Former Butler County principal who pushed students to ‘change the world’ dies at 77

One of the leaders who helped create Badin High School’s legacy of academic quality and caring died this week. She was 77.

Margaret Winkeljohn Hickle passed away Tuesday at a retirement home in Findlay, Ohio, where she had attended high school in her youth.

Winkeljohn joined the Badin staff as an English teacher in 1974 and subsequently served as principal for the Hamilton Catholic school from 1992 through her retirement in June 2003.

“She truly cared about the students,” said Badin High School Principal Brian Pendergest, who is a 1990 Badin graduate. “She was always willing to give students a second chance and help them move forward with their lives.”

According to a statement released Wednesday by Badin officials, Winkeljohn “never recovered effectively from heart surgery performed in 2018.”

Officials at the school said they plan to hold a memorial service soon to honor the former principal but haven’t yet determined a date.

During her Badin career, Winkeljohn served as an English teacher, media specialist, dean of girls and subsequently the principal, while also handling duties as the swim coach and cheerleading moderator over the years.

“She had a lot of different roles at Badin,” said Gina Helms, director of campus ministry and a 1990 graduate of Badin, “but you always knew that she was there for the kids. She always had an ear for them and was very supportive.”

“Like so many others at Badin,” said Helms, “I’m grateful for Margaret because she hired me and gave me a shot. I thought it was just my first job – but it became my forever job. She made that happen.”

Kelli Kurtz, Badin’s director of advancement and a 1988 grad, was recruited away from Miami University Hamilton by Winkeljohn.

“She was relentless, and I finally gave in and met with her,” Kurtz recalled. “Now, 20 years later, I’m still here. I’m so grateful to Margaret for giving me the opportunity to give back to the school I have loved my entire life.”

“I will never forget her laughter, her cutting sense of humor, her style, and the sunglasses forever perched on the top of her head,” Kurtz said. “She was a champion for teenagers and believed in their ability to go out and change the world.”

Tim McCabe, a 1975 Badin grad who taught marketing education throughout Winkeljohn’s tenure, said, “she always had the best interests of the students at heart.”

“She was a very student-oriented principal who made a difference in their lives,” said McCabe.

According to Badin officials, Winkeljohn married longtime Findlay High School friend Charles “Chuck” Hickle over Easter week in 2003. He preceded her in death at the age of 70 in October of 2011.

Visitation for Margaret Winkeljohn Hickle is Sunday from 2-5 p.m. at Colden Crates Funeral Home, 205 W. Sandusky Street in Findlay. The funeral is Monday, Feb. 11, at 10:30 a.m. at St. Michael’s Church, 750 Bright Road, Findlay, Ohio.

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