Saul Genendlis, an advocate for special education and a retired Baltimore City schools principal and administrator, died of heart disease Sept. 25 at his Hampstead home. He was 84.
Known by his students as Mr. G., he was once the city's acting superintendent for special education and a past principal of the William S. Baer and McMechen schools.
In 1976, he told a Baltimore Sun reporter that his schools had "no rejects" and that none of his students could be considered too much of a problem. "There can be no failures, on the part of the students or us," he said.
Born in Detroit, he worked with his father at a gas station and a car assembly line.
"He could play a tune on a clarinet upon hearing it for the first time," said his son-in-law, Phil Canter of Sykesville. "He began playing clarinet at age 10 and was invited to play with the Detroit Symphony at 11."
He played in dance bands and won medals for clarinet playing at competitions in Michigan. He recently played the clarinet at Beth Shalom Synagogue in Carroll County for Simchas Torah celebrations. "Few people were as patriotic as he," said his son-in-law. "He had a fine voice and sang 'The Star-Spangled Banner' on July 4."
While in a Detroit high school, he joined the ROTC. He was commissioned a second lieutenant in 1951 after joining the Army. After serving at Fort Gordon, Ga., he was assigned to Fort Meade, where on a blind date he met his future wife, Elaine Strauss, a Sinai Hospital X-ray technician.
He also served in Korea, and as a military police officer he provided security for entertainers Mickey Rooney, Walter Pidgeon and Debbie Reynolds. Mr. Genendlis left Korea in 1953 and later joined the Army Reserves in Baltimore. He attained the rank of major and served under William Donald Schaefer, then a colonel in the Reserves. He and Mr. Schaefer, who became mayor and governor, remained friends.
Mr. Genendlis used the GI Bill to attend the Johns Hopkins University, where he earned a Bachelor of Science degree in 1956 and a master's degree in 1958. He belonged to the Phi Delta Kappa fraternity.
He joined the Baltimore schools system and taught at the Francis Scott Key School on Fort Avenue. In the mid-1960s, he became principal of the William Patterson Junior High School in Southeast Baltimore. A 1968 Sun story called the school "the court of last resort."
He enlisted representatives of Baltimore meat-packing and tile-setting industries to start courses. He said in a Sun interview that the courses reduced the dropout rate as his students took more of an interest in their work.
He later became principal of Carroll Park and Clifton Park junior high schools.
In 1976, he invited Edgar L. Jones, an Evening Sun editorial page columnist, to visit the Baer School, where Mr. Genendlis was then serving as principal.
"Mr. Genendlis has a hearty enthusiasm for the Baer School, which he radiates in an all-encompassing way," Mr. Jones wrote in The Evening Sun. "Children's faces light up when they see Mr. G, as they call him, in the corridors, and while he may not know all 260 pupils, ages 4 to 20, by name yet, the impression given is that he knows most of them and they all know him."
In September 1977, he was named principal of the George W.F. McMechen School, a newly opened school for children with multiple handicaps on Garrison Boulevard. He told a reporter that "happiness is being assigned to this school."
He officiated at the school's opening ceremonies, also attended by Mayor Schaefer, who brought the press along. Pantry Pride supermarkets donated $5,000 to the school to set up a simulated grocery store for students to learn to shop and make change.
"He truly cared about his kids and believed they should be taught life skills and could become productive members of society," said Mr. Canter.
In 1978, Mr. Genendlis was named by the school board to become acting superintendent for exceptional children. After leaving the city school system, he joined the Maryland State Department of Education as a special education supervisor responsible for four local school systems.
He also taught courses in special education at the University of Louisville during the summer.
After he retired, he and his wife traveled to the Caribbean and Alaska and to national parks. They also raised Bernese mountain dogs.
In addition to his wife of 60 years, survivors include two daughters, Mona Canter of Sykesville and Robin Korotki of Hampstead; three sisters, Rochelle Quaglia, Sandra Tannenbaum and Elaine Pons, all of Hialeah, Fla.; and two grandchildren.
Services were held Sept. 28 at Sol Levinson & Bros.Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun