Jeffrey Dong, a longtime Pasco educator known for making his students into history buffs, died Saturday.
The former Pasco School Board member died at Kadlec Regional Medical Center in Richland, said Assistant Superintendent John Morgan.
Dong, 69, had been recovering from a prolonged illness at his Pasco home when his health declined about two weeks ago. His health forced him to step down from the school board earlier this year.
Dong had an intense interest in the community and its youth that led him to touch the lives of students over more than 40 years in education.
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“Jeff Dong literally devoted his life to the students of Pasco,” Superintendent Saundra Hill said in a release. “We have lost a member of our family and are all very saddened by his passing.”
Dong grew up in Seattle and earned his teaching degree at the University of Washington, said his obituary.
He came to Pasco in 1967 for his first teaching job at Pasco High School and made the Tri-Cities his home. He taught for 40 years, retiring in 2007, but also served as a tennis coach and adviser to numerous student clubs.
“He volunteered for everything,” said John Crawford, a retired Pasco High math and computer science teacher and longtime friend of Dong’s. “He knew leadership and taught leadership. Doctors, lawyers, all have benefited from what I call the Dong Influence.”
Morgan was a teenager when his father, a school administrator, hired Dong, he said. Morgan went on to take classes from Dong and eventually became a friend and colleague.
“He believed every kid, no matter where they came from or who they were, could learn,” Morgan told the Herald.
Dong was awarded a Crystal Apple Award in 2002 for his work in education. More recently, the district honored him with a Lifetime Achievement Award.
Along with Dong’s dedication to teaching history, he loved fishing and would organize trips, Morgan said.
The educator, who never married and did not have his own children, also was known for his generosity, helping his former students cover expenses if they needed help for a final quarter of college classes.
“Jeff taught my daughter and grandson at Pasco High School,” board President Sherry Lancon said in a release. “He always had the best interests of students at heart and changed many lives for the good.”
Dong was elected to the school board in 2010 but was only able to attend meetings regularly for about a year before his health limited him.
“It’s the loss of an icon for sure,” Morgan said.