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A Tribute to Dr. Pavel: Central’s Longest Serving President

By Kate Ratner (280)

Dr. Sheldon Pavel, a household name and former President of Central High School, passed away on February 7th, 2021, after battling cancer. In this time of mourning for Central students, alumni, and faculty, we will celebrate Dr. Pavel and the monumental impacts he made on our school community. 

Dr. Pavel served as the thirteenth President of Central from 1984-2012. In 1984, Central was in danger. The former President, Dr. Carlisle was hesitant to switch the school from all-boys to co-ed. The potential enrollment was down to about 1,000 students, and the school board considered a merger with Girls’ High or closing the school down altogether. When Dr. Pavel assumed his position as Central’s President, he changed the enrollment requirements that we continue to follow today. If a student meets Central’s academic requirements, regardless of gender, they will be accepted to our institution. 

Mr. Chuck Steinberg (221), the President of Central’s Alumni Association, describes Dr. Pavel as “a wonderful educator and human being.” Mr. Steinberg recalls fond memories of him and Dr. Pavel walking Central’s halls together. “He knew almost every student by name and something about them,” Mr. Steinberg shares. During and after his time as President, Dr. Pavel was fiercely dedicated to Central and the students who learned there. On most days, he would come into school at 6:30 am and would stay past the custodial staff. 

Central alumni before Dr. Pavel’s Presidency had tremendous respect for him and his revival of our school. Mr. David Kahn (220), Central’s archivist and historian, granted Dr. Pavel as an honorary member of the 220. Before Dr. Pavel’s celebratory retirement dinner in 2012, Mr. Kahn replaced a blank page in a 220 yearbook with Dr. Pavel’s senior portrait and superlatives from his time at Akiba Hebrew Academy (now Jack M. Barrack Hebrew Academy) in Bryn Mawr. “I calculate that he directly affected more than 15,000 students who attended Central, most of whom graduated while he was president,” Mr. Kahn shares, “And that’s a huge ripple in the water as far as I’m concerned… the effect he had on 15,000 people’s lives from some minor detail to those who will swear that he changed their lives forever.”

The students and faculty who knew him during his time as President will keep Dr. Pavel’s legacy alive by remembering the profound impact he had on others, his fantastic public speaking skills, and his sneaking to the President’s restroom to smoke his pipe and sip a cup of coffee in between periods. 

May Dr. Sheldon Pavel’s Memory Be a Blessing. 

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