Honoring His Legacy: The Dennis Breen Academic Center

Linda Hixon
From left, State Representative Brian Murray, Kelly Breen,  Dennis’ wife, Samantha Breen, daughter, Shannon Breen,  daughter, Principal Derek Atherton
Issue Date: 
July, 2019
Article Body: 

Spring is a busy time in any high school, and Hopedale Junior-Senior High is no exception. With graduation approaching, parties being planned, and finals getting scheduled, it seems like nothing else could be contemplated. But for Principal Derek Atherton, the time was perfect – time to honor Dennis Breen, a man who left his mark on the Hopedale school system, and the community stepped forward to do just that.
The “multi-purpose” room, a room for meetings and studying and spending time, was recently re-named and dedicated to former Hopedale Superintendent Dennis Breen as the Dennis Breen Academic Center. Breen, who had been principal of Hopedale Junior-Senior High School for ten years before taking on the reigns of the entire system in 2011, died on June 8, 2015. He was only 64.
Born in Norwood and a graduate of Millis High School, Breen was a well-educated man in the field of education. After receiving his Bachelor’s Degree at the University of Rhode Island, he went back to earn two Master’s degrees – one from Cambridge College in Education, and another from Framingham State in Educational Leadership. And for the Hopedale public schools, he was a leader indeed.
Derek Atherton said the dedication had been planned as a low-key affair, but many who knew Dennis Breen – from family and friends to former co-workers in the Milford public schools where he taught for many years – wanted to be there to honor a man who put students first.
“He had a great impact on school, and on the faculty and the students,” Atherton said, noting that even state politicians took notice of Breen’s effect on Hopedale’s schools. Local state Representative Brian Murray came to the ceremony in person to honor his friend. But other politicians knew of Breen’s reputation, and both state Senator Ryan Fattman and Worcester County District Attorney Joseph Early, Jr., sent surrogates from their offices. Breen’s wife Karen and daughters also attended the dedication.
“It was a very nice ceremony,” Hopedale school Superintendent Karen M. Crebase said. The walls of the Dennis Breen Academic Center now contain quotes from speeches Breen gave during his tenure. He had been the former coach of the Milford Scarlet Hawks football team and the Milford boys’ track and field. In fact, Breen was a proponent of improvements of Hopedale’s recreational fields, and told an audience in 2013 to “Combine your talents into a powerful arsenal of educational excellence, athletic achievement and community spirit.”

The room, often used not only by students and faculty but also for public meetings, is located near the original General Draper High School, built in 1927 with additions in 1957, 1963 and 2000. “It’s an important part of the school, and so was he,” Principal Atherton said. “Dennis was a friend, a great colleague, and a supportive individual.”