'Don't ever look at a kid and think: You're not going to make it'

'Don't ever look at a kid and think: You're not going to make it'

EUGENE, Ore. - Don Jackson, a former longtime principal at South Eugene High School, died Friday. He was 78.

Funny, genuine, passionate about education: You can see it in the yearbooks and hear it in the words of those who knew him better clad in South's school colors as "the Purple Prince."

Friends and associates at South Eugene remember Don Jackson as a lively and devoted administrator.

"He had a big booming voice, and he'd be talking to kids and always getting people to laugh. He always had jokes," teacher Barbara Haskell told KVAL News.

Child Development department teacher Marilyn Cooley said Jackson hired her to establish the daycare center at South Eugene. She remembers Jackson as the ultimate supporter of teachers.

"He gave us the footprint for the ride, so to speak, but he gave us the reins to ride into our classrooms and make education happen," said Cooley.

After 16 years at South (1976-92), Jackson made his marks at Whiteaker Elementary and Oak Hill private school, where he was principal for 2 years.

Oak Hill academic dean Anne Sterling recalls Jackson had a pivotal role in the survival of the private campus. "There have been several over the years who have made sure that this place is still here," Sterling said. "Don was certainly one of those."

Friends said Jackson never lost his main focus of the worth of all students.

"He did believe that every single kid could somehow make a difference and that's what about Don I think will stay with me forever, that don't ever look at a kid and think, you're not going to make it," said Laurene Larson, a longtime South Eugene counselor.

Jackson explained his philosophy in a spring 1992 KVAL story aired when he announced he was stepping down from South Eugene.

"I believe that young people ought to know and always appreciate the fact they are the focus of the universe and that you acknowledge they are here," he said.

Private services for Don Jackson will be held Christmas time by the family, and plans call for a public memorial next July.

Jackson had survived prostate cancer but was battling Parkinson's disease when he died unexpectedly Friday morning.

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