On Feb. 2, 2021, through an email sent out by superintendent Jim Sutfin, the Millard staff was informed that longtime superintendent Dr. Don Stroh had peacefully passed away with his wife by his side.
Stroh is remembered for his powerful impact on the Millard school district. In turning Millard from a Class D district to a Class A district, he transformed a school system that students and teachers alike are drawn to.
“When I started as a rookie teacher in 1986, I was proud of the fact that I had gained a job with Millard Public Schools,” Latin teacher Julia Kolander said. “It was due to Dr. Stroh’s leadership in the early years of Millard that we have become a powerhouse school district; one that people seek out when moving into and around Omaha.”
Staff members have appreciated Stroh greatly during and after his tenure. It was not only his work that made him a respectable man, but his personality as well.
“He was an honest man that let me do my job. I appreciate the opportunity he gave me,” football coach Fred Petito said. “When you would accomplish something substantial, Dr. Stroh would give you a call or just drop by, always a personal touch.”
Along with managing the expansion of the Millard school district, Stroh always made sure to connect personally with teachers and students. He was said to be an easygoing and approachable listener.
“On several occasions I could (as a student) knock on his office door and we would talk about school,” physics teacher Walter Mertz said. “I did not need an appointment, he always wanted to know how things were with the students.”
Stroh’s admiration and dedication towards Millard did not stop when he retired. He has visited schools in Millard even after moving outside of Nebraska, and he has supported and advocated the school system for years.
“Dr. Stroh loved Millard and remained proud of our school district, writing supportive guest editorials in the Omaha World Herald to advocate for our public school system, as well as for passage of bond issues, and the levy override even until the last few years,” principal Brian Begley said.
At the start of Stroh’s service for Millard, when there were only 135 students, he taught geography, coached sports, and was the district bookkeeper. By the time he retired, the district grew to 15,722 students spanning 23 different schools.
“Dr. Stroh definitely steered the ship and pointed it in the right direction,” Mertz said. “Somehow, he was able to move the district from one or two buildings to many schools.”
The legacy Stroh left behind is one that is highly respected and valued by the Millard staff. From expanding the district to hiring quality educators to building a strong community, his service to Millard has impacted thousands.
“If not for [Dr. Stroh’s] hard work and vision, MPS would likely not be what it is today: the third largest school district in Nebraska behind Omaha Public Schools and Lincoln Public Schools with a reputation as a district with very high-achieving students and highly successful programs and teams,” Begley said.
Stroh moved to Arizona several years ago with his wife. However, he still remained proud and dedicated to Millard, and the district’s administrative office is named after him.
“Dr. Stroh truly has left an indelible mark on the students and staff of our Millard community due to his vision, dedication, and integrity,” Begley said.
For 34 years, Stroh managed the growth of the Millard school district through the building of schools and the exponential growth of enrollment. The district that once educated less than 200 students now has thousands involved in activities, teams, and programs. Through his community service, decades of administrative work, and personable qualities, it is clear that Stroh has left the legacy of a lifetime.