GOSHEN — The first principal of Fairfield Junior/High School is being honored with a one-of-a-kind recognition this month.
Max Bailey, Fairfield Junior/High School principal in 1968, was instrumental in the transition that merged Millersburg High School with New Paris High School.
He was the first principal of the combined high school, which became Fairfield Junior/Senior High, and he will now become the first person to be honored in the high school’s alumni hall of fame.
A 1958 graduate of Millersburg High School who was recognized as an Outstanding Student Athlete, Bailey also played college basketball at Indiana University.
“I think it was because of the modeling of teachers that I’d had, coaches I’d had. I wanted to coach until the first few years after I got my bachelor’s degree,” he said. He’d coached basketball at both North Webster and Pierceton, and in southern Indiana.
“I had some teachers at Millersburg that I thought were model teachers, and I wanted to be like them.”
When he returned to the area, he was assistant principal at New Paris Elementary School the year prior to the merger. Bailey was responsible for developing the first program of instruction at the school- and he did it while the schools were still in two separate buildings.
After he left Fairfield, he returned to Indiana University to pursue a Doctorate of Education and began work as a professor at Loyola, preparing other students to become high school administrators. At Loyola, he spent 27 years as a professor of education.
“At the time, there were 300 school districts in the suburban Chicago area and Chicago city had one. We had a lot of administrators who were prepared at Loyola,” he said.
While there, he took night classes to obtain a law degree from Loyola.
“I’d always wanted a law degree,” he said. He received that degree in 1984.
The firm he worked for helped to negotiate labor contracts between the school board and teachers.
His wife Judith worked at Glenbard North High School in Carol Stream, Illinois, as a counselor and administrator. She was a 1959 graduate of New Paris High School and had been a teacher at Millersburg High School prior to her roles in administration.
Bailey retired, but he wasn’t really done teaching.
“I think teaching doesn’t get enough praise, doesn’t get enough positive reinforcement from the communities generally,” he said. “To be able to be a positive force in the world, in the community, rather than a negative one, that is teaching.”
So Bailey returned to teaching, this time at IU South Bend, where he taught education law and continued to prepare future administrators until his true retirement in 2003.
“I remember when I finally retired from teaching, I remember saying to my last class, ‘I suppose I could have done something else. I don’t know if I could have worked at a cigarette factory, but if I had, I don’t think I’d have the same feeling about my work as I did teaching high school and college,’” said. “I think I felt some satisfaction that I’d contributed, rather than causing more problems.”
Bailey and his wife moved to Seattle in 2005 to live closer to their daughter, Tamara, and two grandsons: Jules, who now live in Portland, Oregon, and Noah, who lives in Washington, D.C. They’ve also got a son, Michael, in downstate Brown County, with another grandson there, Zeke.
The couple enjoy traveling and have been to many places worldwide. In Nicaragua, they helped support a library for over 10 years and the library board named the facility in their honor.
Bailey is the first induction into the newly formed Fairfield Alumni Hall of Fame. He will be honored during the Fairfield v. Goshen football game, the first home game of the season, on Aug. 23.
There will also be an open house in celebration of Bailey from 4:30 to 6:30 p.m. in the school’s cafeteria, and at a social tent at the game.
Bailey, his wife, his daughter and son-in-law will all be flying in to join in the occasion.
The new Fairfield Alumni Hall of Fame will be on the empty wall adjacent to the auditorium doors at the high school.