Blogging Bayport Alameda

May 27, 2015

RIP Niel Tam

Filed under: Alameda — Lauren Do @ 6:07 am

News broke yesterday that sitting School Board member Niel Tam passed away on Sunday after a prolonged battle with leukemia.

I didn’t know Niel Tam personally, but as a long time School Board watcher, I found him to be soft spoken and thoughtful.  While he was never the most outspoken and he was often criticized for being quiet, when he did add a few words to the discussion they were always meaningful and insightful.  His previous roles as a teacher and school administrator meant that he brought a lot of subject matter knowledge to the School Board and his absence will be missed.

Plus, he just seemed like a really kind and generous spirit.

But what Niel Tam should really be appreciated and remembered for is his courage to stand up and do the right thing, despite the opposition and fall out such as his vote on Lesson 9 which earned him a recall attempt.

I think this quote from Superintendent Sean McPhetridge is a great summation of Niel Tam:

“Niel was dedicated to protecting and upholding the rights of all people, and he was a champion in the Alameda community,”

RIP Niel Tam.


  1. Neil was a solid human being. He treated everyone as a friend and his kindness helped to make others better. He will be missed but he will never be forgotten. I am sad today that he is left us, but I am pleased that I knew him well enough to respect him. God bless Neil and God bless his family and friends.

    Comment by Bill — May 27, 2015 @ 8:58 am

  2. I miss Niel Tam tremendously. I am so thankful he shared himself with our community, and exhibited his quiet leadership in so many ways. I learned to listen to Niel with his thoughtful questions and statements. I was lucky enough to call him friend, to spend time talking about family, history, life and education. I’m afraid his low key style led many to think he did not have passionate views and goals, but they were there in so many areas. It is gratifying to see so many comments that Niel was a mentor, advisor and teacher to so many. Thank you so much to Judy for sharing her wonderful husband with the community, he truly has a legacy that touched so many … so many that do not even know. His leadership in Alameda’s education system is amazing, and continues. Thank you Nielsen! Keep working from above …
    My tribute to Niel is simply … “We don’t know what you don’t know … Please be mindful “

    Comment by Ron Mooney — May 27, 2015 @ 2:50 pm

  3. Beautifully put Ron, we were so fortunate to have a man of such deep dedication serving our students and community. His insight and compassion will be missed on the Board and beyond. I’m so glad I got to know him as a friend, I will miss the twinkle in his eye when telling or hearing a great story. God Bless you Niel and thank you for all you stood and fought for.

    Comment by Anne McKereghan — May 27, 2015 @ 6:55 pm

  4. I was fortunate to meet Mr. Tam when my Daughter had him in Special Education at Wood School a long time ago.
    She still speaks fondly of him and when i would run into him around town he always remembered us and would ask how my Daughter is doing.

    Comment by Al Pryor — May 28, 2015 @ 10:18 am

  5. I never met Mr. Tam and wasn’t here when the Lesson 9/recall efforts were taking place. However, I have heard many first-hand stories from people (like my wife) who participated in the Lesson 9 community events and understand what it took for board members like Tam to stand up against the hatred. His honor and courage are part of the changes that have come to Alameda schools – I’m sure that none of the backward homophobes ever dreamed that high school students would be celebrating Harvey Milk Day as an official activity.

    Comment by Alison — May 29, 2015 @ 9:43 pm

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