Madison Memorial High School principal Bruce Dahmen died Tuesday while out of town to watch a former athlete, officials said.

Dahmen was in Knoxville, Tenn., to watch former Memorial basketball player Jeronne Maymon play for the University of Tennessee, according to Jeremy Schlitz, athletic director at Memorial.

“He embodied everything about this school and the community that supported Memorial,” said Schlitz, who worked 18 years with Dahmen as a coach, teacher and athletic director.

The Knoxville (Tenn.) News-Sentinel reported Wednesday that Dahmen collapsed in the stands at Thompson-Boling Arena prior to the game between Tennessee and Florida.

The article said it wasn't known if Maymon knew of Dahmen's death during the game, which Florida won, 67-58.

Madison Metropolitan School District Superintendent Jennifer Cheatham said in a statement Wednesday that Dahmen's death, "Is a tremendous loss for our community."

"Bruce was an incredible leader, an expert principal and a friend to so many of us," Cheatham said. "He lead Memorial High School with skill and integrity, and he touched the lives of countless students, staff and families.

"Our focus today (Wednesday) and in the coming days is on supporting Memorial staff, students and families. We will continue to have extra staff on hand to provide support for those who need it."

Staff gathered at school late Tuesday night to mourn the loss.

“In all honesty we have not gotten anywhere past the way we’re going to work through the day tomorrow for staff and students,” Schlitz said.

The school is making counseling services available to students and staff. 

Rachel Strauch-Nelson, a spokeswoman for the Madison School District, said the district has not made decisions about who will replace Dahmen on a temporary or permanent basis.

Dahmen was hired in 2005 by then-Superintendent Art Rainwater.

Prior to being selected as principal, Dahmen worked more than two decades at Memorial, teaching marketing and business education, coaching baseball and basketball, and serving as assistant principal.

His family has close ties to Memorial. His wife, Peggi, works as secretary for an assistant principal and both of their sons, Tyler and Justin, graduated from Memorial as three-sport athletes. The Dahmen sons followed their dad’s business-minded example by opening up Dahmen’s Pizza Place on Mineral Point Road near Memorial in 2010.

Dahmen was loved by students, so much so that when the school adopted its first-ever mascot in 2006, they voted to name the mascot Bruce.

Dahmen graduated from Middleton High School in 1970 before earning his undergraduate degree at UW-Whitewater. He completed a master’s in education administration from UW-Madison.

No sources available early Wednesday could confirm Dahmen's age or the cause of his death.

Jeff Glaze covers county and suburban government for the Wisconsin State Journal. He joined the newspaper in 2011 after earning degrees in journalism and political science from Drake University in Des Moines, Iowa.

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(12) comments

Mad City Native
Mad City Native

Rest in Peace Mr Dahmen. Thoughts and prayers for the man and his family.
I am proud to be a Spartan. We have been blessed by so many exceptional educators over the years.

Former Spartan Mom
Former Spartan Mom

Tears. His leadership was not only admired by parents and students, but by the wonderful teachers at Memorial. My sympathies also go to the staff since they will never have a finer principal.

gratefulmom
gratefulmom

Mr. Dahmen was at just about every school activity my kids participated in over the years. He was either working the snack booth, cheering the game, enjoying the concert or just giving the stink eye to rowdy students. He was an amazing man who blessed the heck out of my three kids. Words cannot express my gratitude for his presence in the life of our community. My prayers are with his family in this time of loss. As for Mr. Dahmen, enjoy your greeting in heaven "Well, done, good and faithful servant!"

NOWAR
NOWAR

Bruce Dahmen was a great teacher who became an effective, fair and brilliant administrator who was never too busy to step in and help our family. We've lost a man who can't be replaced. We love you Bruce for the man you were, the kindness you always showed, your sense of humor and level head that always kept things in perspective. Thoughts and prayers to your family. God Bless you all.

KaleemCaire
KaleemCaire

Bruce Dahmen was one hell of a good man. He was a trusted friend, supporter and adviser of the Urban League of Greater Madison and trusted principal, leader, coach and mentor to thousands of children, including the children of some of our Urban League team members. He was a great role model and example of a Community Father father who cared not just about the future and welfare of his children, but that other people's children as well.

Our hearts and prayers go out to the Dahmen family and the students, faculty and staff of Memorial High School and the Madison Metropolitan School District. We will miss him greatly. Thank you for everything, Bruce!

Stiles
Stiles

Bruce was a terrific person and principal who made a positive difference for Memorial, its students, and staff. My thoughts and prayers go out to his family and the Memorial community.

adamman
adamman

This is a sad event. Bruce was almost exactly my age, so it really has an impact. I never knew the man, but I am confident he was an outstanding educator and administrator. His family is grief stricken, but they can be proud of the man. My sympathy to the family and friends.

iponder
iponder

I only met the man three times and all over the last year. I was left thinking that all kids should have such a caring principle. Its no wonder he also has an amazing family. My heart goes out to the entire extended family.

downhome
downhome

As an educator for over three decades in another school district, I have made frequent visits to Madison Memorial both for football and basketball games. I feel fortunate to have known Mr. Dahmen. He was a highly visible and likable leader for Memorial's school community . . .
always cordial and sincere, yet clearly in control of his school. My wife and I are devastated by the loss of this fine man. We extend our deepest sympathy to both his family and his school community. As an earlier comment mentioned "the perfect principal" for James Madison Memorial High School".

rockemred
rockemred

What a loss!!! "Mr. D." was every student's advocate, not just at James Madison Memorial, but throughout the Madison school district. This man loved the young students he guided, he was always someone they could turn to for anything. Like the late great Milton McPike,"Mr. D." walked the halls, he knew the students, he talked with them, laughed with them, heard their goals, desires, and worked with them to make them possible. He was also visible at all sporting events, demanding good sportsmanship, and supportive of all teams, win or loose. He is what educators should be, supportive, fair, strict, but always willing to help in any capacity. Our thoughts and prayers are extended to his family, and the James Madison Memorial community.

HtH
HtH

Ditto on the guiding hand. Bruce was the perfect principal. He walked the walk.

Pat McB
Pat McB

Outstanding man, outstanding principal. He made a significant impact on Memorial HS for decades and he will be greatly missed. He was the firm, gentle hand that school so badly needed. My family is so grateful for all he did for us and for all the Memorial young people. He was so important to so many lives, as typified by where he was when he died. Our hearts are with the Dahmen family - to Peggy and the boys.

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