Madison Memorial High School principal Bruce Dahmen died Tuesday while out of town to watch a former athlete, officials said.
Dahmen was in Knoxville, Tenn., to watch former Memorial basketball player Jeronne Maymon play for the University of Tennessee, according to Jeremy Schlitz, athletic director at Memorial.
“He embodied everything about this school and the community that supported Memorial,” said Schlitz, who worked 18 years with Dahmen as a coach, teacher and athletic director.
The Knoxville (Tenn.) News-Sentinel reported Wednesday that Dahmen collapsed in the stands at Thompson-Boling Arena prior to the game between Tennessee and Florida.
The article said it wasn't known if Maymon knew of Dahmen's death during the game, which Florida won, 67-58.
Madison Metropolitan School District Superintendent Jennifer Cheatham said in a statement Wednesday that Dahmen's death, "Is a tremendous loss for our community."
"Bruce was an incredible leader, an expert principal and a friend to so many of us," Cheatham said. "He lead Memorial High School with skill and integrity, and he touched the lives of countless students, staff and families.
"Our focus today (Wednesday) and in the coming days is on supporting Memorial staff, students and families. We will continue to have extra staff on hand to provide support for those who need it."
Staff gathered at school late Tuesday night to mourn the loss.
“In all honesty we have not gotten anywhere past the way we’re going to work through the day tomorrow for staff and students,” Schlitz said.
The school is making counseling services available to students and staff.
Rachel Strauch-Nelson, a spokeswoman for the Madison School District, said the district has not made decisions about who will replace Dahmen on a temporary or permanent basis.
Dahmen was hired in 2005 by then-Superintendent Art Rainwater.
Prior to being selected as principal, Dahmen worked more than two decades at Memorial, teaching marketing and business education, coaching baseball and basketball, and serving as assistant principal.
His family has close ties to Memorial. His wife, Peggi, works as secretary for an assistant principal and both of their sons, Tyler and Justin, graduated from Memorial as three-sport athletes. The Dahmen sons followed their dad’s business-minded example by opening up Dahmen’s Pizza Place on Mineral Point Road near Memorial in 2010.
Dahmen was loved by students, so much so that when the school adopted its first-ever mascot in 2006, they voted to name the mascot Bruce.
Dahmen graduated from Middleton High School in 1970 before earning his undergraduate degree at UW-Whitewater. He completed a master’s in education administration from UW-Madison.
No sources available early Wednesday could confirm Dahmen's age or the cause of his death.