Dean Delk says goodbye to school after 29 years
By Karen Hall
The man who has been a school principal in Chapel Hill for nearly 30 years retired this summer.
Dean Delk, 68, came to Forrest School as principal in September 1985, when it was a K-12 "unit school" with less than 400 pupils. He became principal of Chapel Hill Elementary School in 1996, the year it opened.
Delk was no stranger to Marshall County when he was recruited by School Board Chairman Bo Warner and Superintendent of Schools Jack Keny for the job at Forrest. He had been visiting here since he met his wife-to-be, Becky, at Austin Peay State University in 1966, when she arrived as a freshman. Delk, who attended APSU on a football scholarship, was a junior.
Among the big changes to Delk's life at that time, in addition to meeting Becky, was his introduction to golf. In those days students could play for $1 at Cole Park Golf Club at Ft. Campbell, so he bought a set of clubs at a pawn shop and started playing.
"That's when the bug bit me," he exclaimed.
So visits to Chapel Hill while he was courting Becky included enjoying plenty of her mother's great cooking and playing golf at Henry Horton State Park. They were married in the Chapel Hill First United Methodist Church in July 1970. By this time, Becky had her master's degree in library science from Vanderbilt's Peabody College and Dean was two years into a series of teaching jobs in South Carolina.
Their three children -- Scott, David, and Rebecca -- were all born in Orangeburg S.C., and Delk was an assistant principal at Bamberg Elementary when he got the call to come back to Chapel Hill.
In two weeks they sold their house in South Carolina, packed their belongings in a UHaul, and made the move on Labor Day weekend. Delk went to work that Tuesday.
"Chapel Hill is a special place," he said. "It's a great place to raise a family. The people made me feel like I'd been here all my life.
"Murrey Holton was acting principal until I got here," Delk continued. "He guided and enlightened me, and led the way. He was a good friend."
Delk was born in South Carolina, but grew up in Florida. His father was a World War II veteran and school administrator.
"The good Lord has always been good to me," Delk said. "I've been blessed to be around good people all my life. I like relationships. If a child likes and trusts you, they will learn."
He admits technology overwhelms him to a certain extent, but at CHES he had wonderful staff members he could call for help.
"I've been blessed to have loyal, committed and knowledgeable staff," Delk said. "Brenda Phifer and Darlene Blalock, they've been great."
He was relieved and happy to hear his longtime assistant principal Dawn Kirby was promoted to principal at CHES, with Danny Morgan as her assistant principal.
"I'm tickled she was given that opportunity," Delk said. "She's wonderful -- talented in all phases of things."
He and Morgan go back even farther: Morgan's mother was on the staff at Forrest when Delk arrived.
"I can't think of a better place to be," he said. "You can't beat the people of Marshall County. I didn't always do things right, but they knew my heart was in the right place."
Delk said a number of people called after his retirement to thank him for what he had done for them or their children.
"That was real satisfying," he said. "The parents have been very supportive. I'll miss that; I'll miss those relationships. I have a lot of great memories."
Over the years, he's lost a few children -- a little girl succumbed to cancer, and a boy was killed in an accident with a train.
"Those things you don't ever forget," Delk said. "They were so precious!"
He called it an honor and a privilege to serve as principal of Forrest and CHES.
"I had the best job in the world," Delk said. "I was working with good dedicated folks."
He also serves the people of Marshall County's District 1 as one of their two commissioners, and is currently running unopposed for his fifth four-year term.
"I like to serve people," said Delk. "I just hope I'm worth of their confidence. We're always seeking ways to better serve the citizens. I enjoy the folks I work with, though we don't always agree."
As for what he will do in retirement, Delk plans to play more golf, see more of his five grandchildren, and make more visits to his 91-year-old mother who lives in Myrtle Beach.
"I hope I can give back to Chapel Hill what it's given me for the past 29 years -- they've been fantastic," he concluded. "Visitors can sense the wholesomeness and the pride people possess here."