Former area superintendent honored as Veteran of the Month [Register Citizen]

February 4, 2015

State Sen. Kevin Witkos, R-8, has named Leonard G. Lanza the Veteran of the Month for February.

Torrington Register Citizen

A former superintendent for Barkhamsted, Colebrook and Norfolk is being honored as the February Veteran of the Month by state Sen. Kevin Witkos, R-8.

Leonard G. Lanza, a former court reporter/legal yeoman, served in the Navy during the Cold War and the early years of the Vietnam War, according to a release from Witkos.

Lanza has spent a lifetime dedicated to public school education, with this being his 55th year in the field. He has held school administration positions in Simsbury, Barkhamsted, Colebrook and Norfolk. He has also played an active role in multiple community veteran organizations and is a leading force behind plans for the new Simsbury Veterans Memorial, Witkos said.

“Len Lanza is being recognized for his incredible dedication to this country and to his state,” said Witkos, who also presented Lanza with a citation recognizing his achievements. “From the decks of the U.S. Navy’s largest ships, to the halls of our local schools, Lanza has worked hard and helped others his entire life. Naming him veteran of the month gives the community an opportunity to both recognize and thank Lanza for his amazing contributions and his tenacious commitment to education and preserving history.”

Lanza was born on July 14, 1937, in New Britain, as the middle child of three children. Lanza began working at age 7 shining shoes on Main Street and began delivering newspapers for the New Britain Herald at age 10. He was the first of his family to graduate from high school and would eventually go on to pursue multiple college degrees.

At age 18, Lanza enlisted in the Navy. Injuries sustained in a car accident just before his scheduled active duty date prevented him from serving immediately after he first enlisted, but Lanza remained dedicated and began active duty at the age of 24. By that time, he was already married to his high school sweetheart, graduated from CCSU, and had a 2-year-old son. In the interim, he also worked full time in a local factory while attending college full time.

Active duty began on the USS Boston, the world’s first guided missile cruiser, a Commander Cruiser Destroyer Force part of the U.S. Atlantic Fleet. Lanza’s duties included holding U.S. Navy legal office mid-management positions at sea, on flagships carrying an admiral, and at shore installations with an admiral in Newport, Rhode Island. He also performed the duties of a court reporter and prepared all shipboard and command legal proceedings.

During his time in active duty, Lanza served during both the Berlin Crisis (1961) and the Cuban Missile Crisis (1962). He recalls being on watch the night the Cuban Missile Crisis broke and in charge of security outside the room where many decisions were being made about sending ships out to the blockade. He was kept on watch that night for 24 consecutive hours, ensuring the validity of all those entering the area.

Since moving to Simsbury in 1963 and being discharged from active duty, Lanza returned to school to earn a M.Ed. from the University of Hartford in 1966, a sixth-year certificate from the University of Hartford in 1974, as well as a Ph.D. from Florida State University in 1976 for design and management of school systems.

Lanza spent a lifetime working as an education administrator including over 19 years in Simsbury Schools where he served as principal of Latimer Lane School and Tariffville School, vice principal of Henry James Memorial School, and director of the system wide program for intellectually gifted students. He also served 13 years as superintendent in Barkhamsted, Colebrook and Norfolk.

Since “retiring” in 1995, Lanza has served as interim superintendent in nine school districts across the state, setting a record for Connecticut. He still works as a part-time consultant to the policy department at Connecticut Association Boards of Education, a role he has held for 19 years. He has also worked as a university teacher at St. Joseph College and Central Connecticut State University.

Today, Lanza is active in many veterans’ organizations and has held the roles of immediate past commander for Veterans of Foreign Wars and adjutant of the American Legion. He is the chairman of the Simsbury Veterans Memorial Committee and is the originator of the statement of need and development of the concept for the memorial. Groundbreaking on the memorial is planned for Memorial Day, with completion of the project anticipated for Veterans Day. Information about the memorial, including how to donate, can be found online at: