Rich served as the McFall Principal for 29 years and enjoyed a total of a 36-year career at TK Schools, retiring in 2009.
McFall staff , both present and some who have retired, along with friends and family gathered in the McFall Library recently for a celebration of Rich's life and a dedication of the library in his name. Some of his favorite books were displayed along with photos of him reading those books to students.
Rich's daughter and granddaughter, Courtney and Ebbie Appel read "Mortimer" one of Bill's favorite books. It brought laughter and tears as friends remembered a man they admired much for his dedication to students at TK.
"I am proud to have had him as a mentor, a colleague, and a friend. Most of us will go through life without personally knowing someone to have made such an impact as to have a facility named after them. That I worked under Bill as a student teacher at McFall, later with him as a fellow principal in the district, and to now have been a part of such prestigious moment in our community...I am blessed to have the connection to all that was, and forever will be, Bill Rich," said Superintendent Tom Enslen.
Balloons were released outside the school - each with a special message attached from family and friends to a man they admired and loved.
Rich was a 1969 graduate of Thornapple Kellogg High School and went on to Western Michigan University. He returned to TK to begin his teaching career. He started in the fourth grade classroom, then moved to a middle school reading program. One year, his superintendent came to him two weeks before the start of the school year and said there were budget cutbacks and staffing cuts. He said he needed a new principal for McFall and Rich was tapped for the job.
In 2009, when he retired, Rich spoke to the graduating class offering his words of wisdom. Rich said in an interview in 2009 that he believed he got more from the job than he gave. "You just can't have a down day here. There's just too much positive energy all the time," he's quoted as saying in a 2009 MLive article.
He always greeted students with a smile and interacted with the young students every chance he got. He started the Halloween community party, and made "Zero the Hero" the most popular guy in school. He also started a popular Saturday reading program that ended with an overnight party for those with near- perfect attendance.
In 1999, Rich was elected president of the Michigan Elementary and Middle School Principals Association. He was later elected to the board of directors for the national elementary school principals group, representing Michigan, Wisconsin and Iowa. He was also active in the Michigan Reading Association.
After his retirement, Rich was still active in education taking over as a long-term substitute at East Grand Rapids Schools while his wife, Linda, underwent cancer treatments.
His passion for reading and helping his students learn was obvious to anyone who entered McFall Elementary School. He also was an avid golfer, loved playing cards with his "band of brothers," enjoyed bird watching, and was a season ticket holder for the Michigan State Spartan football games.
Rich's picture and a plaque will be displayed in the library.