Fairfield native, popular high school teacher to launch book at new Fairfield University Bookstore



Image: B GilletteRobert H. Gillette, who grew up in Fairfield and became a popular teacher in Fairfield's high schools, will launch his book, "The Virginia Plan," at the new Fairfield University Bookstore, on Wednesday, November 16 at 7 p.m. The event, free and open to the public, is sponsored by the University's Carl and Dorothy Bennett Center for Judaic Studies, in conjunction with Congregation B'nai Israel in Bridgeport.

Mr. Gillette, a former adjunct professor in the Graduate School of Education & Allied Professions at Fairfield University, will be among the first authors to appear at the University's new bookstore, which opens on Friday, November 4 in the former Borders Books site, at 1499 Post Road. Gillette will lecture on his newly published book, "The Virginia Plan" (The History Press, 2011), which tells the true story of the heroic efforts of William B. Thalhimer, a department store owner in Richmond, Virginia. Thalhimer saved the lives of dozens of young Jews who were students at Gross Breesen Institute, an agricultural science school in Nazi Germany. Thalhimer rescued the students by transporting them to Hyde Farmlands in Burkeville, Virginia. The book tells the remarkable history of Thalhimer's rescue mission and the struggle of the new refugees to make a new home in rural America.

Gillette's roots in Fairfield are deep. He attended Grasmere School and Roger Ludlowe High School (Class of 1955), where he was not only an outstanding athlete but also president of the student council and the senior class. Gillette taught English at Andrew Warde High School and Fairfield High School for 30 years, until his retirement in 1999. During that time, he received numerous awards, including "Teacher of the Year" three times. He also served as the director of Religious Education at Congregation B'nai Israel in Bridgeport for 27 years and lecturer at Sacred Heart University. After relocating to Lynchburg, Virginia with his wife Marsha in 2004, Gillette began writing. His first book, "A Paddler's Guide to Prince Edward Island," was published in 2006. "The Virginia Plan" is the product of years of extensive research, begun after Gillette first learned about Thalhimer and Hyde Farmlands from his daughter-in-law in 2006. In the words of the foreword to the book written by Thalhimer's great granddaughter Elizabeth Smartt, "Set during a time of unspeakable tragedy and human failing, the Hyde Farmlands story invokes hope, spirit and something that Gramps called 'stick-to-it-iveness.' It is a ray of light shining through the darkest part of the attic. Thanks to Bob Gillette, it is now once again illuminated." No tickets or reservations are needed. For further information, call the Bennett Center at (203) 254-4000, ext. 2066 and visit www.fairfield.bkstr.com.

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Media Contact: Meg McCaffrey, (203) 254-4000, ext. 2726, mmccaffrey@fairfield.edu

Posted on November 2, 2011

Vol. 44, No. 113