Park dedication keeps beloved educator’s lessons alive

Park dedication keeps beloved educator’s lessons alive

A Madison park is keeping the legacy of a renowned local educator alive.

After a dedication ceremony Wednesday afternoon, Madison’s Central Park is now known as McPike Park, named after Milton McPike, a well-loved Madison principal from 1979 to 2002.

He worked at Madison West High School before serving as East High School’s principal for 23 years.

The current East High School band students who played at the ceremony will never meet McPike. He died after a battle with cancer in 2008.

But the thousands of former students whose futures he shaped won’t soon forget him.

“He’s our hero and our inspiration,” said Kathy Revello of the Madison West Class of 1979. “He was one of a kind. The mold was broken and we’ll never forget him. He taught us a lot.”

During McPike’s time at East, he was named Wisconsin’s Principal of the Year and a Reader’s Digest Hero of American Education. In 2002, President George W. Bush named him one of the nation’s top 10 educators.

“He was my idol,” his son, Milt McPike Jr., said, describing his father as “a people person, a kid person, a big teddy bear.”

“He was bigger than life,” McPike Jr. said.” A lot of the things I do and mannerisms I have are because he was there. I guess I get the ‘junior’ for a reason.”

McPike Sr. dedicated his life to children.

“He was a role model to a lot of kids,” his son said. “He was a role model to me.”

Now McPike Jr. is happy to see the former Central Park named after his father as a tribute.

“It’s fantastic. It’s humbling. Quite frankly, it’s shocking. I imagine he’s up there in heaven saying, ‘Jeez, wow they’re doing this for me,” he said. “He didn’t do it for the publicity. He did it because he loved it.”

More than a memorial, McPike Jr. said the park will keep his father’s lessons alive so even generations who have never met him can know his name and character, and that one person can touch so many lives.

“There’s hope. You can do whatever you want to do. You can be whoever you want to be,” he said. “(My father) did something a lot of people haven’t done. He made a difference.”

Mayor Paul Soglin named Wednesday as Milton McPike Day.