PORTLAND, Ore. — Dennis Essary, a former president of the National Association for Pupil Transportation (NAPT), will be remembered by the pupil transportation community for his common sense, passion, dedication, perseverance, warmth and knowledge.
Essary died at around 10 p.m. on June 27 when his motorcycle crashed on a highway in Portland. Police were uncertain why the crash occurred, but said Essary might have been trying to avoid road debris when he lost control of his motorcycle. He was 54.
“The school transportation industry will greatly miss Dennis’ expertise and abilities, and I will gravely miss his friendship,” said Jerry Milliken, who recently retired as facilities and services director at Roane County (W.Va.) Schools. “I had the pleasure of working with Dennis as a member of the NAPT Board of Directors. He would always greet you with a smile and pleasantry regardless of the situation or task at hand.”
“Dennis was keenly devoted to the NAPT family and intensely committed to providing the greatest educational opportunities to members of the NAPT,” said Bob Pape, past president of the NAPT and transportation director at Lawrence (N.Y.) Public Schools. “His service on the Professional Growth Committee became the catalyst for what is now the NAPT Training Program, which will be a legacy to his dedication to education.”
Lucy Harding, who served with Dennis on the NAPT board during the mid-1990s, said she spoke with him by phone shortly before his death. “He was his usual witty, joke-cracking self,” said Harding, transportation coordinator at Valley View School District in Romeoville, Ill. “We spoke of everyday things in our lives. He was on top of the world, working hard, proud and a boastful grandpa.”
At the time of his death, Essary was director of transportation services at Beaverton (Ore.) School District, where he had worked since 1997. Prior to his tenure in Beaverton, Essary was a vice president at School Bus Services in Gresham, Ore. He left shortly after the contractor was acquired by First Student Inc., then called Ryder Student Transportation Services.
Essary, a Vietnam war veteran, was a member of the NAPT for more than 20 years and served as president in 1995-96. He also served as president of the Oregon Pupil Transportation Association and the Missouri Association for Pupil Transportation.
His work history also included several years as transportation director of the North Kansas City (Mo.) School District. Shirley Francis, transportation director of the Special School District of St. Louis County (Mo.), said the Missouri Association for Pupil Transportation will establish a memorial to Essary next year. “His dedication was inspiring, and he was a great role model who shared his passion for training and for the school bus safety competition,” Francis said.
“I will miss him immensely,” said Deborah Lincoln, state pupil transportation director in Oregon. “He was a very good friend, and I learned so much from him. Dennis was so kind and was so interested in other people; I don’t believe I ever heard him say an unkind word about anyone. He was always making gifts and giving of himself.”
Essary is survived by his wife, Pauline; two sons, Bryan and Mathew; mother, Mary Ann; brothers, Ron and Gerald; sisters, Debra Painter and Julian Leigh; and two grandchildren.
For NAPT Executive Director Mike Martin’s personal reflections on Essary’s passing, see Industry Forum.
Laidlaw CEO to step down
NAPERVILLE, Ill. — John Grainger, president and CEO of Laidlaw Education Services, will leave the company on Aug. 31. Grainger has spent the past 13 years with Laidlaw, most recently as the head of its contract bus operations.
Grainger also served as president and CEO of Laidlaw Inc., the parent of Laidlaw’s bus divisions, from January 2000 until September 2002. “He carried the reins through some challenging years and was a stabilizing force in a potentially unstable environment,” said Kevin Benson, president and CEO of Laidlaw International.
Grainger will be replaced by Hugh MacDiarmid, whose business experience includes six years as executive vice president at Canadian Pacific Railways and eight years as a principal of McKinsey and Co. “His background in the transportation industry combined with his analytical experience gained in his consulting days are exactly what Laidlaw needs as we re-emphasize our core competencies as an engine for future growth,” Benson said.