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Long-time educator receives O'Sullivan Award

Date: 12/16/2010

Dec. 15, 2010

By G. Michael Dobbs

Managing Editor

SPRINGFIELD — Dr. Jose Irizarry was genuinely surprised last week when he was named the recipient of this year's Daniel P. O'Sullivan Award. He hadn't found out about the honor until the morning of the award's presentation.

This year, city officials made the award presentation on Dec. 7 to also remind people of the sacrifices made on Pearl Harbor Day.

Daniel Walsh, the city's veteran's agent, explained the award was started 10 years ago to recognize a full-time municipal employee who not only excels in his or her duties, but also has served in the military. The award was named after O'Sullivan, who died in 2001. A Vietnam War veteran, O'Sullivan was the commissioner of Code Enforcement when he passed.

Walsh said the award came out of ideas from both his department and the Building Department as a way to honor the ideals for which O'Sullivan was known.

Mayor Domenic Sarno explained that O'Sullivan considered public service "an honor."

"Dan would always do it with a smile," Sarno said. "He truly loved this city."

Irizarry, the principal of the Margaret Ells Elementary School, has been an educator since 1980 and a member of the U.S. Army Reserve for 26 years. School Superintendent Dr. Alan Ingram, who is a 22-year U.S. Air Force veteran, nominated him.

Irizarry worked in Springfield and Holyoke schools during his career.

Irizarry is a first sergeant with Detachment 1-3200 Strategic Intelligence Group at Fort Devens. He most recently served a tour of duty in Iraq where he was an advisor to the Iraqi army.

During his military service, he has been awarded the Bronze Star and three Army Commendations.

He came from a military family in which one of his grandfathers and six uncles served.

Irizarry recalled that while he was in Iraq, Springfield school children collected 3,000 stuffed animals for him and his unit to distribute to Iraqi children. He said his wife Aurie was important to making this effort a success.

He also recalled with a smile the reaction of the unit's postal clerk when 21 boxes of stuffed animals arrived.

"The postal clerk said, "You're killing me,'" Irizarry recalled with a smile.

Holding the award in his hand, Irizarry said, "I don't regret a moment I served in the Army reserve."

Ingram wrote on his blog, "I am very proud to count Dr. Irizarry among those city of Springfield employees whose selfless contributions protect the very freedom we as Americans enjoy every day."

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