‘He gave all he had’

Published 9:50 pm Tuesday, February 7, 2017

A longtime educator has been remembered this week as a public servant who was committed to the students and staff of Suffolk Public Schools, who was a straight shooter and who treated everybody the same, regardless of rank.

Dr. Milton R. Liverman, 65, whose 10 years as superintendent in Suffolk culminated a 37-year career in education, died Thursday after battling a rare cancer for six years. He retired from the school division in 2010, saying there was much he still wanted to accomplish but that he realized the to-do list would be endless.

“My husband did and gave all he had within him for the students and the staff of the school system, but he never felt it was enough,” said his wife of 24 years, Shirley Liverman. “He never felt that he had done enough.”


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The couple met at Booker T. Washington Elementary School, where she was teaching when he became assistant principal. They grew to become friends, and the romance blossomed later.

As his wife and a fellow educator, Shirley Liverman had a front-row seat to her husband’s efforts — often behind-the-scenes — on behalf of the school division. His work ethic was such that even on snow days, he didn’t want his staff to go investigate the condition of the roads if he wasn’t also out in his car doing so.

“He felt like, ‘If they are out doing this, how can I lay up in my bed?’” she said. “There was nothing pretentious about him. He didn’t let his position affect him.”

Liverman was dedicated above all to the students and the staff. After he had spent many years as a math teacher and then building administrator prior to moving to division administration, many thousands in Suffolk still remember being under his tutelage.

“He went from teaching in the school system to the highest rank,” she said. “He never treated anybody any differently. His door was open to anyone. He treated everybody fairly, and that was one of the things I admired about him.”

One of the people who benefited the most from Liverman’s mentorship is Dr. Deran Whitney, who was named superintendent after Liverman’s retirement. Whitney was assistant superintendent for eight years under Liverman.

“He was such a strong and helpful mentor, and he was so committed to the division,” Whitney said this week. “He was a real staple for Suffolk Public Schools. I feel like he was Suffolk Public Schools.”

Whitney said Liverman was instrumental in moving the division toward technological innovation. He also oversaw the construction of four new schools — Creekside and Hillpoint elementary schools and King’s Fork Middle and High schools.

“The thing I admired the most about him is that he was a straight shooter, but he would do whatever it took as far as being in the best interest of kids and the staff,” Whitney said.

School Board Chairman Michael Debranski remembered working with Liverman beginning in 1982, when Debranski was the principal at Southwestern Elementary and Intermediate School and Liverman became the assistant principal there.

“He was a strong person,” Debranski said. “When he made a decision, it was a tough decision, but he looked at every side of it. There was no innuendo with him. It was all facts.”

Board member Enoch Copeland said it was enjoyable to work with Liverman.

“He stated his mind, and he was a very likable person to work with, as far as I was concerned,” Copeland said.

Board member Lorraine Skeeter called Liverman “one of the most dedicated persons in providing an outstanding education to Suffolk Public Schools.”

“He was always working to provide a welcoming and safe and secure environment that was conducive to learning and serving all of our students and parents and employees,” Skeeter said.

Skeeter said Liverman possessed fairness, honesty, integrity and compassion to everyone.

“He believed in the students and employees and expected greatness from each of them,” she said.

Liverman’s wife remembered him not only as an educator but also as a wonderful husband and father. The couple also ministered together through East End Baptist Church.

“We were a team, and God placed us together to work as a team,” she said. “The whole journey was a journey of togetherness.”

She said her husband’s faith was what gave him the strength to perform at his best for Suffolk Public Schools.

“It was because of his faith walk with God he was able to do what he did for this community,” she said.

Liverman was such a dedicated husband that his wife said he had all of his final arrangements taken care of without her knowledge.

“He loved me, and he wanted to make sure even to the end I would not have a worry,” she said, recalling nurses and doctors who cared for him in the hospital who were former students of his. “He was an amazing husband.”

Liverman is also survived by his son, Brian; mother, Louise Liverman; and 10 siblings, of whom he was the oldest.

Visitation will take place from 7 to 8 p.m. Friday at Metropolitan Funeral Service, 5605 Portsmouth Blvd., Portsmouth. A viewing will be held from 10 to 11 a.m. Saturday, with a funeral beginning at 11 a.m., at King’s Fork High School.