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Wednesday, January 04, 2017

Glenn Hightower, 76, Westport Educator

Glenn Hightower of Westport, who served three decades as principal at Bedford Junior High and Middle Schools and later as principal of Westport Adult and Continuing Education, died Jan. 1 at home. He was 76.

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Glenn Hightower: former school principal. Contributed photo

Known for his easy going manner, Hightower combined his love of teaching with his love of athletics.

A native of Oklahoma City, Glenn Edward Hightower, or Dr. Hightower as he became known to legions of Westporters, excelled in athletics through high school and at Oklahoma State University until a medical condition eventually ended his formal sports career, according to a profile published when he was honored in 2005 by the Sportsmen of Westport.

But he continued to be active, competing in area and national handball tournaments, running marathons, including the New York Marathon 15 times and 10 ultra (50-mile) marathons.  It was routine for him to knock off eight to 10 miles before reporting to work and 20 to 25 miles on weekends.

He was an enthusiastic participant in Westport Little League Girls Softball and Westport PAL football.

In his work with the youth of Westport, he always emphasized participating and competing to the best of one’s ability while maintaining the commitment to the team concept and sportsmanship as the goal.

He received his Ph.D in educational administration at the University of Iowa in 1969 prior to coming to Westport where he became principal at Bedford Junior High. He received a Ford Foundation Fellowship for his Master’s Degree at Kansas State University and also received a grant for his doctoral studies.

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Glenn Hightower was tour guide in 2009 when members of the Staples High School Class of 1959 — the first class to graduate after the school moved to its present North Avenue location — made a nostalgic 50th anniversary return to the school. (CLICK TO ENLARGE) Dave Matlow for WestportNow.com

During his tenure, Hightower did his utmost to be cooperative and communicative to his school community. And he was not shy about speaking out when he saw the need.

In a 1974 letter to the editor of the Westport News, he took on a letter writer who was critical of Bedford Junior High’s English curriculum and those who administered it. And he blasted a headline that he said suggested grammar no longer existed at his school or in Westport.

“Let me assure everyone that grammar has not disappeared from Bedford Junior High or from other Westport schools,” Hightower said.

In 1980, he was named acting assistant superintendent, replacing Claire Gold, who took a personal leave of absence. In an interview with the Westport News at the time, Hightower was enthusiastic about his chosen career.

“If you can’t get excited about what you’re doing, you’re in real trouble,” he said.

Hightower recalled his first encounter with Westport a decade earlier “when it was a quiet country town.” He added: “But it’s moving, not entirely by choice.”

Westport and its population of successful residents puts special stresses on young people, he said.

“Having so many high achievers in a community is a heavy load for children,” Hightower said.  “Being second is not acceptable in some families.”

He said part of his educational philosophy would include “a warmer, more receptive environment” for learning where students can discover how to handle both success and failure.

He also said he would like to see a more imaginative approach to education, but that rising costs restricted the possibilities.

Hightower said schools, like many institutions at that point, had lost some credibility in the community, especially since the Watergate scandal.

“All of us involved in institutions are suspect,” he said.

One answer, he suggested, was to be proactive with the community. “We need to show them what we are spending and help them articulate what they want,” he said.

One of the most challenging episodes of his career was overseeing the 1981 shift of sixth graders from the elementary schools to the middle schools and the closing of Hillspoint Elementary School.

But like other challenges, he handled them well with a dose of humor and his ever-present smile.

Hightower was active in the Westport Rotary and United Methodist Church and often took roles in school plays.

His wife, Beverly, predeceased him. He is survived by three daughters: Holly of Ashburn, Virginia, Julie of Baltimore, and Heather of Charlottesville, Virginia, four grandsons, and brothers Richard and Phillip Hightower and their families.

A funeral service will be held Saturday, Jan. 21 at 2 p.m. at United Methodist Church of Westport Weston.

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In a statement, Westport First Selectman Jim Marpe said: “It is with great sadness that I note the passing of Glenn Hightower.

“Glenn was the embodiment of an educator who was committed to his students, his profession and his community. 

“He was compassionate and caring, and influenced countless lives not only through his roles in the Westport Public Schools, but also through his participation in youth athletics.

“On behalf of the Town of Westport, let me express my sincere condolences to his family and thank them for allowing Glenn to be such an active and significant member of our community for so many years.”

———

The family supplied the following obituary:

Glenn Hightower, longtime educator and Westport resident, died New Year’s Day at age 76. Throughout his life, he was devoted to his wife, Beverly and his three daughters, Holly, Julie and Heather.

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Glenn Hightower: Westport educator. Contributed photo

Born and raised in Mangum, Oklahoma, Glenn graduated Mangum High School as valedictorian and class president. He went on to complete his undergraduate degree at Oklahoma State University, his master’s degree at Kansas State University and his Ph.D from the University of Iowa.

Glenn and his wife Beverly moved to Westport in 1969 to begin working with the Westport Public Schools. Glenn spent over 30 years as the principal of Bedford Middle School (previously Bedford Junior High School), serving briefly as the interim assistant superintendent.

He led through times of both consolidation and expansion including working with the team designing the new Bedford Middle School on North Avenue. During his eight years as principal of Westport Continuing Education, he expanded programming and grew enrollment. Glenn was committed to music, the arts, technology and dedicated to creating outstanding and compassionate learning environments that valued students and enabled them to excel.

Glenn was an avid sportsman. In junior high and high school, Glenn was the quarterback and captain of his varsity teams including football, basketball and baseball. He played handball competitively, served on the Bridgeport YMCA board of directors, and enjoyed playing in the recreational basketball leagues across the Fairfield County area.

Glenn could often be seen throughout town logging many miles as a runner with the Westport A.C. He enjoyed running in the Westport Road Races and completed 16 New York City marathons and 10 ultra marathons. Glenn was a competitor but most of all he cherished the lifelong friendships created along the way.

Glenn demonstrated his love of sports and his dedication to creating stronger communities by volunteering and coaching. Actively involved in the Westport YMCA where he served on the board of directors, the Westport Water Rats Swim Team, as well as the Staples High School Swim team, Glenn, Bev and their daughters spent many days by the pool.

When his daughters were interested in playing ball, he coached girls rec basketball and he worked to grow the Westport Little League Softball teams, coaching softball teams for well over 10 years. He later returned to a sport he loved, football, to coach middle school P.A.L. football players, many of whom later were a part of championship teams.

Glenn served in the Rotary Club and over many years dedicated himself to the United Methodist Church where he was a Sunday school teacher, lay leader and chair of the administrative council among others.

Glenn was known for his warmth, kindness, generous spirit and devotion to his family. Glenn demonstrated a strong work ethic as well as an unwavering belief in the power of public education and the importance of helping others. Glenn encouraged people to do their best whether it was with their family, school, work, in their faith or on the ball field.

Glenn was predeceased by his wife Beverly Hightower and his parents. Glenn is survived by his three daughters, four grandsons, brothers Richard and Phillip Hightower and their families. Glenn’s spirit will live on through them and through the many people who knew him.

In honor of Glenn, the Hightower family encourages all of us to take time to talk with and truly listen to our children, look for the good in those around us and strive to make a positive impact on our communities.

A memorial service will be held Saturday, January 21 at 2 p.m. at the United Methodist Church in Westport/Weston. All are welcome to help personally celebrate Glenn’s life.

In lieu of flowers, please consider a donation to the following organizations that will make an impact in people’s lives in a local community:

The United Methodist Church of Westport/Weston — in memory of Glenn Hightower,  49 Weston Road, Westport, CT 06880; Mangum High School Alumni Association — in memory of Glenn Hightower (donations to this organization will be used for a student scholarship fund) Mangum Alumni Association ℅ Mary Jane Scott, 414 South Robinson Ave, Mangum, OK 73554; Staples Tuition Grants — in memory of Glenn Hightower, PO Box 5159, Westport, CT 06881.

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Posted 01/04/17 at 02:40 PM



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