Teacher’s book inspires William Howard Day award

A book written by Penn Manor history teacher Todd Mealy has helped inspire a new award in honor of a local education pioneer.

The Pennsylvania Public Education Foundation recently presented the inaugural William Howard Day Award to Pennsylvania Auditor General Eugene DePasquale, recognizing his outstanding contribution to public education. DePasquale was honored for being “a tireless advocate for oversight and fiscal responsibility when it comes to education dollars.”

The award was inspired by Mealy’s book, “Aliened American,” a two-volume biography of Day, the first African-American school board president in the United States. Day served on the Harrisburg City School Board for six terms, starting in 1878, after working as a newspaper editor and school superintendent.

Day also was an Abolitionist who played a key role in helping slaves escape to Canada via the Underground Railroad, but he is far less renown today than many of his contemporaries, including Frederick Douglass and Harriet Tubman. Mealy wrote the book in 2010 to give Day his due. In 2014, he was invited to talk about the book and Day’s role in history at a PaPEF fundraising event. That appearance led to the award.

“Between Mr. Mealy being a public school teacher and Day a local historical figure in the realm of public education, we decided to develop the award,” said Christina Griffiths, director of PaPEF. “It all came together to fit into the mission of the foundation.”

Mealy said he hopes the new award helps spark more interest in Day, who lived in Harrisburg from 1873 to 1900.

The award has another Penn Manor connection. Dr. Rich Frerichs, a longtime member of the Penn Manor school board, is president of the PaPEF board and presented the award to DePasquale during a ceremony last month.