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Miller, Hefti to retire after 30 impressive years

by Kevin Hamilton
After helping compile one of the most impressive and consistent programs in Texas high schools for 30 years, IPHS Director Greg Miller and Assistant Director Ed Hefti have announced plans to retire following the 2012-13 school year.

Iowa Park school trustees approved the retirement plans during Thursday’s meeting, in addition to those of three other longtime mentors in the local schools – Wendy Meadows, Lee Ann Bryant, and Kellie Gibson.

What made the careers of Miller and Hefti especially noteworthy was the fact two highly capable music instructors managed to forge a relationship and work alongside one another for three straight decades, something that is indeed rare.

The two also led a highly competitive program that earned 30 straight UIL Sweepstakes Awards, which means the Hawk Band earned Superior I ratings 90 consecutive times in marching, concert and sightreading competitions. Few high school bands in Texas can boast of such a fete.

One of the strengths exhibited by the Iowa Park band program was the development of the younger students, from fifth grade into junior high, and finally high school. Assistant Director Elizabeth Wetherbee worked alongside Miller and Hefti to mentor the youngsters and grow their skills.

The Leader posed a number of questions to Miller and Hefti recently, and here are their responses.

What prompted your decision to retire at this time?

Miller – There was really no one thing. There was a lot of prayer and thought taken into consideration and a feeling or knowing that it was time to retire. I have talked to educators for years about how you know when it is time to retire and the response was always the same. You will know when it is time to retire and for me, it is time to retire.

Hefti – As I mentioned at our spring band concert, in order to understand the decision, you must understand the journey. In 2006, I retired for all the “right reasons” except was not in God’s time. God graciously allowed me to teach another seven years at Iowa Park CISD, for which I am extremely
grateful. Dianne and I prayed that God would show us when actual retirement should occur and He was faithful. This is the right time.

Was there anything in ‘30 consecutive sweepstakes’ that came into play with this decision?

Miller – No. Getting to 30 was nice, but it was really a matter of coincidence.
Hefti – No ... being able to teach and work with great students was the blessing. 30 sweepstakes was the gravy!

Can you provide the total number of years you were at IPCISD? Are there any highlights while at Iowa Park that you can share?

Miller – 37 of my 40 years of teaching have been in Iowa Park. The three years I was not here, I was teaching in Roscoe, Tx, a small town just west of Sweetwater. There have been a lot of highlights while teaching in Iowa Park. The first is simply being blessed and fortunate to work with Ed for the last 30 years. For me, Ed was actually an answer to prayer. I really wanted to get someone that would be willing to stay in Iowa Park for several years that was a great teacher and a great human being as well. Believe me, Iowa Park has been fortunate to have Ed and his family for all these years. And I think both of us have Rusty Stowe to thank for getting us together. Rusty was the minister of music at First Baptist Church in Iowa Park at the time. If I am not mistaken, he was always telling me before Ed and I knew each other, “I know the guy you want for this job. Ya’ll would enjoy working together. I think it would be a perfect match.” Rusty was right.

As for other highlights, wow, there have been so many. I guess one highlight would the first time we went to the state marching contest in 1986 and made the finals. Just the fact that it was under the lights in the evening at Memorial Stadium in Austin with about 30,000 people cheering the band onto field still sends chills up my spine.

Hefti – I will be finishing my 30th year teaching at Iowa Park

There were several times over the past three decades that have always stayed with me. One was the State Marching Contest of 1986. We were the “Cinderella team”, barely making it out of Region, Area and even the prelim contest to get into the finals. But what a performance for the finals! It was such a great feeling for the “Mean Green” and all the bands (which at that time was 1A - 5A) to step on the track at the University of Texas Football Stadium and see 30,000 plus fans supporting their efforts. When the results were read ... we finished second ... such a proud moment!! Only to be repeated in 1996 with another trip to the state marching contest.

You both are leaving a lasting legacy at iphs. will you have any input/involvement in determining your replacements?

Miller – I am sure we will be involved to some degree regarding the next directors coming to Iowa Park.

Hefti – We have been requested to provide some direction as the administration gets to making a decision. The final decision will be left to the administration.

What do you plan to do now?

Miller – My wife and I would like to do some traveling from time to time. And of course, now we will have more time to bop in on our sons and their wives. I am sure they will love that idea. Gail is still working at Kidwell on a part time basis and as for me, we shall have to wait and see. It is probably the only time in my life that I do have not anything definite planned although I have a couple of things I want to do now that my time will be freed up. There is also a possibility I could be doing some contract services work.

Hefti – My plans are to spend more time with my family, do a little bit more hunting and fishing and get back into woodworking. I will also be available for contract services, clinics, judging, performances and teaching private lessons while continuing to serve at First Baptist Church Wichita Falls.

What did you tell the band when you announced your intention to retire?

Miller – I don’t know that I can remember what was said all that clearly. There were plenty of tears in the band hall that morning including my own. Those were some of the hardest words I have had to speak. Simply telling the students I was retiring at the end of this school year was difficult. I explained or tried to explain that this was the right time for me to retire. We all have choices or decisions we make based on need, want, or simply because it is the right thing to do. And my decision was based on this is the right thing to do at this time for everyone. I also mentioned that yes, this means there will be changes or that things will be different. I want the students to understand that if they are open to changes and are willing to try new and different things, then they will be able to go to new areas or places they have never imagined. Some of the new and different things may take a little courage, but the rewards for everyone can be enormous.

Hefti – We discussed how change in our lives is inevitable ... sometimes it is by choice and other times not. In either instance it is an opportunity to grow spiritually, mentally and physically. We discussed how everything does not always remain the same and that change is good. Having someone new come in to teach them is a great opportunity for give them a chance to make this program better and to push it to the next level.

Is there anything else you wish to share for this story?

Miller – Honestly, no. But I would like to thank the community, schools, and students of Iowa Park for the support they have given to the band program. It has been a tremendous honor and privilege to teach in Iowa Park so many years. And I cannot think of another place that would have been so gracious and supportive to my family and me over these many years. Just one big huge thank you to everyone.

Hefti – This has been an incredible journey of Faith, friendship, and following what God has planned for my life. Dianne, Erin and I moved from Navasota, Texas to Iowa Park with the hopes and dreams of being part of a winning program. Greg Miller was an answer to our prayer. I had two job offers on the table. One was with the Texas Department of Corrections and the other was with Iowa Park CISD. When Greg offered the position to me, Dianne and I agreed it would be better to teach and keep students out of prison rather than teaching them in prison. Never in my wildest dreams did I think that I would be here for thirty years and be part of such a great tradition. I cannot express how grateful I am to Greg and his family for being such a major part of our lives.