Thursday, Oct. 11 2012 4:46PM
Switch puts memory of educator in stone
School superintendent tried to decline recognition
By Russ Pulley
Bernard C. Campbell Middle School almost didn’t have that name, although the man it honors certainly deserved the tribute.
Dennis Smith, retired principal of Campbell Middle School, said few people remember the original name Prairie Trails was chosen when the district was first working to open the new school on Colbern Road.
Smith said he thinks the committee choosing a name and mascot asked Campbell about naming the school after him, but he at first refused because Lee’s Summit High School’s Performing Arts Center already bore his name.
But then Superintendent Gail Williams prevailed upon Smith and others to persuade Campbell to allow the district to put his name on the cornerstone.
“He was just the most humble man around,” Smith said. “He was afraid there would be too many buildings with Dr. Campbell’s name on it, that’s just the kind of guy he was.”
Smith, who was born and raised in Lee’s Summit, said Campbell played a major role in creating today’s community. Serving as superintendent 37 years, he helped establish the quality and traditions of the school district which were a powerful draw for families.
“When I was growing up, we had about 17,000 to 20,000 residents. Today we’ve got that in students,” Smith said.
Campbell brought teaching instrumental music into Lee’s Summit elementary schools “when it was unheard of,” Smith said. As superintendent he never missed an athletic or music event, he said.
Smith said Campbell was “great listener” who was willing to try new ideas brought to him.
Campbell started as a school bus driver and social studies teacher for the district in 1941, according to Janice Phelan, executive director of communications for the district.
She shared this brief biography:
Campbell became high school principal then superintendent of the city school district in 1943. When the area’s districts reorganized, unifying Lee’s Summit and Greenwood with 16 rural districts, he was chosen to lead the new R-7 District.
Under his guidance, Lee’s Summit offered its first special education programs for disabled students (before it became a state requirement), started the orchestra program and also kindergarten, again before that became a state requirement.
Following his retirement he served on boards for the Mid-Continent Public Library, John Knox Village, Lee’s Summit Hospital, Lee’s Summit Economic Development Council and the Lee’s Summit Educational Foundation. He was honorary co-chair for many successful levy and bond elections.
He was made an honorary Lee’s Summit High School Hall of Fame member in 2003. A scholarship in his name is given annually to graduates of all three R-7 high schools.
Campbell and his wife Sarah died in 2006 after decades of being vital members of the community.
“Things we take for granted, he had his touch on it,” Smith said.