As part of the annual Derby Day festivities, Mayor Anthony Staffieri is pleased to announce the selection of five new members to the Derby Hall of Fame. This year’s class includes the “Dean of American Engineering”, two presidents of prominent national Catholic colleges and two men who made Derby’s libraries possible. They are William F. Durand, Rev. John Jordan Dillon, James McKenzie, Col. Holton Wood, and Major Wilbur Fiske Osborne. The five will have their bricks added to the Hall of Fame Plaza on Division Street in time for Derby Day.
Their induction brings to 29 the number of people in the Hall of Fame since it was started in 2007. The Derby Hall of Fame is made up of Derby natives and residents who have helped to shape the course of history through their achievements at the local, state, national or international level. Each of these individuals selected was either born in Derby or lived here at some point in his/her life. Derby is the only town in the Valley to have a Hall of Fame to honor the achievements of those who have lived in the city.
“I am honored and privileged to recognize these Derby citizens who have helped shaped Derby’s unique and special history. They are the very essence of what it means to be a Derbyite.” Said Mayor Staffieri
“The class is bound together by their significant achievements in the education and literacy arenas. For a small city, the city has turned out an incredible number of talented men and women who have gone on to major achievements in their chosen fields, and this year’s class is no exception." Said Jack Walsh, Chair of the Greenway Committee (which selected the Hall of Fame members.)
The class of 2011:
William Durand was a member of the first graduating class from Birmingham High School (now Derby High!) back in 1877. He attended the Naval Academy at Annapolis and received a PH. D. from Lafayette College. He went on to teach at Michigan State, Cornell and Stanford (where the aeronautical engineering building is named after him!). His extraordinary work in the field of Aerodynamic Theory earned him many honors including the Guggenheim Medal, and he was known nationwide as the “Dean of American Engineering”.
Rev. John Jordan Dillon was a graduate of Derby’s Franklin School and Derby High School. He served in the U.S. Navy on a submarine tender during WWI before becoming a member of the second class ever at Providence College. He later served as a philosophy professor and assistant dean at Providence. In September, 1936 he became the first alumnus president of the College.
James McKenzie was another Franklin School student who went on to head a major Catholic University in America. After Franklin School, he attended a boarding school in Maryland run by the Brothers of Christian Schools. He went on to Columbia and Manhattan College and did post graduate work at Columbia and Harvard. He pursued a teaching career and taught at a variety of Christian Brothers schools before becoming president of Manhattan in 1932, a position he held until 1938.
Major Wilbur Fiske Osborne was also a prominent business leader in the Valley. He is best known for his work in helping to establish the city’s oldest library, the Derby Neck Library. When a small mission school in that area of town closed, he and others formed a “circulating library” with the books from the shuttered school. He was responsible for the effort that eventually led to one of the many grants that philanthropist Andrew Carnegie made for the establishment of libraries all over the world. Though he did not live to see the new building open, you can still see his name adorned on the frieze on the front of the library.
Col. Holton Wood came to Derby in 1887 and made his mark on the local business community where he eventually headed up the Derby Street Railway Company, the first electric railway in New England. He also served on many corporate boards and represented Derby in the Connecticut legislature. In response to the tragic death of his son, Harcourt, at the age of 11, he made a memorial gift of a public library to the City along with an additional gift for the purchase of books to fill the library which opened to the public on Feb. 13, 1903.