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Former IASB Executive Wayne Sampson Passes Away
July 21, 2009

Wayne L. Sampson, 67, who served as executive director of the Illinois Association of School Boards from 1989 until his retirement in 2000, died on July 21, 2009, in Morton. He was the only past president of the Association (elected in 1986 and 1987) to also serve as executive director.

As chief executive at IASB he became a major force behind the formation of the Illinois Statewide School Management Alliance. During his tenure he introduced the legally referenced policy subscription service (PRESS), and led adoption of the Association's current mission statement: "…excellence in local school governance and support of public education."

According to IASB Executive Director Emeritus Michael D. Johnson, "Wayne provided the foundation for the success of IASB through his calming manner, sense of humor and insight into what people and school boards needed. He was responsible for setting up many of the programs in their present form at IASB, which serve school districts and allow them to save money such as in Illinois Energy Consortium. He established an attitude of continual improvement at the association always wanting next year to be better than this year.

"On a personal level, he was very gracious, never offering unsolicited advice, but always willing to answer questions on how we could improve. We always had dinner the evening before the annual conference to catch up on the past year, and I will greatly miss that opportunity," Johnson added.

Many others who worked with Sampson also remember him well.

"Wayne was one of the most genuinely decent people I have ever known. He made a lot of friends for the Association, and it was a pleasure to work for him," said Jerry Glaub, former deputy executive director and now a communications consultant for IASB.

During Sampson's years as director, Glaub said IASB launched its homepage on the Internet, developed a School Design Data File service, and initiated a staff study of school district governance that led to its "Principles of Effective Governance."

Sampson also made a great impact on two current IASB employees, former field service directors who now work in the executive searches department.

Douglas P. Blair speaks of a friendship that dates back to when Sampson was first elected to his local board through working with him when he was a Central Illinois Valley Division officer, president of IASB, an IASB colleague and then during his tenure as executive director.

"In every one of those positions, Wayne provided exemplary service to Illinois public schools," Blair said. But while examples of his leadership are fingerprinted across the Association, "on a personal note, I treasured his honesty, candor, open-door policy and willingness to go the extra mile to assist our members," Blair added. "I also miss the times that we and the colleagues who were available would walk to nearby restaurants for lunch and conversation."

Dawn Miller credited Sampson with playing "many roles" in her IASB life, including his role as Association president while she was on the board of directors, being her staff liaison when she chaired the IASB Committee on School Choice and eventually bringing her into the IASB staff.

"Shortly after Wayne became executive director of IASB," Miller said, "I was elected to the office of vice president and worked with him on policies and planning. In May 1992, Wayne approached me about taking a position in the field services department.

"I wasn't sure whether it would be the right move," she continued. "I told him I worked hard to become president of IASB and didn't know if I wanted to give it up along with my local board. Without hesitating Wayne said, 'Think about it as giving up a banquet in order to eat forever.' He said he knew I felt the same way about school boards and the Association as he did and that, after the presidency your role is diminished, but as a staff member your connection with school boards and the Association increases. He said, 'You'll never regret it.' He was right!"

IASB Assistant to the Executive Director Patrica Culler also worked with Sampson for many years and summed up her feelings: "What will always come to my mind first, as I remember Wayne Sampson, will be that he was an individual who always had his priorities in the proper order: His love for and faith in his Creator, his love for and devotion to his family and his dedication to his chosen profession and the people who worked beside him. The second thing I will always remember is his great sense of humor and infectious laughter which could instantly make a seemingly impossible situation lighter and manageable. When I close my eyes and think back, I can still hear his laughter wafting down the hallways lifting the spirits of everyone it touched. And, today, I know he is looking down on us, smiling, laughing and saying "Just wait till you see what I see!"

Over his years as IASB executive director, the percentage of school boards holding active membership in the Association grew from 92 percent to 97 percent. The Association's financial base expanded remarkably, with a 90 percent increase in total revenue (from $2.8 million to $5.5 million). Dues revenue grew by 3 percent and non-dues income increased by 140 percent during that time.

During most of his 11 years as executive director, Sampson met often with then-Gov. Jim Edgar to advise him on education matters. As one of the directors of the statewide associations comprising the Alliance, Sampson's ideas and suggestions on education issues were solicited and often heeded. In 1994, Gov. Edgar invited Sampson and other IASB leaders to attend the bill-signing of landmark legislation long sought by the Association to allow school districts to request waivers of burdensome state mandates.

Sampson's relationship with IASB began as a member of the Morton C.U. District 709 Board of Education, where he served from 1975 to 1987. He became active in IASB governance during those years, when he was elected to the board of directors from the Central Illinois Valley Division. He also served as a member of the IASB/NSBA Federal Relations Network, and traveled several times to Washington, D.C., with the Illinois FRN delegation to lobby Congress.

During his tenure as president in 1986 and 1987, the Association launched its Leadership and Development program and the property/casualty insurance program. But he later recalled that what he remembered most was "the opportunity to meet all the wonderful people who serve on boards … really good people doing community service with no pay." He said this inspired him and kept him going during those hectic years.

Five months after stepping down from his local school board in Morton, Sampson was hired away from Illinois Central College in April 1988. That was when the IASB board of directors chose Sampson to fill the post of assistant executive director for governmental relations. It was a job he performed ably until Sep. 17, 1989, when the board again called on him, this time choosing him from a field of 175 applicants to become the association's third full-time executive director.

He succeeded Harold P. Seamon in that post after Seamon left to join the staff of the National School Boards Association.

G. Howard "Bud" Thompson of Prophetstown worked with Sampson during the times when each was president of the Association as well as while Sampson was executive director. "If there ever was a true role model, it was Wayne Sampson … he was a good friend and a solid person," Thompson said. "He was a good Christian and a family man … he had all the right stuff."

In his other education duties, Sampson previously served as president of the Illinois Vocational Association and as legislative liaison for Illinois Central College, where he had also held a department chair. He first joined the faculty there in 1967. After his term as IASB president, in fact, Sampson returned as a professor of agriculture and assistant to the president of the college, which is located in East Peoria near his Morton home. He had earlier taught vocational agriculture at the high school level after college, having earned a bachelor's degree in agriculture in 1963 and a master's degree in education in 1964, both from the University of Illinois.

A member of the Morton United Methodist Church, he had also served as chairman of the Forward in Faith Building Committee, playing a key role in relocating the church into a new building. He also was a member of the choir and held many church leadership posts.

To view Sampson's video tribute or to leave an online condolence for the family, visit online at http://www.knappjohnson.com.

A complete obituary was published July 22, 2009, in The Pantagraph, Bloomington at: http://pantagraph.com/news/local/obituaries/article_2dc79d92-7652-11de-a534-001cc4c002e0.html.

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