Even as a veteran teacher at Omaha’s Central High School, Dan Daly could always count on Principal G.E. “Doc” Moller regularly sitting in to observe his class.
Afterward, Moller would inevitably deliver a penetrating written evaluation, Daly said, one that would make you a better teacher. It was an example of the high expectations Moller had for everyone at Central, both teachers and students alike.
“He knew his stuff,” Daly said simply of the man who served as Central’s principal for 27 years, from 1968 to 1995.
Moller, the longest-serving principal of the state’s oldest high school, died Tuesday night. He was 89.
Omaha’s stately old downtown high school already had a long reputation as a strong college preparatory school when Moller arrived. But he maintained that reputation with the exacting standards he set.
Every student would write 12 themes in English class every year. No exceptions.
Any teacher who failed to be on hall duty at their assigned time or who arrived late to work could count on finding a “Moller-gram” in their mailbox the next morning, reminding them of the standards. He seemed to notice everything.
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“He called it MBWA — management by walking around,” said Keith Bigsby, who taught under Moller and later served as principal of the school. “You have to be visible. You have to be present. You can’t just hide in your office.”
Moller was also well-respected by students, said Susie Buffett, a member of the class of 1971 who would later become a Central parent and financial booster of the school.
“He was so scary when we were kids,” Buffett said. “But I loved him. He was the best. He was there so long, he was Central to me.”
A modest and humble man, Moller was also famously frugal when it came to taxpayers’ school dollars. His Moller-grams were typically written on the backside of a used sheet of paper that he had cut into fourths.
“It was his school, and he was going to take care of it,” said longtime Central history teacher Jack Blanke.
A native of Alliance, Nebraska, Moller picked up his “Doc” nickname as a kid, long before he received his doctorate degree in education from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.
He started his education career in 1954 as an English, history, speech and journalism teacher in Valentine, Nebraska. Two years later he became principal of the school. He then served as principal in Gering, Nebraska, before coming to Central as an assistant principal under then-Principal J. Arthur Nelson in 1963.
During his long tenure, Moller took pride that each year at least one Central student earned a National Merit Scholarship. In 1989, a national education magazine included Moller on a list of the nation’s top 100 school executives.
Before retiring in 1995, he also launched the school’s endowed scholarship program. It now each year awards $170,000 in scholarships, including one named for Moller.
In retirement, Moller worked at his daughter’s physical therapy center and traveled with his wife, Betty, who died in 2016. Moller is survived by two daughters, Risa Hofmeister and Londa Claxton of Omaha, and a sister in California.
The Central High School Foundation is planning a celebration of Moller’s life for Nov. 6, which would have been his 90th birthday. Location and other details will be available on the foundation’s website.
Just three months before his death, Moller attended a ceremony as the Central foundation dedicated in his honor a new walkway up to the school from 20th and Dodge. Wednesday, a bouquet of flowers rested on a bench there.