By Jen Bakken
DELANO, MN For 20 years, Ted May had the greatest job in the world.
Walking the halls as the principal of Delano High School was exactly where he always wanted to be. For him, Delano felt like home the day he arrived in 1982.
Along with his position as principal came the beginning of his involvement with the Delano Loretto Area United Way. First, as the school representative, and eventually serving as president, May has been dedicated to the Delano Loretto Area United Way for 26 years.
In fact, “dedicated,” is one of many words that could be used to describe him.
Whether it be through the school, the Delano Senior Center, the United Way, or the number of other organizations May has been involved in, he is clearly dedicated to the Delano community.
With this in mind, the General Federated Women’s Club has announced May as its Delano 2009 citizen of the year.
“The senior center feels so lucky and grateful that Ted May chose the center to volunteer at after his retirement and share with the senior citizens his many talents,” said Gail Sinkel, Delano Senior Center director. “He has a spoken gift that brings out the best in people that he is with. He is respectful and sincere and has a great sense of humor. He is definitely deserving of the title of Delano’s citizen of the year.”
Though his leadership skills, volunteerism, and sheer dedication have earned this recognition, May is admittedly humbled by the honor.
“This award is not given to me, it is certainly given to a whole lot of people,” May said. “It’s a collective effort that brings about positive results in a community, and I’m just very lucky to have had an invitation and an opportunity to participate in the life of Delano.”
Becoming part of the heart of the community through his work has been a dream come true for this well-dressed man who strives to always put his best foot forward.
As a young boy growing up in Hutchinson, May loved school. He would happily arrive early, and stay late to clean the blackboard erasers, water plants, or stack books for his teachers, an early sign of his devoted volunteerism.
Even then, he knew he wanted to be a teacher, and he had many, including his aunts, who inspired him along the way.
During his years at Delano High School, he always considered it a pleasure to walk into the building and to work with and be a part of the mission.
“He cared for every student; he was always in their corner, always there for any need,” said Jeanie Pilarski. “He was the fan of his students, very caring. As a staff person under him, he recognized all his staff for what we were doing. He always appreciated anything we did and he told us so.”
After retiring from his principal position in 2002, May remembers those days his as the proudest, happiest days of his life. May has continued to be a strong part of the community he loves.
“I was employed by the people of this school district. I had a contract with them, really,” he said. “To be supportive of their growth, not just their learning in classrooms, but of their overall growth. I really see it as an obligation to use whatever talents I might have to help our city continue to grow.”
Aside from his involvement with the Delano Loretto United Way and dedication to the Delano Senior Center, May has an impressive and extensive list of accomplishments.
From being one of the founders of Delano Area Dollars for Scholars to sharing his talents with organizations such as the Delano Public Safety Commission, Delano Solid Waste Board, Delano American Field Service Chapter, the Delano Writers Group, the Delano Fourth of July Committee, and Delano Royalty Organization, to being an area election judge, he has been, and continues to be, a pillar of the community.
“I think that involvement in the community really is a teaching, learning experience,” he said. “As I think of groups such as the Legion, the auxiliary, bloodmobile, 4-H group, the work of the chamber of commerce, the library, and Love Inc. all of the collaborating that goes on, it’s really good to see it all develop and be a part of it.”
In 2002, May was recognized with the Minneapolis Aquatennial Commodore Award for public service, and his service has extended far past the Delano area through the Minneapolis Urban League Community Promise Board, the Park Square Theatre board of directors, and the African American AIDS Task Force.
“He gives 110 percent he’s just a wonderful individual and a good friend,” said Pilarski. “He comes up with good ideas. I like to follow him because you know things are going to get done. That’s Ted no matter what he’s involved in, he just takes it upon himself, and it’s all going to be right.”
As if volunteerism doesn’t keep him busy enough, he also works as a basic skills tutor for Delano High School and teaches classes at St. Mary’s University parttime, and says it helps keep him intellectually active.
As the Delano 2009 Citizen of the Year, May will be honored at a banquet Saturday, April 4 at the Delano American Legion and tickets will be sold by the General Federated Women’s Club.
Hoping to encourage others to volunteer their time, May said it is easy to make an impact in a small town, and the opportunities are certainly there.
“You never do it alone and you never do it for yourself,” he said. “You’ll always find support, good will, and gratitude in whatever you do. Volunteering I just think it gives purpose.”