UPPER DUBLIN >> After 43 years as a guidance counselor at Upper Dublin High School, John “Jack” Fuery still loves helping students choose a future path. Having impacted the lives of thousands of students, he will be recognized May 16 with the Upper Dublin Medal for Outstanding Educator.
The medal came as “a complete surprise,” said Fuery, whose “favorite part of the job is seeing seniors graduate and realize their goals and dreams.”
One nominator, who had four children go through the UD schools, said, “There is not one educator I’ve encountered who is more dedicated to the success of his students. His knowledge base and expertise in advising college-bound students where their best fit would be is extraordinary.”
“My three sons had totally different needs with regards to their college education and career path, and Jack worked incredibly well to steer them in the right direction,” another wrote.
A former student agreed, “Mr. Fuery does not only want his students to be successful in school, but more importantly, he wants them to be successful throughout their lives. He’s been one of the most memorable mentors in my life, 25 years after graduation.”
With a degree in history and secondary education and a master’s in guidance, Fuery has spent all but one year of his career in Upper Dublin.
A mid-distance runner in his day — placing second at the state level — Fuery was asked by the athletic director at the high school to start a girls’ track program his first year.
“I started spring track in 1975, cross country in the fall of 1975 and added winter track maybe a year later,” Fuery said. “We competed in the old Suburban One league as one of the smallest schools in what was the largest league at the time. Fortunately, we were pretty good, got off to good start, and things got better after that.”
By the second year, the team won the league championship and in 1979 the state championship, he said.
The track programs produced two-time Olympic medalist Kim Gallagher, one state championship team, three second-place state teams, one district title and more than 20 Suburban One team titles.
“We had three national records and seven state records throughout several years,” Fuery said.
A crowning achievement came in 1982 when the 4-by-800-meter relay team set a national record of 8:58.43, which held for 33 years, he said.
“It was an achievement many were trying to accomplish,” Fuery said. “People would get close; we made it.
“These young ladies,” who ran on a cinder track, “were pioneers. They set the standard for kids to follow,” he said. “Kim’s talent was obvious from the beginning. She set the gold standard.”
The current all-weather track, thanks to a large donation by resident Harvey Gitlin, whose daughters had Fuery as a guidance counselor, bears Fuery’s name.
“I couldn’t thank him enough for thinking of me,” Fuery said.
Five of his track athletes are in the Upper Dublin Athletic Hall of Fame, and Fuery, himself, was inducted into the hall for coaching.
Fuery has seen a lot of changes during his career, in both the township — lots of open space when he started — as well as his job, he said
Initially a counselor for the now Eastern Center for Arts & Technology, “we had a strong population that attended Eastern,” Fuery said. “Now we seem to send 96 percent to higher education, and mental health has come into play quite a bit.
“Career guidance plays a big role,” he said, noting he works with students “to have a plan for after graduation — college, employment, trade or technical school or the military.”
The focus on mental health is “to help one another, to come get help and guidance and not to sit with problems that would go unattended — to seek help. More students are willing to do that now,” Fuery said.
The biggest change has been the implementation of technology, he said. It cuts down on the time it takes to send out college applications and transcripts, and students can do career and personality inventories right on the computer, he said.
“A big question today is affordability,” Fuery said. He tries to help students obtain financial aid, but “I think it is a problem today that schools are so expensive.”
A resident of the township since 1976, he and his wife, Hope, have a daughter, Kristen, and son, Michael, who went through the township schools.
As to any thoughts of retirement, Fuery said, “I enjoy what I do, so I haven’t thought about that.”
The 34th annual Upper Dublin Medals Reception & Ceremony will be held May 16 at Manufacturers’ Golf & Country Club. A cocktail reception will begin at 6 p.m., and the awards ceremony will start at 7:30 p.m. For more information, visit fwbaonline.com.