About Mike Conley
Who is J. Michael Conley?
J. Michael "Mike" Conley was born in Huntington, West Virginia in 1936 and later moved with his family to Orlando, FL. Conley quickly discovered his athletic ability and excelled in a variety of sports. In the 1950s he become an All-American on the Florida State University Track team, and he was later inducted into FSU's Athletic Hall of Fame.
After graduating from Florida State University in the late 1950s, Conley began a career in education, first teaching American History at Cobb Middle School in Tallahassee, FL, then moving to Leon High School.
During his career at Leon High School, Conley served as coach and assistant principal before becoming the principal in 1973. Conley served as Principal of Leon High School until his retirement in 1989, while serving as Interim Principal at nearly every other high school in Tallahassee at one point or another.
After his retirement from Leon High School, Conley ran for and was elected to the Leon County School Board in 1990. He served one term before retiring from public life. Conley is still very involved with the community and has served in advisory roles for the Leon County Public School system for many years. He and his wife Sue have three children, Susan, Cindy, and Jon.
On June 10, 2008, Leon County's new elemenary school was named after Mike Conley at a special School Board meeting. In honor of the event, the principal of Leon High at the time, Rocky Hanna, shared the following:
There are two reasons why, as a society, we dedicate buildings: One is to honor the person for whom the building will be named and the other is to imbue the institution with the qualities and spirit of that individual so future generations will know what we, as a community, valued as important and commendable. For those reasons, what we are doing here today makes perfect sense.
Mike Conley served as principal of Leon High for almost two decades. Before that, he coached and taught at the school. When I was growing up, his name was synonymous with Leon High School. I have been continuously aware of Mike Conley and who he is for over 30 years; I heard of him and about him before I even started high school. He was my principal the four years I was a student at Leon and he is well known in the community.
Reflecting back over those three decades, I realized that I have never ever heard a negative comment about Mike Conley!
He is widely respected and has touched thousands of lives. For two decades, he steered Leon High towards excellence. Since then, he has continued to serve our community with his unique brand of understated wisdom and grace. He has been a role model not just for me, but for countless numbers of students for whom he was, in many ways, their first of a leader. For me, as a student and young man, he epitomized what a man should stand for: strength, integrity, and compassion.
It wasn’t until I became an administrator that I realized how much I looked to him as a role model. He has set the bar for what it means to be a principal—not just for Leon High School, but for all administrators. For these contributions, we thank him and wish to honor him. In an ideal world, the qualities of this man and his spirit will inspire the future students, teachers, and administrators of this new school. He led the best way—by example.
People who worked with Mr. Conley often cite examples of how, regardless of what else he was doing while at the helm of Leon, he always had his eye on the entire school. I can’t tell you the many individuals who have told me that it wasn’t unusual to see him, on his way across campus, reach down and pick up a piece of trash from the ground. That may not seem like a big deal but to me it’s an indicator of both his humility and commitment. His job was to take care of that high school and the phrase, “that’s not part of my job” held no meaning for him. He gave 100% of himself every day and he expected the same of everyone else.
For those who worked with him, he brought a sense of responsibility and ownership. He was unwavering in his belief that Leon High would not take a “step back” on his watch. Not only did he achieve this, he also has left it as a legacy for us at Leon. Hopefully, his spirit and dedication to excellence will serve to guide the population of this new school as well.