Birmingham Education Foundation to honor founder

By: Linda Shepard | Birmingham - Bloomfield Eagle | Published January 29, 2019

 Retired Birmingham Public Schools Superintendent John Hoeffler will receive an award from the Birmingham Education Foundation Feb. 9.

Retired Birmingham Public Schools Superintendent John Hoeffler will receive an award from the Birmingham Education Foundation Feb. 9.

Photo by Donna Dalziel


BIRMINGHAM — It began with high school athletic fields and developed into classroom salmon raising, makerspaces and much more.

Since 1993, the Birmingham Education Foundation has raised funds to support programs of excellence for local students. Retired Birmingham Public Schools Superintendent John Hoeffler introduced the program.

“At first, the idea was hard for people to understand,” Hoeffler said. “We were seen as a wealthy school district with a good tax base.”

“We consider John the visionary behind it,” said Pat Liebler, the foundation president. Last year, the foundation delivered more than $100,000 to BPS schools via contributions from the community.

The foundation’s annual Unabashed Bash will be held Feb. 9 at the Townsend Hotel in Birmingham. For the first time, a Legacy Award will be given out, and the first recipient is the man who started it: Hoeffler.

“We wanted to recognize the efforts with a legacy program,” Liebler said. “John’s was the only name we discussed. He had the vision to start the foundation, so it made sense to come back to him. In the future, we want to recognize others.”

Hoeffler retired from his position in 2007, after a lifelong dedication to education. After teaching, entering the field of school administration and receiving a doctorate from Ohio State University, Hoeffler spent 17 years as the BPS superintendent.

After a retirement move to northern Michigan and the death of his wife, Hoeffler has returned to Birmingham. “I love Birmingham and I knew so many people here,” he said. “And when I moved back here, I knew I would reconnect with the foundation.”

When preparing for his award, Hoeffler tried on his tuxedo to make sure it still fit. In the pocket was a speech from the first year of the foundation, written partially by his wife.

“We had $13,000 to get started,” he said.

“I am honored to be selected,” Hoeffler said of the Legacy Award. “But I want to thank so many people — the staffers, the Board of Education, teachers, parents and so many volunteers.”

Liebler said the foundation continues its goals to support programs that touch every grade level.

“All fourth-graders go to the Detroit Symphony every year,” he said. “Many high school students say that is how they got interested in orchestra.”

Leadership programs, family learning nights and more are funded through the foundation, which is led by a 15-member board that evaluates each program plan.

“We want to continue to engage the community,” Liebler said. “We support educators who have great ideas and encourage them to dream big — so kids can dream big and we can point them in new directions. It’s inspiring to see a community reach out like this.”

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