Local school district foundation raises record amount - KLTV.com - Tyler, Longview, Jacksonville |ETX News

Local school district foundation raises record amount

Posted by Ellen Krafve - email

Released by Larry Goddard with the TISD Foundation:

Debbie Hitt, her daughters and two grandchildren have been to the golf tournament named in honor of Gil Hitt many times, 12, so far, but, the emotions seem to always be the same. 

On Monday, for the 12th time, the Tyler ISD Foundation has honored Gil Hitt since his death in 1997, and his devoted family members have attended each one and the emotional response is overwhelming each time.

The 16th annual golf tournament added anchor sponsors, HealthFirst Third Party Administrators and Suddenlink Communications, which helped increase the gross amount raised to close to $60,000 in donations and gifts in kind. Last year, the record was just over $40,000.

"The Foundation is almost 20 years old and this is the most successful one-day fundraising event in its history," stated Cecil McDaniel, Deputy Superintendent upon receiving an oversized check for $50,000 from the Foundation. "We are fortunate to have a supportive Foundation Board of Directors who work in tandem with our District goals."

"We have more than 130 people here today in honor of Mr. Hitt," said Larry Goddard, executive director of the Tyler ISD Foundation. "Everyone here believes in the power of education, just like Mr. Hitt. The golf tournament is a great tribute not only to Mr. Hitt, but to the Tyler community who is fully committed to offering a great education for our youth."

Gilbert Howard "Gil" Hitt was a Tyler businessman and president of the Tyler ISD school board at the time of his sudden death Friday, September 27, 1997, while attending a school board convention in Houston. Mr. Hitt and his wife were attending the conference with other school board trustees when he was taken ill.

Delegates of the Texas Association of School Boards honored Mr. Hitt the next day with a moment of silence. The Tyler ISD Foundation has honored him ever since by renaming its annual fundraiser tourney as the Gil Hitt Memorial.

About 90% of Tyler's youth attend Tyler Independent School District. The golf tournament is the largest single day fundraiser for the Tyler ISD Foundation which serves one of the largest populations in the East Texas region-over 18,000 students, 3,700 employees and their families.

Hitt's family continues his legacy with careers in education. His wife, Debbie, was a teacher at Robert E. Lee High School at the time of his death and she spent 27 years teaching in Tyler ISD of her 37 year career.

"My sister is a 1989 graduate of Robert E. Lee High School and I graduated from there in 1995," says Erin Hitt, daughter of Gil Hitt. "Something I'm proud of is that my father gave me my diploma at my graduation as a member of the School Board."

"Both of my parents graduated from Lee in 1967. My sister, Christi Hitt-Hamilton, teaches 5th grade Science at E.J. Moss Intermediate at Lindale ISD. And, I teach 4th grade at Dixie Elementary for Tyler ISD. My mom retired from TISD after 30 years of teaching and just finished her 7th year at All Saints - 37 total," continued Erin Hitt.

Grandchildren Hannah Hamilton, 11, and Austin Hamilton, 14, attend Lindale ISD.

Gil Hitt was a graduate of Robert E. Lee High School and had earned his associate of arts degree from Tyler Junior College and a bachelor of business administration degree from Abilene Christian University. He had been a teacher at the college level in Houston and then as an education consultant representing Apple Computers. At the time of his death, he was employed by SchoolVision of Texas. He had served as a school board trustee before being elected president of the Tyler ISD board.

"My dad believed whole-heartedly in the TISD Foundation and in the district itself. If he were still here, he would be amazed at everything the Foundation has achieved. Each June, I am in awe of the impact the golf tournament has and it makes me smile," said Erin.

Erin Hitt said her Dad loved life and laughter and her greatest memories are of funny stories with her mom, sisters and grandchildren. Erin said, "Dad tried to teach me to drive a golf cart and ending up laughing more than teaching me."

"If you ever talk to Lou Thomas (Lanes Chapel UMC Minister), you should ask him for some fun stories about my father. Maybe he'll share with you how the golf cart landed in the pond," concluded Erin. Lou Thomas admitted that there is a story of a lost ball in the pond and a faulty brake sending a golf cart directly at them in the water fishing out a wayward golf ball.

"Brother Lou Thomas has offered invocation at each of tournaments, but I've never heard about a golf cart in a pond," said Goddard. "We need to investigate that story."

According to Lou Thomas, "Besides Gil being my very best friend in the whole world, he was a visionary leader. I loved his commitment to Tyler, to education, to his family, and to Lanes Chapel United Methodist Church. I genuinely appreciate Tyler Independent School District Foundation for renaming the golf tournament in Gil's honor."

"Because of his deep commitment to Tyler students it is fitting and right to honor him.  Character traits exhibited by Gil Hitt are worthy of our emulation.  And...it was Gil's fought that the golf cart ran into the pond! It was errant shot into the lake on # 8 at Oakhurst that caused the problem. I loved Gil Hitt and will forever!"

This year's tournament was held Monday, June 15th, at Willow Brook Country Club, with an 11 a.m. luncheon, 12 noon announcements, and 12:15 p.m. shotgun start. 19 teams of six players played for first and second flight, first and second place awards. All proceeds go towards benefiting the Tyler ISD Foundation.

Also, honored was Fran Conaway, widow of 1940 Tyler ISD graduate, Henry Conaway, who was a golf tournament volunteer last June. He died in August and friends and family donated over $2000 to both boy's golf teams at the two Tyler ISD high schools. 

"Henry loved the game of golf and continue to support all of Tyler ISD activities throughout his business career in Tyler," said Mrs. Conaway. "Thank you for the Foundation to honor him today. This means a great deal to me and is a fitting tribute to Henry."

Several major sponsors, hole sponsors, donors for caps, goodie bag items, photography and goodie bags items made the event a success.

"I think the secret of our success is the fact that we all want Tyler ISD to succeed-whether we have children enrolled or not-it is imperative for our hometown to be a success if we create a supporting role in our District's success. That's just something Tyler does-we support our good teachers and administrators and expect our students to succeed," concluded Goddard, who was lead organizer for the fourth tournament in a row. "It's just something Tyler does."

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