Obituary: David A. Mancosh / Former headmaster at Shady Side Academy

Oct. 17, 1923 - Feb. 7, 2014


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He spoke plainly but wielded an eloquent pen. He was a career educator who taught teachers as well as students. He was quietly devout and patriotic, a World War II veteran who didn't boast of his adventures in the thick of a historic battle.

David A. Mancosh Sr. of Hampton, retired headmaster for Shady Side Academy Middle School, died last Friday at age 90.

Mr. Mancosh and his late wife, Rose Marie, who were married for nearly 60 years before her passing in 2011, left four sons -- all of whom went through Shady Side themselves -- and several grandchildren and great-grandchildren. The couple also worked together at Shady Side, nurturing generations of students at the private academy.

"He was a strong supporter of kids and teachers and learning," said Mike O'Neil, a social studies teacher at Shady Side who was hired by Mr. Mancosh in 1976 and remained friends with him for decades afterward. "He was greatly respected."

Mr. Mancosh had a military bearing and "could make you understand pretty clearly what the rules were and what they weren't," but he always remained friendly with teachers even after a disagreement and with students even after they needed to be disciplined.

He worked behind the scenes to enable students to attend despite financial hardship, arranging transportation and financial aid, said Mr. O'Neil. "He has the appearance of being a hard guy, but he had a heart of gold, as good a mentor as I could possibly have had," Mr. O'Neil said.

"There were facets of him that not everybody saw in the public man or the professional man, but they were all part of what defined him," said John Curry, whom Mr. Mancosh hired and mentored as a math teacher at Shady Side.

Even from that first job interview, Mr. Curry said, Mr. Mancosh's personality came through.

"He was forceful even when he was being friendly," Mr. Curry said. "When he said, 'Take your coat off and sit down,' you felt like you needed to do that."

After stints in public schools, Mr. Mancosh began teaching seventh grade at Shady Side in 1953 and went on to become middle school headmaster from 1966 until his retirement in 1986, according to the school.

Mr. Mancosh "helped to shape the character of hundreds of middle school boys," said academy president Tom Cangiano in a statement. "For him, education was about so much more than the grades a boy received; it was about the kind of man he would become and the life he would lead." The school honors his legacy by granting the David A. Mancosh Award each year to an eighth-grader who "most consistently exemplifies the qualities of an outstanding member of the school community."

Mr. Mancosh was far from a desk-bound administrator. He was out in the school hallway every morning, greeting everyone who came in.

Mr. Curry said that Mr. Mancosh, as headmaster, practiced "management by walking around."

"He used to walk into my classroom, plop down into my desk chair [in back] and sit there for five or 10 minutes," Mr. Curry recalled. "He was giving you all kinds of non-verbal feedback, smiles, nods," then followed it up later in the day with verbal compliments.

And he could offer constructive criticism when needed.

"His door was always open," Mr. Curry said. "You could say anything you needed to. You could be honest. You just needed to be able to receive honesty in return."

Mr. Mancosh was born in Braddock, graduated from Castle Heights Military Academy in 1942 and spent less than a year at Vanderbilt University on a football scholarship before entering the Army to serve in World War II.

As a member of the 7th Armored Infantry Division for nearly 21/2 years, he spent 19 months in Europe and saw combat in the Battle of the Bulge, the Germans' desperate counter-offensive in Western Europe.

After the war, Mr. Mancosh returned home and met and married Rose Marie Beck. He graduated from Indiana State University with an education degree and later earned a master's in education from the University of Pittsburgh.

He spoke little of his service during the war. But Mr. O'Neil said that once, while Mr. Mancosh and his wife were showing a photo album, they showed the picture of a Belgian civilian who sheltered him during the combat, and with whom he stayed in touch ever since.

"He was a very patriotic guy, but he was not one to tell you about his personal heroism or exploits," Mr. O'Neil said.

Mr. Mancosh's funeral service was held Tuesday.


Peter Smith: petersmith@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1416.

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