Brooklyn Heights

Jack Skillman, former headmaster of the Packer Collegiate Institute, dies at 80

January 12, 2015 Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Jack Skillman, former headmaster of the Packer Collegiate Institute, died Dec. 15 at the age of 80.

John F. Skillman, Jr. “Jack” of Falmouth, ME, a former Headmaster of the Packer Collegiate Institute and life-long educator, died December 15th in Scarborough, ME at the age of 80. 

In 1958, Jack started his teaching and education career and joined the faculty of North Haven High School, North Haven, CT where he taught English and was named Chairman of the department in 1961.  In 1962 he became an English instructor at the Hopkins Grammar School, New Haven, CT (now the Hopkins School) and in 1964 Jack also became the Director of Admissions at Hopkins.

Jack became Headmaster (now “Head of School”) of the Packer Collegiate Institute in Brooklyn Heights and served from 1968 -1982.  Jack’s tenure at Packer played a pivotal and significant role in bringing the school into the 20th century. His leadership accomplishments included guiding the school to become fully coeducational, having the vision to purchase an adjoining landmark church, working to increase an ethnic and racially diverse student enrollment, hiring dynamic and talented faculty and expanding the school’s dramatic arts programs.

A graduate of Yale University in 1957 with a B.A. in English and in 1958 with a M.A.T. in Teaching, Jack also coached freshman squash & tennis at Yale from 1956 -1961.

In 1982 Jack became the seventh Headmaster of the Harley School in Rochester, NY where he served until 1988.  He and his wife Sally purchased a beautiful 130 acre former farm parcel in Palermo, ME that included 17 acres of active wild blueberry fields, where Jack later semi-retired, and where he and Sally owned and managed Tobey’s General Store for 10 years before their divorce in 1992.

Jack will be remembered for his authenticity, his humor and his contagious personable nature. He was always present, caring and practical while engaging others with his gift for interpersonal conversation.  His warm and charismatic nature touched many lives and all those around him felt valued and encouraged.  He always seemed to put others first in his pursuit of promoting excellence in all things.

Jack believed strongly in the importance of quality secondary education and endorsed a school and self-improvement ethos that in his own words, “promoted individual and group honesty, perseverance, excellence, responsibility, challenge and human support and acceptance.”

Jack is survived by his former spouse of 35 years Sally Skillman and their three (3) adult children, Gregory Skillman and his spouse Karen Wentworth, Mark Skillman and Lee Skillman and her fiancé Evan Jessen.  Jack also leaves behind two much-loved grandchildren Aiden Skillman (10) and Liam Skillman (5), sons of Greg & Karen.

Mr. Skillman’s cremated remains will be interred in the spring at the Grove Street Cemetery following a Celebration of Life Memorial Service at Trinity Church on the Green in New Haven, CT.    

Memorial donations can be made to the Packer Collegiate Institute, Brooklyn, NY and the Skillman Associates Squash Program, Yale University, New Haven, CT.