SOMERSET, NJ - Bill Grippo, the longtime principal of MacAfee Road School, is a man of many names.
Throughout his more than 40 years working in Franklin’s schools, he’s been known as The Pope, Billy Gripp, Teflon Bill, Boss and The Gripp Man, among other less polite colloquialisms.
Alongside the nicknames, he’s accumulated a number of titles throughout the years, both unofficial and official, but at the end of the school year he’ll add one more to the list: retired.
Nearly 400 friends, family and colleagues gathered at The Marigold in Somerset to honor the larger-than-life personality on Thursday night by roasting the former Benedictine monk.
Members of state, county and township government also delivered resolutions from their respective governing bodies recognizing his relentless commitment to students and the township as a whole.
Assemblyman Joe Danielson (D-17), Franklin Township Mayor Phillip Kramer, Somerset County Freeholders Brian Levine and Shanel Robinson and Franklin Board of Education President Nancy LaCorte all spoke at the event.
While the jokes caricatured Grippo’s quirks and propensity for asking forgiveness rather than permission, the legacy he leaves behind in the school and throughout the township drowned out the laughter.
Grippo is known for outrageous stunts like sleeping on the roof of MacAfee school, dropping Famous Amos cookies from a helicopter, being duct taped to a wall, bringing horses inside Sampson G. Smith School and hiring a circus to perform on the school lawn.
His antics may seem excessive but they always have a purpose.
Whether it’s encouraging student literacy, funding the restoration of the Franklin Township Food Bank, supporting the arts, constructing the gazebo outside the municipal building or promoting adult education, each performance helped him raise more than $1.5 million in donations throughout his career.
The retirement dinner itself was a fundraising effort to raise money for the Bill Grippo Performing Arts Scholarship, the first $1,000 of which was awarded last night to a local student headed to Rutgers in the fall.
Grippo announced that he’s committed to offering the scholarship for at least the next ten years, signaling that his dedication to Franklin’s students will continue long after he retires.
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