To the Editor:

I attended the retirement dinner held in September in honor of Gene Horrigan, the widely respected [former] principal of Shepaug Valley High School.

I've known Gene Horrigan for around 20 years. I've seen him in action from at least four different vantage points -- first was when I was on the Board of Education, then as a parent with children in his school, next as a fellow parent when Gene and I had children at the same college and, over the last several years, as a member of the senior project board.

So, I've had a very good look at how he operates.

I have met no one who possesses such a complete set of leadership qualities as does Gene.

He is visionary, yet practical. He is calm in the midst of chaos, and forceful and persistent in action.

The development of senior project, for instance, and its addition to the list of graduation requirements for Shepaug Valley High School is just one example of his vision, persistence, and composure in the storm.

He is intelligent, but doesn't flaunt his intellect.

He is consistently pleasant to work with -- always welcoming, sensitive to the feelings of others, quick to compliment, and encouraging.

I have never heard him speak ill of anyone. Remember, that's over 20 years, and all of us know there have been many moments during which it would have been absolutely understandable for him to have done so.

Yet he is firm, and never obsequious. How he manages all that, I do not know.

He is extremely hard working, yet also fun loving.

Gene is a great leader -- the complete package, and I feel privileged to have watched him in action.

Jim Gustin

Bridgewater