Tolles namesake passes away

Harry E. Tolles was honored last year at Tolles Career & Technical Center’s 40th anniversary celebration and was named a “40 at 40” honoree.
Harry E. Tolles was honored last year at Tolles Career & Technical Center’s 40th anniversary celebration and was named a “40 at 40” honoree.

(Posted Feb. 26, 2015)

The first superintendent of the Central Ohio Joint Vocational School District, Harry E. Tolles, died Feb. 20, 2015, following a battle with cancer. He was 84. Tolles was selected in 1971 to lead the creation of what today bears his name—Tolles Career & Technical Center in Plain City.

“We are deeply saddened to learn of Harry’s passing, but we are so thankful for his vision and his contributions during his superintendency that led to opportunities for thousands of students and will continue to do so for generations to come,” said Kim Wilson, who is in her fourth year as the district’s superintendent.

While the school district did not officially open until 1974, Tolles was hired in 1971 and began full-time service in 1972 to lead two tax issues to voter approval that acquired the land, built and equipped the buildings, and operated the school. At the first school board meeting, he presented an innovative “pay as you go” system of raising construction funds that essentially raised all land, building, and equipment monies over a three-year period resulting in a savings in excess of $1 million.

In 1984, after seeing the school district through its first decade with students, Tolles retired. The school was re-named the Harry E. Tolles Technical Center in his honor. In 2014 during the district’s 40th anniversary celebration, Tolles returned to be named as one of the “40 at 40” honorees, visit many of the labs and interact with students.

In an interview with the school’s digital media production students in October 2014, Tolles said, “I think there had been a little too much emphasis on academic education in the past, and vocational and technical education were looked on at one time as a downgrade from regular education. I never agreed with that philosophy and don’t today, and I think the country as a whole is coming around to the position that we need to put more emphasis on skills and training rather than just academic endeavors. This does not exclude college, but we want to put an emphasis as a nation on training people for the skills we need.”

Before Tolles completed his visit in October, he left behind words of advice for current and future students.

“You have to take advantage of the opportunities that are presented to you and make the most of your time at this school,” he said. “Always do the best job wherever you happen to be, and that leaves all doors open to you in the future.”

Tolles was born on March 22, 1930, in Toledo. He served in the United States Navy during the Korean War and graduated from the University of Toledo. He was an engineer and an educator. He is survived by his wife of 62 years, Barbara, and his daughters, Cynthia Tolles, Karen Ader, Cheryl Miller and Stephanie Seppi, as well as 10 grandchildren and seven great-grandchildren.

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