Mr. Breithut operated SBPLI for more than 25 years. “There are no words to express the sadness at the loss of this great man. He was a true champion of our youth,” said Patricia Kriss-Sullivan, Board Member, SBPLI and Superintendent, Hauppauge School District.
Mr. Breithut was born on January 24, 1926 in Brooklyn, New York. After graduating from Flushing High School, he joined the U.S. Navy, where he attained the rank of signalman third class. He fought in World War II at Okinawa and the Pacific Theater. After an honorable discharge, he attended Adelphi College and graduated with a degree in liberal arts and education. After graduation in 1949, he became a teacher at Washington Street School in Franklin Square. While he was teaching, he attended Columbia University at night to obtain a Master’s degree in education.
In 1950, Mr. Breithut married Rosetta Copeland, who he met while they attended Adelphi College. They lived in West Hempstead until 1967, when they moved to Melville.
When Carey High School opened up in Franklin Square during the 1950s, Mr. Breithut became a teacher and later chairman of the school’s social studies department. He remained at the Sewanhaka Central High School District for the rest of his career, serving as administrator at Carey High School and later as assistant principal at New Hyde Park, Floral Park and Sewanhaka High Schools. Mr. Breithut continued to work in the school district until 1985.
In 1984, the year before he retired, he founded School-Business Partnerships of Long Island, a non-profit organization focusing on closing the gap between the skills needed in Long Island’s business community and the schools that prepare the island’s workforce. Under Mr. Breithut’s leadership, more than 100 such partnerships were formed.
In 1999, Mr. Breithut brought the FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) Robotics Competition (FRC) to Long Island, in which high school students work with their professional mentors to design a robot that solves a problem using a “kit of parts” and a standard set of rules. Once these young inventors create their 130-pound robots, their teams participate in regional competitions that measure the effectiveness of each robot, the power of collaboration and the determination of students.
The FRC taught students about friendly competition, teamwork, problem solving and gracious professionalism. In the first year of competition, eight teams took part. In 2010, forty-eight teams — including teams from the metropolitan New York area, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Connecticut and Maryland — participated in the Long Island Regional.
In 2010, SBPLI awarded the first-ever Fred Breithut Scholarship in his honor. The scholarship goes to an incoming student at Farmingdale State College who pursues a degree in engineering, science or technology.
Christina Puplava, Board Member, SBPLI, participated in the robotics program and competed in the Long Island Regional FRC while she was a student at Sachem High School. She went on to earn a Bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering from Rochester Institute of Technology. She is currently an assistant engineer at Northrop Grumman.
“Fred Breithut truly changed my life. Through the FIRST robotics program, Fred took me under his wing while I was in high school and college and helped me become the person I am today. He helped me garner networking contacts that I have kept throughout my professional career and I could never fully express how grateful I am for having him be a part of my life. I will miss him greatly and will always keep him in my fondest memories,” Ms. Puplava said.
“This is what Fred sought to accomplish throughout his life,” said Claudia Nolan, Mr. Breithut’s daughter. “He must have impacted tens of thousands of young people, helping them prepare for life after the classroom.”
In order for younger students to become interested in science and technology, Mr. Breithut established the FIRST LEGO League (FLL), a partnership between FIRST and The LEGO Group. Considered the “Little League” of the FRC, the FLL extends the FIRST concept of inspiring and celebrating science and technology to students ages 9 to 14 using real-world concepts and hands-on experimentation. Over the past six years, the number of teams in FLL has grown from 13 to 92 teams.
Mr. Breithut was recognized for his service to his community. In 2006, he was presented with the Execuleaders Lifetime Award for his leadership in the non-profit sector. He was also a 2007 inductee into the Long Island Volunteer Hall of fame as Founder. In 2009, he was a semifinalist for the Energizer Hall of Fame Award.
“You could never say to him, ‘You cannot do it’ because he would find a way to get it done,’’ Ms. Nolan said. “He liked to march to his own song. He was very independent, but he was also very sensitive and very perceptive.”
Dr. Mary Ellen Freeley, Board Member, SBPLI and Associate Professor, Department of Administrative and Instructional Leadership, St. John’s University, met Mr. Breithut in 1988 while she worked at the Malverne Union Free School District. “My heart is heavy at this very sad news,” she said. “I have always admired his commitment to our students and our schools. His leadership will be sorely missed.”
“Our entire organization is mourning the loss of its founder and inspirational leader. Fred lived a life that is a model for all of us,” said Janet Anderson, Acting Director, SBPLI. “After he ‘retired,’
“I am very sad to hear of the loss of my good friend Fred Breithut, an innovator and an inspirational leader who has undoubtedly touched the lives of many,” said New York State Senator Owen Johnson. “Fred envisioned and created a tremendous learning environment for students involved in science and technology through the incredibly successful Long Island Regional FIRST Robotics Competition. As the founder of the School-Business Partnerships of Long Island, Fred’s legacy will be felt well into the future in the partnerships created between schools, businesses and communities throughout Long Island.”
Mr. Breithut is survived by his wife Rosetta; his daughter Barbara and her husband, Keith McDonald; his daughter Claudia and her husband, John Nolan; his grandsons Michael Frederick Nolan; John Nolan, USMC, Jim Nolan and Jim’s wife, Jessica; his grandson Chris Nolan and Chris’ wife, Michelle; his granddaughters Katie Nolan and her husband Ryan Kelly; his granddaughter Barbara; and his great-grandchildren Connor, Sarah, Keily, Christopher and James Patrick.
Services will be held April 28 at A.L. Jacobsen Funeral Home, 1380 New York Avenue, Huntington Station. Viewing hours are from 2-5 p.m. and 7-9 p.m. The funeral will be held April 29, starting with a service at A.L. Jacobsen Funeral Home at 11 a.m., and the interment taking place at noon at Melville Cemetery on Sweet Hollow Road in Melville.
Mr. Breithut’s family has requested that, in lieu of flowers, donations be made to the Fred Breithut Scholarship Fund. Checks should be made to The Farmingdale State College Foundation, with “Fred Breithut Scholarship Fund” written in the memo. Please send checks to: The Farmingdale State College Foundation, c/o Janet Anderson, 155 Hidden Pond Circle, Smithtown, NY 11787.
* Photos of Mr. Breithut are available via e-mail and upon request.
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About School-Business Partnerships of Long Island, Inc.
SBPLI was founded in 1984 by Fred Breithut with the goal of developing partnerships between local high schools and businesses that would provide students with practical experience and curriculum development, while helping the business community develop its future workforce. Over 100 partnerships have been formed. In 1999, Long Island FIRST was formed for the purpose of developing a Long Island Regional FIRST Competition. In 2000, 14 high school teams participated. The Long Island Regional has since grown with 47 teams participating in 2009. In January 2010, registered teams were provided with supplies and the competition's game rules via satellite from U.S. FIRST’s home office.