Remembering Ken Brummel

Ken Brummel — who was named principal of Bedford Junior High School at just 28 years old, then served 12 years as Westport superintendent of schools — died last weekend at his home in Palm Springs, California. He was 77.

The Michigan State University graduate began his career as an English teacher in the Detroit school system.

Ken Brummel

Ken Brummel

After earning a master’s degree in secondary education from Harvard in 1959, he became a teacher and administrator in Glenbrook, Illinois. Ken joined the Westport school system in 1964, as principal of Bedford Junior High.

While superintendent of schools here, he was a strong advocate for student achievement and teacher preparedness. He received his doctorate from Columbia Teachers College in 1979.

After leaving Westport, Ken served as superintendent in Grosse Pointe, Michigan, and Orange County and Lancaster, California. He retired from education in 1992, and was involved in small business in Southern California.

Ken is survived by his wife, Josephine; their children Lisa, Beth and Peter, and 4 grandchildren. He is also survived by his long-time business partner, Darnell Harrison II. Burial will be private.


Former Westport art instructor Jim Wheeler began his Westport teaching career in 1964 — the same year as Ken. It was his 1st year teaching, and Ken’s 1st year as principal.

At the initial faculty meeting in September, Jim was astonished to see Ken introduce the entire staff — each one, by name.

Ken Brummel, playfully hiding behind a portrait of himself.

Ken Brummel, playfully hiding behind a portrait of himself.

“As an educator, Ken had no equal,” Jim says. “He was never satisfied with the status quo. He was forward thinking, and had the courage of his convictions and ideas.”

A prime example was what became knows as the “Bedford curriculum.” Each faculty member was encouraged to write a curriculum that would be integrated schoolwide, the last 2 weeks of school.

Some classes ran for half an hour; some for half a day. Students could use the blocks any way they chose. The only requirement was that they fill their time with classes.

“We were both congratulated and condemned by people across the country for giving kids that kind of power over their education,” Jim recalls.

“I will always be grateful to Ken for having had the opportunity to stand with him in an endeavor that shaped some of my views about the one-sided manner in which decisions regarding educational practices are made.”

Jim was also grateful for Ken’s love of a good time. The Brummels often threw parties. And, Jim says, “on more than one occasion Ken suggested to several of us that we should go to New York after school on a Friday. So off we went — to the consternation of our spouses.”

Ken Brummel this past Thanksgiving. He is flanked by his son Peter, and grandson Owen.

Ken Brummel this past Thanksgiving. He is flanked by his son Peter, and grandson Owen.

8 responses to “Remembering Ken Brummel

  1. VetDoc@Compo


    What a great story about a great man.
    Thank you for enlightening many of us with the knowledge of a man we never knew.

    Education is the most fundamental element to the progression of any society.

    Rest in peace Mr. Brummel.

    And, thank you for your strong desire to help future generations to come.

    God bless.

  2. Sank T. Monious

    Bedford Junior was a great place to go to school in 1964, in no small part due to Mr. Brummel and the atmosphere he set as principal. I had no idea he was only 28 when he started as principal (I was 12). Mrs. Brummel was our choral music accompanist at Staples and she was (is) as nice as he was which is saying a great deal. I was also in Mr. Wheeler’s home room that first year. So I was very lucky to know these great people and I remember them like it was yesterday. They say you never appreciate them until later but even as a kid I knew they were special.

  3. Guy Northrop

    As a thirteen year old the last thing I wanted was to interact with the principal, so I had very little direct contact with Ken Brummel. I consider myself very fortunate to have attended Bedford during this time . Ken Brummel created a really positive learning experience by assembling some of the best teaching talent. Jim Wheeler is still one of my favorite teachers. I am happy to hear that after 40 plus years Bedford is still a great school.

  4. He was a good man. I was at some of those parties. Occasionally we both arrived a bit late after putting in some quality time at Mario’s. He will be missed.

  5. Sank T. Monious

    Despite my intentions (and theirs) to the contrary, I interacted with many principals in Westport on many occasions. The difference with Mr. Brummel (and Mr. Calkins at Staples for that matter) was that he always treated everybody, (even miscreants like myself) with respect and it was returned in kind. He ran a taut and happy ship.

  6. Dick Leonard

    As WEA President in 1970-71, I worked closely with Ken as we both sought to implement Project Concern and to protect the Board Chairperson, Joan Schine, from a Recall Movement. Additionally, Ken had no trouble cooperating with teachers and the WEA in giving teachers a much greater voice in the their evaluation process. We’ve been blessed in Westport with excellent superintendents and Ken was up there with the best. Finally, he was a fun loving rascal and I hated to see him head west.

    • I agree Ken was a great person and great Superintendent. I was a close friend of his daughter Beth during high school at Staples, and I remember him as a strong but kind man. Westport and all of its students were lucky to have him. Cindy Clarfield Hess

  7. Ken deserves to be remembered and honored for the spirit of innovation and respect for students and teachers which he inspired and fostered in a generation of fine educators. His heritage as an exemplary leader is rarely equalled, perhaps – in this time of standardized testing – never to be approached.