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The Versailles Republican

June 4, 2015 • Headlines

Bailey, a student at Jac-Cen-Del, was chosen to help the two performers with sharing a message about energy efficiency.
Courtney McGuire smiles in anticipation of receiving her diploma during South Ripley High School graduation ceremonies.
Pictured above from left Zack England, Mary Lynn Ritter, Carly Buchanan, Sophia Eckstein, Kendra Franklin and Mary Colleen Gorman are National Honor Society members, placed in the top of their class.
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South Ripley Elementary School principal leaves behind caring legacy

Mary Mattingly

If Mark Collier had skipped breakfast some 33 years ago with then South Ripley Superintendent Stan Nay, he might not be sitting behind the principal’s desk, preparing to retire from the job he has so loved. The 1978 Milan High School graduate was a first year teacher at his alma mater, and was at an overnight meeting in Jeffersonville when Nay joined him for breakfast. Collier, who was in his early 20s then, shared he wanted to be an administrator some day and was already taking classes at Xavier University for his license.

Principal Mark Collier


Principal Mark Collier is pictured with kindergartners.

“Three years later I stopped in to see my dad (principal at Milan Elementary) and he said, ‘Mr. Nay called and said they had an opening in administration but I told him you didn’t have your license. And I said, ‘But dad I will in three weeks!”

Young Collier called Nay, and one interview led to another, and he landed the job as the principal at Holton Elementary. After four years, he then became principal at Versailles Elementary for two years, until the two schools closed and the new South Ripley building opened. Little did he know 24 years later he would be South Ripley’s only principal! Much like former principals at Versailles and Holton schools, Collier too is leaving behind quite the legacy, one of compassion and professionalism. As this year’s distinguished 2015 alumni from Milan, Collier shared that story with seniors at Milan recently. “I talked about how you never know who you meet, or who you have met, and the impact. That breakfast conversation has set my compass for 30 years!” Stan Nay stopped by recently to congratulate 55-year-old Collier on his impending retirement. “Besides my dad, he had the most impact on my professional life. He taught me how to treat people, to keep your word, to stick with it. I think of him often.”


Formerly Holton’s principal for four years, where secretary Betty Lauber often helped him those first years, the 6’4” man was just 25 when he opened the doors to greet the students. “Being so young, every day was a learning opportunity,” he recalled. Experience with a myriad of situations brought more confidence, but each one was unique, just like each of the 600 kids in his building. “Even in year 30 you are still learning new things,” Collier said. But, had he not been building minds, Collier said he would have been an architect, perhaps designing buildings and engineering traffic flows. But, “I always wanted to be a teacher as far back as I can remember. And, why I wanted to go in administration was due to the impact I saw my dad have on families and kids.”

His dad, Robert, was principal at Milan Elementary for 26 years, and his first boss in education “He expected more out of me than anyone else in the building when I taught there.” He got it too and that expectation undoubtedly helped with his career success. Mark may have subconsciously copied his father’s easy-going and yet professional style. He is known to remain calm at intense times, to think before he speaks, much like his dad.

Ann Dicken, a kindergarten teacher at South Ripley, attests to that demeanor. She has worked with Collier for 30 years. He listens and is understanding of personal situations and yet sets high standards, she said. She recalled one time when her class arrived late from an outing and the transportation director was upset. “Mr. Collier reassured us that it was ok. He was not worried because he trusted us.” That trust goes a long way with a staff. The ’82 Marion College graduate reminds himself often in certain situations to keep things in perspective, that “this too shall have a resolution.”

Jane Rogers, who worked with him for 14 years, 12 of those as asst. principal at South Ripley before she left to be principal at Milan, also commented on his style. “He was a positive role model demonstrating how to keep calm amidst the variety of duties a principal assumes daily,” she said, adding, “He cares about kids,” and seeks teacher input.

It’s a telling sign that several of the staff has been with him the full 30 years: Tom Maltbie, Jeff Huss, Phyllis Hull, Jeanine Stratton and Ann Dicken.

A Versailles Lions Club member and former board president of the Ripley County Community Foundation, Collier is a nice guy. He’s quick to smile and laugh, and listens and is easy to talk to. He describes himself as compassionate, quiet and sympathetic. Rob Moorhead, SR superintendent, doesn’t disagree, but adds caring, professional and even “beloved” to describe the only principal the school has had. “Mark Collier is leaving behind a legacy of professionalism and love for his students. He replaced two iconic principals during his tenure.  The first was Roy Whitaker at Holton Elementary School and the second was Bo Susnick at Versailles Elementary School.  Now Mark has become an iconic principal in his own right and he will be forever remembered at SRES.” 

Decades of change
A lot has changed in education since those first few years when Collier was a school principal. Technology, of course, is one major change, and while it has many strong educational aspects, Collier believes it can’t replace the value of face-to-face communication. Too many times he sees families out dining looking at screens rather than each other, he commented. What’s the biggest change in education in 30 years? Not technology, but the makeup of the family, according to Collier.

“There has been a need for both mom and dad to work,” he said, noting he was fortunate that his own mother Juliana stayed at home. That trend has gone the wayside. “The number of children in single parent families or even grandparents raising them is very different from when I first started.” And that has an impact on education.

What you don’t know
“Many may not not know the former high school basketball and tennis player and golfer, is a natural introvert. Collier admits he would rather be behind the scene instead of front and center. And while he appears unruffled, he can’t help but take his job home. If something goes wrong with the building, the budget, activities, the staff or the students, it’s ultimately his responsibility, or that’s how he sees it, Collier says. It’s not a 9 to 5 job.

Understandably, he won’t miss “the stress of responsibility.” But, he will miss the delicious coffee cake from the cafeteria. The ladies always knew to put some extra aside for him. And, he’ll miss the staff and daily student interaction. When asked of his greatest accomplishment (other than he and Dot’s two grown daughters), he said it’s the positive impact he may have had on some students. The last few weeks he’s been touched with small gestures, such as a fifth grader who sent him an email saying he will be missed. Another student spontaneously gave him a big hug in the hallway, thanking him. A former student, who has children in the school, also told him how much he meant to her. “It’s things like that that mean a lot to me. I try to make a difference in someone’s life.”

Collier, who admits his guilty pleasure is Diet Coke, is looking forward to time with his wife, who is retiring from LifeTime Resources. They will do some traveling and best of all “is not having to return on Sunday.” No. 1 on his list is to get his “kid fix” with his only grandchild, Bryn, Erin’s daughter. They live in Greenwood. Erin is a teacher, but is staying at home with her toddler. He also hopes to visit daughter Kellie who works at a university in Pittsburgh and is also pursuing a master’s degree in leadership. While he doesn’t want to embark on another career, maybe by October he’ll be ready to consider what is next. Except he actually has a paid five-day job this summer too, as a camp counselor in Louisiana, thanks to an in-law. “I think I have some skills that may apply,” he said, and smiled. You think? Thirty years as a principal may just qualify you as a camp counselor!

A reception to honor Mark Collier will be Friday at South Ripley cafeteria 5 to 7 p.m. with a short program at 6:30 p.m.

South Ripley top students recognized


Ashley Moore

Pictured is Ashley Moore, SR Class of 2015 Valedictorian.

South Ripley Senior Ashley Moore took the Valedictorian Honor for the Class of 2015 with a flawless high school record. The 4.0 senior was on the A Honor Roll for all eight semesters of her high school career, was the top senior in the biomed program and was elected to the National Honor Society. Moore was also involved in many academic clubs and volunteered for several service organizations.

A member of the student council, Moore was selected to attend the HOBY State Conference, and was chosen to be a HOBY World Leadership Conference Ambassador for 2013. Moore was also selected as a National Student Leadership Conference Ambassador in 2013, was a Lily Scholarship finalist, won the Bepko Scholarship, and is an IUPUI Honors College Inductee. The senior was also crowned Miss Ripley County 2014. Ashley plans to attend IUPUI where she will work toward a double major in biology and neuroscience, while completing her pre-requisites for medical school. Ashley is the daughter of Tracy and Christy (Benham) Moore of Versailles.

Zack England
Zachary England, pictured left, SR Class of 2015 Salutatorian.

Awarded the salutatorian medal for SR’s Class of 2015 was Zachary England, son of Keith and Stephanie England. Zack maintained a 3.94 GPA throughout high school and was inducted into the National Honor Society his senior year.

He was elected senior class president and also was a member of the SR Student Council. Also involved in several clubs and organizations throughout high school, Zachary worked two part time jobs. He worked for his parents at their restaurant, The Red Barn in Osgood, and is a veterinary assistant at Laughery Valley Veterinary Center. Zack has been accepted to Ohio State University where he will study veterinary science. He advised underclassmen: “Everyone needs to find their happy medium between ‘too stressed’ and ‘not stressed enough. Remember to have fun and make memories. High School is too short not to!”

Pick up this week's edition of The Versailles Republican for the stories below and more local news. Subscribe by clicking the subscribe link or call 812-689-6364.

• Milan seeking bond to expand (front page)
• South Ripley sends 2015 grads into real world (front page)
• Cancer survivors invited to celebrate at Relay for Life (page 3)
• Top 8th grade scholars honored (section B, front page)
• Jac-Cen-Del kids learn about energy efficiency (section B, front page)
• Versailles Town Court (section B, page 2)
• Milan Elementary quarter 4 honor roll (section B, front page)
• Want to see more photos? Click here to find out where to buy the newspaper!

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