Founder Spotlight: Greg Gannon

Higher Achievement Founder

40 years ago, Greg Gannon was a young math teacher at Gonzaga College High School.  Across the street was Sursum Corda, a low-income housing development, and Greg witnessed firsthand the educational inequities between the rich and poor. Inspired to act, Greg created Higher Achievement Program (or “HAP”).

Greg knew that it requires a combination of educational rigor and opportunity to level these inequities. Greg founded Higher Achievement on three principles: talent is everywhere, intellect is built through effort, and that academic opportunity matters.

Using his Volkswagen van as both school bus and classroom, Greg started working after school with a handful of boys from Sursum Corda to improve their academics. The work paid off. Soon the boys were making substantial academic gains and improving their grades. Each of these boys went on to attend Gonzaga, one of the city’s most prestigious private high schools.

It wasn’t long before people began to notice and invest.  More and more students enrolled and by the mid-80s, Higher Achievement incorporated as an independent nonprofit organization.  In the years that followed, Higher Achievement grew to serve hundreds of students every year across Washington, DC.

Over the years, more than 10,000 motivated young people have realized their dreams by developing knowledge, skills, and commitment to make a true difference in this world.

“HAP opened the eyes of our family and friends and spilled into life in our own community,” says Katie Gannon, Greg’s daughter. “We focused on service and seeing DC as a city we had a responsibility to improve and invest in.”

Greg was a constant positive force throughout Higher Achievement’s history, always bringing friends, family, and many, many students into the program.  Greg was involved in Higher Achievement until the last day of his life, March 25, 2006, as an exceptionally committed champion.