Henry Harding Tift IV

Henry Harding Tift IV

Died June 17, 1997

Henry’s widow, Ann, remembers: “In 1965 Henry and I married on June 16 and reported for Peace Corps training in New Mexico on June 18. We were soon off for two years as Community Development volunteers in the small town of Chinú in coastal Colombia. Henry took to our life there with gusto: our work with people in the tiny surrounding villages involved setting up chicken cooperatives and helping villagers create governing bodies. In those years, he began a lifelong hobby of rescuing injured animals in the wild and nursing them back to health. Our house and yard were filled with crates for visiting fawns, macaws, capybaras, sloths, and many more.

“Near the end of our time in Colombia, Henry’s high school English teacher, now Head of The Stony Brook School in New York, offered him a job as English teacher and coach. He spent seven years there as a classic New England boarding school teacher: we lived in dorm apartments, he taught English and coached baseball, and three Tift daughters joined the herd of faculty kids roaming the bucolic campus. In 1975 a Stony Brook colleague was serendipitously named Head of Stratford Academy in Henry’s hometown of Macon, GA, and soon he signed Henry on to be Assistant Head. Within a couple of years, the colleague moved on, and Henry began his twenty-year career as Head of Stratford.

“Henry brought his superb Yale education, his Peace Corps idealism and his knowledge of fine New England educational practices to a school and city still struggling with the challenges of integration. He soon admitted the first African-American student to an independent school in Middle Georgia, and during his long tenure as Head, pursued social justice and educational equity along with academic excellence. Among his accomplishments were ongoing diversification of the student body (racial, ethnic, class and religious), termination of sororities and fraternities that were contributing to teen bullying and alcohol problems, recruitment of a national faculty, and development of a fine arts program to equal the strong athletic program at Stratford. “Henry’s family life overlapped with his professional life, as his children attended Stratford, and I taught senior English and led the college counseling program. When our three girls were 10, 14, and 16, a baby boy (another Henry Tift) surprised and delighted our family. Our home in Macon encompassed not only the four active children but also a Georgia version of Henry’s Colombian animal rehab center. “Henry died in June 17, 1997 from an autoimmune version of hepatitis, a corollary to the ulcerative colitis he had lived with successfully since his early twenties. The community was stunned, as he was known around town for his stamina during marathon golf outings, tennis sets and fishing expeditions. At his memorial service – an enormous gathering in the Stratford gymnasium – our family was consoled by the flood of admiration and affection for him. The children and I look back at our family life and rejoice for Henry that we all exuberantly enjoyed and loved him for so many years. His intellect, sense of humor, zest for living, and love of us continue to enrich us every day.” After preparing at Lanier High School, Macon, Georgia, and the Westminster Schools in Atlanta, Henry majored in English, resided in Saybrook, was a member of Beta Theta Pi and earned a major Y in golf.

Dodd Fischer remembers:
We played golf together, traveled on our spring trips together. He was a wonderful man with wonderful parents, who became an educator and sterling citizen. Born and raised in Georgia, he returned there. As a classmate, he was in love with Ann, held her hand from one golf hole to the next, whispered sweet things to her, as lovely then as she is now. They were an admirable couple. He died way too young.

Robert Leich remembers:
Henry and I met early in freshman year when we took a class or two together. On several occasions that year we went over to Payne Whitney to play pick-up basketball or just shoot around. Many years later I was at a pharmaceutical convention in Hawaii, and the fellow I was having dinner with was from Macon, GA.. I told him Henry’s name as the only person I knew from Macon, and as a small world would have it, he was the Board Chairman of the private school where Henry was the Headmaster! This occasioned a long phone conversation with Henry and a nice catch up. I was so sad to hear of his death.

William Quayle remembers:
Educator, friend and fellow freshman basketball player with great jump shot. Always a smile and time for friends.