Greer High School Principal Marion Waters, center, is the Greater Greer Education Foundation Educator of the Year. The award was presented Feb. 4, 2016, at the Annual Greater Greer Chamber of Commerce Banquet. At left is Foundation chairman Brent Garrett, and Greer Chamber president and CEO Mark Owens is at right.

Marion Waters is the Greater Greer Education Foundation's Educator of the Year. He is congratulated by board member Margaret Burch.  

Foundation honors Waters
as Educator of the Year

It was always about the G – the school and city – for Waters

Greer High School Principal Marion Waters was honored as the Educator of the Year by the Greater Greer Education Foundation Thursday night at the annual Greer Chamber of Commerce’s Award night at Embassy Suites.

Waters, 66, announced his retirement after 45 years in education at the beginning of the semester, effective at the end of the school year.

He taught AP U.S. History at Greer High School in 1974 and coached football, basketball, baseball, track & field and baseball. He began his administrative tenure in 1984 as assistant principal, became principal at Greer Middle School in 1986 and returned to Greer High in 1994 as principal.

Waters graduated and played football at Newberry College.

Margaret Burch, the first executive director of the Greater Greer Education Foundation, brought Waters to Greer, first as a teacher and then as an administrator.

Thus began his journey in Greer.

The Foundation was created in 2009 when the Board of Directors changed the mission of the Greer Chamber of Commerce Foundation to focus on education. Burch was asked to be the executive director. She became chairman of the Foundation board in 2011 and held that position until 2015 when she stepped down. She remains a member of the board.

Before her foundation work, Burch was a member of Greenville County Council and School Board that selected educators for Greer-member schools.

“There was a time in my tenure when it was difficult to get enough AP courses at Greer High School,” Burch said. “He was very interested in academics, and he wanted what I wanted.”

 “Waters was an extraordinary AP history teacher at Greer High School and we came to find out he was also an extraordinary football coach,” Burch said. “He is a very intelligent man.”

He was groomed as assistant principal and principal at Greer Middle School.

Waters was faced with managing a high school in transition. Going from the old high school downtown to Greer High’s present location took 10 years of frustration and a change of sites in between.

“You had to have a lot of patience to open a new high school on six acres, a huge building with 45 bathrooms and more than one thousand students. You must have the patience of Job,” Burch said. “And think of all the technology, new programs and ideas he has kept pace with and implemented.”

Through Waters’ tenure he had to adapt to the different cultures filtering together in the school system. There were issues along the way and Waters learned having a friend in a key position was paramount.

“When you have a job like that you’ve got to have somebody who has your back,” Burch said. “(Waters) has had dissenters but he has had a lot of support, too.”

Waters had the backs of his teachers and students.

The Greenville-Greer football rivalry resulted in heated scrimmages and games – home and away. The Greer Police Department routinely added additional security to games at Dooley Field.

On one occasion the Greenville team backed up to the Greer “G” painted midfield at Dooley Field, and the Greer players were inching forward to protect their turf. Waters sauntered onto the field, had a polite conversation with Head Coach Will Young and said, “Don’t let anybody step on the G.”

It was always about the G – the school and city – for Waters.

Young and Athletic Director Travis Perry said Waters was firm in his decision-making but fair.

“He would provide the football team with almost anything it needed to be successful,” Young said.

“But we didn’t get everything we wanted for athletics because there were other departments also needing support. If there was something wrong, he would let you know,” Perry said. “But he was making the best decision for Greer High School. And we understood that.”

Perry has known Waters since being a student in his history class, head football coach of a state champion Yellow Jackets (2003) team and now AD.

Waters, said Perry. “Performs acts of kindness, is stern, a man of faith and he loves sports.”

Waters put the teachers and students safety priority one.

When the Columbine massacre occurred in April 1999 the community let its concerns be known by asking the Greer Police Department its active plan and demanded schools protect their children with extra safety measures.

“Mr. Waters didn’t wait for a plan to be implemented,” Burch said. “He had a plan in place the next day and it was such an amazing thing to see.”

“School bus drivers had complaints and Mr. Waters would ride the bus to make sure the children felt safe,” Burch said.

Waters has been traffic cop in the morning and afternoon at the school’s entrance.

Some decisions didn’t set well with some students. A Greer cheerleader was injured in a stunt performed at a competition. Fearing further injuries, Waters eliminated competitive cheer.

A Greer mascot got into a confrontation at a basketball game, which explains why the Yellow Jackets still do not have one.

Waters would grill food for football players who picked up trash along the perimeter roads around Greer as a community project. Never mind it was during one of the hottest days on record.

He would sit with students and parents at a hospital,” Burch said.

When Waters appeared at the education board for requests or recommendations, his reports were meticulous. “I was always so proud when Marion would present because he was so thorough and he was in my district,” Burch said.

When the Education Foundation held receptions to recognize students and teachers, Burch said she would see Waters’ there, ready to lend his support to those being honored.

The Foundation has awarded $141,366 in grants and scholarships since 2011— 68 scholarships and 86 grants. Just recently the Foundation awarded $121,900 in grants to 19 schools.

Schools have recruited Waters and some openings had drawn his interest. None were strong enough to pull him away from Greer. “He’s the best thing to happen to Greer. He is a pillar in the church, ministers to older people and had settled down in Greer,” Burch said.

“The respect Mr. Waters gets statewide is unbelievable,” Perry said. “I can go to any meeting or game in the state and undoubtedly I am asked about Mr. Waters. He has touched so many people that we don’t even know.”

The Burch and Waters families have become good friends. “I have watched Mr. Waters for 35 years or more. I have prized our relationship,” Burch said. “There comes a time when you realize you’ve done all you can, and it’s time to let someone else take over. I imagine he feels it’s now time.”

Waters tends to a farm in his spare time and lavishes complete attention on his two grandchildren.