Sean Hughes, the principal of Lower Merion High School for the last 14 years, died in a car crash Saturday morning while driving his son to a soccer game, district officials said.
The crash occurred around 7:28 a.m. in Winslow Township, Camden County, according to police. A police report said Hughes was driving his SUV northbound on Fleming Pike when his car collided with another SUV being driven eastbound on the intersecting Hay Road.
Police did not say who had the right of way or whose car initiated the collision. They said that damage to both SUVs was “extensive” and that Hughes, his son, and the driver of the second car were all hospitalized. Hughes was declared dead at the hospital.
His teenage son, identified by Lower Merion spokesperson Amy Buckman as Nolan, suffered non-life-threatening injuries, Buckman said.
Police did not say what types of injures were sustained by the other driver, a 54-year-old from Pine Hill, Camden County.
Lower Merion Superintendent Khalid Mumin said in a statement that Hughes, 51, was “beloved by thousands of students who passed through the halls of Lower Merion over the years.”
Hughes — whom students often called “Huuuughes,” Mumin said — met students at ninth-grade orientation and handed them diplomas at graduation. But he was also there during their years in between: emceeing the so-called Amazing Ace competition in a gold-sequined jacket, inducting students into the National Honor Society, and having an open door for any issues.
“It is hard for anyone to imagine Lower Merion High School without Mr. Hughes at the helm,” Mumin said, adding: “Everyone is shocked and heartbroken.”
Mumin said all 10 Lower Merion schools would be closed Monday to mourn Hughes’ death.
Buckman, whose children attended Lower Merion, said Hughes was approachable and always himself — the type of principal who knew many students by name and strove to teach them the virtue of character. He was “willing to do anything to benefit the kids,” she said, recalling that when students wanted to have a racial justice protest last year after the death of George Floyd, Hughes “was out on the field helping set up the PA system.”
Marie Hamilton, 21, a 2018 Lower Merion graduate, said Hughes was personable, positive, and always eager to be involved in the school community. He regularly attended sports games and other events, she said, and knew her name even though she wasn’t the type who got sent to the principal’s office that often.
“He just made everyone feel very welcome,” said Hamilton, now a senior at Cabrini University who also coaches volleyball at Lower Merion.
Mumin said that in addition to son Nolan, Hughes was survived by his wife, Kristi, son Jack, and daughter Kate.
Winslow Township police said the crash remained under investigation.