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Stowers retiring

Published 10:02am Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Dowagiac Daily News

Dowagiac Union Schools Superintendent Peg Stowers is retiring effective June 30 after 32 years with the district.

Stowers, the former Patrick Hamilton Middle School principal, moved up from assistant superintendent in 2006 when Larry Crandall retired after 36 years with Dowagiac.

Board of Education President Randy Cuthbert called a special meeting for 7 p.m. Monday, March 1, at Dowagiac Middle School, 57072 Riverside Drive.

Purpose of the meeting is to hear two presentations about conducting a superintendent search.

Stowers’ first year with the district was 1978-1979.

In October 1985 she became Patrick Hamilton Middle School principal.

In 2003, she led her state association.

Stowers, 56, could not be reached for comment Tuesday.

Snow closed Dowagiac schools today.

She and Patrick Hamilton are the same age. It was built in 1953, the same year she was born in Germany.

Her father, a native of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, was an Air Force radar specialist stationed at Keesler Air Force Base.

Her German mother spoke little English when they came to the States.

Stowers, a Daily News Hometown Hero in 2002, the year her daughter, Brooke, graduated from Union High School, was the second of five children.

Stowers landed at Pat Ham after two years teaching English and reading at Central.
Prior to that she spent four years in Dowagiac’s first full-time adult education program with Max Sala, Ron O’Brien and Bruce Watson.

In 1978-1979 she taught English and history at the high school.

She coached basketball, volleyball and track until Brooke’s birth.

“I always loved school, even as a student. I loved everything about school. I have no unpleasant memories of school when it comes to teachers or classes. I had a wonderful third grade teacher and she was probably my inspiration to be a teacher, but I had great teachers all the way through” school in Ocean Springs, Miss., Stowers told the Daily News in 2002.

Ocean Springs, where she went from second grade through two years of community college, is on the Gulf Coast, near Biloxi.

Her father was transferred several times to “isolated duties,” including Alaska and Spain, but his family usually stayed in Mississippi.

Stowers said her father graduated from high school on a Friday night at 18 and left for military service Saturday morning.

Three years later he was in Germany, met his wife and married.

They lived in Germany a couple of years.

Peg and her sister were born there.

Stowers attended first grade in the UP.

“My kindergarten year we lived in Plattsburgh, N.Y. That’s where one of my sisters was born. Then we moved to the UP when my dad went to Alaska and stayed in a little house down the road from my grandma and grandpa. I went to first grade there, then we moved to Ocean Springs and stayed.

“The school I went to in Ocean Springs was a phenomenal five-star school system with New Orleans on one side and Keesler Air Force Base and the builder of all the nuclear subs on the other.

“You have a constant influx of brain power as people come and go from Newport News and California. When my friends moved I was real thankful I didn’t have to do that. It was real important to me when I had a family not to do that, either.

“There was Kincheloe AFB outside the Soo. For six months in seventh grade my dad got stationed there. He thought he would retire out of that base. We did move that one time, but we didn’t sell our house, we rented one. We went to school in Rudyard for six months in the winter, then moved right back.”

As a college student she worked in a couple different stores and delivered mail.
“I was the sub carrier on Saturdays,” she recalled. “During the week I worked part-time in a little gift shop downtown. And I waited tables” at the restaurant her mother managed.
Stowers, who attended Northern Michigan University, was the first person in her family to graduate from college.

“My mother never went beyond eighth grade, which is not unusual in Europe. She came from a large family of 10 kids and went to factories to work. Her mother died when she was 8 or 9. The thing my parents gave me more than anything else was the sense of ‘do whatever you want to do and work hard.’

“There’s not a job out there that doesn’t merit working hard. If you’ve got to pick cotton, you pick cotton. If you work in an air-conditioned place, you work in an air-conditioned place. You do whatever it takes honestly to put food on the table. My parents were hard-working people. I admired my mom because she became a self-made woman, from no English to English and to running a pretty nice restaurant while raising five kids. Neither of my parents ever shied away from working,” she said.

Stowers said about becoming a principal that she never disliked classroom teaching, she left it “because I wanted to affect education on a bigger scale for more kids. I felt I needed to be ‘the big teacher’ more than a building manager. I can affect instruction and quality education in classrooms.

“I love my kids. I hope when I leave one day that’s what people remember,” that she took time to talk to all students and to make them feel important.

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