Renaissance man – A man who has broad intellectual interests and is accomplished in areas of both science and arts.
Have you heard the term, Renaissance man? As advocates of education, Madonna & Clereen truly hope that you were not ruminating over the 1994 comedy/movie of the same name by Penny Marshall but rather, the likes of the authentic Renaissance Man—none other than Leonardo da Vinci from the 15th century. Da Vinci was dubbed ‘RM’ because of his legendary art masterpieces as well as his intuitive and profound intellect—not to mention he was strikingly handsome, physically strong and possessing of a fine singing voice. His scientific and mathematic achievements were brilliant and the list goes on and on…a vegetarian who so cherished animals that he was known to purchase caged animals at the market just to set them free. Okay, get the idea? A person of multi-talents and interests!
Well, this week in Countdown, we set out to profile a very special and quite diverse individual from our Zephyrhills community who retired on January 8th from education after 32 years. We could not help but notice that our Zephyrhills person also possesses an array of diverse interests. Who is this person…it’s Zephyrhills’ own Jerald Pricher!
How do we (Madonna and Clereen) know Jerry? Madonna weighs-in first: she first met Jerry in the 1970’s when she served as a fellow teacher with him but did not come to fully appreciate him until her own children, Jervis and Mamie, had the privilege of studying from him in his Algebra class in the mid-1990’s. He awakened a love of education and challenged them to a new level with humor, discipline, the spirit of competition, and witty charm. They along with many other students will share some thoughts with you later on in the article. Clereen disclosed that from the class of 1973, she knew Jerry as an older student and remembered him emceeing events and running track. Later she worked with him on various alumni projects. We believe as you digest our Countdown article this week or perhaps revisit your knowledge of Jerry; you too will agree with us, that he is a ‘Renaissance guy’ for our community. He is a superb mathematician, skilled teacher, a father/brother/friend, an athlete turned coach, a referee at the many sports events, a historian/family genealogist and preserver of family and community history, a public servant, a student and teacher advocate and would you believe, a performer/singer?
Where did it begin? We did a bit of digging into school records and located some info. Along the way, we talked with a few folks—Sandra Pricher (sister), Betty Hall, Jean Murphy and others. Jerry is a 1969 graduate of Zephyrhills High School. He said it best when he word-smithed the following message on the school’s website that reveals a rather profound love and loyalty to the place:
“I entered first grade at ZHS in 1957, and graduated in our gym in 1969. Ray Stewart was Principal at the time, so my roots go deep… I was in elementary school during the first man-into-space launches. We watched outside our classroom and listened on the radio. I was here in 1963 when President Kennedy was assassinated and was still here later when Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and Bobby Kennedy were also gunned down. Those were troubling times to be sure, but I always felt safe in that school.
I was here when ZHS won their first state championship in basketball. In fact, under the leadership of Jack Wilson, Chuck McKinney and Morris McHone, our teams went to the state tournament five years out of seven and won three championships. I was here when we finally got our gymnasium.”
ZHS 1968 gymnasium
Jerry was very active in high school. At the June 12, 1969 graduation of the 83 grads in his class, Jerald, son of Mr. and Mrs. Otis Pricher was awarded the coveted activities award. The week before, Principal Stewart had presented Pricher, along with Kathy Shannon, with the service award for ‘giving the most service to the school.’ This is little wonder because he functioned in numerous leadership capacities. School Daze columnist, Jannete Dunnigan, announced in her January 2nd ‘68 column:
“For the highly honored office of President of Student Council, we have the well experienced and qualified Jerry Pricher. Vice president is another experienced gentleman, Cliff Brown and two secretaries, Brenda Hughes and Valerie Wickstrom. Handling the expenditures will be Frankie Hall and parliamentarian is the re-elected Doy Smith. Sounds good, doesn’t it? With that group, it has to be.”
Pricher was prominent throughout the 66-69 school archives in presiding over assemblies, hosting fundraisers, and organizing his fellow students. In 68, the school sent Cliff Brown and him as their delegates to Louisiana for the National Student Councils Convention—quite the prestigious event of the day. The list is endless!
Pricher was a member of the ZHS Track; in April 17, 1965, the News reported, “Another school track and field record was shattered at East Bay on Friday… Jerry Pricher won first in the 880 with a time of 2:08.6.” The 1968 team consisted of Herbert Farrell, Larry Lindsay, Ruben Odom, Jerry Pricher, Dennis Hartley, Jim Streer, Dale Eady, Mike McCreadie, Ryan Gray, Ed Chadwell, Ulysses Alexander, John Mullin, Wally Reeves, Rocky Stanley, Mark Penny, Skip Stewart, Billy Poe, Doug Prowant, David Krystofiak, Cliff Brown, B.B. Lane, Richard Back, Richard McLellan, Alvin McKenzie, Clarence Odom, and Coach James E. Davis. Ironically, or perhaps very logically, Jerry would later be the ‘Track Coach’ for the school and credit Davis, his track coach and later boss as his life mentor!
We discovered that Jerry starred in several drama productions: in 1969 it was Brides to Burn, a 3-act comedy farce that teacher, Constance Kaylor directed, starring: Jerry Pricher, Bob Kinne, Melanie Massey, Anne Neal, Virginia Manley, Donna Samsom, Linda Wells, Barbara Rooks, Martha Colandria, Larry Bryant, Craig Palmer, Joy Reutimann, Joe Ahrens, Carolyn Dean, and Richard Miller. In 1968 it was Bill’s Night Out, directed by Marion Ditter, featuring: Donna Sansom, Joe Wells, Joe Ahrens, Susie Overhuls, Craig Palmer, Anna Doerr, Ann Howard, Jerry Pricher, Linda Martinson, Mary Grimes, Ingeborg Hennessy, Raymond Bohannon, Carol Burnside, Kathy Muse, Richard Miller, Sue Ellen Thompson, Gail Connolly and Gloria Gavin.
We also unearthed that Pricher was a member of a singing group, Sparkling Song Stylings by the Young’uns who were directed by Jean Murphy; they included: Larry Miller, Laura Achillich, Eloise Hall, Patty Hayden, Paul Woodruff, Lynn Murphy, Linda Duckett, Cliff Brown, Terri Rickard and Jerry Pricher. In fact, Pricher’s singing talent earned him a soloist spot at the 1968 Baccalaureate service. Just to fully document this, we called his singing director, Jean Murphy who told us, “I have known and loved Jerry Pricher since he was born. When I was Music Director at First Baptist Church, Jerry (around 8-years old) was in my Junior Choir. One day, we were practicing in the auditorium when I missed Jerry and discovered him crawling under the pews toward the door! A rough start, but Jerry turned out to be one of the better singers in the Youth Choir. He contributed his talent in many youth concerts also, with a small group of outstanding singers who presented special programs. Congratulations, Jerry, on your retirement!”
Pricher's teaching team in 1991-92-front row-Jean Mitchell; Team Leader-Jerry Pricher; back row-Skip Riley, David Bailey and Anne Lessard
Sister, Sandy Pricher, told us that Jerry started teaching in August of 1978. When he graduated from Stetson University, he worked in Orlando managing two different Pizza Huts before coming back to Zephyrhills. One of his long-time colleagues, Diane Nelson said, “Pricher’s retiring? That seems impossible. When he joined the staff in 1978 it was ‘just for a year or two.’ Maybe we misunderstood him and he said ‘only for thirty-two.’ Teaching captures us, doesn’t it? In days of lore, his many buddies, Mike Kaylor, Dale Palmer, and David Bailey had many adventures together.”
Community involvement has been a passion for Pricher. He served as the President of the ZHS Alumni organization in the 1990’s and chaired the scholarship committee. Vicki Elkins, Director of Library and Museum Services in Zephyrhills, said, “Jerry has been a very dedicated and valued Library Board member and we appreciate him giving of his time and expertise to our Board. We wish him well in his retirement from teaching.” Jerry is the current President of the Board and has served on the board for over twelve years to assist Zephyrhills in maintaining the library for citizens of Zephyrhills and surrounding community.
Comments from his daughters, colleagues and former students best capture Pricher’s contributions:
Whenever my sister and I have ever been around town with our dad, he has constantly been stopped by former students who are very happy to see him. They call him, ‘Mr. Pricher’ or ‘Coach’ no matter how old they are and my dad remembers them all. It’s inspiring to see what an impact he’s made on his students that they go out of their way to greet him and express their appreciation! ~ Nicole Pricher, Class of 2004 and sister, Jean Pricher
I had the privilege of having Jerry Pricher as my 7th grade math teacher early in his teaching career in 1983. Although, at age 12, I was already taller than he was, he is truly a teacher that I have always looked up to and respected. Jerry’s teaching philosophy could be summarized by the phrase, “Set high expectations for your students and they will rise to the occasion.” I continue to demonstrate this philosophy in teaching my own mathematics courses at the University of Arkansas. Whether he was making sure I displayed mathematically correct steps on homework assignments in the classroom, or whether he called over-the-back or 3-second lane violations on me on the basketball court as a referee, he kept me in line to ensure that I was doing the best in my endeavors. Jerry Pricher was an inspirational teacher, a mentor, and a family friend. He, along with my father, is one of the few teachers who have had a deep and profound impact on my life. So, thank you, Jerry Pricher, for your many years of service in education, and congratulations on a job well done! Bravo! May God richly bless you!~Jeanine Boyd Myers, Class of 1988, Professor of Math at University of Arkansas
“I still remember the excited anticipation of finding out whether my daily answer was correct and I still remember the excitement of running the last lap of track practice. Whether in the math classroom or on the field, Mr. Pricher left a mark on all of us who were lucky enough to learn from him. The foundations of mathematics I learned with Mr. Pricher affected me throughout college as my choice of study, economics, habitually drew upon those foundations. But it wasn’t the actual math that prepared me for my challenges in college and on the tennis court. It was the skills on how to attack everyday challenges where Mr. Pricher’s teachings were truly effective. He instilled in me a sense of passion, commitment, and excellence towards each of my endeavors. I truly appreciate everything I learned from Mr. Pricher, and Stewart Middle School will not be same without him. I congratulate him on a wonderful career.” ~Suneal Bedi, Class of 2005, Graduate student at Harvard
I’m glad to hear that Mr. Pricher is getting recognition for his wonderful teaching career. While I was in his class in middle school, his teaching style and motivational techniques really made me want to do the best I could. The competitions he started among my classmates brought our learning experience to a whole new level. He made learning fun, and some of his techniques I brought to my own mathematics classroom. I always felt as if he had the students’ best interest at heart. My experience in his classroom was truly a very positive one. ~Erika Jarvi, Class of 2004, Teacher at Wiregrass Ranch High School, Wesley Chapel
Junior high is often a hard time to remember. Sandwiched between the early, formative memories of elementary school and the more dramatic ones of high school, junior high is often a forgotten experience. This is not the case for us. We vividly remember the passion, intelligence, dedication, and spirit of Mr. Pricher. Junior high was memorable precisely because of him. He was a superb teacher and indeed a “Renaissance Man.” He always encouraged us to be more than astute mathematicians (In fact, Sonu recalls a short but spirited stint on the track team!). He deftly instilled in us a desire not only to do well academically but also to realize that there is more to life than mastering an equation or winning a math competition. Though we may not have internalized this lesson as quickly as he would have liked, it resonates with us today. To say we fondly recall the time we spent in his classroom is an understatement. We are so honored to say that Mr. Pricher was our teacher. ~ Monu & Sonu Bedi, Class of 1993, attorney with Ropes & Gray in Boston and professor at Dartmouth College in New Hampshire.
Mr. Pricher was one of the toughest teachers I have ever had, but also one of my favorites! He even taught me how to run on my toes! ~ Jervis Wise, Class of 1997, Attorney with Bjorn Brunvand, Clearwater
There are only a handful of teachers that I remember well and I want you to know that you are one of the few that stand out for me! Even though if memory serves I spent the majority of your class in the ‘Ozone Layer,’ I am so happy for you in your retirement and hope you enjoyed all of your time spent in the school system but most importantly I hope that you enjoy yourself now more than ever. Thanks for all of your years of commitment! Live it up! ~ Angela Belcher, Class of 1994, Zoo Keeper for Primates, Lowry Park Zoo, Tampa
Jerry was a great teacher of young people and he used math as only one tool to do so. He taught the value of honesty, responsibility, dependability, teamwork and a host of other very important values. He was there to help the maturing process of students with a great degree on old fashioned hard work, focus, and fun. I never had a time when any student, parent, or person spoke negatively to me about him. However, it would not have done them any good because to me he was the best, is the best, deserves the best, and that’s exactly what we want for him, The Very Best!! ~ Randall Belcher, retired Pasco County Principal and son, Dr. David Belcher, Class of 1997, David is a physician in Anchorage, Alaska.
Mr. Pricher had an impact on me as a student, and on the entire school. I will always remember Mr. Pricher as a teacher who was in full support of me and my dreams, as he was with every student. I remember him at various games and shows at our schools in Zephyrhills. I was always jealous of my brothers, Matt and Nathan, because they got to have such a wonderful teacher, but even though I was never technically one of his students, he still cared. Now that’s a great teacher! Stewart will definitely miss you, and all of its future students, are definitely missing out. ~Elizabeth McLaughlin, Class of 2011, Professional Actress from Burbank, California
Jerry, Remember the auckies, wedgies, head butts, body slams? You survived the weird friends of high school. You survived the Class of 69. You survived raising girls. You survived teaching for decades – I guess you truly are a Survivor! Best to you in your retirement – you deserve it! ~Carolyn Dean, class of 1969, City of Zephyrhills
Mr. Pricher was one of the best teachers. I credit him with giving me an understanding of mathematics that I never gained with any other instructor. He had a creative approach to teaching that inspired us to do well. He taught us to ‘think outside of the box.’ I honestly believe that if I had not been fortunate to have him as my teacher, I would have never had the understanding that has continued to sustain me throughout my education. I just thought of him the other day when someone was asking me what percentage is equal to 2/3! There are few people/teachers in your life that really make a difference to the person you become! I wish I could have had him for every math class all the way through my bachelor’s degree. I am so thankful to have had him at a very pivotal point in my life. He wrote an insightful recommendation for my college application and he does not forget about his students after they leave his class. ~Brittani Back, Class of 1999, Tampa
Mr. Pricher was an excellent teacher who was always trying his hardest to teach us numerous ways to solve algebra problems. He also had a great sense of humor and excellent classroom management (you couldn’t get away with anything in his class, not that I ever tried! I wasn’t that brave). I can remember the girls trying to pass notes via their Keds® tennis shoes, or jean jackets. Ah, those were the days. ~Jennifer Horn Collier, class of 2003, Middle School Math Teacher, Lithia, FL
Mr. Jerry Pricher was my math teacher. My Grandpa Ernest Kretschmar, Jr., was his math teacher, and my dad’s senior patrol leader in Cub Scouts. He would had word problem games with MacMutts token money that was used as a creative reinforcer. Congrats on the retirement, Mr. Pricher! You earned it! Hugs! ~Lea Kretschmar, Class of 2003, Tampa
Mr. Pricher is an incredible teacher and individual. I was privileged to be in his class and have continued to learn from him. He has a unique way of tapping his students’ competitive instincts and pinpointing what drives each individual to excel. He sets a high bar for his students, but arms them with the academic and life skills they need to meet it both inside and outside his classroom. With his caring yet no-nonsense approach, I could always rely on him as a trusted mentor. Mr. Pricher’s class was always a highlight of my day, and looking back, on my educational career, he is one-of-a-kind for sure, and our schools and community have been privileged to have him. As I left Stewart Middle School, I remember that some of his parting wisdom was to, “remember to stop and smell the pizza,” and enjoy all that life has to offer. I hope that retirement will give him some more time to do that in his own life. Congratulations and most of all, thank you! ~ Mamie Wise, Class of 2001, Attorney with D.L.A. Piper in New York City
To close, James E. Davis, Jerry’s coach (principal while a student) and later employer-principal left us with this story: “ I have the highest admiration for Jerry Pricher. As his track coach, Jerry initially was a sprinter and I recognized that he had a lot of endurance and personal drive. I talked him into running the 880. He performed great throughout the season but there was one boy named Meengs from Fort Myers that Jerry just could not beat. We set out to win the Conference Championship and set up a plan. We trained, strategized and decided that when I told him to kick (sprint) at the last 200 mark, he would do it. Sure enough, 15 yards from the finish, he overtook Meengs. ‘It happened!’ Jerry is a special educator, coach and person—just like one of my own kids! I recruited and convinced him to become a teacher. I knew he could teach! I saw him operate as student council president—great speaker, logical, sequential. He liked teaching. He reminds me a great deal of his father, Otis—one of the finest men in the world! Yup—I needed a math teacher and talked him into it! Jerry is a special person to me.”