Ross McConnell always wanted to hand diplomas to the Mars Area High School graduating seniors that he had transported to school.
Mr. McConnell had a dual role in the district. By day, he was a school bus driver for A.J. Myers and Sons, the district's bus contractor. By night, he was a Mars Area school director.
Mr. McConnell, 70, died of cancer May 27 in UPMC Passavant, McCandless.
Mr. McConnell was a graduate of Hopewell Area High School and served in the U.S. Army. He was an operations manager for US Airways, and had been a bus driver for Myers since 2005.
He frequently referred to the students on his bus as his "precious cargo."
He was a member of St. John Lutheran Church and a former member and master of John E. Mair Lodge 729 F&AM, both in Mars.
Mars Area officials called him an asset to the district.
"Ross was a great person, a really great board member, and a great friend," superintendent William Pettigrew said.
"He really cared about the kids in Mars."
Mr. McConnell had served on the board since 2007 and was a founding member of the Mars Planet Foundation.
He also served as board treasurer and was alternate representative to the Butler County Vocational-Technical School board.
Board president J. Dayle Ferguson said board members honored Mr. McConnell at Tuesday's meeting, and will hold a moment of silence for him at tonight's graduation.
"Ross touched our entire school community in so many wonderful and lasting ways. We will miss his gentle and generous spirit," Ms. Ferguson said. "He was a dedicated board member who shared his self-proclaimed 'old man' opinions that emphasized the value of simplicity, the rewards of hard work and the importance of doing the right things for the right reasons, even when going was rough.
"Ross had a special gift for making meaningful personal connections with the young and the old, because he was genuine, honest, and fair with everyone. He cared deeply about kids -- their safety, their education, and their struggles. His small gestures of kindness will live forever."
Sandy Trozzo, freelance writer: email@example.com