Respected former Meriden principal, school board member dies at 74

Respected former Meriden principal, school board member dies at 74

MERIDEN — Board of Education member and longtime Meriden school administrator John D. Lineen Jr. died Wednesday at the age of 74.

Lineen was a widely-respected teacher and administrator in Meriden for almost 40 years, including 27 years as principal of Lincoln Middle School. Lineen, who had been battling cancer, died peacefully while surrounded by family.

School Superintendent Mark Benigni called Lineen’s passing “a big loss to the community.”

“Meriden lost a great leader and great person,” said Benigni, a student at Lincoln in the mid-’80s while Lineen was principal. “John Lineen positively impacted so many lives, and I hope he realizes the impact he had on so many teachers, children, and citizens.”

Lineen was an eighth-grade science teacher at the old Washington Middle School on Pleasant Street before becoming an assistant principal and later principal at Lincoln. He retired from Lincoln in 2007 and won his first term on the Board of Education in November of that year. He went on to serve 12 years on the board. He served as the board’s treasurer and also chaired the board’s finance and school building committees.

Board of Education members said Lineen was known for being a “voice of reason” during deliberations.

“When something needed to be said, John said it,” Board President Mark Hughes said. “John didn’t say something unless it was meaningful, and I respected that a great, great deal.”

“He wasn’t a man who needed to say a lot to get his point across. He was direct, but he was also passionate, dedicated and caring,” said board member Robert E. Kosienski Jr., who called Lineen’s passing a “monumental loss to education in Meriden.”

Lineen was also known for his dedication to the Meriden community. After making the decision to stop undergoing chemotherapy a few months back, Lineen continued to attend board meetings until recently.

“You could tell he was struggling, but he wanted to be there and make his reports and make sure things were going well,” said Hughes, who was a student at Lincoln under Lineen. “He was going to live out his life the way he wanted to and that was serving the community and students he cared about.”

As an administrator, Lineen was known for being a reserved and caring leader who students and staff admired.

“John received respect because he never asked for it. People just naturally looked up to him in part because he gave so freely of himself,” Benigni said.

Hughes recalled Lineen being a compassionate disciplinarian. When the school district went through a period of increasing expulsion rates, Lincoln’s rates remained low because Lineen believed in handling things internally.

“He knew how to get the most out of children but also his staff — he made you want to be better,” Benigni said.

Hughes, who works as a school administrator, said Lineen was “one of the strongest administrators I’ve ever seen.”

“I only hope we can continue to live out the legacy he’s put forward,” Hughes said. “Over 50 years of service, that’s just outstanding.”


Twitter: @MatthewZabierek