By Celine Klosterman
FORT MADISON – Principal Doris Turner has been a mother to students who needed one.
She spent her own money on classroom necessities for students who didn’t have them, and taught coaches the importance of being a role model, said Donna Borst, marketing director at Holy Trinity Catholic Schools in Lee County.
“I sincerely believe that Holy Trinity would not be the strong, vibrant school system it is today without Doris Turner,” Borst said.
The marketing director joined about 150 people on May 31 for a farewell party for the principal, who’s retiring after spending six years as chief administrator of Holy Trinity’s junior/senior high school in Fort Madison and elementary school in West Point. Turner and her husband will move to Boise, Idaho, to be with their daughter and grandchildren, leaving a merged school system whose unity many people credit to the principal’s leadership.
She worked very hard to bring together the Marquette schools in northern Lee County and the Aquinas schools in Fort Madison, both of which became Holy Trinity in 2005, said Mary Wieser, former superintendent of schools for the Davenport Diocese.
Debbie Tinguely, a Holy Trinity parent, recalled a forum before the consolidation at which members of each school’s community sat on opposite sides of the room. Then principal at Aquinas Junior/Senior High School, Turner told everyone to stand and mix together, Tinguely recalled.
“She’s been the glue that has held this school together during the tough times,” Borst said.
A leader needs faith to get through such times, and Turner’s devotion to Catholicism always has shone through, said Karen Schumaker, a second-grade teacher at Holy Trinity Catholic Elementary School. “She lived what she professed… We never started a meeting or a school day without prayer.”
The principal wrote each weekday’s morning prayer, recalled Alex Tinguely, an Iowa State University student who graduated from Holy Trinity last year. “She was always there for everybody, always willing to help.”
“She’s been at every school event I can think of – sports, music, theater,” said Debbie Tinguely, Alex’s mother. “She gives a lot of personal time to the school.”
Lisa Hansen, a former member of Holy Trinity’s board of education, voiced gratitude for Turner taking time to teach her the workings of the board. “I’m really going to miss her,” Hansen said.
In board of education meetings, Turner was a strong advocate for teachers and students, Schumaker recalled. The principal pushed to hire a resources teacher for students who needed extra help, and worked to keep class sizes small in the elementary school.
And she knew that for faculty, family was a priority, Schumaker said. The longtime teacher’s parents each died within the past 13 months, and Turner encouraged her to take off as much time from work as needed. “She was very supportive. She always told us, if you need to go take care of something, go.”
“I’d be glad to see her stay longer, but I’m happy for her,” said Brian Foecke, a former board of education member who has a daughter in eighth grade at Holy Trinity.
Turner said she’s grateful for the support of priests who’ve served at area parishes, including Fathers Tom Parlette, Tim Sheedy, Paul Connolly, Apo Mpanda, Gary Beckman, Mark Spring, Troy Richmond, Dennis Hoffman and David Wilkening.
“The schools have been such a central part of my life for so long,” Turner said. But she added that her retirement isn’t bittersweet – just sweet, because she believes the school has grown strong. “I truly believe God put me here to do something, and I did it.”