Dec. 17, 2002
CONTACT: Carol Anderson

EMU Alumnus Named Michigan Superintendent of the Year

YPSILANTI - Eastern Michigan University alumnus Robert O'Brien, of Highland, Mich., has been named Michigan's 2003 Superintendent of the Year by the Michigan Association of School Administrators (MASA). O'Brien is superintendent of the Huron Valley schools, a district with 11,000 students from Milford, Commerce, Highland and White Lake townships.

MASA recognized O'Brien for his strong leadership, communication skills, professionalism, community involvement and for creativity in successfully meeting the needs of the students. His recognition as Michigan Superintendent of the Year also carries a $1,000 scholarship for a student in his school district.

O'Brien will receive formal recognition Jan. 29, 2003, at the Michigan Association of Superintendent Administrators mid-winter conference at the Amway Grand, Grand Rapids. As the Michigan honoree, O'Brien will be a candidate for the National Superintendent of the Year, chosen Feb. 21 in New Orleans, La.

This marks the third time an EMU graduate has earned this honor in the past decade.

"We are always proud of our alumni getting special recognition," said Jerry Robbins, dean of EMU's College of Education. "This is his fourth year as superintendent in the district and his first superintendency."

O'Brien said the goals for his school district were to achieve fiscal integrity, student achievement, community engagement and facility improvement. As a result, he said, the district went from deficit to surplus, low to high student achievement, increased community engagement and progress in updating school facilities.

O'Brien resolved a $9.2 million district deficit in two years and led a successful $104 million bond proposal to pay for building additions and upgrades. O'Brien was also cited for his extensive efforts to gain community involvement with the schools, said Robbins.

"The community was disengaged and had lost its funding," O'Brien said. "I gave the community a message of renewal and hope. The students are our community treasures. As the children go, so goes the community."

"Robert understands the business of education and how to work with people," said Joe Coyner, EMU associate professor, special education, and one of O'Brien's former teachers. "He's tuned into human behavior and can take what he knows about people and apply it to the situation."

O'Brien graduated from EMU with a bachelor's degree in psychology and political science in 1972, a master's degree in special education in 1975 and an educational specialist degree in administration in 1982. He also has a doctorate in public administration from Western Michigan University.

MASA is a statewide association that represents the superintendents and first line administrators of Michigan's local and intermediate school districts. The organization works to provide leadership and unity for continuous improvement of public education in Michigan

Eastern Michigan University ( is a four-year, comprehensive metropolitan university committed to the needs of its students and communities through teaching, researcha nd service. EMU offers more than 200 programs in the arts, sciences and professional disciplines through traditional classroom settings, on-site continuing education classes and on-line courses. EMU is the fifth largest university in Michigan, serving 24,500 students from around the world, and offers undergraduate, graduate, specialist, doctoral and certificate programs.