On January 10, 2015, Georgia high school athletics and school-based activities lost a great friend and a great leader. Mr. Tommy Guillebeau, former Executive Director of the Georgia High School Association, passed away after a lengthy illness. Mr. Guillebeau came to the GHSA as an assistant director to W.C. (Bill) Fordham in 1987.
Upon Mr. Fordham’s retirement, “Coach Guillebeau” as his players and friends called him, became the third Executive Director of the Georgia High School Association. Tommy ultimately retired in the spring of 2001, himself, having served as Executive Director for nine years.
Tommy was a native Georgian, a life-long coach, Principal and Superintendent - a career educator. His funeral eulogy was led by Dr. Ralph Swearngin, also a former GHSA Executive Director, and once the assistant to Mr. Guillebeau. More importantly, he knew Tommy extremely well and made these comments as he capsulized Mr. Guillebeau’s career and contributions:
“Tommy was an educator through-and-through. He was a very intelligent man who blended the thinking processes of a chemistry teacher, a football coach, and a school administrator with great leadership skills.
“He cared about high school students, both in the classroom and on the athletic fields and courts, and that enabled him to touch the lives of many people as he carried out the roles of the teacher, coach and administrator.
“Literally, he invested his life in the well-being of these students. This concern for the students led him to design a program in which the GHSA underwrote the majority of the premiums on catastrophic insurance
policies for every student who participated in GHSA events.
“His leadership skills were demonstrated early in his life as an athlete as he was named the captain of every team he played on. Tommy had certain personal characteristics that made him a strong leader, and those served him well when he became a part of the GHSA staff.
Vision: When he became Executive Director of the GHSA, many state associations judged success by how well they were maintaining their traditional
policies and programs. Tommy had a vision for the changing landscape of education-based athletics, and he developed new approaches for serving member schools better, for developing sound fiscal policies for the GHSA, and for showcasing GHSA sports on television.
Firm Convictions: Tommy believed in rules that precisely defined “right and wrong,” and he believed that those rules should be followed. He exhibited integrity, and he expected the same from those around him. He was a man of principles.
Courage: Tommy met challenges head-on. He took stands that were not always popular, but he believed those were the actions that needed to be done for the benefit of the GHSA, its schools, and its students ...”
Tommy was a strong family-man. “He and his wife, Gail, adored their children and grandchildren, and his family loved and respected him tremendously.”
The schools of Georgia are better because of leaders like Tommy Guillebeau. His influences are exhibited almost daily throughout the Georgia High School Association.
We are fortunate he came our way.