South has lost its biggest fan

Leadership.

More than anything else, it determines the success or failure of virtually every organization, be it in the business world, the sports world or any other field.

Our community lost a great leader when Parkersburg South High School principal Tom Eschbacher passed away.

Eschbacher not only was a tireless worker who was willing to do any task as long as it benefitted his school, but he also was South’s No. 1 cheerleader. He loved his school, his staff, his students.

Eschbacher wore his passion for Parkersburg South on his sleeve. He not only wanted South to be the best in every aspect from academics to athletics to other extra-curricular activities, but he also did his best to see the tools were in place to make that happen and give South every possible chance to be successful. It’s no wonder South was recognized as one of West Virginia’s Schools of Excellence.

Eschbacher oversaw the renovation of the school. Visit South and it’s easy to determine what part of the building was there when now senior citizens like me harkened its hallways and the more modern offices and classrooms that were part of the renovation.

While that is one of his major accomplishments, perhaps his biggest one is the culture he created at South. He hired good staff members. He surrounded himself with good administrators. And he demanded that each and every employee was there for the students.

He was ever-present at athletic events, making sure things ran smoothly and that South’s fans and students conducted themselves in a first-class manner. Go to any sports event at the Rod Oldham Athletic Center and you will be treated to a show that not only features the South athletic teams, but also involves future South students by making them a part of the program long before they are going to attend the school.

Eschbacher’s knowledge and passion for sports grew during his tenure at South. He became a key member of the West Virginia Secondary School Activities Commission’s board of directors. When the city of Parkersburg attempted to bid on the Super Six state football playoffs, he was its biggest supporter on the committee, and not just because of his location, but also because he believed Parkersburg’s presentation of its bid was the best and offered more to the student-athletes than any other.

One of Eschbacher’s biggest coups was landing a presidential visit to his school, where former President George W. Bush spoke in May of 2004. He and Eschbacher engaged in some friendly banter. After Eschbacher’s remarks, Bush told him what a fine job he had done and “that’s why you’re no longer the band director.” To which Eschbacher quipped, “I was pretty good at that, too.”

Eschbacher wasn’t afraid to call me and ask my take on things that involved his school. Even when we disagreed, I respected that he was doing what he thought was best for his students and his school. He earned the respect of many with his hard-work, dedication and trying to do the right thing for the right reason.

Contact Dave Poe at dpoe@newsandsentinel.com