Joe Clark succumbed to his long battle with illness on December 29, his family said in a statement on Tuesday.

The principal whose unwavering commitment to his students and uncompromising disciplinary methods at Eastside High School in Paterson, New Jersey had inspired the 1989 film, Lean on Me.

Clark was a longtime resident of South Orange, New Jersey, and later retired to Gainesville, Florida. He passed away at the age of 82.

“Joe Clark- who rose to national prominence as principal of Paterson’s Eastside High School and was the inspiration of the 1989 film “Lean on Me”- dedicated his life to educating New Jersey’s youth. He will be missed,” Governor Phil Murphy shared to Twitter.

Predeceased by his wife, Gloria, Clark’s legacy as an influential educator and father of New Jersey’s most storied track and field family lives on through his children, Joetta, Hazel, and JJ, and grandchildren, Talitha, Jorell, and Hazel.