Roger Corey Sr., a no-nonsense Sacramento educator who shaped young minds and attitudes with tough love, died Wednesday of multiple myeloma, his family said. He was 70.
At 6-foot-6 and 260 pounds, Mr. Corey was a bigger-than-life presence on campus at Kennedy High School for 28 years. Besides teaching art and driver education, he coached basketball, track and cross country. He supported student extracurricular activities and was a vice principal.
But many students remember him as a father figure who reached out to help troubled teens get on the right path. With streetwise humor and warnings about consequences, he preached old-school values of hard work, responsibility and respect for oneself and others.
He demanded that boys pull up sagging pants and sent tardy students directly to the principal's office. He kept lists of those who skipped classes and chased down kids trying to sneak off campus.
He openly confronted young people who were using drugs or alcohol and showed up at homes to meet with their parents. He drove to the house of a habitually truant student and got her mother's permission to take the girl to school in her pajamas.
Although Mr. Corey's blunt approach made some colleagues uncomfortable, it worked for many young people, former student Sergio Villarreal said.
"He was trying to teach us boundaries, self-respect, and just take pride in what you're doing," said Villarreal, a blogger for ransackedmedia.com. "As we became seniors, a lot of people grew to respect him because a lot of what he had to say was filtering into other aspects of our lives."
Mr. Corey's lessons about taking responsibility hit home when one of his adult sons was arrested by Sacramento police for cocaine possession in 1991. He spoke openly about his anguish in The Bee and later appeared with his son to discuss the experience on Oprah Winfrey's talk show.
"It was devastating for Roger, but it was a learning experience," said his wife, Debbie. "He wanted people to know that even if you raise your child right, it could happen to you."
Mr. Corey was born in 1942 to Flora and Joseph Corey Sr. in Sacramento. He graduated from Sacramento High School and worked as a draftsman before deciding to be a teacher. He earned an education degree from California State University, Sacramento.
He joined Kennedy in 1973 and became a vice principal in 1999. He left Kennedy in 2001 and retired after several months as a teacher at Hiram Johnson High School. He later worked for First Tee, a youth golf program, and ran an airport shuttle service in Rancho Murieta, where he lived the last eight years.
He belonged to the Optimist Club and received awards for teaching and community service. Previously divorced, he had nine children and was married for 31 years to his wife, Debbie.
"He seemed like a hard person, but that was his way of being strong and always being there for anyone who needed help," said his daughter Robin Thomas.