Damien Moses, the Bok Academy South principal, dies leaving a ‘huge void’

The statement on the website of Bok Academy South begins: “Our hearts are broken.”

The school’s beloved leader, Principal Damien Moses, died unexpectedly Thursday evening at age 50. Moses joined the Lake Wales Charter Schools system in 2004 and had directed Bok Academy South since 2011.

As colleagues and friends absorbed the reality of Moses’ death, they remembered him as a mammoth former football player who sought to improve the lives of all the students he encountered.

“I would say Damien Moses was an amazing colleague and a great friend,” Lake Wales High School Principal Donna Dunson said Monday. “I will miss his voice at the table, his weighing in. He was a fierce educator. He would do anything to help his students.”

Moses, a hulking man with a shaved head, trim beard and black-framed glasses, made an indelible impression on Robin Gibson, general counsel for Lake Wales Charter Schools.

“He was just an exceptional human being, and we will really miss him,” Gibson said. “He was fun to be around, just fun to be around. It’s a big loss and in more ways than one big shoes to fill.”

Bok Academy South announced Moses’ death Friday on its Facebook page. A cause of death was not listed in either that posting or in Moses’ obituary.

Damien Moses, principal at Bok Academy South in Lake Wales, places a medal around the neck of a student during the Lake Wales Scholars event held by Lake Wales Charter Schools. Moses died Thursday at age 50.

The school statement said that crisis teams would be available to provide support. The post had drawn nearly 100 comments by Monday afternoon, many of them from parents of current and former students praising Moses for his influence on their children’s lives.

“I am forever grateful that he was a part of my children’s lives,” Johanna Figueroa wrote in a comment. “He was there in a lot of personal family moments for my children and myself. He was an amazing educator, mentor and friend. He went way beyond for his students overall well being. He made a huge impact in our lives. We are deeply saddened over the news. My prayers go out to his family.”

J.S. Stone added: “We all know this man impacted so many of our children, not just through the Bok Years but from High School. Received a call from my 34 year old child living several states away – in shock about the news. He is so grateful for the time & guidance Dr. Moses afforded 17 or so years ago.”

Damien Moses before coming to Polk County

Born in Delaware, Moses spent his childhood in Orlando and attended Dr. Phillips High School, a magnet school with a highly rated visual and performing arts program. Moses played offensive guard and defensive tackle on the football team while also excelling in weightlifting and track and field.

Having received dozens of scholarship offers, Moses chose to attend South Carolina State University. He earned conference and national honors as a defensive lineman and also lettered in track and field before graduating in 1992 with an education degree.