COLUMBIA — Former Columbia elementary principal and School Board member Rosie Tippin died Monday night following a lengthy illness.
A statement to the media from her son Keener Tippin II on behalf of the family said Rosie Tippin died surrounded by family and loved ones. The family said her greatest legacy is that of an educator and an advocate for higher education.
“As a teacher and administrator in schools in St. Louis, Jefferson City and Columbia, as well as a member of the Columbia School Board, she touched countless lives," the family statement said. "Our mother fought her illness with the same vigor and determination she displayed in her attempt to bridge the achievement gap and ensure that students in Columbia Public Schools received the best education possible."
Tippin, who was 72, received her bachelor’s degree in business education from Lincoln University in 1958. She went on to earn her master’s degree in elementary education with certification in elementary administration from the university and did some post-graduate work at MU and Lindenwood University.
Tippin’s career in Columbia began as a reading specialist at West Boulevard Elementary School. After that, she ran her own preschool. Then she became a part-time assistant principal at Russell Boulevard Elementary School. When there was an opening at West Boulevard for principal, Tippin said she jumped at the chance.
After serving as the principal for 10 years, health problems and family responsibilities prompted Tippin to end her career at West Boulevard.
However, her love of education continued when she decided to seek a spot on the School Board and was elected in April 2008. Her four main goals were to improve the quality of education in Columbia Public Schools; make sure the available funds are being spent wisely; emphasize closing the achievement gap among students; and improve communication between the district and its patrons.
School Board President Jan Mees announced in May that Tippin planned to resign her position because of health issues. On Monday night, Mees said Tippin was an educator through and through.
"Rosie is an icon of the educational community of Columbia and has served in many different capacities, and she has represented voices that perhaps had not been heard as strongly as they need to have been in the past," said Mees, who worked as a media specialist at Russell Boulevard Elementary when Tippin was assistant principal.
"She was never afraid to stand up for a kid — or to speak strongly to a kid," Mees added.
Michelle Baumstark, communications coordinator for the district, said Monday night the district was saddened to hear of Tippin's death.
"Rosie Tippin was a lifelong educator. She was passionate about providing opportunities for children to succeed at the highest level," Baumstark said. "Our thoughts and deepest sympathies go out to her family and friends at this difficult time."
School Board member Karla DeSpain said Tippin's heart "was for her kids."
"That was her whole focus, trying to help the kids who needed it the most," DeSpain said. "She was just a loving and giving person."