Louise Brower, 82, a longtime Toledo Public Schools administrator and teacher who, upon becoming principal at Scott High in 1975, was the first woman to lead a large metropolitan high school in Ohio, died yesterday in Sibley Memorial Hospital, Washington.
The cause of death was not determined, but Mrs. Brower suffered from Parkinson's disease, diabetes, and heart problems, said her son, William A. “Billy” Brower, Jr.
Mrs. Brower and her husband, William A. Brower, a former associate editor at The Blade, moved to Washington about five months ago, their son said. The coupled lived in the Georgetown Retirement Residence.
“They were getting up in age, and I knew this was the best way for me to take care of them,” Billy Brower said. “They spent their entire professional lives in Toledo and still love Toledo.”
She was born Louise Johnson in Johnstown, Pa., graduated from West Chester State Teachers College in West Chester, Pa., in 1942, despite the fact she was not allowed to live on campus because she was black.
She taught for a year in a one-room school in Maryland before moving in 1943 to Philadelphia, where she met her husband. They were married in 1947, shortly before he became a staff writer for The Blade.
Mrs. Brower took her first Toledo teaching job at Robinson Junior High School in October, 1947, five months after she gave birth to Billy Brower. Eight years later, she became Toledo's first African-American school administrator when she was promoted to assistant principal at now-closed Gunckel Elementary School. She also worked at the former Walbridge Elementary and at McTigue Junior High, and was principal at Scott for five years before retiring in 1980.
Her progression to principal was “a natural” and her performance in that job was “superlative,” Frank Dick, a former Toledo schools superintendent, said in a previously published interview.
Billy Brower, now a writer and consultant in the Washington area, said his mother believed in instilling a “sky's the limit” philosophy with him and her grandchildren.
Mrs. Brower's grandson, Karl Brower, is a computer engineer. Granddaughter Tina Brower recently earned a doctorate in chemistry.
“She was the ultimate mother and was devoted to me and my father,” Billy Brower said. “She was also devoted to the young people she taught and helped as well. She was taskmaster, but it was always with a purpose. She wanted to maximize my potential and she wanted to maximize the potential of the children she taught.”
Mrs. Brower was involved in numerous service organizations that did volunteer work and guided youngsters throughout the Toledo community.
“I remember coming down the steps of my home as a youngster and looking into the living room on any given Saturday and wondering what group was in there,” Billy Brower said.
“She was mentoring before it was mentoring or before it was popular. No one was writing stories about this or taking pictures of this. She wasn't doing it for any kind of promotion.
“She did it because she felt like it was her mission and her duty to give back. If there is anything to be taken from her life, I would like for people to take that. Maybe in the things my mother did, hopefully others can feel inspired to do the same thing.”
Deborah Barnett, vice president at Huntington National Bank, said Mrs. Brower was one of her mentors through the Toledo chapter of LINKS. Ms. Barnett said Mrs. Brower had a way of challenging young people and inspiring them.
“She had a style and stature that everyone respected,” Ms. Barnett said. “She saw things in me that I didn't see in myself.”
Laneta Goings, a local Realtor and former vice president of The Blade Foundation, said Mrs. Brower was her sixth grade teacher at Gunckel. She and Mrs. Brower had been friends since then.
“She believed that every child had something special inside of them,” Ms. Goings said. “She would laugh and joke with us. But when she said it was time to get to work, everyone knew it was time to work. She was always more than a teacher - she was your mother and your best friend.
“She would tell us things that other teachers wouldn't tell us because she wanted all of us to succeed.”
Toledo Public Schools recently renamed the theater at Scott as the Louise J. Brower Performing Arts Theater.
Surviving are her husband, Bill; son, Billy, and two grandchildren.
Memorial services in Toledo are pending.