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Dahlia Repole - Extraordinary educator

Published:Sunday | February 10, 2013 | 12:00 AM

Daviot Kelly, Gleaner Staff Reporter

Former principal of St Andrew High School for Girls and, more recently, Excelsior Community College, Dr Dahlia Repole, was remembered at a thanksgiving service last Friday as mourners paid tribute to an outstanding educator.

Repole died last month after a valiant struggle with pancreatic cancer.

Spotting an empty seat inside the St Andrew Parish Church was like finding a rare diamond as tributes were presented in word, song, and dance.

Friend and colleague Yvette Boothe-Smith said Repole had a knack for making any situation look better than it was.

Boothe-Smith remembered that "this too shall pass" was whispered to many a loved one, friend, and student with "what seemed like the most comforting arm on the planet" placed around a shoulder by Repole.

According to Boothe-Smith, during her time in the hospital, Repole was actively keeping in touch through BlackBerry Messenger and What's App, while indulging in "a little ice cream".

"Dahlia was a pioneer, a champion, a star," said Boothe-Smith.

"She was a Pepsi-loving, crab-eating, world-travelling; devout daughter, sister, mother, and educator."

Making her diagnosis public in March 2010, Repole had said that people needed to be more aware of the risk factors associated with pancreatic cancer.

Repole worked in the field of education for more than 40 years. She served as principal at St Andrew High for 12 years and at Excelsior Community College for nine years.

Current principal of St Andrew High, Sharon Reid, noted that Repole first wanted to teach while she was a sixth form student at the school.

Reid lauded Repole's interventions that helped to improve overall student performance at the all-girls school.

"Under Dr Repole's leadership, St Andrew High benefited from her creative vision, her incomparable administrative skills, and her attention to detail," said Reid.

She noted that Repole was still the only past student of the institution to become its principal.

Repole was recognised at the highest levels for her contribution to education, both locally, with the Order of Distinction - Commander Class (CD), and overseas, with the Pioneer award for work in community colleges from the Community Colleges Baccalaureate Association in the United States.

In a 2010 citation on her retirement, Excelsior Community College lauded her for her enthusiasm and passion for excellence, her concern and positive action for the less privileged, and her outstanding vision and leadership, strategic thinking, and commercial acumen.

At the thanksgiving service Morin Seymour, chairman of the community college, said Repole was always unflustered and strove to bring out the best in the people with whom she worked.

"Dahlia Repole never set a task that she herself was never prepared to tackle," he said.

Repole served on the boards of numerous charitable organisations and gave courageous and dedicated service to her country, including in her capacity as a justice of the peace.