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Orlando George, longtime president of Delaware Tech, dies at age 78

He collected many titles.

Perhaps one of Orlando George Jr.'s earliest experiences came in elementary school. He and his friends were the “yard boys” who ran around his Christ Our King Parish School and grew up with his family in Wilmington. From there, the list would not grow – he was the first in his family to attend college, a member of the Wilmington City Council, a leader in the Delaware House of Representatives, and the fourth president of Delaware Technical Community College for 19 years.

Titles and honors grew, his family wrote this week, but “Dad” was the most important and “Pop-pop” was the most fun. And on Monday, May 27, George died peacefully, once again surrounded by his family.

“The Delaware Tech community is deeply saddened to learn of Dr. George's passing today,” said Mark T. Brainard, DelTech's current president, in a statement Wednesday morning. “During his distinguished 45-year career at the college, he expanded access for our students, improved the quality of our programs, and built a foundation for continued growth that will benefit Delaware Tech students for years to come. Lonnie was a loyal friend, a great mentor, and a passionate advocate for Delaware Tech. He will be truly missed by many.”

Delaware mourns the loss of an educator, leader and father who made teaching others his life's work.

A life of leadership and education

It all started in 1969 when DelTech hired a University of Delaware graduate as a mathematics instructor.

As he progressed, earning a master's and doctorate in education, George also climbed the corporate ladder. According to his obituary, which was released this week, he rose through the ranks, from department head to assistant campus director to dean of instruction to vice president and more. Then, in 1995, he became the college's fourth president.

This paved the way for further advancement into public service.

George, according to his obituary, first served on the Wilmington City Council from 1972 to 1974 and then as a state representative from 1974 to 1995. During that time, he served as Speaker of the House, Chairman of the Joint Committee on Finance, and in many other capacities. His other roles included serving on several boards across the state, from ChristianaCare and the Delaware State Chamber of Commerce to several nonprofit offices. And throughout his tenure, he received awards and honors.

When he retired from DelTech in 2014, he was the highest-paid employee in the state. After his retirement, the Wilmington campus was renamed the Orlando J. George, Jr. Campus by the Delaware State Legislature. Governor Jack Markell awarded Lonnie the Order of the First State, the state's highest honor.

Colleagues and other leaders said at his retirement that the longtime president's legacy would be securing capital, launching programs and building a strong community college for Delaware to train workers. He managed to juggle all that and all of his jobs while his family said he still found time to show up, from commercials to evening family dinners.

In fact, after his last board meeting, he said he would probably spend the first day of his retirement at the beach, surrounded by his grandchildren.

Review at DelTech: President Orlando George retires in June

Outside working hours

Orlando “Lonnie” George Jr. was the grandson of four Italian immigrants.

Not only did he owe these roots to his character and generosity, his obituary states, but the family man also proved to be a “curious, skilled, talented, self-taught and loving cook” who was obsessed with travel. He and his wife of nearly 57 years, Linda, visited over 100 countries on every continent. Lonnie loved learning about local history, customs and cuisine around the world, although Italy was one of his favorite places.

At home, Sundays were almost always family days.

As their four daughters started families and met nine grandchildren of their own, the couple enjoyed visiting Bethany Beach. That meant swimming, visiting, walking the boardwalk and—when Lonnie wasn't cooking, or maybe he was—eating ice cream.

Survivors of the influential personality from Delaware are: Linda Krystopolski George, children Melanie George Smith (Frank III), Leana Janukowicz (Jeff), Natalie George and Oliva Walton (Jesse), grandchildren Ariel, Sarah, Nate, Clayton, Chance, Adam, Grace, Tyler and Jordan, brothers Robert “Bob” George and Martin “Marty” George (Christine) and her brother-in-law Gene Krystopolski (Ann Marie).

His family requests donations to the Dr. Orlando J. George, Jr. & Mrs. Linda K. George Scholarship Endowment at Delaware Technical and Community College in lieu of flowers.

A viewing for family and friends will be held on June 3 from 4 to 8 p.m. at the Carriage House in Rockwood. The funeral will be private, while a celebration of Lonnie's life is planned on June 6 from 5 to 7 p.m. at the Orlando J. George, Jr. Campus.

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Contact Kelly Powers at kepowers@gannett.com or (231) 622-2191 and follow her on X @kpowers01.

Anna Harden

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