The Larkin Lifetime Achievement Award recognizes members of the Essex Tech community and its past iterations, including Essex Agricultural and Technical High School, North Shore Technical High School, and Peabody Vocational School. The Award is named after Lt. Catherine Larkin, an alumni of the Essex County Agricultural School homemaking program and World War II nurse who died in a plane crash in 1945.
Awardees have demonstrated a commitment to and achievement within the local vocational and/or agricultural industries.
“James O’Brien has been a strong advocate for the agricultural community on the north shore and beyond,” Superintendent Riccio said. “As the General Manager of the Topsfield Fair and an agricultural member of our School Committee, Jamie has been instrumental in making sure our students and staff have excellent resources. This recognition is a testament to the work he does for our students and our community at large.”
O’Brien has served with the Essex Agricultural Society since 2006, as both General Manager of the Topsfield Fair and Executive Director of Northeast Harvest Buy Local, which represents about 400 farms in Essex and Middlesex counties.
O’Brien has served in many professional leadership roles, including President of the North Shore Visitors Bureau, member of the Essex County Farm Bureau Executive Board, Essex County Fruit Growers Executive Board, Massachusetts Fruit Growers Executive Board, and Essex National Heritage Executive Board.
He also shares his time and expertise with numerous charitable and non-profit organizations. An Eagle Scout, O’Brien has served as District Vice Chairman and Vice President of Development of the Spirit of Adventure Council, Boy Scouts of America, and on the Board of Directors of All-Care VNA and Hospice.
O’Brien has received numerous honors, including Essex County Farm Bureau Member of the Year, NESA Outstanding Eagle Scout Award, the North Shore Distinguished Leadership Award, and the President’s Award from Yankee Clipper Council, the Spirit of Adventure’s predecessor.
He was appointed by then-Gov. Charlie Baker to serve as a Department of Agriculture representative on the Essex Tech School Committee in 2016. He serves on Board subcommittees on Admissions, Alternative Energy Sources, Finance, and Negotiations.
“Jamie O’Brien has been absolutely instrumental to the success of the Essex North Shore Agricultural and Technical School,” School Committee Chair Mark Stout said. “Jamie is one of the finest colleagues I have ever had the pleasure of working with, and I consider it a true honor to be called his friend.”
“I am honored to receive the Larkin Award this year. I was asked to serve on the School Committee many years ago, and it’s something I enjoy immensely,” O’Brien said. “I am thrilled at the way faculty and staff mentor the students. There is nothing more impressive than seeing these students so committed to their fields. They’re graduating ready to jump into the workforce.”
O’Brien and his wife Elizabeth live in Peabody. They are the proud parents of Kate O’Brien and Patrick O’Brien.
Amelia “Amy” O’Malley began her long career at North Shore Regional Vocational School District in 1988. She began in the District as a Speech/Language Pathologist. Subsequently, Amy became the Special Education Director in 1996, Principal in 1998, and finally, Superintendent-Director in 2001 until her retirement in 2009. In total, Ms. O’Malley dedicated 21 years of her professional life to vocational education.
For anyone who knows Amy, it is no surprise that the District flourished during her tenure, changing and growing into a state-of-the-art technical school, respected and coveted by students and families from the 17-member districts. At the time, the North Shore was in great need of technically-trained, skilled workers.
“It’s safe to say we outgrew our school when we moved in” Ms. O’Malley said of the building on Log Bridge Road in Middleton. “It’s never been a proper school building. It’s a retro-fitted machine shop, no matter what we do.”
At that time, North Shore Technical High School received up to 300 applications each year and had space to accept only 120 freshmen. The Peabody High School vocational program was run out of the Higgins Middle School and the high school.
Over in Hathorne, Essex Agricultural and Technical High School, founded in 1913, educated students from more than fifty Massachusetts communities and was the only state-run school in the Commonwealth. Roger Bourgeois was the Superintendent-Director at the time the school was taken over by the Department of Education, as the Essex County government was dissolved. Essex Aggie had roughly 440 students, receiving annual applications of about 270 students, with the ability to accept less than half of that at 130 students.
With an ambitious vision, and the support of people from many fronts, Amy O’Malley led the District in the process of merging North Shore Regional Vocational School District with Essex Agricultural and Technical School District along with the Peabody Vocational School in 1998. “We’re talking about thousands of students who have been denied the chance to receive vocational education in their districts,” said Amy. Funding was the major issue at that time. There wasn’t really any strong opposition to the concept. Everyone seemed to agree that there was a need; it was just trying to find the resources.”
The vision was for students from 50 communities to study everything from equine science to information technology in a new, state-of-the-art agricultural and technical learning complex. Architects projected a cost of $140.6 million dollars for construction off Route 62 in Danvers across from the main Essex Aggie campus.
As you can imagine, this was a long and arduous process involving the Massachusetts School Building Authority, all of the local mayors and school committees, the chamber of commerce, state legislators, and the Commissioner of Education. Ultimately, a bill was passed in 2011 by the Massachusetts State Legislature to facilitate this merger.
And now we know the full story: Essex North Shore Agricultural & Technical School District is the culmination of Amelia O’Malley’s long career and vision as a vocational educator.
Brain Cranney is a graduate of Salem High School Vocational (Electrical) and a lifelong North Shore resident. He has owned his North Shore Business for nearly 50 years.
Brian was instrumental in the start of the North Shore Tech Electrical program in 2005 with a significant financial donation, material donations, and technical support. He lobbied tirelessly for the creation of the Essex North Shore Agricultural & Technical School District at local and state levels and was an active member of our building committee during the new school’s construction process.
Brian has always supported and continues to support the concept of “lights on 23 hours a day” at Essex Tech and has employed dozens of Co-Op students from our school as well as other local vocational schools like Salem High School, Lynn Voc. Tech, and Northeast Metro Tech.
He provides full-time employment for many graduates of Essex Tech and other vocational schools.
Brian contributes on the ENS General Advisory Committee and the ENS Electrical Program Advisory Committee. He also promotes Vocational Education at the Middle School Level by sending employees to local middle schools to discuss career options with students.
He serves as a member of various Chambers of Commerce and other local civic organizations.
Brian Cranney is a lot of things: Father. Grandfather. Family man. Businessman. Philanthropist. Educator. Employer. He is also thoughtful, kind, and very funny. His contributions to North Shore business, specifically the Electrical, HVAC, and Plumbing service and construction communities can not be overstated.
He is a friend to education. He has helped hundreds of people in so many ways and touched many more lives. He is a good person and a great role model. His business success is only exceeded by his generosity.
Robert Wood and Theodore Dunajski
As a graduate of Essex Agricultural & Technical Institute in 1969, Bob Wood began as a milkman at the Happy Valley Dairy in Wakefield where he met his wife Linda while delivering milk. After this, Bob started a construction company that specialized in processing dirt into loam along with other products such as crushed stone and recycled concrete. He also raised 20 beef cattle on his land. Bob’s success can best be attributed to his strong work ethic and his 24/7 availability.
Bob understands the importance of helping others through various humanitarian projects. To date, he raised over $50,000 for the Larkin Cottage restoration project. He built baseball fields for youth groups in Peabody and helped with composting at Brooksby Farm. Bob worked closely with former Peabody Mayor Peter Torigian in building the Public Works Garage and donated the property upon which the garage is situated. Bob has helped the Topsfield Fair Grange Museum by bringing glass milk bottles to help people better understand the way life used to be with local dairies and doorstep milk deliveries. Bob is a member of the Ancient & Honorable Artillery Company, the oldest chartered military organization in the Western Hemisphere.
Bob often visits the school to bring the office fresh milk from Teddy’s farm, donations from graduates, or to chat about the project. His kindness and generosity to his alma mater is contagious. Bob’s ability to rally others for the greater good is why he is being recognized with this award.
Our other recipient of the Catherine Larkin Lifetime Service Award is Ted Dunajski who graduated from the Essex Agricultural & Technical Institute in 1960 with a focus on Advanced Dairy. Ted grew up in the tradition of Dunajski Dairy, a five-acre farm in Peabody, founded by his grandparents Frank and Magdalena who began the dairy farm in 1915 with 15 cows. They delivered raw milk in glass bottles from door to door. Over time, the Dunajski family farm grew to 40 cows. Ted raised his three children David, Michael, and Christine on this farm. In the 1970s, Ted also became involved with the Topsfield Fair as a 4-H Club Leader.
Adapting to changes in the dairy business in the 1980s, Ted updated to plastic bottles and added a line of juice drinks and spring water. He expanded his delivery area by adding convenience stores, schools, and nursing homes to his clientele. By 2004, Ted grew his business with the addition of a new barn to house up to 120 cows. In 2012, Ted purchased a new 140-acre farm in West Newbury to supplement the feed from the local fields of Peabody, Danvers, and Beverly.
Today, Dunajski Dairy milks over 100 cows on 5 acres in the middle of Peabody and makes deliveries 6 days a week to over 200 customers. The chocolate milk is still a local favorite! Ted worked with his granddaughter to obtain a grant through the Agricultural Preservation Restriction Program for making conservation improvements on the West Newbury land. Ted continues to work seven days a week along with his son Michael and his daughter Christine. It is for all these contributions that Ted is being honored with this award.