Family, friends, members of the community and district staff gathered Sunday for the dedication of the Michael J. Lynch Theater at Wilbur H. Lynch Literacy Academy.
Lynch, a 1966 graduate of Wilbur H. Lynch High School, member of the Drama Club and president of the Thespian Society, was serving as a medical corpsman in the Vietnam War when, on March 15, 1969, he was killed at the age of 20. Lynch was well-known on the then-Wilbur H. Lynch High School stage, with starring roles in such productions as "Camelot," "The Sound of Music," and "The Miracle Worker."
Renovations on the space were completed last year, and the Board of Education in December called for nominations to name the auditorium.
At Sunday's ceremony, former high school principal and drama teacher Bert DeRose, who nominated Lynch, called him a "talented performer" who brought his characters to life. DeRose noted several former students in the audience. "I still call them my drama kids, and some of them are 70 years old," he said.
U.S. Rep. Paul Tonko, who grew up in Amsterdam, served as guest speaker. Tonko recalled the courage it took for Lynch to perform on stage. "I wouldn't have had the nerve to do that in high school," he said.
That same courage played a role in Lynch's decision to leave college and enlist in the U.S. Army. Lynch was stationed in Germany, but volunteered to go to Vietnam.
"As a medic, to offer himself so someone else could live says it all," Tonko said. "This dedication is a resounding 'thank you' to Michael and all those who served."
Superintendent of Schools Thomas F. Perillo called Lynch a role model for students.
"Michael will continue to serve as an example of a student who was devoted to school, community, country, family and friends," said Perillo. "I hope that Michael's gentle, kind and compassionate spirit, and his commitment to do the right thing, will inspire students for generations to come."
Board of Education president Nellie A. Bush spoke of Lynch's character. "I didn't know Michael, but everything I have read or heard about him makes me wish I had had the opportunity to know him and to have him as a friend."
Commander James Yermas, a veteran representative who graduated with Lynch in 1966, shared memories of growing up with Lynch and personal reflections on attending the then Lynch High School. "This is a good time to talk about the old times," said Yermas.
Yermas also noted the Vietnam Memorial that sits on the hill outside the school. "I want children who come into this theater to know about the memorial with Michael's name and 13 other names of ones who gave it all," he said.
Nicholas Lynch thanked the district and Board of Education for honoring his brother and noted the instrumental role DeRose played in his brother's life. "You provided the male role model that Mike needed and craved," he said.
Amsterdam High School Junior ROTC performed the posting of colors, and the Rev. Kent McHeard delivered both the invocation and the benediction.