Peter Comeau Remembered | Teachers College Columbia University

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Peter Comeau Remembered

On September 27, the TC community received the news that Dr. Peter Comeau, Co-Director of the Principals Leadership Institute, passed away on Sunday morning, September 16. He was 48.

At a memorial service held on October 9th in Comeau's memory, Kate Unger, Director of the First Year Teacher's Institute and a close friend of Comeau's, played flute, sang and shared memories of Peter's life. Others followed with their own remembrances.

Before Comeau came to Teachers College in 1996 as Associate Director in the Center for Educational Outreach and Innovation (CEO&I), he worked for the New York City Board of Education as Director of Career and Occupational Education. His job was to develop advisory boards for the occupational education programs for students from elementary through high school. He also negotiated agreements with the Mayor's office to use high school vocational programs to support the City's economic development plans.

Comeau had originally come to Teachers College in 1988 to pursue an Ed.D. in Education Administration through the Inquiry program. His dissertation, Hearts That Will Use All This To Help Others: Educating Students For Work And Democracy was the result of work he had done in New York City to provide business and job opportunities to disadvantaged workers, businessmen, and young people.

Trustee Thomas Evans spoke of his meeting Comeau before he was part of TC and before his work at the Board of Education. Evans had worked with Comeau on Project Ploughshares, an initiative to bring retiring military personnel into teaching at a time when the military was being rigorously downsized. He also recalled times when Comeau was not afraid to speak out. "It is rare when someone shows such remarkable courage of his convictions to act as he did," Evans remarked. "It is something very few people achieve. We will all be that much better for having known him."

In his work as CEO&I's resource person for community partnerships, Comeau was instrumental in programs such as the Institute for Aspiring Principals, the First Year Teacher Program, and the Federal Policy Institute. He also coordinated conferences on school design and technology. In March 2000, he became Co-Director of the Principals Leadership Institute with Frank Smith and Tom Sobol.

Smith, former Chair of the Department of Educational Administration, remembered Comeau as passionate about equity and democracy, curious, witty, with an entrepreneurial spirit. "He was above all a fine educator."

Some who spoke directed their remarks to Comeau's 11-year-old son, Marco. Rob Steiner, who coordinates the distance learning programs at TC, reminded Marco of the good times that he and his children had spent on outings with Marco and his father. He described Comeau as someone who was truly a warm and caring person.

A touching address to Marco came from TC President Arthur Levine, who talked about how Comeau helped people. "There are a lot of kids who don't go to good schools," Levine said. "He helped them create new schools."

Some of Comeau's relatives also spoke at the service. A trust fund is being established for the college expenses of Comeau's son. Contributions can be made to the Marco Comeau Trust Fund and sent to Tim Freeman at TC Box 306.

Published Monday, May. 20, 2002