Dr. Dennis Ortwein has a history of contributions to the community. He has blended his musical talents with service to the community in Las Vegas classrooms and even shared his skills beyond our shores. In addition to being recognized for his performance on stage, Dr. Ortwein has been honored by the Clark County School District (CCSD) for his proficiency in the classroom. His latest accolade is recognition by the CCSD for his contributions to the schools and the community.
A committee of seven school district and community representatives was given the task of choosing names for four new schools in the area to be completed next year. They have recently completed their task by selecting four honorees from a field of 61 distinguished candidates, including Dr. Ortwein. In their announcement of Dr. Ortwein's selection, CCSD Board of School Trustees stated that "one of the highest honors they can bestow upon an individual . . . is to be a school namesake." Those selected "have made an everlasting impact on the local community." Dr. Ortwein's history of involvement in the education of our youth is evidence that he is a worthy choice for this tribute.
In addition to his vocal talent, Dr. Ortwein has a 36-year career in education in Las Vegas. Of those years, 24 were as principal and administrator. Dr. Ortwein interrupted his teaching to take a leave of absence. He devoted the years 1966 to 1968 assisting the U.S. government (Aid for International Development) and Ohio University to establish a "teacher of teachers" training program for the newly formed government of Nigeria. In conjunction with this, he acted as an ambassador for the U.S. by sharing his love for music. He
traversed the country performing recitals, bridging the cultures with his exceptional vocal skills and friendly demeanor.
Dr. Ortwein is also an advocate for civil rights. As principal of a then still-segregated elementary school, he campaigned with other civil rights supporters to facilitate the integration of the schools and to secure equal educational opportunities for all CCSD students. He also championed educational equality for students with special needs or disabilities.
In keeping with his record of community service, Dr. Ortwein works with the National Conference of Christians and Jews, having been hired as the executive director. He is a 50-year member of Rotary International, helping to provide services to children and people in need. He worked with other community leaders to found the still-active Southern Nevada Interfaith Council and continues to work with them to develop interfaith forums. He escorted a group of young business people to the Manila area for an exchange visit for a month with a group of young Filipino business people.
Dennis's extraordinary story reminds us, as he says, that music is the universal language. He has put his vocal ability to constructive use throughout his career to foster improved communication between diverse groups of people. We, at Dennis Ortwein Elementary School, are honored to serve the community on his behalf.