Paying Tribute to our Wonderful Principal and Amazing Man
Thank you for sharing your thoughts and memories
"I would like to share my favorite memory of Dr. C from Stetson. This was my last year at Stetson, as I am going to be a 9th grader at Rustin next year.
Dr. C brought so much joy to Stetson and never walked by me without saying hello. He was always smiling and never stopped thinking of ways to improve Stetson. I miss him greatly and wish I could have said thank you for everything.
My favorite memory of Dr. C is when he always tapped the table I was sitting at at 7:15 in the morning. He always said good morning and asked me how I was doing. It might be a simple gesture, but being at school at 7:15 wasn’t easy, and that simple gesture made my day start off on a great note.
He started a conversation whenever he could and only thought of ways to make others happy. I miss him greatly."
- Lexi Harrison, Graduating 8th Grader at Stetson
"I send this with such a heavy heart. I am the cafe Manager at Stetson. I have a photo of Doc during Ugly Sweater day at SMS and wanted to share it. He came in every day through the back door by my office. Never missing a chance to check in on me or my staff. Never missing an opportunity to thank us or praise us for something we were doing. He cared about aspect of his school.
He supported myself and my staff in ways that any cafeteria manager can only dream of. The love he had for his students and the true concern for his staff showed through daily. He will be truly missed by all of us in the cafe at Stetson."
-Joy Vining, SMS Cafeteria Manager
"Dr. C. was my daughter’s biggest advocate and best friend. She uses her communication device every single day since schools closed to ask for Dr. C. He was the only person who could make her giggle on demand. His concern for her health, safety and happiness at Stetson and in the wider community means more then anyone can understand. She will not comprehend what has happened until school starts and he is not there. This is going to be a long and difficult road. Note that in the birthday party picture, everyone else is looking at the camera.
But she is keeping her eyes on Dr. C!"
- Meredith Hung, Lilly’s mom
"My family and I moved here from New Jersey seven years ago. We have three children, my older two, knew Dr.C pretty well.. I have such a wonderful memory, of Dr. C-
One day, I headed to SMS, to drop something off, for my daughter Sophia. While I was in the office, Dr. C, Said, “Mrs Rosenthal, can I speak to you for a minute?” - I said- sure ( I have to admit, I was nervous) We sat in his office, and he said, “ I just wanted to tell you, Sophia is one of my favorite sixth grade students! She is very interested in my car racing and watching the videos, and I get a real kick out of her! I thanked him, and told him how appreciative I was, of that wonderful compliment! He also, had very kind words, too say about my son Ethan as well. I'm sad, our time with Dr.C was cut short, my youngest son Jonah, didn't have a long period of time to get to know him... RIP Dr. Cognato"
- fond memories from the Rosenthal family
Pictures shared by the Seaman Family
"Our whole family was saddened to learn of Dr. Cognatos passing today. My kids are now 22 and 24 and both have great memories. One that stands out for me, was how supportive he was with my son, who has ADHD. Often stopping to chat with him and friends at Lunch; helping us, as the family, by guiding us through the processes of getting the help needed. He will be profoundly missed by the community...prayers and peace to his family and school family during this difficult time."
- Andrea Kitchens (Rachael and Bradley)
"Dr. C was always a champion for the kids and their activities."
- Amy Patel
"We are heartbroken to hear of the loss of Dr. C. He was truly the heart of the Stetson community.
The attached photo is when he dressed as the bouncer at the red carpet for the 8th grade dance in June, 2014."
- Terry Wade
"I worked with Chas for many years at Stetson. He impressed me with his heart for all of the students. He was their cheerleader believing that they had unlimited talents to share and helping young adolescents grow into successful citizens. He seemed to have boundless energy and positivity which he poured into our school. Chas made a difference, and he will be missed."
- Peggy Gastner
"This photo was taken at the start of the school year and shared with staff. I thought this was such the epitome of who he was. I can sincerely say that Chas was one of a kind. When I came on board at Stetson, he did everything he could to make me feel welcome and valued. He happily greeted me by name almost every morning, as one of the early birds in a still quiet building. I always looked forward to it! He went out of his way to check in, often popping into my class to throw out a big “Bonjour”, and he was so so personable and fun. He had the biggest heart. I’ll never forget the sight of him sitting in a student desk, eager to learn about fruits and vegetables in French during my demo lesson—engaged with the props and all! He was incredibly generous and approachable, and I’m beyond thankful I told him often how happy I am at SMS. I am forever grateful that I had the opportunity to be one of his teachers, and I will miss him very much."
- Shannon Strauss, French Teacher, Stetson Middle School
"In Memory of Dr. C “Cogs” Cognato,
Your words, leadership and kindness will never be forgotten Mr. “Cogs” Cognato. I cannot thank you enough for being such a great teacher, coach and role model in my life and I’m sure the lives of all those who you served in the community. Dedicated to so many. Zoe will miss having Dr. C when she arrives at Stetson however I’m so grateful that she met you. 😢We celebrate your life way too early... but I know you will always be with so many of us in our ♥️.
I am so grateful that we spoke just last week."
- Much Love from the McGraw Family. Mark, Cari, Zoe & Becca YGB
" Following the awards ceremony on Friday, Chas was planning to ride his motorcycle through the Stetson neighborhoods to celebrate with our 8th graders."
- Liz Cognato
"I have known Chas for many years. We communicated a lot when he was hired at Stetson, and he was very involved in PAMLE. In 2005, PAMLE was the host organization for the AMLE National Conference in Philadelphia. Chas was a co-chair for the conference, and he developed a video that we used to advertise. He mounted a camera on the dashboard of his car as he drove around Philly highlighting specific areas of interest for attendees. He was afraid that he might get pulled over as he filmed!! He wanted to use the Rocky theme, but the cost to use it for a national ad was way out of our budget. So he created a video of himself running around Stetson followed by a lot of students as he carried a torch. It was hilarious! Also, if given the opportunity while in a bar that had a piano, he would always belt out a Sinatra song!
That's who he was. Always in it for the kids. We traveled together to a lot of PAMLE meetings and conferences and talked a lot about middle school.
I am so sad to hear of his passing. He was a true middle level advocated who loved what he did. He will be missed by many."
- Bruce Vosburgh, retired principal from CF Patton MS.
Dr. Cognato loves playing holiday songs on guitar with Mrs. Melody Dunn’s classroom music students and carolers from Ms. Mara Claffy’s Spanish classes.
"He loved cars and we always enjoyed seeing him when he came into the shop! He will be missed he was a wonderful man!"
- JT, Chris, and Laura Aloisio
"I will always remember Dr. C for his unwavering support of my violin playing. I will always remember the times when we would walk by each other at Stetson or Rustin, and he would smile and motivate me to continue playing and practicing. I know Dr. C and I shared a connection over music, and I'm so grateful to have had him by my side. I will miss him dearly."
- Nick Hsieh
A Dynamic Duo! Dr. C with Starkweather Principal, John Meanix.
"I have many fond memories of Dr. Cognato when he was a teacher at Hill Top Prep in Rosemont. I remember him as a kind and caring teacher who truly wanted the best for his students. His energetic personality was always present in whatever he did. He will, certainly, be missed by all who were fortunate enough to have known him."
- Elizabeth Organt
Dr. C was Always Willing to Get the Dancing Started!
"My very fond memory of Dr. C was when my son, Eric, who is now 32, was in 8th grade. Eric struggled with OCD as well as Social Disorder. Dr. C noticed his struggle and made the suggestion that he could have lunch with him, in his office, whenever he felt overwhelmed. Dr. C also knew that my son had a passion for the guitar. They would play together. To a 14 yr. old, that was the best thing ever.
Back in March, Dr. C came to WTE and asked me how Eric was doing. I showed him is wedding picture. We both got teary eyed. No words were needed.
Thank you Dr. C for your friendship and guidance."
- Kelly Patterson and Eric Herbster
"The Chas I knew for 20 years was more than a professional public educator or supervisor. He certainly cared about professional development for his staff, and he strived for improvement. However, his personal connection with people was most memorable. He cared about his staff, and he loved his students. He was the eternal optimist who would always provide his staff or students with guidance and the tools they needed to be successful. He was a true leader, and it gives me great comfort to say that he brought out the best in me as an educator. I will be forever grateful to have known Chas, and I will miss him dearly."
- Greg Jewitt, Stetson Middle School
"I teach 8th grade Italian. In Italy, the big Christmas gift giving holiday isn’t so much December 25th (although with an increasingly globalized culture, Santa is quickly taking over) but January 6th, Epiphany (Epifania). Some Southern Italian towns still celebrate La Befana, a good witch who flies around giving kids treats.
Chaz warned me early on that he would be crashing my class around January 6th, but I was totally unprepared for this – he walked in decked out as La Befana, voice and all, quizzing the kids in Italian and giving treats to each one. He addressed every single student. They were totally unprepared and talked about it for the rest of our time together.
Chaz was truly an incredible person, and I’ll really miss his enthusiastic “BUON GIORNO!” as I rushed to class. Stetson won’t be the same without him."
- Allison Dougherty
"This year was our daughter’s first year at Stetson Middle School. She had a tough time transitioning into sixth grade and early on encountered some bullying. Dr. Cognato stepped in to make sure our daughter felt safe; he went out of his way to speak to her in the hallways during class transition times. There were even a few times when he personally escorted her to class. What was most impressive about Dr. C was that these actions were not just for one student; this was typical of how he treated every student. He was more than an educator: he was a thoughtful, caring human being. Stetson will not be the same without him."
- the Imbesi Family
"I am saddened to learn about the passing of Chas Cognato. My first introduction to Chas was at the Pennsylvania Middle School conference in State College. Chas was giving a presentation about transition camp, a program for incoming 6th grade students. I was on the state board and slipped into his session to do a count. He saw me come in and knew he needed to talk with me. Unbeknownst to me, he had attended a conference where I had presented the same topic. He did not want me to think that he had stolen my material. I told him I was more than happy to share any of my materials with him. That was the start of our friendship. In fact, he invited me to Colonial Middle School to help him implement the program there. We enjoyed collaborating on the event. Chas was convinced to join the eastern regional board of the Pennsylvania Middle School Association. He was an active member, volunteering to help with events and contributing his ideas about how our organization could serve middle level educators, students, and their families. We worked well as a team and were asked by the Association for Middle Level Education, formerly known as the National Middle School Association, to serve as co-chairs for their annual conference in November of 2005. Chas was wonderful to work with planning the event. He was extremely creative and visionary as we designed an event with a unique Philadelphia flavor. You could watch the twinkle in his eyes as an idea would start to form and he was off and running to make things happen. Our conference was a huge success because of his tireless efforts. Chas was passionate about his students and understood what was best for them as he addressed the needs of the whole child. His dedication, support, and enthusiasm brought out the best in everyone who encountered him. He leaves a void that will be hard to fill."
- Gail L. Heinemeyer, Director, Association for Middle Level Education Leadership Institute
"This is a great pic of Dr. C embracing our daughter Alexys McClain after he awarded her the Principal Award at the 8th grade celebration on June 13, 2018.
The McClain family will greatly miss Dr C and the legacy he left at Stetson!"
"During the 1983-1984 school year at B. Reed Henderson High School (HHS), I became the mentor of a West Chester University student-teacher named Mr. Chas Cognato. I observed, guided, and collaborated with a fine person who developed genuine rapport with the students of my biology classes. Chas demonstrated his knowledge of biology presented via his timely lesson planning. Mr. Cognato enjoyed the classroom with each confident, successful delivery by his design. I wished him luck at the end of his student teaching.
Years passed. Dr. Charles A. Cognato, Principal, Stetson Middle School, dedicated his life to his career. As I grieve, I hope the unique legacy of "Dr. C" will inspire his fellow Stetson Falcons."
- Amelia Berberich, retired WCASD
My daughter said as we were putting up tributes for Dr. C at SMS that “She will miss him coming to her lunch table every day, chatting and having some lunch with her and her friends.”
- Patty Ciunci
"Just a little over a year ago, I received a wonderful phone call from Dr. C telling me that he had chosen our daughter as one of the two 2019 Principal Award winners. My husband and I were very touched that out of the whole 8th grade Samantha had been one of the ones chosen. Dr. C was so sincere & genuine in his explanation of choosing her. It is what every parent hopes their child represents when they are not around.
When we shared the news with Samantha this week she was saddened. She remarked that Dr. C was the cool Principal, the one the students could relate to and he really did care about all of them. Then she recalled that she was one of the last students that he would directly hand the Principal award too."
- Christine & Jay Ward
- Maria Hawatmeh
"My oldest began in Stetson in 2014, and from the first day we met Dr C, he told my 4th son that he couldnt wait to have him at Stetson. Well, Quinn is graduating Starkweather tomorrow and we are heartbroken that he will miss the incredible experience of having Dr. C.
Over the past 6 years, we have had the privilege to be a family at Stetson Middle School. Dr C has been an incredible mentor to my children and has provided the support for me that is unparalleled. From giggling at me as I dropped off something “forgotten” for the 10th day in a row... to coming over and saying hello as he watched the after school sports. Dr C. Was always there.
We can not thank him enough for the love, patience and support he provided to us over the years. Saying he will be missed is an understatement."
- the Hickey Family
Farewell Dr. Cognato
"In the hardest spring I can remember, I was shocked and saddened to learn of the passing of Dr. Charles Cognato, principal of Stetson Middle School, earlier this week. My sincere condolences to his family and all of his friends.
Dr. C was always an optimistic presence at Stetson. He always had a smile and kind word for students and parents alike. Even before my kids arrived at Stetson, he knew their names and made sure they felt comfortable and confident in their early days of middle school. Through their years there, he talked to them and made them feel like part of a community. Getting to know a new class of students always seemed to be a passion for him. Whenever an issue arose, Dr. C always offered a solution, and listened to ideas to gain additional insight to make things better. While it is too easy to get lost amid all of the policies, programs and paperwork of our educational system, that was never Dr. C. He was always personable and offered answers, ideas, and optimism. For him, there was no doubt the kids, the students at his school came first. Every morning, whether bright and sunny or cold and rainy, he stood in front of the school, creating an upbeat and welcoming presence. He provided leadership that set high standards for academic performance and character, but these goals always came with support, understanding and compassion for the students.
Dr. C was also a terrific supporter of Rustin Hockey. In November 2016, we were thrilled to have him come out to a game we played at the Wells Fargo Center and honored to have him drop the puck in a ceremonial opening face-off — and then manage the penalty box throughout the game. When we invited Dr. C, we knew he would be there. He was always there for the kids. He was a special guy who undoubtedly touched many lives as kids, parents and families went through Stetson Middle School. He will be greatly missed, but may those of us who had the great pleasure of getting to know him carry forward his spirit of optimism, boundless energy and a commitment to creating and sustaining a strong learning and caring community."
- Dan Simcox
"Dr. C was beloved by his students and staff. He enjoyed making people smile and genuinely cared about the individuals with whom he worked. Dr. C was respected and admired because of his commitment to rigor, relevance, and relationships. Dr. C was like family to us – he was invited to many of our wedding celebrations and was present at the funerals of our own loved ones to show his compassion and support. Dr. C was rarely in his office – in fact, anytime I needed him, I found myself doing laps around the building because he was always in and out of classrooms to learn with the students and teachers. Dr. C was passionate about education. He supported me as a mentor and supervised my Principal Internship. He encouraged me as I earned my doctorate through Neumann University, where he also served as a respected instructor. I will miss seeing his silly costumes for Stetson Spirit Days and the way he used to laugh at a volume far above his normal speaking voice. He made it a point to frequently ask how my toddler son was doing and to ask me to say hello to this person or that person for him – it seemed he knew everyone! Dr. C loved his Harley, being a “cowboy”, and the music of Elvis Presley. In the words of The King himself, “Love me tender, love me long/Take me to your heart/For it's there that I belong/And we'll never part”. And honestly, it’s true that the memories we have of Dr. C will honor his legacy and the friendship that we shared. Dr. C left us much too soon, but he will always be in the hearts of everyone who knew him and loved him."
- Susan M. Berberich Edmondson, Stetson Middle School, English Language Arts teacher
"Dr. Cognato had a good soul, and he genuinely wanted the best for Stetson students. His heart lived at 1060 Wilmington Pike. It is sad and shocking that he was taken so soon."
- Mr. Peter Stolzer
"Dr. C meant a lot to my 6th grade grandson. He will miss the man he looked up to."
- Frank McCarthy
"I was blessed to have Dr. C as principal for my three years at Stetson. You could tell he was passionate about his job and cared about every single student to walk through Stetson. When he walked down the hallway, this warmth radiated off of him, making every teacher, student and staff member within the vicinity to feel happier and loved. He will be missed deeply by every student to ever have him and by all of Stetson."
- Annika Franson
"One day I had forgotten my lunch and didn't have any money in my account. Dr. Cognato noticed me sitting there with nothing to eat. He came over and asked why I wasn't eating. When he found out I didn't have any money he offered to buy me something. That's just the kind of amazing principal he was."
- Paige Barker, Class of 2020
"Our oldest son Jackson just completed 6th grade at Stetson. While we didn't know Dr. C well, it's very clear he was loved by his students and staff and cared for them genuinely. We got to see that first hand when back in February Jackson had an asthma attack. Jackson has some prior medical conditions that relates to his asthma and makes it a bit more more serious when an attack occurs. When the nurse couldn't get his breathing levels up to normal with treatments they called an ambulance to take him to Chester County hospital. Dr. C rode with Jackson in the ambulance to keep him calm and make sure he was being taken care of until we arrived. We are deeply thankful for this gesture and join the overall community in our sadness of his passing."
- Jon & Kerrie Roche
"Dr. C was a kind, funny, loved jokes and was always full of energy. He helped a lot with the plays. Whenever the first person go up to him to get there microphone, he would say walk down the aisle and sing. We will all laugh and at the last show he would say great job everyone! He will help if you are being bully."
"Dr. C taught us to live by the motto “Rigor, Relevance, Relationships.” He truly believed that Relationships were the most important, and good teaching would not happen without them. We will deeply miss you, Dr. C."
- Cindy Claffey, 7th-grade teacher, Stetson Middle School
"As a parent of a child with an IEP and admittedly unpredictable behavior, Dr. Cognato demonstrated advocacy and support that literally brought me to tears (of relief and gratitude).
Our transition to 6th grade was somewhat eventful. Dr. C handled it with grace and compassion when I was judging myself harshly. We moved on quickly from that event, and I appreciated how Dr. C empowered his staff to work proactively and professionally to make decisions that positively impacted Madeline, and by extension, her classmates.
The community’s affection for him and sadness in his sudden passing is in itself a tribute. I knew Dr C for only a short period of time. I’m sure his leadership influenced many teachers and administrators over the years. Rest In Peace, Dr. C."
- Amanda Lott
Dr. Cognato & Bridget Duffy with the Principal's Award he gave her in 2016.
I would like to pay tribute to a great man who was the head of our wonderful Stetson family. Chas created the Stetson motto of “Rigor, Relevance and Relationships” and always put the emphasis on relationships. He fostered a sense of community in the building and formed us into a family. He always tried to support us and give attention to our personal needs especially when it came to personal issues and health.
Chas was ever present, ready with a smile and sense of humor—in the halls high-fiving students, calling students and staff out by name, proudly giving recognition to any accomplishment, popping into classrooms and sometimes becoming one of the students, providing an open door to his office, and attending games, plays, concerts, events (sometimes Chas became the event as in the time students earned the privilege of duct-taping him to a wall). Chas lived and breathed Stetson; he was proud of his staff and the students were his kids—his life. He enjoyed sharing his passions—biking, riding, cooking, his heritage, and his family (for whom he expressed great pride).
It is so unfair that someone with such a kind and giving heart and so much to give was taken away from this world so soon. Chas, you are loved and missed by your school, family, and the community.
- Wanda Allaire, Math Teacher, Stetson Middle School
Dr. C was always there for me when I was going through some hard times in middle school. He was always a supporter for me and my violin playing and he would always motivate me to keep playing. Whenever I saw him in the halls of Stetson or Rustin, he would always acknowledge me. I loved seeing him at my concerts and musicals; he was always there to cheer me on. I will miss his laugh, smile, and hugs very much.
- Alana Alexander
Dr. Cognato was an amazing principal, and overall, he was just an amazing person. He cared so much for his staff, and students, and made everyone feel welcomed as they walked through the Stetson doors, on the first, and last day of school. He just brought so much joy here to Stetson, and did the little things that made everyone smile. I don't have a picture of him, but I'm sure everyone can remember this leader. He will greatly be missed, and forever a falcon. ❤
- Avery McMakin
I will always remember Dr. Cognato standing outside in all kinds of weather directing the buses. He always gave us a smile and a wave.
He knew all three of my children. He was a kind, warm hearted, caring man.
I will never forget watching him cry at the 8th grade play of Wizard of Oz when my daughter played the Wicked witch. It brought tears to my eyes and I teased him about it afterwards. He said he just couldn’t help it. We had a good laugh about it.
We will miss him terribly. The West Chester community lost a very good man. He will always have a place in our family’s heart.
- The Williams Family
I have many fond memories of Dr. C when I worked in the Stetson cafeteria. When he came in to the kitchen he sure brightened our day. Very caring and funny man. When I was in my accident outside stetson in 2011 he came to visit me in the hospital and my home to make sure I was doing ok. So thoughtful of others. He will be missed.
- Ilana Ernst
"Dr. C was the type of principal who went above and beyond for any one of his students. He would run over to Rustin to watch his past students perform. This was from the Superintendents Breakfast where he came to support, like he always did.
Dr. C would always go out of his way to support and be there for any student. He was always at my concerts and would come to Rustin to see me sing, anytime. I found this old picture of us from two years ago when the Rustin Music Department came to Stetson and he made sure to say hi during his always busy schedule. Dr. C is forever my best friend and he will be so deeply missed!"
- Chloe Schlack, Former Stetson Student
My oldest is now a sophmore and my middle is an eighth grader. They both have such fond memories of Dr. C spending every day at lunch getting to know the students. He was such a welcoming presence at Stetson. I remember having a conversation with Dr. C when my oldest was in 6th grade. I was about to explain to him who my daughter was but he stopped me and said I know who your daughter is, I can tell you who her friends are and where she sits at lunch! His heart was Stetson and those kids. Myself and my youngest (who is in 3rd grade) would sit with Dr. C at basketball games because of course he was there! He would sit and chat with us and talk with such pride about his school and his students. He will be sadly missed. #stetsonstrong!!!
- The Spitzer Family
Please email any photos/memories you'd like to share in tribute of Dr. C, to firstname.lastname@example.org.