Jeff Hill to retire after 42 years of serving in education

Yaneek Smith

Press Sports Editor

A job well done – it’s safe to say that describes the efforts of Eastwood High School assistant principal and athletic director Jeff Hill.
The Toledo native is retiring effective July 31 after working in education for 42 years, finishing off a career that has seen him serve as a coach, athletic director and principal at two different schools.
Hill, who is a Start High School alum that graduated with a bachelor’s degree from the University of Toledo, has spent the last 17 years in Pemberville, working as an athletic director, principal and assistant principal at Eastwood High School. Prior to moving back to Northwest Ohio, he worked for 25 years at Mapleton High School in Ashland. Hill said many rewards come from being united in pursuing a common goal.
“Athletics and education are people businesses and one in which you must have so many good people involved at every level. There are so many great people in education and athletics and the camaraderie involved with it is what makes it special. Nothing is better than people working together to develop and create great experiences for kids,” he said. “Educators and coaches are highly underrated by those outside of the profession, but yet they are offered the opportunity to help guide students and athletes on a path to success and to help them get to places they may not be able to get to themselves. It’s such an impactful and humble opportunity.
“I could have retired earlier, but it never really crossed my mind much because I was having too much fun in what I was doing,” he said.
Pemberville and Luckey have consistently churned out talented athletes that possess a good work ethic.
“Eastwood is special because of its culture and the character that the people of the Eastwood District exhibit every day. People here have tremendous pride in their district and their kids, and I felt that from day one when I started here in the fall of 2006,” Hill said. “They have high expectations and they don't mind us challenging their kids to strive for excellence.”
Hill counts two experiences — one at each school — that stand out and are among the most indelible. The (Mapleton) Mounties won the Firelands Conference title 32 years ago and made the playoffs, back when only four schools qualified for the postseason in each region, and the Eagles nearly won a state championship in football in 2017.
“At Mapleton, I was a part of the varsity football team going undefeated, winning the conference — the only time they ever have — and qualifying for the state playoffs for the first time in 1991,” Hill said. “To watch the entire community get behind the school and the team was something I had never experienced before as a player or coach, and it was special.
“Here at Eastwood, I have had the opportunity to watch so many great individual athletic performances, but I would say that the run our football team had in 2017 making it to the Division V state finals would be hard to top. That time from week one of the season until the state finals was magical and a once-in-lifetime experience for our team, coaches, school and community. We also ended the season as the top team in Division V in the final AP Poll, and then to back that up with our play in the tournament was so much fun to watch and experience as an athletic director. It was a busy and hectic time, but it was a heck of a ride,” he said.
Hill has worked with some stellar coaches that have been named to the halls of fame in their respective sports – men like Gary White (track), Ralph Cubberly (wrestling), Jerry Rutherford (football), Joe Wyant (wrestling) and Mike Gardner (golf). In Hill’s 17 years at Eastwood, 81 athletes have earned All-Ohio status for their efforts.
“It is unbelievable to even think about and I believe there are some future hall of fame coaches on my staff now. The greatest joy is watching athletes and coaches work so hard and to finally reach the levels of success they do. There is no better feeling than that,” Hill said. “The coaching staff here is very special, and they all work together for the betterment of each other as well as their own teams. It starts with all of the great things that happen in our weight room every day with Coach Brian Sabo and Andy Friess, and filters down into everything else we do. The lessons they teach our athletes go way beyond just being good athletes; it is the life lessons that are entrenched within everything that they do that help us be so successful.
“The work ethic of our athletes and coaches is unbelievable. The best example I can give of that is for someone off the street to come into our weight room/gym/athletic fields on June 1, when school is out to see all of the athletes in all of those areas already preparing for next season. It is not unusual that you might see 180-200 kids over a four- to five-hour period in the morning during the summer there voluntarily. That speaks volumes to their work ethic but also about our coaches, and our kids wanting to be here with them three to five days per week in the off season.”
At Mapleton, Hill worked as a coach in a variety of sports. He was assistant football coach for 25 years, head girls basketball coach for 12 years from 1986-98, and head baseball coach from 1983-98.
He was promoted to dean of students and athletic director at Mapleton in fall 1999 and became high school principal in the fall of 2002. Hill arrived at Eastwood in fall 2006 as principal, serving until June 2013. He transitioned to assistant principal and assistant athletic director in fall 2013 and became the director of athletics for Eastwood in fall 2015.

Coming back home
Hill talked about what brought him back home.
“I am originally from Toledo and all of my family was still here when I moved to Eastwood. I loved Mapleton and spent 25 years there and raised a family there, but my mom had been diagnosed with Alzheimer's and it was important that if we had the opportunity to come back this way that we wanted to do that,” he said. “I was still pretty selective in coming back. I had some offers to go to other places but chose Eastwood, when they chose me, and it was the best decision that I had ever made professionally.”
Hill discussed his decision to go back to school in 2000, and two years later earned his master’s degree in educational administration from Bowling Green State University.
“I taught for 16 years before I went back to school to get my master's degree in educational administration, so that was challenging in itself. I lived in Ashland, so there was a considerable amount of travel between Ashland and Bowling Green for a few years while I was taking classes. I was also the dean of students/athletic director at the same time I was taking classes, so I did not have much free time over those two years, but in the end, it was just another great experience to have gone through to make it all worthwhile in the end.”
During Hill’s time at Eastwood, the Eagles have competed in the Northern Buckeye Conference and the old Suburban Lakes League. He’s developed valued relationships with other administrators during that period. Woodmore athletic director Steve Barr talked about the respect Hill’s peers have for him.
“He has done a fabulous job there. They've had great athletic success for many years, and certainly part of the reason for that is the work Jeff does for their teams and athletes,” said Barr. “I know Jeff cares a lot about the success of their student-athletes, but probably more importantly, the development of the athletes at Eastwood, both on and off the court. He is the most experienced, or one of the most experienced, people in athletic administration in the conference, and with that comes the respect he deserves. He's certainly seen it all. Besides that, he has his priorities in order and has always been easy to work with and accommodating when asked a favor. A first-class person doing a first-class job.
“There are so many things, some so small that most people would dismiss it as not important. But, with the number of people you deal with in this profession — the different agendas, the different personalities, the different reasons ‘why’ — it is a balancing act that takes patience but the ability to be stern when needed, the ability to be adaptable but stand up for what you believe, and the ability to determine what is important and what is not. Jeff has done this gracefully during the time I have known him.”
After more than four decades working in education, Hill says it’s the right time to step away.
“I am retiring after 42 years in education after holding many different positions and responsibilities. I had heard from others that they retired because ‘it was time,’ and I am retiring for the same reason. I am not mad or upset or tired of what I do, but I just felt the best time to step away is when things are going well and while I am healthy mentally and physically to go out and do some things that my wife and I have always wanted to do,” he said. “My wife, Cindy, our kids and family have been so supportive in what I do, and it seems every family thing that we have wanted to do has been structured around my schedule at school. It is time to make family a priority and time to watch grandchildren grow up and for us to travel. The decision was difficult because of the outstanding coaches and people that I work with and our students and athletes.”


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