MURRELS INLET -- TEC Dowling, superintendent of the Fort Mill school district from 1997 to 2005 and a former interim superintendent in Lexington-Richland 5, died Saturday after a long battle with cancer. He was 61.
Thomas Edward Calhoun Dowling, whose funeral will be today at Surfside United Methodist Church, helped lead the Fort Mill district through a period of growing pains.
"TEC is a longtime friend and colleague, and he will be greatly missed," said Fort Mill Superintendent Keith Callicutt, who succeeded Dowling in 2005.
Dowling is acknowledged as the person most responsible for helping to offset the cost of growth in the booming Fort Mill district. He was instrumental in convincing the school board to adopt a $2,500-per-rooftop impact fee on new construction.
Although the state Legislature later outlawed the impact fees, Fort Mill was already "grandfathered" in, and the fees have accounted for $24 million in revenue since 1997. The money can only be used for school construction related to growth.
Dowling retired from his Fort Mill post on June 30, 2005, and soon after became interim superintendent for Irmo-Chapin schools. He brought an intense focus on "child first" policies to Fort Mill and pushed for the establishment of the Foundation for Fort Mill Schools, said former school board chairwoman Martha Kinard.
"He's one who has left a legacy here, and in every district he's worked in," Kinard said Monday. "He was the first full-time superintendent I worked with, and I was amazed at the work load and his work ethic and his drive."
Said board member Chantay Bouler: "He was a die-hard for public education. He had real passion for what he did and he loved being here. He was a personal friend to me. I admired him a lot."
Dowling shepherded the district through a period of unprecedented growth. The 10-year plan the district uses to project enrollment and new school needs was started under his leadership.
A tireless advocate for public education, Dowling would often dominate discussions, Kinard said. After voters rejected a $64.75 million bond referendum in 1998, he helped persuade them to approve a $48.3 million bond to fund three new elementary schools and renovations to an existing school in 1999. That was followed in 2004 by the approval of a $62.55 million bond to build Springfield Middle and Nation Ford High schools.
"He was a terrific people person," said Bob Ormseth, the district's communication director. "A lot of the success we've enjoyed since were a result of the relationships he built."
Dowling brought a sense of optimism to the district, Kinard said. "He taught us not to look at challenges in any other way than as opportunities," she said. "We certainly faced a lot of challenges."
Dowling was born June 24, 1947, in Mullins. He was the son of the late James Harry and Sarah Lane Dowling. Dowling is survived by his wife, Tippy Dowling; a son, Eddie, two granddaughters, Abby and Emma Dowling of Fort Mill; two daughters, Krissy Larson and her husband Chris of Myrtle Beach and Kelsey Dowling of Fort Mill; a sister, Sarah Lane Norton and her husband Ronnie of Murrells Inlet, and a brother, Joe Dowling, and his wife Kathy of Garden City.
-- The (Rock Hill) Herald