Alfred Dale Proffitt, a retired city educator who had been vice principal of Roland Park Middle School and whose career spanned more than three decades, died of pulmonary failure Saturday at York Hospital in York, Pa. The former longtime Northeast Baltimore resident was 76.
Mr. Proffitt, the son of a Southern Railway carpenter, was born in Monroe, Va., the youngest of five brothers and a sister.
"His father named him for Alf Landon but his mother didn't like that name and added the Dale," said his wife of 54 years, the former Theresa M. Wozniak, a retired educator. "However, everyone always called him Dale."
When he was 10, he moved with his family to Rosedale. He was a 1949 graduate of Kenwood High School and earned a bachelor's degree from what is now Towson University in 1953.
"His mother, who was an educator, lined up her children one day and said, 'One of you will become a teacher,' " Mrs. Proffitt said.
"They rolled their eyes, from the oldest down to the youngest, who happened to be my future husband. That's how he became a teacher," she said.
Mr. Proffitt, who continued graduate studies at the Johns Hopkins University and Morgan State University, began teaching social studies and history at Hamilton Junior High School in 1953.
"We've been friends since our days at Hamilton. If you were a new teacher, Hamilton was like a finishing school. All the teachers there were very good," said Terry D. Biller, who retired as principal of Northeast Middle School in 1986.
"He was a very good social studies teacher and an exciting teacher," he said.
Mrs. Proffitt said her husband "loved the classroom."
"He was able to keep the kids spellbound and never had discipline problems because he made the work so interesting," she said.
"He did commit a gaffe one time when he told his students that General Sherman's march to the sea during the Civil War was a 'retreat,' " Mrs. Proffitt said with a laugh.
In 1969, Mr. Proffitt was appointed vice principal of Roland Park Middle School, where he remained until 1976, when he became vice principal of Pimlico Junior High School.
He returned to Roland Park Middle in 1980, and spent the remaining years of his career there until he retired in 1988 as vice principal.
"Dale was devoted to children wherever he worked," said Wilmer L. Jones, who first became acquainted with Mr. Proffitt when they were undergraduates at Towson.
"He was always very caring and enthusiastic about his work, and he loved his children," said Mr. Jones, who retired from the city's public schools, where he had been mathematics coordinator.
"He was just a good all-around fellow, and if you were a principal, you'd want him on your staff. He got along with everyone and was so well-liked," he said.
When he retired, teachers, administrators, families and former students jammed Overlea Hall for a tribute to Mr. Proffitt.
"It was a snowy day, and the place was filled to capacity," his wife recalled. "He received awards from Governor Schaefer, Kweisi Mfume and Mayor Kurt Schmoke."
Mrs. Proffitt recalled the tribute from the Roland Park Middle School Student Government Association.
"The award said: 'You have helped in the formation of thousands of people's character and intellect, and for that, we are extremely grateful,' " Mrs. Proffitt said.
The longtime Seward Avenue resident, who had lived in Stewartstown, Pa., since 1990, was an avid photographer.
A Mass of Christian burial was offered yesterday at St. John the Baptist Roman Catholic Church in New Freedom, Pa.
Also surviving are a son, David P. Proffitt of Spring City, Pa.; a daughter, Kathryn P. Hartman of Stewartstown; and four grandchildren.