Dan Eubank claims that an increasingly long "honey-do" list is the reason that his career in education has spanned 50 years. When he retired as a principal for the first time-20 years ago-he quickly realized that his true niche was serving children and their families.
"My honey-do list started on Post-It stickers, then legal paper," Eubank said with a laugh. "Then it got page numbers, and I said, 'I'm going back to work!'"
However, those who know the Lomax Elementary School principal understand that it wasn't a disdain for household chores, but a passion for helping children learn, that quickly brought him back to education. With five decades of experience as an educator, he is ready to try retirement again; his last day at Lomax was Sept. 14.
Eubank was honored by La Porte ISD at a retirement reception at the LPISD Administration Building on Sept. 12. There, he was surrounded by the many people to whom he has been a respected leader, a trusted mentor, a loyal friend.
Often referred to as the "dean of principals" by Superintendent Lloyd W. Graham, Eubank is known as an outstanding yet unassuming administrator who prefers that the spotlight shine on his teachers, staff and students rather than himself. While he strives to be an advocate for his teachers, before that, he is an advocate for the children in his charge.
"We don't have any dress rehearsals here at school. We go live every day," he said. "There aren't many 'do-overs,' so we need to get it right the first time."
"Mr. Eubank is an exemplar of resiliency of the human spirit and demonstrates to us the belief that a man's greatest responsibility is to care for and minister to the youngest members of our society, particularly during their developmental years," Graham said.
Eubank's venture into teaching was a natural progression from eager student to enthusiastic educator. He attended school through the third grade in New Boston, Texas, after which his family moved to Fairfax, Oklahoma.
"I always liked school and enjoyed going to school," Eubank said. "We only had a graduating class of 40 kids, but around 8 of us went into education."
"I grew up in a small town, and most of the professional people happened to work in education," he continued. "They were our first role models."
Eubank earned a full scholarship to play football at the University of Tulsa, and following graduation, he returned to Fairfax to teach school. His former high school principal and coach, who lived across the street from his family, had become the district superintendent, and he offered Eubank the chance to start his career at his alma mater.
His first assignment? "I was the history department," Eubank said.
A teacher and coach who had no planning period, Eubank remembers putting in many hours to ensure that he and his students were successful.
"My first year, it was rough trying to stay ahead of the kids; there was lots of busy work at home trying to stay ahead," he recalled.
Eubank coached for five years while completing his master's degree in counseling at the University of Tulsa during the summers. After earning his degree, he became the counselor for the entire district while teaching different subjects such as math, psychology and sociology.
After 10 years in Fairfax, he decided to look for a job in a larger district, and was chosen as the vocational counselor at Lancaster High School in Lancaster, Texas. While serving in that role for five years, he completed all of his course work in the doctoral program at East Texas State University, now Texas A & M University at Commerce.
Eubank then was named principal at West Main Elementary, where he served for 11 years, followed by four years as principal at Rolling Hills Elementary.
Then he retired-and started on that household "to-do" list.
A year later, however, the long-time educator knew he needed to be back with "the kids." He joined the LPISD family as principal at Lomax Elementary School.
After six years there, he became a multi-campus principal, serving as a mentor to Vicki Defee at Lomax and Deborah Shearer at College Park. Two years later, Eubank was tapped to become principal of Lomax Junior High School, and Defee and Shearer took over at the helm at the elementary schools.
In 2003, he became principal at Jennie Reid Elementary. His career in La Porte came full circle when he returned to Lomax Elementary in 2011.
Along the way, Eubank served in a number of other leadership roles, including president of the Texas Elementary Principals and Supervisors Association (TEPSA) Region 10 from 1983 to 1985. He was named TEPSA's Principal of the Year for Region 10 in 1984.
A member of TEPSA since 1978, he became a life member in 1984 and participated on the organization's Legislative Committee from 1981 to 1989. Also a life member of the Texas Parent Teacher Association, he served as president of the Dallas County School Administrators during the 1985-86 school year.
"Nobody is going to get out of this life alive, so we might as well do some good along the way," he said.
As a principal, Eubank admits to some "sleepless nights" during which he has worried about students. However, he became accustomed to handling tough situations early on.
In 1979, his first year as a principal, a tornado hit his building during the school day, breaking the windows, bending the flagpole over and causing the press box to explode. Students and staff huddled in the hallway during the storm, but fortunately, no one was hurt.
Over the course of 50 years, Eubank has seen many changes in education, such as "no pass, no play," TCAT testing for teachers, and standardized testing for students. He has seen families become increasingly mobile and has proudly watched as several of his former students have become educators themselves.
Eubank is looking forward to being with his wife, Carolyn, who is retired from a career in the medical field, on a daily basis again. After Hurricane Ike damaged their house here, they began building their retirement home at Cedar Creek Lake in Trinidad, Texas. When their home was completed two years ago, Carolyn moved there, and he has joined her on the weekends.
After heading to work for so many years, they now plan to head off on their own adventures. First on the agenda is a trip to Albany and Lake Placid, New York, and Burlington, Vermont, this fall. The Eubanks have five children and seven grandchildren in five different cities across Texas, so they are also anticipating spending quality time with their family.
A devoted Dallas Cowboys and Texas Rangers fan, Eubank is looking forward to watching some professional games and attending the University of Tulsa homecoming this year. He also plans to attend some games in which his grandchildren are involved; his granddaughter is the mascot for her Frisco high school, and his grandson will be playing junior high school football this season.
Despite these plans, Eubank promises that he will come back to La Porte as often as he can, noting that he and Carolyn cherish the many friends they have here and want to stay in touch.
"My time here in La Porte has been very rewarding," he said. "It's been a pleasure and most memorable. The people I work with have been wonderful, and I wouldn't have passed it up for anything."
Eubank's current and former staff members, as well as his colleagues throughout the district, feel the same way about him.
"I am lucky enough to have had the honor to work with and for a man who led with a unique leadership style," said Jill Miller, Jennie Reid Elementary School teacher. "He trusted his teachers, knowing that they would do what was best for students. This unique leadership reached beyond the classroom in Dan's personal interest in knowing his teachers."
"Dan is one of a kind!" said Vicki Defee, who now serves as principal of College Park Elementary. "He was the first principal to give me a chance in administration as his assistant principal 15 years ago. He then continued as my mentor throughout my career. He taught me how to not only be a principal, but how to relax and enjoy the ride."
"Dan is not only a great educator and principal, but a true, genuine friend and gentleman," she continued. "I will forever be grateful for his belief in me and the assistance he provided me. May he thoroughly enjoy his retirement and know his legacy will continue on for years to come."
Dr. Alicia Upchurch, who will take over at Lomax, also served as Eubank's assistant principal at Jennie Reid for five-and-a-half years. She says that the ideas that he has shared with her will continue to guide her throughout her career.
"I learned so much from Mr. Eubank - practical skills like building a master schedule that meets all time requirements, hiring the best person for the position and managing an ever-changing budget," she said. "However, I also learned some skills that can't be measured easily. For example, Mr. Eubank taught me how to be patient and thorough in making decisions. He also taught me the benefit of remaining a calming presence in times of emotion. There are many different principles that I use each day that have come from observing and talking with Mr. Eubank."
Eubank, always humble, prefers not to talk about the impact he has had on others, but about the impact they have had on him. With his office belongings already packed to give new principal Upchurch plenty of space, he reflected on his time in LPISD and what made it special to him.
"I've really had a lot of opportunities here in La Porte, and I've really enjoyed it," he said. "It's been a joy to work with the people here and the parents-they really care about the children and want what's best for them."
Fifty years of "first days," hectic schedules and end-of-year farewells as students moved on to accomplish even greater things. What kept him going?
"Every year is a brand-new year and you get to start all over," he said. "We have a good time doing it." Then he grinned.
"I enjoy it much more than doing those 'honey-do's'!"