Longtime Greater Egg Harbor Regional High School District Board of Education President John Houck, who retired from his position at the end of December, is credited with many great achievements in the local school system.
But mainly, the 67-year-old Mays Landing resident wants to be remembered for respecting the broad spectrum that makes up the student population in the three high schools served by the GEHR School District.
"Whether the student was college bound or trade-school bound, whether they were scholars, athletes, performing arts or service oriented, I always strove to make sure we provided them the best education possible to give them a good start in life," Houck stated.
Houck was elected to the Board of Education in 1995 and has served continuously for the last 18 years, the last nine as president. The Greater Egg Harbor Regional High School District includes Oakcrest High School in Mays Landing, Absegami High School in Galloway Township and Cedar Creek High School in Egg Harbor City.
He decided not to seek reelection when his term expired at the end of 2013.
Houck was honored at the Dec. 16 Board of Education meeting held at the board offices in Absegami High School.
He was presented with a plaque commending his dedicated service to the district.
"John Houck's actions as a longtime board of education member and board president consistently demonstrated he cared deeply about students," GEHR District Superintendent Steven Ciccariello said.
"He will always be remembered for his professionalism, dedication and commitment to the students, staff and communities served by the Greater Egg Harbor Regional High School District," Ciccariello said.
Houck also received praise from his fellow board members as well as Greater Egg Harbor Regional Education Association President Stephanie Tarr, Oakcrest Principal Daniel Money, Absegami Principal Jeri-Lynn Gatto, and Cedar Creek Principal James Reina. A special cake was presented to him from student representatives of the district, Oakcrest Student Council President Molly Huber, Absegami junior and girls soccer player Kelcie Dolan, and Cedar Creek National Honor Society President Malcolm-Ali Davis.
"I'm very proud of the accomplishments of the school district. Between the three schools, we can boast that we offer more than 100 different clubs, activities and sports for students," Houck reflected afterward.
He said he considers the opening of Cedar Creek High School in 2009 one of the board's proudest accomplishments.
"There are so many memories, so many high points, as well as some not so high," joked Houck. "But through it all we had the best interests of all the students in mind. We've done well."
What does the future hold for him now?
"I really don't know," he said one recent evening from his home. "I've been active in many things. I do like to keep busy."
Houck worked for almost 39 years at South Jersey Gas, retiring eight years ago from his position as general manager of Eastern Region operations.
"In all the different things I retired from, it was always a matter of being effective," he explained.
Houck said he is ready to rest after a varied public service career that had him out of the house three or four nights per week year-round.
Houck joined the Mays Landing Volunteer Fire Department when he was 21 years old and has been involved in public service in one form or another ever since.
In the fire department, he rose to the rank of fire chief and served in that capacity for 13 years.
His record includes 12 years on the Hamilton Township Municipal Utilities Authority, including serving as vice chair; six years on the Hamilton Township Committee, serving one year as mayor; and 11 years on the Hamilton Township Board of Education before joining the GEHR board.
An avid golfer, Houck said he is looking forward to reconnecting with hobbies he used to have the time to enjoy and plans to visit his favorite place, the golf course, often.
"I want to ease the pace a bit, have things a little less hectic," Houck said. "My wife has been very patient all these years."
Although they own a winter home in Myrtle Beach, Houck said the couple has no plans to leave Mays Landing, where they have lived for the past 46 years.
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