D211 Post: Three Former Superintendents Visit District 211


From left to right: Dr. Richard Kolze, Dr. Nancy Robb, Dr. Dan Cates, and Dr. Gerald Chapman.

Township High School District 211 prides itself on providing students with the highest quality education and opportunities. Building a strong reputation did not happen overnight. It is the product and impact of each staff member under the leadership of the superintendent that led to the District’s success and reputation.

To celebrate the District 211 legacy, Superintendent of Schools Dan Cates recently invited three local former superintendents to visit the school district and discuss their time in District 211.

Collectively, the four superintendents have more than 100 years of experience served in District 211, with more than 40 combined years served as superintendent. Dr. Richard Kolze began working in District 211 in 1957 and served as superintendent from 1970 – 1990. Dr. Gerald Chapman started in District 211 in 1965 and served as superintendent from 1990 – 2001. Dr. Nancy Robb began her District 211 career in 1980 and served as superintendent from 2009 – 2014. Dr. Cates entered District 211 in 1992 and has served as superintendent since 2014.

While each superintendent’s tenure contributed different initiatives within the District’s evolution, they shared a common thread – providing the highest quality opportunities possible for students and the community. Each superintendent similarly described the charge and responsibility of upholding the legacy built by each of their predecessors and the importance of fulfilling the trust provided to the District by community members.

“Trust is something that I hold as a priceless commodity,” said Dr. Cates during a round-table discussion. “We have always provided extraordinary opportunities and there is always that next level to achieve. Early on in my career, I sensed we are always pushing for the next best thing. Innovation and expansion to more opportunities were just inherent.”

When discussing the fondest memories of their time in District 211, all the superintendents reminisced about the students and people they encountered each day on the job. Dr. Robb shared a story during her time as principal at Palatine High School. “After 9/11, students came to me because they wanted to make a flag that would be as large as the football field, so when planes started to fly again it could be seen. We had a flag ceremony and invited the community, students, and staff. The power of students working together in a very difficult situation, and making something good come from it, I will never forget.”

Each superintendent had a connection to the community and to each other. Dr. Kolze mentioned how a former instructor of his led him to be an educator, and former District 211 Superintendent Gerald A. McElroy helped push him to success. Dr. Chapman credited Dr. Kolze’s positive influence for his success as a developing administrator, ultimately leading to the role of superintendent. Dr. Robb mentioned that Dr. Kolze also hired her for her first administrative position and Dr. Chapman encouraged her to consider being superintendent. Following the same cycle, Dr. Cates expressed gratitude to Dr. Chapman and Dr. Robb for hiring him and setting him on the path to becoming superintendent. “When you get older you don’t think about thanking the people who did so much for you,” said Dr. Kolze. “I am here because someone helped me to college, McElroy pulled me along the way. You shouldn’t miss those opportunities to thank people who helped you along the way.”

As the District continues planning for the future and prepares students to be college and career ready, Dr. Cates and the former superintendents see great opportunities in store. “Every generation and every decade provide a different need,” Dr. Chapman said. “The most difficult thing is to recognize what those needs are going to be, and how we are going to be at the forefront of it. We have a great track record of that and keep exceeding. That didn’t happen by accident. We want to have a strong academic program and a strong athletic program. Both of those are good for kids.”

Their work to better the community doesn’t stop within District 211. Outside of the District and in retirement, these superintendents have worked in service of their communities. Throughout each of their careers, all four superintendents resided within District 211 boundaries, and still do. Additionally, all have served in community organizations, some of which include the Palatine Rotary Club, Excel Beyond 211, Community Consolidated School District 15, William Rainey Harper College, and the Palatine Chamber of Commerce. Strong community connections help strengthen District 211 and its programs. “We are fortunate that the community has been very supportive of District 211,” said Dr. Robb. “Fundamental to all of that is we have a great staff. You have to hire well to have the staff that’s able to carry things out. I believe the staff has worked as a team and everyone has worked together to provide additional educational opportunities for our students.”


Former District 211 Administrator William Thiel Receives Eastern Illinois University CEPS Hall of Fame Lifetime Achievement Award

Dr. William B. Thiel

Dr. William B. Thiel

Former District 211 Administrator William Thiel received the Eastern Illinois University Lifetime Achievement Award.

Eastern Illinois University alumni and The College of Education and Professional Studies (CEPS) presented awards for professionals in many careers including education, athletic training, coaching, recreation administration, and health education. Former District 211 administrator William Thiel was awarded the Eastern Illinois University CEPS Hall of Fame Lifetime Achievement Award on March 25.

Established in 2009, the CEPS Alumni Awards program celebrates and honors alumni who have excelled in their field. The recipients of the Lifetime Achievement Award have attained distinguished professional success and prominence. These honorees are living role models in their disciplines within the College of Education and Professional Studies and will be inducted into the college’s Hall of Fame.

“During his long tenure as a District 211 administrator, Bill Thiel was a valuable, loyal and professional employee as well as a valued friend to his colleagues,” said Former District 211 Superintendent Dr. Gerald D. Chapman.

Thiel first came to the northwest suburbs in 1969 as associate principal at Palatine High School. He was instrumental in helping design the new high school facility and handled the move to the new and present facility in 1976. Thiel was assigned associate principal at William Fremd High School in 1979 and retired in 1985. Thiel with Dr. Don Grossnickle authored many articles for professional publications including two books: Motivating the Unmotivated and Preventive Discipline.

“I was fortunate to be a rookie biology teacher at Palatine High School under Thiel in 1973,” Grossnickle said. “Bill Thiel inspired me in many ways including his studying at the University of Chicago and receiving his doctorate. Thiel studied with some well-known giants in the field of education including Benjamin Bloom. While at Palatine High School I wrote my first article for publication and Dr. Thiel looked it over before submitting it. Later, Thiel and I wrote several books and articles together. Happily, a long professional friendship has continued. Bill Thiel is still writing and consulting. It was a great honor for me to nominate him for this prestigious award. Bill has inspired me and been a great role model. I am very proud of him as he has made substantial contributions to area schools, teachers and students.”

Thiel’s dream of becoming a teacher began at EIU after serving his county in military service until 1946. Bill Thiel began drawing upon his preparation as an educator performing as a coach during his studies at EIU and was appointed to the US Olympic Power Volleyball Committee for the Tokyo Olympics in 1964. The son of Illinois coal miner born in 1927, Thiel credits his mother for encouraging him to follow in the footsteps of four generations of school teachers.

He has never forgotten his roots that this post-depression young man with great aspirations has intentionally actively sought to bring honor and achievement to Eastern Illinois University in every way imaginable. Among a host of honors and recognized achievements, Dr. Thiel says he is most proud of receiving Eastern Illinois University’s Distinguished Educator Award in 2004.

Dr. Thiel’s professional career as an educator built on his excellent foundation from EIU. He received his M.ED. in 1952 from Chicago’s Loyola University after studying at University of Chicago. He holds a CAS from the University of Chicago and D.ED. From Loyola University of Chicago in School Law and Finance. Thiel has proudly served performing the role of teacher, Superintendent, Assistant Superintendent, Principal, Associate Principal primarily in Elementary and Secondary Schools. He holds three honorary degrees: 1958, 1991, 1995 which each recognize a lifetime of inspiring students, teachers, administrators, school business officials and thousands of readers of his long list of publications. Thiel has served in leadership positions in Phi Delta Kappa and 31 other educational service organizations. His curriculum vita list his over one hundred publications in print including the authoring of the popular National Association of Secondary School Principal Book: Motivation.