Obituary of Henry "Hank" Dowski Ed.D.
Feb. 16, 1938 – Dec. 6, 2022
Henry "Hank" Dowski, who advocated for inclusion of children during his long career as an educator, died Dec. 6 in Schofield Residence, Town of Tonawanda, after a lengthy battle with Parkinson's disease and heart disease. He was 84.
As principal of the Campus West School and the College Learning Laboratory at SUNY Buffalo State in the 1970s, he gave students a voice in creating school rules and established a Rainbow Room, where they were free to pursue games and non-academic activities.
“It was always about putting the school in the kids’ hands,” his daughter Cindy Mt. Pleasant said.
Born in Buffalo, one of four children of Polish immigrants, Henry S. Dowski grew up on Forman Street in the Schiller Park neighborhood. He attended School 11 and graduated in 1955 from Kensington High School, where he was co-captain of the tennis team.
After earning his bachelor’s degree in education at Buffalo State, he taught sixth grade in the Lewiston-Porter Central School District. He was the first president of the Lewiston Porter Education Association, the district’s teachers union.
He had a variety of summer jobs in college and during his first years as a teacher. He was a shoe salesman, worked at Bethlehem Steel, helped build the Niagara Power Project and was a security officer at Old Fort Niagara.
He had a small farm outside Youngstown with a boarding kennel, where he and his family raised collies.
After earning a master's degree and doctorate in education at Buffalo State, Dr. Dowski became principal of Campus West School in 1971, joining his friend and colleague Russell Macaluso, whom he had known at Lewiston-Porter. Together they revised policies and teaching methods at the school.
He also worked with Buffalo school administrators to establish magnet schools to integrate students across racial and economic lines and successfully applied Section 504 under the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 so that his learning-disabled son Michael could get transportation to Campus West School from Youngstown.
He became an associate professor of elementary education in 1975 and served as an interim chairman of the Department of Elementary Education and Reading. He became an associate professor emeritus in 1998.
A mentor and inspiration to many student teachers, he urged his male students to consider teaching younger children, as he did.
“I encourage them to go into the elementary grades,” he told Buffalo News reporter Paula Voell in 1990. “And where they have, they've enjoyed themselves tremendously.”
From 1994 to 2004, Dr. Dowski was director of Buffalo State's Teacher Opportunity Corps, where teacher aides who promised to work with at-risk students could earn their degrees while working in the Buffalo schools.
With his wife Lee, he developed Buffalo State's Brain Compatible Program, which taught special education students to read by using specially trained tutors from the college.
Appointed by U.S. Judge John T. Curtin as a District Court special arbitrator and impartial hearing officer for special education students, Dr. Dowski worked to bring schools into compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990. A particularly stubborn assignment was the Lackawanna School District, which he advised and prodded for 10 years.
In 1984, he married the former Leona E. “Lee” Hill, a teacher he met at Lewiston-Porter, and they moved to Cedarwood Heights in Cheektowaga, where he was a leading opponent to the demolition of the neighborhood for a large housing development. He moved to East Amherst in 2016.
He hiked trails across the U.S. and Canada, his favorite being Algonquin Provincial Park. He also enjoyed tennis and golf and was an avid Bills and Sabres fan.
At the age of 80, he became the oldest player in the Williamsville Schools community pickleball program. He also was one of the oldest boxers in Rock Steady Boxing, which he joined to combat his Parkinson's disease symptoms. He took part in the Parkinson's Moving Day program for years.
Survivors include a son, David; four daughters, Susan Dowski, Cindy Mt. Pleasant, Kathleen McDonnell and Mary Dowski; their mother, Shirley Meger; a brother, Julian; a stepson, Craig Dowski; a companion, Patricia Rooss; and six grandchildren. His wife Lee died in 2016. His son Michael died in 1987.
No prior visitation. A celebration of his life will be held June 10th in the Gin Mill, 26 Washington St., Ellicottville.
Arrangements by: Erie County Cremation Service, (716) 824-6435. Please share your condolences at: www.eriecountycremationservice.com