ROCKFORD, Ill. (WTVO) — Virgil Abloh made a mark in the fashion industry around the world, but his initial roots were in Rockford.

Those who know Abloh have said over the past two days how proud they were of his groundbreaking designs and humble personality. Abloh often said everything he did was for the 17-year-old version of himself.

“I was shocked, it took me completely by surprise,” said Louise Basile, Social Science Department Chair at Boylan Catholic High School.

Basile said she can remember the day that high school freshman, Abloh, came and sat in her classroom.

“Virgil was a very dedicated student,” Basile said. “He was motivated, put a lot of time into his work, excelled at all of his classes at Boylan High School.”

She said that at the time, she was not aware of his artistic abilities, but the success he achieved created a platform for students to aspire to.

“Whenever I read about him in the press, and he was in the press a lot in the last few years, I took great pride in having taught him,” Basile said. “We have a diverse student population, and he’s a great role model for all of our students.”

Mary McNamara Bernsten, Executive Director of the Rockford Area Arts Council, said Abloh’s accomplishments will continue to influence artists in the “Forest City.”

“Rockford’s own, Virgil Abloh, achieved success in every sense of the word,” Bernsten said. “I think Virgil’s far too early passing will be felt by both the younger generation of artists, as well as those who have watched him grow into fame at his age and older. Those mentors are so critical for artists, so that we can grow and we can reach, creatively speaking, and Virgil Abloh provided that for not only the Rockford community, but the community of color in the arts world.”

“I think he…the message to our current students is that you can accomplish anything you set out to do,” added Basile.

Abloh graduated from Boylan Catholic High School in 1998. He was 41-years-old, and leaves behind his wife Shannon and two children.