Darlington’s Chris Hunter Stadium will be filled with Hawaiian shirts (and possibly Crocs) in the Tigers’ first home game this Friday in memory of history teacher John Zazzaro, who died suddenly Tuesday after having a medical emergency during class .
“It’s hard for me to imagine what Darlington will be like without ‘Z’ – a big-hearted personality, full of laughter and passionate about working with students,” said Doug Hamil, director of Moser House and close friend. . “Whether he gives you his opinion bluntly or makes the audience laugh out loud, he’s always been a sincere soul.”
In the true spirit of John Zazzaro, the Tigers plan to play “Victory March”, Notre Dame’s fight song, and have some tater tot nachos on hand at the concession stand, which Zazzaro had planned to lead. this season. Players will also be wearing “Z” heart shaped decals on their helmets and cheerleaders will have a set of “Z” heart shaped t-shirts to throw at fans in the stands.
“As deeply as we all miss John, you cannot commemorate him with sadness,” Hamil said. “I can’t think of a better place to celebrate his spirit than at a Friday night football game.”
A Darlington Faculty member since 2011, Zazzaro began his tenure as head of Neville House, one of Darlington’s three boys’ residences. He and his wife, Bebe, a preschool counselor at 8, raised their sons, Colin and Casey, at Neville House alongside young men from across the country and around the world.
“Sir. Z treated me – and all my other friends at Neville House – like a son,” said Cam Watson, a Darlington alumnus. “He never failed to make us smile and uplift us when we felt depressed or homesick. He was always my # 1 fan of soccer games when I knew my parents couldn’t be at all. Mr. Z has done so much for me, and I know I wouldn’t be where I am today without him. I will miss him so much. He made Darlington my home. “
Another alum, Nic Scoccimaro, called Zazzaro a shining example of Darlington’s motto: “Wisdom more than knowledge; Service beyond oneself; Honor above all.
“My greatest memories of John Zazzaro don’t come down to a few highlights – it’s the everyday memories that remain: the perpetual smile he wore, the birthday dinners he prepared for us, the inside jokes shouted out. in the hallways, and the countless times he was available for us to confide in, ”said Scoccimaro.“ Sir. Zazzaro was a great father, leader, mentor and teacher. He was the glue that held us together.
His classmate Kwabe Kumi echoed these sentiments.
“I truly believe that the ‘home away from home’ culture that I experienced during my time in Darlington is primarily attributed to Mr. Z,” he said. “He created that urge that made many of us excited to leave our homes at the end of the summer or winter vacation and return to Neville House. Most importantly, he created the foundation that turned us into men. He was a father to many of us and didn’t treat us any differently than his own sons. Mr. Z shaped me not only into a more compassionate person, but a person who could be honest and loyal to myself and others. I can speak for many of my closest friends when I say that his impact on our lives will never be forgotten and his memory will always be cherished. “
As a member of the Student Life team, Zazzaro has worked extensively with Darlington student leadership organizations, as an academic advisor to the Student Council, and as a spearhead of the Boys’ Life program, which provides life skills to help residents develop a better understanding of themselves and their wider communities.
After eight years as Head of House, Zazzaro entered the classroom full-time in 2019, teaching AP Human Geography and Modern World History. He has also been an assistant coach for the men’s and women’s college tennis teams.
“John was a wonderful teacher and a valued member of our department,” said Brian Inman, chair of the history department. “Her passion for teaching, her outgoing personality and her love for her students made every day in her classroom a special one. His progressive teaching style and creative ideas were at the forefront of Darlington’s mission as a school. John’s absence will leave a deep void that will be felt by his fellow teachers and students. He will be sorely missed. “
Zazzaro’s lifelong love for teaching and learning has impacted young people far beyond the gates of Darlington. Prior to working here, he was chair of the history department and athletic trainer at Carolina Day School in Asheville, NC, as well as a teacher, dorm parent, and coach at Christchurch School in Virginia.
Plus, he and Bebe spent their summers working at Camp Androscoggin, a boys’ summer camp in Maine, for three decades. In fact, this is where the couple first met.
“John loved the magic of summer at camp,” said Hamil. “These experiences inspired most of the dorm events and campus activities that he created here. Even his beloved Sausagefest, a barbecue where boys’ dorms feast on a variety of sausages from around the world, found its way from Maine to Darlington during his tenure as head of Neville House.
Former Neville House student Noah Katz even had the opportunity to work alongside the Zazzaros at camp one summer.
“Mister. Z made me feel like part of his family, not just like part of his dorm,” he said. “He pushed me to excel and was there every step of the way. career in high school and beyond. When I was a freshman in college, unsure of what to do with my summer, Mr. Z went out of his way to help me find a job at the camp. been where he and his family were an institution. This selfless action is only one indicator of the type of man John Zazzaro was: an inspiration, a leader, and most of all, a champion. He will be sadly missed by all who have known him.
In a letter to his advisers at the start of the current school year, Zazzaro shared a lesson he learned at Camp Androscoggin this summer.
“There is a common thread that binds us all,” he wrote. “Some call it the golden rule. I have learned throughout my life that “Do to others what you would like them to do to you” is a thought present in every religion and society. In my camp, we have a motto that corresponds to this message: “Help the other. And, this summer, I rediscovered that message and realized that, just like the golden rule, it’s that simple …
“Helping the other fellow is exactly how we did (at Darlington) last year and will be again in 2021-2022,” he continued. “I challenge you all to live by the Rule. Put others first! Look around, lend a hand where you need it, put the community, team and class before your own needs… This year I want each of you to set goals based on the idea. to look outward. What can you do to make others around you more successful? What can you do to make Darlington a better place? How can you help the other comrade? I think you will find that if you are successful with these goals, the rest of your personal goals will come true more smoothly and easily.
When applying to Darlington in 2011, Zazzaro described himself as an experienced educator committed to the educational, spiritual, moral and social development of young adults; an enthusiastic and innovative planner of non-traditional study programs, activities and educational opportunities; and a fun-loving, open-minded and stimulating educator.
“Those words really sum up John and everything he’s done in Darlington and elsewhere during his educational career,” said Matthew Peer, director of enrollment management and former head of the graduate school, who has hired Zazzaro.
“John wore many hats during his tenure in independent schools and the one he was most proud of was that of Student Advocate. If he was sitting with a student in the ER at 2 a.m. or at an after school disciplinary committee meeting; or during a free period in his office, classroom or The Growl, he was always there for our students here in Darlington, ”Peer continued. “John realized that life lessons taught outside of the classroom were just as important as the wisdom learned inside. I am convinced that there will be generations of students who will be better people, partners and parents because they have had the opportunity to learn to live the life of MZ ”
Social media feeds are a sea of purple this week as members of the Darlington community show their love for Zazzaro and his family with a graphic “Z” heart designed by Hamil. Stickers and decals featuring the graphic will soon be available in the DAR Store.
John Zazzaro and his larger than life personality will be missed at Darlington.
A Celebration of Life service will be held this Saturday, August 28 at 2 p.m. at the Morris Chapel at Darlington School. The service will be broadcast live at DarlingtonSchool.org/zazzaro. The school also hosted a student-led vigil at Chris Hunter Stadium on Tuesday and a prayer service at Morris Chapel on Wednesday.