TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) – Dr. Earl Lennard, a well-respected educator who was the Hillsborough County Schools Superintendent from 1996–2005, has died, the school district said Tuesday.

Lennard passed away Monday night following a prolonged illness, the school district said. He was 77.

Lennard, who is the namesake of Lennard High School in his native community of Riverview, started his career as a classroom teacher, then went on to serve as school superintendent. During his tenure, he oversaw the construction of several dozen new schools and managed remarkable growth, the school district said. He later served out the term of Hillsborough County Supervisor of Elections Phyllis Busansky, who died in office in 2009.

Lennard was also involved in several organizations geared toward helping the community, including the Greater Riverview Chamber of Commerce, Boys & Girls Clubs, Hillsborough County Fair and the Brandon Community Foundation.

“We are all heartbroken to learn of the passing of Dr. Earl Lennard,” said Jeff Eakins, Superintendent of Hillsborough County Public Schools. “His impact on our school district and community was immeasurable. So many educators and citizens have been positively influenced by his incredible leadership and character. It is incumbent on all of us, who were fortunate enough to know him, to carry on his legacy of honor and respect. We will keep his family in our thoughts and prayers during this very difficult time.”

The school district said his family plans to share funeral arrangements at a later date.