Leo Solga

He loved his job and he loved LM; he loved his students and worked tirelessly with them and for them. And of course we loved and respected him.

Leo+Solga

To begin, I’d like to share a quick story with you all. Near the end of August, I gave my first Student Council speech. It was a speech for all of the new teachers in the district. There were about seventy of them, and I was pretty nervous. As I was waiting to go up, Mr. Hughes found me. He told me he wore a bowtie because he knew I was going to wear a bowtie, so that we could match. After the speech, he gave me a first bump and told me it went well. That was the sort of thing Mr. Hughes did. He would take the time to know students as individuals, support them, and look snazzy with them. He helped me believe in myself. That was Mr. Hughes—he loved his job and he loved LM; he loved his students and worked tirelessly with them and for them. And of course we loved and respected him.

Every month, the Student Council officers would meet with Mr. Hughes and we’d chat about what was going on in the LM community. He always knew about everything that was going on. He would mention individual students by name, proudly recounting athletic, academic, and artistic achievements. The fact that he knew so many names and faces showed how much he cared about us. He was genuinely interested in what was happening in our lives. For our virtual Maroon Madness last year, I went to interview him, and before I left, he told me that as COVID waned, he wanted to get back to engaging in student activities. He said to me, “Leo, make sure the Players kids know that I’d love to be in one of their shows again.” 

Along with the connection he made with the students, Mr. Hughes was beloved because he was a great man. He was compassionate, generous, and kind. He had an open door policy and made it clear that he would be there for us if we ever had an issue or a concern. He was empathetic and he listened; at Student Council and Principal’s Advisory meetings, he asked what our problems were. He always advocated for his students. We trusted him and he trusted us. It’s not normal for a principal to give 1600 teenagers free range of their school for an hour a day, but he did, and that’s now Lunch and Learn, one of the defining aspects of this school district.

Just as he was there at the beginning to welcome us at Freshman Orientation, Mr. Hughes was there at the end of the high school journey as well. We were looking forward to receiving our diplomas from him with a special handshake or hug. He made every graduating senior feel special. Although he won’t be there in person this spring, we know he’ll cross the stage with us in spirit.

He will be remembered by the school in formal ways, but he will also stay in our hearts and minds. While we mourn, we will also celebrate and lift up his memory. By living with his motto “Character Counts,” Mr. Hughes changed the culture of Lower Merion High School for the better. With every smile, laugh, and kind word exchanged between students, his legacy carries on.

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