Winnetka, Community

In Tribute: Former New Trier superintendent mentored ‘hundreds and hundreds of educators’

How many people have a building renamed in their honor when they retire?

Dr. Henry Bangser had that rare distinction.

When he retired as superintendent of New Trier High School in 2006 the administration building on the Northfield campus was renamed the Henry S. Bangser Administration Building in his honor.

“Dr. Bangser’s legacy touched thousands of students, teachers, administrators and staff,” Keith Dronen, president of New Trier District 203 Board of Education told The Record North Shore, mourning the recent passing of a man who spent nearly a quarter century of his half-century career in education at the school.

Dr. Paul Sally, the current New Trier superintendent, characterized Dr. Bangser as “an amazing leader (who) had a tremendous positive impact on both our institution and hundreds and hundreds of educators that he mentored.”

Henry Stephen Bangser died at age 75 on March 12 at his home in Maryland, and a graveside service was held at Chicago’s Ridge Lawn Cemetery on March 18.

He is survived by his wife, Sara, with whom he celebrated their 50th anniversary in April 2023; daughter Jill Fioravanti (Marc), sons Marc (Gina) and Matt (Abby); and seven grandchildren ranging in age from 4 to 15.

Bangser grew up in New York where he graduated from Mamaroneck High School in 1966. He went on to earn a bachelor’s degree in economics from Williams College in 1970, a master’s in teaching from Northwestern University in 1971 and a doctorate in educational leadership and administration from Northwestern in 1977.

In the fall of 1971 he came to New Trier as a social studies teacher and assistant football coach and he became an assistant principal before leaving in 1979 to become the principal of Lake Forest High School.

Before returning to New Trier as superintendent in 1990, Bangser served in educational leadership positions in public school districts in New York and California.

“I had the opportunity to work with Hank at the Ventura County Office of Education in California as lead mentors in the administration preparation program,” remembered Stephen Hanke. “Hank was the bedrock leader of the program and an inspiration to all of us and the new leaders he mentored. His dedication to developing strong leadership was remarkable and matched by his kind and friendly manner.”

In the opinion of former New Trier Board of Education President Chuck Happ, “Accessibility was Hank’s trademark.”

“He was familiar with everyone in the hallways,” Happ told the Chicago Tribune. “He made sure everyone was heard — the teachers, the support staff, the physical plant staff and the students.”

“He did a great job of bringing the personal side to a very big school,” said Laura Bertani, New Trier’s former personnel and communications director, said at the time of his retirement.

During his time as superintendent, Bangser navigated New Trier through at least two problematic situations.

The first was in 1974 when the school had a huge staff turnover with 58 of 265 teachers taking early retirement. But Bangser made certain that their replacements met the challenge of maintaining New Trier’s traditionally high standards of excellence.

The second situation came in 1998 when there was a debate over how to cope with a projected increase in students that the Winnetka campus couldn’t handle. The alternatives were either establishing a second high school in Northfield for all grade levels or using the Northfield campus for freshmen only. Bangser was instrumental in the decision to use the Northfield campus exclusively for freshmen and it has proven to be a successful solution to the problem.

Away from academia, Bangser was a lifelong athlete. During his high school years he played football and baseball at Mamaroneck, where he was inducted into the school’s Hall of Fame in 1994, and at Williams he was a member of the football team.

Extending into his years as a senior citizen, he was an avid golfer, carrying a single digit handicap and known for an exceptional short game and smooth putting stroke.

“I knew Hank for 36 years — a relationship that started on a golf course, grew on a golf course and ended on a golf course — the last time we played and spoke was Feb. 17 in Naples, Fla.,” reminisced Dave Galainena. “He was a man of commitment and integrity. The words defined him on the golf course but more than anything else they defined him as a husband, father and grandfather.”

Contributions in Bangser’s memory can be sent to the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation (Georgia chapter), 57 Executive Park South, Suite 380, Atlanta, Ga. 30329 (write Henry Bangser in the memo line).

The Record is a nonprofit, nonpartisan community newsroom that relies on reader support to fuel its independent local journalism.

Subscribe to The Record to fund responsible news coverage for your community.

Already a subscriber? You can make a tax-deductible donation at any time.

Neil Milbert

Neil Milbert was a staff reporter for the Chicago Tribune for 40 years, covering college (Northwestern, Illinois, UIC, Loyola) and professional (Chicago Blackhawks, Bulls, horse racing, more) sports during that time. He won a Pulitzer Prize for his work on a Tribune travel investigation and has covered Loyola Academy football since 2011.

Related Stories