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His Life and Legacy

Excerpts from Major General John Stanford's book, "Victory in Our Schools: We CAN Give Our Children Excellent Public Education"
Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4

Anecdotes of his life

Sept. 14, 1938: Born in Darby, Pa., on the outskirts of Philadelphia.

June 1957: Graduated from Yeadon (Pa.) High School as class president.

June 10, 1961: Graduated from Pennsylvania State University with a bachelor's degree in political science.

June 11, 1961: Joined the U.S. Army and, after six months in training, went to Germany for three years. Served as air and battalion operations officer, then commander of transportation division.

March 28, 1964: Married Patricia Corley.

September 1965: Son Steven born.

January 1966 to May 1970: Tour of duty as fixed-wing aviator in Korea; two tours of duty as fixed-wing aviator in Vietnam; also served as commander of a transportation battalion in Vietnam.

April 1971: Son Scott born.

June 1975: Earned master's degree from Central Michigan University in personnel management and administration.

May 1970 to November 1981: Worked in various Army assignments, including personnel management officer, battalion commander, military assistant to the undersecretary of the Army, commander of division support in Korea, executive assistant to the special assistant to the secretary of Defense.

November 1981 to June 1984: Served as executive secretary to Defense Secretary Caspar Weinberger.

June 1984 to July 1991: Served as commander of Military Traffic Management Command, Oakland, Calif.; deputy commander for research and development, St. Louis, Mo.; commanding general, Military Traffic Management Command; director of plans, U.S. Transportation Command, Scott Air Force Base, Ill., where he oversaw all transportation plans and programs for Operation Desert Storm. He later equated the Desert Storm work with "setting up a town the size of Atlanta . . . in the middle of the desert."

July 1991: Retired as a major general from the U.S. Army after 30 years' service. Went to work as county manager in Fulton County, Ga., which includes the city of Atlanta.

July 1995: Arrived in Seattle after being recruited by the Seattle School Board to be school superintendent, one of only a few big-district superintendents without a background in education. In initial visits here, raised eyebrows when he said he'd never failed at anything.

Sept. 1, 1995: On his first day as superintendent of Seattle schools, proposes central-office staff spend one day a week helping in the schools; makes poor customer service a firing offense.

Sept. 5, 1995: Proposes tougher academic standards; a community-wide "reading offensive" that prompted the donation of thousands of books to school libraries; holding students back if they don't meet academic standards. Vows the district's building program will be completed "on cost and on time." He dismissed protestations of those who said things couldn't be done. "It's never been done, and therefore, we will do it," he said.

Sept. 24, 1995: Calls himself a "children's crusader," and in a wide-ranging Seattle Times opinion piece vows to keep schools safe, to implement exit exams students must pass before promotion and to make principals the CEOs of their buildings.

Sept. 30, 1995: Proposes more places for parents to register their children for school, a first step in making the district more accessible.

Nov. 2, 1995: A study he commissioned shows minority students are hurt most by Seattle's "controlled-choice" school-assignment policy, which was later rewritten in favor of neighborhood schools.

Jan. 25, 1996: Proposes expansion of popular programs and alternative schools with long wait-lists; an international language school for newcomers to the U.S. and for native English speakers wanting to learn a second language - and proposes making it mandatory for students to study a second language.

Feb. 7, 1996: Expresses disappointment at the voter defeat of a school-maintenance levy.

February 1996: Announces Meany Middle School will become a new math, science and arts magnet program.

Doors open today on Stanford's big experiment

Summer 1996: His plan to make principals the CEOs gets a boost with a major business donation to help train them in a new leadership institute Stanford proposes.

Aug. 26, 1996: Speaks at Democratic National Convention in Chicago on the importance of public schools. Before the speech, he said he had no political aspirations. "It's not political; not for me. I have children in school who are Democrats, Republicans, Libertarians and independents. I can't politicize the education of our children."

Clinton is what kids need: Stanford

Nov. 21, 1996: Stuart Sloan, former chairman of the QFC grocery-store chain, commits to spending millions of dollars to create a special program at T.T. Minor Elementary.

Nov. 21, 1996: Seattle School Board and Stanford end race-based busing program.

Dec. 12, 1996: School Board approves Stanford-backed plan to link school spending with the kind of students at each school - students with educational challenges, such as those just learning English or from poor homes, bring extra money to their schools.

Summer 1997: Pushes new teachers union contract that gives principals greater control over teacher hiring regardless of their seniority.

July 10, 1997: Proposes a four-day work week for teachers with the fifth day used for planning, parent conferences and training.

Teachers in classroom 4 days a week? Stanford proposes having specialists relieve regulars on fifth day so they can plan, train

Summer 1997: Signs a contract worth a reported $400,000 to produce a book about school leadership.

January 1998: Acknowledged a private company wanted to hire him away from Seattle, but promised he would stay on the job until his contract ended at the end of July 1999. "Rumors of my departure are exaggerated - you are not that lucky!" he said in an e-mail message to principals and School Board members. "There is still much to be done."

April 2, 1998: Announces he has leukemia; enters hospital for a month of treatment.

Friends expect a heroic fight from Stanford

April 19, 1998: Slips out of his hospital room, taking an unauthorized 2 1/2-mile stroll toward home, but is stopped by Seattle police before he gets there.

Reviewing one man's vision

May 6, 1998: Checks out of the hospital with cancer in remission; returns to work the next day.

Dear Mr. Stanford... : Letters from the public

In his own words: Stanford's reply

Spring 1998: Students' test scores continue to edge upward for the third year in a row.

Spring 1998: More principal moves are announced, bringing to 52 the number of schools with new principals since Stanford's arrival in Seattle. The moves became a key strategy he used to influence the district.

June 1, 1998: Returns to the hospital to undergo a second round of chemotherapy after the unexpectedly quick re-emergence of his leukemia. Released again July 7.

Stanford's letter to staff, teachers

Aug. 11, 1998: After chemotherapy again fails, undergoes a stem-cell transplant at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, receiving cells extracted from the blood of his oldest sister, Carolyn Stanford Adams.

Stanford opts for stem-cell transplant

Oct. 15, 1998: Sixty-five days after the transplant, doctors announce that Stanford's leukemia has returned.

Nov. 28, 1998: John Stanford dies at 1:35 a.m. at Swedish Medical Center where he had been undergoing treatment by doctors with the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center.

Stanford's son and sister say his influence enriched their lives

Schools help students after Stanford's death

Stanford gave athletics a needed boost

Jerry Large: This is what John Stanford taught me

Thousands expected to attend Stanford memorial

Tears, laughter as school-district leaders recall Stanford

President Clinton's statement

Stanford's chances were a long shot from the start

News of Stanford's death quickly spreads beyond Seattle

School Board determined to carry on Stanford's plans

A letter from Stanford's family to the citizens of Seattle

John Stanford's striking leadership and character

Remembering John Henry from the very beginning

John Henry Stanford, Sept. 14, 1938 - Nov. 28, 1998: Seattle school chief dies after battle with leukemia

Stanford's unshakeable belief in Seattle schools changed the district, inspired the city

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