generously. It was a very special time to be around him for me as a young teacher at the beginning of my career,” Ash said.
Dennis Wooster, of Warren, an educator who taught at Medomak Valley for more than 20 years during Dolloff’s tenure, also reflected fondly on his time working with the school’s former principal.
Wooster first met Dolloff when he was still in college, student teaching at Medomak in his senior year.
After the completion of his time as a student teacher, Wooster received a full-time teaching position and was elected president of the Medomak Valley Education Association, a position in which he worked closely with the longtime principal.
“He certainly will be missed. He was a fantastic guy who loved what he did. He was a class act,” Wooster said.
Wooster said Dolloff was always willing to work through problems.
He said he never came close to filing a grievance in his nearly 20 years as president of the education association.
“Everyone had a great deal of admiration and respect for him,” Wooster said.
Wooster also attributed his involvement with a number of after-school and extracurricular activities with Dolloff’s insistence on creating a culture of community.
“If he came to you and asked you to do something, you did it. That’s the kind of man he was. You wanted to make him feel good and proud,” Wooster said.
Wooster said Dolloff’s commitment to the district became increasingly apparent as he gained experience in his role as principal and assembled a hardworking and committed staff.
“During the decade of the 1980s, Medomak Valley High School, in my opinion, was the best high school in the state of Maine,” Wooster said.
Jean Lawrence, of Waldoboro, taught for more than 20 years at Medomak and served as chair of the language-arts department during Dolloff’s time as principal.
Lawrence worked with Dolloff for 27 years, from 1971 to 1994, and described him not only as a colleague but as a friend.
“I can honestly say he was an excellent administrator. He always had the interests of the students at heart and was very supportive of staff,” Lawrence said.
Lawrence said his commitment to students and staff was impressive.
She said he worked very hard to ensure students got the most out of their education, pushing many youths to graduate.
“He never gave up on kids and never gave up on teachers. He would go as far as he could go for students to keep them in school. He, I, and the other department heads helped to see a good many students march across the stage at graduation,” Lawrence said.
She also said he was inspirational as a leader, helping students and staff through troubled times, while also celebrating their success.
Lawrence described him as active in a number of extracurricular activities.
“He attended so many events. He was an excellent leader. We all looked up to him and all of us are devastated by his passing,” Lawrence said.
Lawrence also worked with Dolloff outside the school, serving as financial secretary for the Waldoboro United Methodist Church while Dolloff was chair of the church’s finance committee. He was also the church organist for more than 40 years.
“Whatever he took on as a job, whether in church or at school, he followed through to the end,” Lawrence said.
She recalled Christmas Eve 2015 as a special night at the church, when Dolloff combined with organist Paul Smeltzer to provide the music.
“We all will never forget this last Christmas Eve service. (Dolloff) made it very special for all of us,” Lawrence said.
She said after the service, Dolloff’s friends and family gathered around for photographs.
“Everyone who was there that night who was connected to him all gathered around and he was right at the center of it. There just were smiles on everyone’s faces,” Lawrence said.
In contrast with many of his colleagues, Neil Lash’s first encounter with Dolloff was not as a teacher but as a student in Dolloff’s math class, in the future principal’s first year as a teacher at Waldoboro High School in 1958.
Lash, an educator who has been teaching for 52 years and is director of Medomak’s horticulture program, has been working at Medomak since 1980.
“I have always had the utmost respect for him. He was a very special person in my life,” Lash said.
Lash said the former principal played a big role in helping him find his career path and stick with it for so long.
“When I was a student in high school, I had no idea what I wanted to do. (Dolloff) was one of the three teachers who were most instrumental in my going to college,” Lash said.
Lash said he and John Thurston launched the school’s horticulture program in 1990 and Dolloff was key in transforming the program from an industrial-arts setting to a science elective.
“His ideas continue to permeate here today,” Lash said.
Lash said Dolloff’s importance to the school and community cannot be overstated.
“His impact was immense here at the school and certainly upon me personally,” Lash said.
Outside of the school, Dolloff kept active in the Waldoboro community throughout his time in the area.
He was a selectman from 1962 to 1965, acting town manager in 1967, a member of the Waldoboro Budget Committee for nine years, and a chairman of the Waldoboro Democratic Committee.
Dolloff, whose parents were committed grangers, joined the Deering Juvenile Grange at the age of 5 and the grange at the age of 14.
In 2015 he was recognized for his lifelong service to the Grange with a special tribute attended by Maine State Grange Master Victoria Huff at the Meenahga Grange in Waldoboro.
Dolloff is survived by his wife of almost 58 years, Lillian Maureen Dolloff; three children; 10 grandchildren; and six great-grandchildren.
Visiting hours for Dolloff were held Sunday, Jan. 31, at the Ronald E. Dolloff Auditorium at Medomak Valley High School, 320 Manktown Rd., Waldoboro.
A celebration of life followed and then a reception in the school’s cafeteria hosted by the Skowhegan Federated Church Women’s Fellowship and members of the Waldoboro United Methodist Church.
In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to the Ronald E. Dolloff Auditorium Fund.
Dolloff impacted the lives of the area’s students and residents for decades and did it in a way unique to himself.
“He really was the wind beneath our wings. Whether it was at school or church or at the grange,” Lawrence said.
“They just don’t make them like him anymore,” Ash said.