MASSENA — A longtime member of the Massena Central School Board of Education died in December 2018, but the remembrance of his service to the district lives on thanks to a plaque and tree that were dedicated to him on the John Story Trail.
Andrew Soutar served on the school board from 1999 to 2011 and was a very active board member who was considered well read on issues impacting public schools.
Friends and family met recently along the John Story Trail to honor Mr. Soutar with a tree and plaque. Among those on hand were Mr. Soutar’s wife, Susan Rau, school board members Paul Haggett and Robert LeBlanc, school Superintendent Patrick Brady, and Pat Whalen and John Tenbusch from the St. Lawrence County Environmental Management Council.
Mr. Soutar graduated from Rutgers University with a degree in agriculture and the University of California, Berkley, where he received a master’s degree in geology. He continued his education at Scripps Institution of Oceanography in La Jolla, Calif.
He had served on the Environmental Management Council, was a founding member of the North Country Grown Cooperative, Inc., and was active on other boards including Seedcorn and the Northeast Organic Farming Association of New York local certification committee.
Mr. Whalen led the effort to have a tree planted in Mr. Soutar’s honor, along with installing the plaque along the trail.
“The district was approached in spring 2019 to look at honoring Andy. Pat Whalen from EMC approached us, wanting to plant a tree. We took it to our Facilities Committee. We approved planting a tree and putting a plaque in,” Mr. Brady said.
But, then COVID-19 hit before they could take the plans any farther.
“Things got put to the side. They’ve had the plaque out there for a little while but weren’t able to put a ceremony together,” he said.
Mr. Brady said he was happy to be part of the ceremony. He had served as an administrator in the district during Mr. Soutar’s tenure on the board, and recalled how Mr. Soutar gained as much knowledge as possible when he joined to the board to understand how schools worked and how programs operated so he could make the best policy decisions for the district.
“He often went to training for school board members. He also attended many of the local meetings and trainings that were available, and collaborated with board members across the region,” he said. “I really appreciated Andy and respected him as a person and board member. He really cared for all of the students.”
Mr. Brady said Mr. Soutar had a vision for the future of education.
“He was a very bright man. He used his experience, his knowledge and data to envision what the future of public schools would look like,” he said.
He said Mr. Soutar got behind programs that were started in the district to benefit students, including the International Baccalaureate and Tech Prep programs.
“He was someone who cared about education for all students. He was very much interested in the needs for our special education students, our Career and Technical Education students and our Native American students. He was supportive of growing our population of Native American students to come to Massena,” Mr. Brady said.