Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

A Farewell Fit for the Arts; School Gives Retiring Principal Cornelius a Surprise Send-Off

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

A Farewell Fit for the Arts; School Gives Retiring Principal Cornelius a Surprise Send-Off

Article excerpt

Byline: Charlie Patton

After 47 years in the Duval County Public Schools, the last 20 as principal of the Douglas Anderson School of the Arts, Jackie Cornelius was planning a low key approach to her upcoming retirement.

But members of the faculty and school supporters, who think Cornelius has been a splendid leader of a school they consider a major asset to Jacksonville, weren't about to let her go gentle into that good night.

So when Cornelius entered the DuBow Theatre shortly after 2 p.m. Thursday, she found herself greeted with a standing ovation from students, faculty members and friends. What followed was part tribute to Cornelius and part demonstration of the excellence she has nurtured since joining the school three decades ago as arts director and vice principal.

The program began with a short film in which faculty members praised Cornelius as "fearless," "supportive," "our number one cheerleader," "a dragon at the gates," someone who "sees the big picture and rushes toward it," and "a superb executive and manager of people."

The performances then began, a mixture of jazz, piano, guitar, song, dance, orchestra, theatrical performance and ballet.

Mixed in were several speakers. James Boyd, a 2006 graduate who is now an artist in residence at Jacksonville University, praised the faculty for inspiring him and Cornelius for inspiring them. Deborah Knauer, the chairwoman of the school advisory committee, said that from the moment she met Cornelius in 1993 "I knew she would be a force to reckon with."

Jane Condon, who served as principal from 1986 through 1996 and hired Cornelius in 1988, said, "You've taken this school to the level we dreamed of more than 25 years ago."

Cornelius was given flowers by longtime arts patron Betsy Lovett and a metal sculpture commissioned by faculty members and friends and created by Kue King, who was Ronald Reyes when he attended Douglas Anderson.

After the ceremony ended, Laurie DuBow, for whom the theater is named, told Cornelius, "These children are an expression of you. …

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