Obituary: Robert Sullivan, Former Belmont High Asst. Principal, Dies at 84

Photo: Belmont High School Assistant Principal Robert Sullivan in 1971.

Robert D. Sullivan, a Belmont educator who knew generations of Belmont students serving as assistant principal at Belmont High School for nearly a quarter of a century, died suddenly on Tuesday, Feb. 24, 2015.

Sullivan celebrated his 84th birthday on Feb. 17.

A moment of silence was afforded Sullivan – who coached the junior varsity and sophomore basketball teams in the 1960s – before the first-round boys’ basketball playoff match between Belmont and Winchester on Wednesday, Feb. 25.

“I can tell you from a personal view that he was one of the finest gentlemen I have ever known,” said Dan Macauley, who attended Belmont High when Sullivan was vice principal and was his neighbor for decades.


Belmont High School Asst. Principal Robert Sullivan in 1977.

Born in 1931, Sullivan was raised on Huron Avenue in Cambridge and graduated from Ringe High School in Cambridge in 1949. He entered Boston College and graduated in 1953. After serving two years in the US Army, Sullivan began his teaching career in 1956 in the Acton system before being hired to teach mathematics at Belmont High School in 1960. He would later proclaimed himself, with some jest, “the world’s best Geometry teacher.” The same year he came to Belmont, he earned his Master’s from the Boston College School of Education.

After a decade in the classroom, Sullivan was named the school’s assistant principal in 1970 and would serve in that position for nearly a quarter century until his retirement in 1994.

“Being the disciplinarian at the High School for many years was a very difficult job,” said Macauley.  “[But] even the kids that had issues in school are saying nice things about him.”

Sullivan, who became a Belmont resident in 1966, was active in Belmont athletics, being a member and two-time president of the Belmont Boosters, a group he was associated for 50 years. He was also the founder of the Belmont High School Athletic Hall of Fame and was a fixture at Belmont High School athletic events. His support of student athletic was recognized as he was awarded a lifetime pass from the Middlesex League at his retirement, “a rare and prized possession,” said his daughter, Elizabeth Martins.

“He was a true Belmontian through and through and was a great historian of Belmont athletics.  He was always the ‘go to guy’ if you ever had a question about a Belmont athlete from the 40’s through Tuesday morning,” said Macauley.

He was also a longtime member of the Belmont Education Scholarship Committee, a member of the B.C. Club of Cape Cod, the B.C. Reunion Committee and of the Mt. Auburn Post # 8818 V.F.W. 

Sullivan said his true loves in his life were his family, Belmont, Boston College and his Cape Cod home in Mashpee.

In 1990, he stated he had three wishes before he died: his son getting married, the Boston Red Sox winning the World Series and Boston College beating Notre Dame in football. After all three events had been accomplished in 2004, he started to worry that he was on borrowed time, said Martins.

Sullivan is survived by Elizabeth A. “Betty” (Boyle) Sullivan; and their children, Kathleen R. Mahoney and her husband Paul of Belmont, Michael F. Sullivan and his wife Angela of Belmont, Elizabeth M. Martins and her husband Tony of Southboro, Maureen H. Tortola and her husband William of Natick and Martha J. Millicker and her husband Paul of Glastonbury Conn.

Sullivan was grandfather to Nicholas and Roseann Tortola, Audette and Patrick Martins, Jacqueline Mahoney, Megan and Stephanie Millicker and Erin Sullivan. He was brother of William P. Sullivan of Mashpee, Patricia West of Hanover, Barbara Sullivan of Cambridge and the late Marilyn Doyon.

A funeral mass in be celebrated at St. Joseph Church on Common Street in Belmont on Saturday, Feb. 28, at 10:30 a.m. Visiting hours in the Stanton Funeral Home, 786 Mt. Auburn St. (Rt. 16), in Watertown on Friday 4-8 P.M. Burial will be at Highland Meadow Cemetery.

In lieu of flowers contributions in Bob’s memory to the Belmont High School Education Scholarship, P.O. Box 56 Belmont, MA 02478 would be appreciated.