Beyond an assistant principal, Mr. Tim Hollern was the epitome of Hawk Pride. Every day, the kindness, dedication, and love he felt for the Forest Hills community manifested in his interactions with staff and students schoolwide. From his beginnings as a teacher at Forest Hills Northern in 2000, to his appointment of assistant principal and athletic director at Eastern in 2007, to his most recent assignment as principal of Goodwillie Environmental School, Mr. Hollern’s passing and legacy will be felt in waves throughout the Forest Hills community.
Though a rising pillar of Eastern, Tim Hollern’s affinity to connect on an individual level never diminished, but instead increased, paralleling his empathy that knew no bounds. His caring spirit received every student—giving all who found their way to Eastern a sense of belonging. “Mr. Hollern was a gracious, enthusiastic, kind and welcoming man,” said Katie Stotts (‘21), remembering him and his legacy. “…My favorite memory of him is [from] the day that I transferred from Catholic Central to Eastern,” she said. “Growing up, I had always been close to his mother, Isabelle Hollern, through my church community. She was always a friendly face on Sunday, and someone I always looked forward to seeing. When I got to Eastern, Mr. Hollern did the exact same thing for me, in a community that was new to me. He constantly asked me how I was doing, and how the transition was going, always showing genuine interest in my well being. Nowadays, it is rare to find humans who care for others so immensely… I am forever grateful for him and his family.” Even for students who have long been in the FHE community, Mr. Hollern had the gift of making them feel more welcome and appreciated. “Some of our first conversations were just about shoes because both of us have a passion for collecting them,” said Gage Krueger (‘20), recalling the root of his relationship with the assistant principal. “He would pull me aside at lunch just to show me a picture of the ones he just ordered. It just showed that he cared about people and human connection, and for me, showed that he was a truly trustworthy adult, friend, and administrator at our school.” Mr. Hollern, with his devotion to fostering connections, was the embodiment of school spirit. Capitalizing on similarities in order to make students feel loved was a talent of his, as described by Baylee Levitt (‘20). “[Mr. Hollern and I] always loved talking about Michigan State… [we loved] rooting for the basketball team, [talking about memories from sports], and…we’d love to hang out with each other… give hugs, [and pray together all the time to release stress]…We just enjoyed each other’s [company]… and I know he would [have done] anything for me as I [would have done] anything for him.
Beyond the current students at Eastern, Hollern’s influence transcends to the legions of alumni who have also experienced his warmth and spirit. The way he reached out to share his experience and offer advice and comfort was unparalleled. “Tim Hollern was a man who wanted nothing but the best for every person he came across. He looked to guide and assist people in becoming the best version of themselves, not just in high school, but for the entirety of our lives,” said Danson Francis (‘19), reflecting on how Hollern guided him through his own difficult times. “[In the fall of my sophomore year] a couple of weeks after my dad received his first diagnosis of having stage two lung cancer, I told Mr. Hollern about it… He wanted to help me. He changed my outlook and [taught me how] to really beat an opponent as unfair as cancer…Throughout the rest of high school, [he would continue to check on me]. I applied [his messages] to my life at home to keep my father and me strong… Now [my dad is] heading towards remission for his third time in four years… I would have never known how to combat this fight if it wasn’t for [Mr. Hollern’s] guidance… [He gave me and] my family the strength and courage we needed to win.”
Danson is not the only alumnus who has been particularly touched by Mr. Hollern’s warmth and wisdom. Geonna Jeffries (‘16), a past alumna and frequent visitor of FHE claims that regardless of how many times she’d visit, his infectious positivity and welcoming spirit was always striking. “Mr. Hollern had such a pure and genuine soul,” she said affectionately. “His smile was contagious, he’d always greet you with a warm smile… I’ll really miss seeing his face light up when I walk through the office at FHE. He always wanted to make sure I was doing well, always wanted to help out with anything he could. Mr. Hollern was such a strong man, he never let his condition change his perspective on life. I’ll always remember while I was working at FHE he told me. ‘G, I’m really proud of you. You are one of my favorite alumni to see come back. Keep up the great work. I’m always proud of ya…’ That will stick with me forever.”
Moreover, when reflecting on her memories of Mr. Hollern, a graduate of 2018 was amazed with the resonating positivity they all carried. “The memories I have of Mr. Hollern are all positive,” she says. “One I specifically remember was asking him to speak at Baccalaureate in 2018 because… he had previously mentioned that prayer and faith had helped him in his fight against cancer. In addition to the fact that all the students admired him… his example of perseverance and kindness…[made him] the perfect candidate. Mr. Hollern accepted and ended up speaking. While I can’t remember the exact details of the speech, I knew that time, effort, thought and care were put into every word. While this memory is simple, I think it portrays the type of man Mr. Hollern was: kind, service-oriented, trustworthy, and dedicated. Whether it be a quick smile and conversation in the hallway or participating in school events, Mr. Hollern always had a positive attitude and a desire to help.”
Though Tim Hollern’s personal journey on this earth ended long before it should have, he will forever be survived by his loving family, and the messages of hope and love he emulated. Additionally, he will forever be remembered by every student who had the privilege of being greeted by his smile in the halls. “I will never look at a pair of Jordan Retro 4 ‘Cool Grey’s’ ever the same,” said Gage Krueger, who conveyed the heartwarming way in which he’d keep Hollern’s memory alive. “These are the shoes we always talked about. He wore them to the Lowell basketball game when our schools honored him. I actually ordered the same shoes after he passed yesterday—in his honor.”
Similarly, Geonna will undoubtedly miss their sports banter. “He LOVED talking sports, especially basketball with me… He wanted to stay caught up with whatever I had going on. He’s easily the best person to ever walk the planet. He would do anything for anyone. He had the kindest heart. My heart goes out to his wife and children, family, close friends, and the FHE family. He will be truly loved and forever missed… He’s earned his wings and will be watching over all of us now.”
“I am forever grateful and blessed to have gotten the opportunity to be taught by a wonderful teacher, role model, but most importantly… a friend,” concluded Danson. “[Mr. Hollern’s] wisdom, knowledge, and outgoingness will be things that I will proudly carry…forever. And thanks to all the effort he put in over so many years for thousands of us students, I will forever have Hawk Pride. Rest In Peace Mr. Tim Hollern, and thank you.”
Though it will be difficult to recover from the loss of our beloved Mr. Hollern, we must hold on to each other and the power that his life carried. Standing at the top of the stairs smiling, bidding us joyful farewells at the end of all our long days, Mr. Hollern was many of our last goodbyes as we exited Eastern; and he will undoubtedly greet us with the same love, compassion, and joy when we see him again.
Featured image courtesy of the Hollern family