David Thaden
1956 - 2019
David John Thaden

October 22, 1956 - May 10, 2019

Chapel Hill

David John Thaden, of Chapel Hill, NC, passed away on May 10, 2019 after an extended battle with multiple myeloma. He was 62. David was born on October 22, 1956 in East Lansing, MI to Dr. Donald Thaden and Mary Alice Wilcox Thaden. He graduated from the University of Michigan with a Bachelor of Arts degree in English in 1979 and immediately thereafter began work as an English teacher at Guy B. Phillips Junior High School, the start of a 30-year career with Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools. At Phillips, David also served as coach for the football and girls' basketball teams, English Department chair, athletic director, assistant principal and, in 1991, as interim principal. He subsequently served as assistant principal for Chapel Hill High School from 1991-95 before accepting the honor to serve as the first principal of East Chapel Hill High School, which he did from its inaugural school year in 1996 through the graduating class of 2009.

While working full time, David earned a Masters of Arts in English from the Breadloaf School of English, Middlebury College, and was a Doctoral Student in Educational Administration and Supervision at UNC Chapel Hill.

David nurtured East from its initial enrollment of 605 students into a perennial top-100 high school nationally with a student body that eventually exceeded 1,800. His passion for developing and empowering his talented teaching staff fostered an ideal learning environment and established an institution beloved by teachers, parents and students alike. David was named Principal of the Year by CHCCS in 1996 and the Best Principal in the Triangle by The Independent in 2009. Following his retirement from East in 2009, David soon returned to his original passion, teaching humanities part-time at the North Carolina School of Science and Math from 2010 until 2018.

Those who had the privilege to know David were blessed by his warm sense of humor and unfailingly positive attitude, which, along with his striking intelligence and deep empathy, will be sorely missed by those he leaves behind. David is survived by his loving wife of 37 years, Barbara Thaden, his two adoring sons, Michael and Matthew Thaden, and his family in Michigan: his brothers Tom and Jim Thaden, his sisters Anne and Jane Thaden, his niece Mackenzie Brefka, and his nephews, Kennett, Garrett, Alex and Jonathan Thaden.

A memorial service will be held on June 8th at the Holy Trinity Lutheran Church, 227 E Rosemary St, Chapel Hill, NC 27514, at 11:00am, with a visitation to follow. In lieu of flowers, donations can be made to Holy Trinity Lutheran Church at www.holytrinitychapelhill.org/giving or to The Multiple Myeloma Research Foundation at www.themmrf.org
To plant trees in memory, please visit our Sympathy Store.
Published by The News and Observer on May 19, 2019.
Memorial service
Holy Trinity Lutheran Church
227 E Rosemary St, Chapel Hill, NC
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14 Entries
I was a student in his first year of teaching—if my info is accurate after all these years. I would describe him as Enthusiastic, Encouraging, Understanding— Some people have a gift, and he was certainly one of them. I’m grateful to have crossed pathways in 79-80 in 7th grade. Dave T was an incredible educator at GBH jr high! RIP -
Matt Bahr
September 13, 2020
I was in Mr. Thaden's first year of teaching at Phillip's Junior High. We always remember the better teachers. He was young, energetic, serious about schooling, and offbeat. And he taught us more than just English. After the "Desert One" accident in 1980, Mr Thaden talked not about the immediate causes of the crash but
explained to us the decline of American quality and hard work. One day he had trouble getting to school on time due to his old, beat up car needing repairs. He told us, "Don't go into teaching if you want to be rich." The world is less rich without him.
July 17, 2019
Donna Wyatt
June 7, 2019
Dave Thaden was a wonderful teacher and administrator and a great person. I remember that while he was administrator he created time to teach one period a day to make sure he would know what teachers and students were experiencing. I'm sorry he passed away at such a young age. Sincerely, Loren Hintz, CHHS
Loren Hintz
June 6, 2019
Barbara Thaden
June 2, 2019
Mr. Thaden,
You made the four years you saw our class through at CHHS what it was. High school was tough but your constant touching base in the hallways, support with hard classes and smiles made it that much better. Now as an educator, I try to replicate what you modeled to the best I can. Class of 1995. AJM
May 20, 2019
It was a big shock to hear Mr. Thaden passed. He was my English teacher at Phillips jr. high. He was also my football coach for the three years there. Even when I got older and moved on, he was in my thoughts. When I started suing in the schools I got to see him when working at echhs. I also remember when the two schools played sports against each other, I would see him on the side lines. I consider him a great mentor when I was in school and later after school a great friend. Prayers are with the family and you with coach Thaden will always be in my thoughts.
William Kitchin
May 19, 2019
Mr Thaden - I hope Chris Hobbs and you are sharing a high-five in heaven. Thank you for all you did for us at East and for all of the millions of unseen sacrifices to raise the kids of Chapel Hill. Thank you.
Kate C
May 19, 2019
Dear Family, We are convinced that Principal Thaden made all the difference in our daughter, Kelly Field (Trout)'s successful high school experience at East Chapel Hill High. She has gone on to become a lawyer in Washington, D.C. Those seeds sown at East have gone on to sprout and bloom. He was one of those extraordinary peopleI always knew he knew who I was even though I was just one of so many mothers wanting her child to have the best experience. And he simply made that happen for all the kids. I know the loss of him to you, his family, is inconsolable; but I do know that his positive spirit has lived on in our family and all the families of the children who passed through East's doors. In our dining room we have a wood framed picture of Kelly receiving her diploma from him June 12, 2004. He is missed by all of us.
Your absence has gone through me
Like thread through a needle.
Everything I do is stitched with its color.
Sue and Tom Field
May 19, 2019
Cissy O'Neal
May 17, 2019
To the family and friends of David Thaden: Please accept my dearest and heartfelt sympathy; I am so sorry for your loss. May the God who "binds up the brokenhearted" and "comforts all who mourn" sustain your family during this difficult time. Isaiah 61:1,2
May 17, 2019
David was an unbelievable humanities instructor at NCSSM, and we are heartbroken at his passing. While too short, his was a life well-lived and a life well loved.
Bob Gotwals
May 17, 2019
The loss of Dave Thaden hit harder than I expected. Mr. Thaden was my principal or vice principal for as long as I can remember. He moved with our class through the misery of Phillips middle school all the way to graduation from CHHS in 1995. He always knew all our names. I have memories of him showing up at the Wilco when we were skipping class. He never had to do much beyond saying in a deep voice Get to class, ladies! and we all skittered back to CHHS. The last time I saw Mr. Thaden he was my test proctor for the GRE. (He was probably ecstatic to see I was actually taking the GRE after all those absences;) I appreciate Mr. Thaden even more now that I have two sassy daughters headed to CHHS!
Cheers to a great educator and a big part of my life.
❤Ashley Northen (now Robertson)
Ashley Robertson
May 17, 2019
David was a first-class friend and colleague at NCSSM. I enjoyed his wry wit and intellectual playfulness.
John Morrison
May 16, 2019
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