A tribute to Travis Mackey

Claudia Loucks
Travis Mackey is retiring as Geneseo High School Principal at the end of this school year.

Travis Mackey is retiring at the end of this school year and he definitely will be missed.

I am writing a “Tribute to Travis Mackey,” not just as a newspaper writer, but also as someone who considers Travis Mackey a good friend.

Having worked at the high school for many years, now retired from the special education department, but continuing to help at athletic events at the high school, I have come to know Travis, first as athletic director, then as principal, but most importantly as a friend.

He is a family man, kind and caring by nature, who not only considers his wife, Kris, and their four children his family, but he also treats the entire Geneseo School District High School staff and students like family. He truly cares about each person who enters GHS and treats them with respect.

Dr. Adam Brumbaugh, superintendent of the Geneseo School District, describes Mackey as “a staple at Geneseo high School for many years. His service and dedication to the students, athletes, staff and community is second to none.”

He continued, “He embodies the Teach-Learn-Care approach to leadership and culture that exists at GHS. On the administrative team, he is the sage that provides historical perspective to our discussions and decision making process. I have really enjoyed working with him the last four years and always appreciated the way he worked to keep the honor and integrity of the district intact. He will be greatly missed.”

I also asked for comments from Jill Harrington, who first was secretary to Mackey when he was athletic director and then became his secretary when he was named principal…She said, “It’s hard to express how much I will miss Travis. I have worked directly with him for 16 years from the Athletic Office to the Principal’s Office. He is a wonderful boss, co-worker, and friend. He has a genuine caring nature and I just knew I could always talk to him about anything. I will miss laughing with him and working together on our innovator-type projects. I wish him happiness in his retirement, but I will miss him everyday!”

After graduating from Geneseo High School in 1983, he earned a bachelor’s degree in math from Northeast Missouri State, Kirksville, Mo.; where he also ran track; received a master’s degree in sports management from Western Illinois University, Macomb, and an administrative certificate from Western Illinois.

After graduating from college, his first teaching position was for the Riverbend School District, where he taught computer programming at the high school level, Pre-Algebra and Algebra to middle school students, fourth and fifth grade science and physical education and fourth grade art on Fridays.

“The need to be highly qualified was not as prevalent then as it is today,” he said. “In addition to lunch duty, I coached high school football, high school track and middle school boys and girls basketball.”

After four years with the Riverbend District, teaching in Fulton and Albany, Mackey was hired by the Rock Island School District where he taught high school math, coached football and track at the high school level.

“I firmly believe that everything happens for a reason and God has a plan,” he said “Having been with at a small district like Fulton and then at a very diverse school like Rock Island have helped me become the person I am today.”

Mackey was GHS athletic director for 16 years, and was named 2015 Athletic Director of the Year of Class “3A & 4A” by the Illinois Athletic Directors Association (IADA)

He was named GHS principal in 2016. In 2020, Mackey was elected to the Division 4 seat on the IHSA Board of Directors.

When asked about retirement plans, he said his plans are to remain in the education field…”It won’t be full time, but it is a great profession where you can see the impact and I hope to stay a part of it.”

He will miss the day-to-day interaction with students and staff, he said, and added, “We have created memories that I’ll have forever.”

“Our staff has tremendous talent and skills. They could be in the public sector making more money, but they love kids and the impact they have made on those young people is significant,” Mackey said. “We are very fortunate that our students want to learn and become better. Are there times we have to motivate them? Absolutely, but they have been raised to respect the process, and I give parents the credit for raising young women and men who work hard and are dependable.”

He shared a memory from his time as a student and said, “I remember as a student, people did extraordinary things so I could have a great experience. To give back a little has been the goal so our future generations could say the same thing.”

He expressed thanks to his family and said, “They remember coming to the high school on a Sunday night when I was first Athletic Director to work on contracts or having to work the games because we couldn’t find anyone else to work. Kris (his wife) has been a great partner on this journey and a great sounding board when things aren’t easy.”

“Thank you to the Geneseo School District for the opportunity to come back home and thank you to everyone in the community…Thank you so very much for being a great place to raise a family,” Mackey added.

He and his wife, Kris Mackey, have four children, Zach, Tyler, Maddie and Allie.