Thursday, April 03, 2008

Thursday Thirteen #53: Milton McPike

Odds are most people outside Madison have never heard of Milton McPike, former East High School principal for 23 years. Mr. McPike passed away over the weekend following a battle with adenocystic carcinoma, a rare form of cancer that affects the sinuses. He was only 68. It’s difficult to sum up such a life as his in only thirteen points, but it seems fitting to pay tribute to the man our community mourns this week.

1. Milton Lee McPike was born October 9, 1939 in Jacksonville, Illinois. He attended Northeast Missouri State University Teacher's College in Kirskville, Mo., from 1958 to 1962, where he earned twelve letters in three different sports--football, basketball and track--and won first-team all-conference honors in 1961.

2. In 1962 he was drafted as an end by the San Francisco 49ers, in the 12th round. Were it not for his commitment to education, his life would certainly have taken a different path from that moment forward, and our community would have been deprived the presence and influence of a great man.

3. Following his brief stint with the 49ers, Milt McPike taught physical education and coached eleven years in Quincy, Illinois before moving north to Madison, where he served five years as vice principal of West High School.

4. In 1979 he was appointed head principal of Madison Eastside High School, where he wasted no time in turning around a troubled school plagued by declining enrollment, racial tension and an overall bad reputation. He taught students to respect and appreciate their differences, making both them and the community in general stronger for it.

5. At six foot four inches, McPike’s was a formidable presence roaming the halls, tempered with a warm smile and genuine interest in the lives of students. He took time to talk to "his kids" and treated all with respect, no matter their color or economic background. He supported his students as if they were his own children, and truly cared whether you succeeded or not. Both his door and his heart were always open, no matter the student or the size of their problem.

6. In 1989, a decade after he assumed position of head principal, East was named a National High School of Excellence by the U.S. Department of Education. A year later McPike was named one of ten American Heroes In Education by Reader's Digest.

7. He was named State Principal of the Year in 1997 by the Association of Wisconsin School Administrators, and has also received the Madison Magazine Man of the Year Award and the NAACP's Unsung Hero Award--to name but a few of the accolades earned during his tenure as East High’s principal.

8. Mr. McPike retired as principal in 2002, but continued to be involved in education as a member of the UW Board of Regents, and by serving the community in other capacities.

Words of Praise:

9. "Milt McPike's bedrock values of hard work, education and family made Madison a vastly richer place. We will miss his commitment to young people, his open-hearted service, and the way he inspired generations of students to achieve and succeed." ~UW-Madison Chancellor John Wiley

10. "Milt was an exceptional educator, and an inspiration to generations of young people. He built a sense of pride not just in the classroom, but in the community and state as well." ~Governor Jim Doyle

11. "They knew he was there for them and he went beyond being friendly to them and interacting with them in the hallway and knowing them by name, all of which he did." ~Doug Buehl, Retired EHS Teacher

12. "Milt was first of all a tremendous person. He was obviously extremely well respected and a talented educator. He led East for 23 years and really and truly was not only important to East High School, but was also important to our community." ~Superintendent Art Rainwater

13. "You didn't walk by him. He would always interact with you, with students. He knew people by name, he knew their stories and there sure were a lot of kids who he interacted with and developed personal relationships with. He just made a difference in their lives, from well beyond the hours of the school day… Milt won lots of awards, but I think the most significant rewards are the ones that are in our hearts." ~Doug Buehl

I think the true testament of what kind of man Milt McPike was, is the number of people in attendence at Wednesday night's visitation, held at the Fieldhouse named in his honor at East High School. Thousands lined up to sign condolence books and pay their respects to the family, some waiting as long as three hours . The premature loss of Milt McPike will be felt for many years to come. I know I miss him already.

Links to other Thursday Thirteens:

Tempest Knight * Tara Nichols * Jenna Bayley-Burke
Morgan St John * Adelle Laudan * Kaige
Jennifer Bianco * Alice Audrey * Kat Oxley
Inez Kelly * RG * Darla * Gwen Mitchell
Gina Ardito * Maggie Nash * Shelley Munro
Ms Menozzi * Nina Pierce * Jennifer McKenzie
Andi * Paige Tyler * Aislinn Kerry * Robin Rotham
Tamy * Angeleque Ford * A. Catherine Noon
Julie Smith * Chloe Devlin * Dayle

(leave your link in comments, I’ll add you here!)

The purpose of the meme is to get to know everyone who participates a little bit better every Thursday. Visiting fellow Thirteeners is encouraged! If you participate, leave the link to your Thirteen in others comments. It’s easy, and fun! Be sure to update your Thirteen with links that are left for you, as well! I will link to everyone who participates and leaves a link to their 13 things. Trackbacks, pings, comment links accepted!


Shelley Munro said...

He sounds like a wonderful man who will be sadly missed. Your TT is a great tribute to him.

Maggie Nash said...

What a great man Heather. He definitely made an impact with his life. A life (albeit short) well spent.

Gina Ardito aka Katherine Brandon said...

What a lovely tribute to someone who clearly had a profound effect on you. The greatest compliment someone can receive is to know they touched others. Wishing his family comfort.

Bethanne said...

I got a little teary. A wonderful tribute Heather. Thanks for sharing. I'm sorry for your loss.

Unknown said...

I'm sorry for your loss, Heather. He sounds like a great man who left behind a ton of goodness. If only the world had more eductors like him.

RIP Milton McPike

Happy T13!

Darla said...

It sounds as though he accomplished more and touched more lives than many people who live much longer. That's a wonderful legacy, and it's a shame it was cut so short.

Tara S Nichols said...

Very noble introduction to someone important. Good for you and good for him. I like hearing about those who make a difference.

Anonymous said...

Very interesting! :D

Unknown said...

I wish the principals around here were more like him.

Jennifer McKenzie said...

What a wonderful tribute, Heather.
I'll have to pass this on to my sister who lives in Madison and I think her daughters went to East High.

Heather said...

Thanks everyone! He was indeed a remarkable person.

Gina~ Definitely, and his life certainly touched thousands. If you didn't have him as a principal, you knew someone who did, or knew him through years of community service.

Adelle and Alice~ I too wish there were more educators like him, especially after reports this week of such high dropout rates in inner cities. I think Mr. McPike was living proof of the postive difference an active interest in students' lives can make.

Jennifer M~ Thank you. I did not know you had family here, and what a small world that your nieces attended my alma mater.

And you know, that was one of the things that struck you at the visitation last night ~ how many thousands of lives this one individual touched. Hours standing in line were spent scanning the crowd for a glimpe of an old teacher or classmate, or chatting with those who graduated years before or after you. It was truly amazing!

Anonymous said...

What a beautiful tribute, Heather. He sounds like such a great man. I'm sorry he's gone, but hopefully he knows how much he meant to all of you. :)

Kaige said...

What a loss. I wish everyone had someone as influential fighting for them in their educational corner. Very nicely done, Heather.

threesidesofcrazy said...

Nice tribute - many more will know him now because of you. Have a great weekend.

Mine is up too at

Heather said...

Thanks Jennifer and Kaige ~ and yes, every kid should have a Mr. McPike in their life!

R.G. ALEXANDER said...

He sounds like a hero. Thank you for sharing.

A. Catherine Noon said...

What an incredible tribute. I am sorry for your loss. May he rest in peace, and peace be with his family, friends, and community.

Robin L. Rotham said...

That was an awesome tribute. There are too few principals like him

Heather said...

Tamy, Catherine, and RG -- thank you. And Robin -- yes, definitely too few such as McPike.

Julia Phillips Smith said...

I got totally teary reading the last quotes about him. I've popped over here from R.G. Alexander's blog and I'm so glad I did.

Unhinged said...

Beautifully written. I hope you share this wonderful tribute with more than just your anonymous online audience. It really deserves to be read by his closest friends and family.

Thank you for sharing.

Kathleen Oxley said...

Lovely post, Heather. So sorry for your loss.

And I agree with Unhinged - you should definitely share this with other people who knew him!

Happy TT! *hugs*

Anonymous said...

Thanks for your visit.

I will comment more at another time as I just returned from hospital and am not back to normal.

Abraham Lincoln in Brookville, Ohio.

Heather said...

Hi Julia~ Thanks for following the link from RG's blog to visit!

Unhinged & Kat~ Thank you. It was linked to a local newspaper's website (, so I'm sure many more will see it.

Abe~ Glad to see you are home from the hospital. I hope you are feeling much better!

Gwen Mitchell said...

Lovely TT Heather. Your community was blessed to have such a man in their midst.