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Ed Hightower Illinois
Photo of Ed Hightower

Ed Hightower is known nationally as an outstanding Division I basketball referee, officiating in 12 National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) Final Four tournaments. In 1999, he was named one of the top 100 St. Louis area athletes of the century and has received numerous awards for his professional officiating.

A lifelong educator, he was the superintendent of Edwardsville, Illinois School District #7 (which includes Edwardsville High School) until he retired after the end of the 2014-15 school year. Ed was also formerly vice chairman of the Southern Illinois University Board of Trustees and served on the Board of Directors for Lewis and Clark Community College for 26 years before retiring in 2015.

Over the years, Hightower has been recognized locally and nationally for his contributions to education, winning the 1989 Illinois Distinguished Principals Award and recognition in the 1992 Who's Who of American Educators. In 1993, he won the Illinois Principal of the Year Award and the National Distinguished Principals Award.

In 1990, Hightower received the Elijah P. Lovejoy Human Rights Award and the Illinois Jaycees 10 Outstanding Young Persons Award. In 2007, he was selected as the Trails West Distinguished Citizen of the Year, and in 2012, he received the Patriotic Employer Award.

Hightower holds bachelor's, master's and specialist degrees from Southern Illinois University Edwardsville and a doctorate in education administration from Saint Louis University.

Hightower is the central subject of The Whistleblower: Rooting for the Ref in the High-Stakes World of College Basketball, a book about college basketball refereeing.


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