Calvin L. Back, who was elected to the Middle Township Board of Education for the first time in 1962 and has served on the board for more than 60 years, earning recognition as the state’s longest-serving board member, was honored Monday, June 13, when the district named the high school’s performing arts center in his honor, according to a news release.
“It’s kind of funny to see my name up there in big letters,” Back, who will soon turn 87, said of the Calvin L. Back Performing Arts Center. “It’s an honor, really.”
Back was instrumental in adding the Performing Arts Center to the high school. “I can remember we went on a car ride and checked out another performing arts center under construction in another town. We liked it and decided to build it,” he recalled.
Back, who served as the board president for 30 of his 60 years, also oversaw the construction of the middle school and Elementary #2. A builder by trade, he was part of the crew working on the high school at age 27 when he decided to run for office. “I figured why not? There were all sorts of projects being proposed, and I wanted to get involved and help shape the schools in the community where I lived and grew up.”
Getting involved was nothing new for Back, who also was a volunteer firefighter in his hometown of Cape May Court House, eventually rising to the rank of chief. Professionally, he owned a construction business and built homes across the country.
“He devoted any spare time to public service,” said Dr. David Salvo, superintendent of Middle Township School District. “We wanted to honor him and his incredible service, and to celebrate this honor with his family, friends and colleagues. He has touched so many lives and has had such a lasting impact on this district and this community. We had to make sure his service is never forgotten.”
“It’s been an absolute honor to serve alongside this lifelong servant of our educational community,” said Dennis Roberts, president of the Middle Township Board of Education. “His quiet leadership and mentorship have been invaluable to many of our past superintendents and board members, including myself. There has never been a more deserving person to have this building named in his or her honor.”
Sen. Mike Testa (R, 1st Legislative District) attended the dedication and spoke about legacy. “Mr. Back is a true legend,” he told the crowd. “The performing arts center is just one part of his legacy. He’s done so much for this community in so many ways. It’s a honor just to be in his presence.”
Back said he will not seek reelection – instead, giving someone else an opportunity to get involved – just as he was given 60 years ago. He’s looking forward to spending more time with family – many of whom were in attendance for the dedication, some coming from as far as Florida and Texas.