In late 2013, the Brighton Schools Alumni Association (BSAA) initiated a project to honor the memory of Henry P. “Pete” French, Jr., Class of '53, former co-chair and a driving force in the advancement of the BSAA. Pete devoted many hours to ensuring BSAA's successful mission to serve as a source of connection and pride for alumni and service to the school.
Pete was a product of Brighton schools, attending from kindergarten through the 12th grade. He received his BA from the University of Delaware in 1960, after serving for two years in Korea as a chaplain’s assistant in the U.S. Army. On returning to Delaware, he changed his major from business to Chinese history. After his father died, he returned to Rochester and resumed his studies at the University of Rochester (UofR), earning a master’s degree in history and a doctorate in education. He taught at Monroe Community College (MCC) for 41 years, held a joint appointment with the UofR in the East Asia Center, and traveled as a guest lecturer. Pete also enjoyed guest teaching at BHS and his involvement with the Alumni Author's Program.
Pete’s philosophy of “giving back" propelled him into numerous community groups, including the MCC Foundation Board and the UR Warner School. He also served on the Rundel Library Foundation and the Regional Library Foundation, and as a library trustee and president of the Rochester Public Library. In 2008, Pete received the Harold Hacker Library Lifetime Achievement Award and in 2010, the National Philanthropy Award as an Outstanding Volunteer Fundraiser.
The BSAA’s media center project focused on enhancements to the BHS Library/Media Center, in recognition of Pete's passion for fostering and promoting libraries for learning and enjoyment. The primary objectives of the project included improving the esthetic and welcoming nature of the library for students and other users, recognizing Pete's contributions to the school and its alumni, and providing a place for the permanent display of books by BHS graduates. Ultimately, the BSAA raised more than $34,000 from alumni, faculty and other donors. The project was also supported by the Brighton Central School District through additional funding and the contribution of materials and skilled labor.
Improvements include enhanced LED lighting throughout the facility and a custom-built display case in the library entranceway dedicated to Pete's contributions and housing a changing display of books by BHS graduates. A commissioned work of art glass by the world-renowned artist and BSAA/BHS Alumni Hall of Fame member Nancy Gong, BHS Class of '74, was installed in an open archway on the main floor of the library. An updated makeover of the popular students’ lounge area on the lower library level included new chairs, a table and lamps, replacement of the magazine racks, a colorful area rug added to the existing carpet, and replacing the worn stairway rug leading from the upper to the lower level. The security gate was removed from the library entranceway.
Completion of the project was marked by an informal dedication ceremony on June 24, 2015, with members of Pete’s extended family in attendance. Photographs of the dedication and improvements are seen here. In the words of Pete’s widow, Beverly French, “Pete would be honored and humbled to have the BSAA library project dedicated to him.”