Charles Ray McIlwain, 72, one of the Roosevelt School District's first black teachers and a longtime administrator there, died Sunday from pancreatic cancer at Good Samaritan Hospital in West Islip.

McIlwain, of North Babylon, said in his self-written obituary that he spent four decades "within a Roosevelt community that [he] proudly claimed as his own."

He earned a bachelor's degree at Livingstone College in Salisbury, N.C., in 1959, and later a master's in educational administration from Hofstra University.

He joined the Roosevelt School District as a math teacher at the junior-senior high school in 1960. In 1970, he became assistant principal. From 1976 until his retirement in 1996, he was principal at the district's Centennial Avenue Elementary School. He served three more years as a consultant to the Roosevelt High School Advisory Committee.

"He loved the community and the children there," said a longtime friend, Phil Smith, a former principal at Roosevelt Junior-Senior High School. "His mantra was 'knowledge is power, and nothing has more power than an educated mind.' "

Bonita Carter of Uniondale, a former McIlwain student at the junior-senior high school, said that as an administrator, "he was firm, but always fair."

McIlwain was also active in the community. He was founder of Roosevelt's now-defunct MAX Project. The project introduced students to the history of the U.S. Civil War and the role of the African-American soldier.

He was also chairman of the Roosevelt Citizens Advisory Council, vice chairman of the Hempstead Boys and Girls Club, and a member of the Bethel AME Advisory Board in Freeport. He had been a member of Omega Psi Phi Fraternity Inc., since 1957.

"Dad was a fastidious dresser, who took pride in what he wore," said daughter Alicia Marks of Huntington Station.

Other survivors include his wife of 49 years, Joelyn Sinton McIlwain, of North Babylon; three more daughters, Rachel Lofton of Charlotte, N.C., Monica Van Eyken of Downingtown, Pa., and Deidre Michel of South Bend, Ind.; a sister, Cora Mae Cunningham of Kannapolis, N.C.; and six grandchildren.

A wake will be held from 6 to 9 p.m. Thursday at the Bethel AME Church in Freeport. A funeral will be held at 11 a.m. Friday at the same location. Burial will be at Pinelawn Memorial Park in Farmingdale.

Donations can be mailed to the Charles McIlwain Scholarship Fund in care of Joelyn McIlwain, 59 Governor Ave., North Babylon, NY 11704.

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