W.W. “Bill” Thorne, who saved Aldine ISD from bankruptcy in the late 1950s and was affectionally known as “Mr. Aldine,” has passed away.
Mr. Thorne, 98, served as Aldine ISD’s Superintendent from 1958-73, and remained active in a number of other educational and community endeavors long after he retired as Aldine ISD’s superintendent.
Mr. Thorne is survived by his wife Iris, a long-time AISD employee in the business office, son Bill Jr., daughter Anita and numerous grandchildren and great grandchildren.
In the spring of 1958, AISD was unable to pay its teachers as many walked off the job and the district faced bankruptcy. Students also left for Houston ISD or an early summer vacation. Mr. Thorne and a local lawmaker went to Austin to secure an emergency sale of $200,000 time warrants. It is said that this was the fastest the Texas Legislature had ever acted on a piece of legislation. Mr. Thorne remembered the process was completed within a day and was completed when the Governor signed off on the time warrants.
Mr. Thorne’s fast action saved Aldine from bankruptcy, and as they say, the rest is history. Today, Aldine is one of the largest school districts in the state of Texas, nationally recognized for the work it does educating economically disadvantaged students, for its nationally renowned performing and visual arts programs and its innovative teaching concepts.
Mr. Thorne, a Navy veteran, ascended to the superintendency by first serving as a bus driver and teacher. After retiring as superintendent in 1973, Mr. Thorne served as the first president of North Harris College (now Lone Star College-North Harris), was the first chancellor of the North Harris Montgomery Community College District, the first executive director of the Harris County Toll Road Authority and was the first executive director of the North Houston Association. As executive director of the Harris County Toll Road Authority, Mr. Thorne oversaw the construction of the toll road, which came in under budget and was completed ahead of schedule.
He was also instrumental in the formation of the Aldine Teachers Credit Union, which is now known as InvesTex Credit Union. Additionally, the football stadium in Aldine ISD is named Thorne Stadium in his honor, along with W.W. Thorne Drive in North Harris County, where Aldine ISD’s Donaldson Administration Building is located, along with Nimitz High School, Nimitz Ninth Grade School and Dunn Elementary School.
Aldine ISD Superintendent Dr. LaTonya M. Goffney, shared her thoughts on Mr. Thorne’s passing on behalf of the Board of Trustees and the entire school district.
“On behalf of the Aldine Board of Trustees and all of Aldine ISD, I want to send our heartfelt condolences to Mrs. Thorne and her family on the passing of her beloved W.W. “Bill” Thorne,” Dr. Goffney said. “You cannot tell the history of Aldine without mentioning Mr. Thorne and the profound impact he had on our school district. He was truly an inspirational leader who saved Aldine during a very tumultuous period in the 1950s. Thank you Mr. Thorne for all you did for future Aldine generations.”
Former Aldine Superintendent M.B. “Sonny” Donaldson, said Mr. Thorne was the perfect person to lead Aldine during some difficult times.
“Mr. Thorne was the steady man at the helm of the Aldine school district,” Mr. Donaldson said. “He had the trust of the community and that’s why he was known as Mr. Aldine. He had so much political capital. People trusted him. He built the toll road under budget and ahead of schedule. If you gave him a task, he would complete it and complete it well.”
Mr. Donaldson said while he knew many powerful people in Houston, Harris County and in the state of Texas, Mr. Thorne was a man of the people.
“He knew everybody, secretaries, bus drivers, custodians and he knew their names,” he said. “Mr. Thorne was a people person.”
Mr. Donaldson served as principal of Aldine High School when Mr. Thorne was superintendent, but he said he impacted his career as he moved up the administrative ladder after Mr. Thorne had retired.
“His reach and influence was felt by me long after he left Aldine,” Mr. Donaldson sad.
Former Superintendent Dr. Wanda Bamberg said Mr. Thorne lived an extraordinary life full of accomplishments.
“Very few people have accomplished as much as W.W. Thorne did in a single lifetime,” she said. “He was a man with not only great vision, but also the passion and energy to take action. He certainly left his mark in Aldine ISD, seeing the district through some of its darkest days. His approach and leadership style became what is part of the Aldine culture today: hard work, dedication to students, staff, and the community, and of course, being fiscally responsible.
“At his 90th birthday party, he shared stories about some of his decisions and dealings with TEA of that era,” Dr. Bamberg said. “The stories were funny but also courageous and inspiring. When I told him about moving Central Office from Aldine Westfield, he said, ‘So, you are moving Central Office, but you are moving it to W.W. Thorne Blvd. I guess that will be all right.’ We will all miss Mr. Thorne, but we will continue to enjoy the benefits of his work and his legacy.”