Dr. Stephen and Ms. Edeltraut Gilgan-Hunt…Key Friends!

Dr. Stephen and Ms. Edeltraut Gilgan-Hunt, residents of Asheville, North Carolina, are the third among the recently named “Key Friends” who have provided unique and significant support to “Friends of Copey”. I am extremely pleased to honor both Stephen and Edeltraut for their devoted support over the full term of our “Friends of Copey” project.

Stephen and I attended Emory & Henry College (E&H) together 50 years ago. Stephen, a 1971 E&H College graduate, continued to earn his Ph.D from the University of Virginia and enjoyed a distinguished career in service to our country. He spent 30 years in the United States Department of Education after a stint teaching and conducting research in the private sector. Near the end of his long and distinguished career in government, he enjoyed a close affiliation with the United States Department of State and the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) and the Council of Europe where he was responsible for a 56 country education information network. He worked on projects which deepened his understanding of Third World education systems and their problems.

Stephen.3

Stephen and Edeltraut

Edeltraut’s background is also very unique and impressive. Her career in the World Bank’s Africa Division involved projects across that continent concerning economic development, water resources, project management, and related social issues including education.

Both Stephen and Edeltraut have traveled extensively in Africa and Europe providing them both an up-close and first-hand understanding of Third World education systems and educational barriers challenging people from Asia, Africa, and Latin America.

Dr. Earl G. Hunt, Jr.EH college

My relationship with Stephen actually has roots before we attended college together. Stephen’s father, Dr. Earl G. Hunt, was E&H College President from 1956 to 1964 and played a key role in the racial integration of the college. President Hunt’s careful and deliberate efforts resulted in Afro-Americans enrolling in E&H College in the mid 1960’s despite much reluctance from the surrounding community, the college’s Board of Trustees, and at great risk to his professional career.

In 1966, two years after President Hunt left the college, I was the first Afro-American male to enroll full-time at E&H College. I benefitted directly from President Hunt’s earlier decisive, determined, and unrelenting commitment to integration during the time most southern and mid-Atlantic segregated small liberal arts colleges showed very little interest. President Hunt was among the very few college Presidents during his time willing to go all in for integration. Stephen.xx

Then, as fate would have it, President Hunt’s son, Stephen and I attended E&H College together. Stephen, similar to his father’s devotion to integration, also embarked on equal educational opportunities throughout his professional career and has continued to advocate for justice and rights even as a current member of E&H College’s Board of Trustees.

The Legacy Continues…!

When the first call went out for support to “Friends of Copey”, Stephen and Edeltraut were among the first to respond. They have been devoted supporters of “Friends of Copey” since day one. Their financial and non-financial support has been consistent and generous.

Stephen says, “when Scrapper invited us to become involved with Copey, we were and remain enthusiastic. The Copey project has enabled us to continue our involvement with the development in poorer societies into retirement. Scrapper’s leadership and the dedication of Copey’s citizens continue to impress us and justify all that we do. We are proud to partner with my old college friend and wish Copey all the best.”

The quality of support we “Friends of Copey” have been blessed with is never in question. “Friends of Copey” has successfully pooled some of the best and most talented “friends” around to support a very uncommon mission. I get to see and to know all “active friends” as we move along with our efforts year after year. In other words, I have the “best seat in the house!”  And, I can fully attest to the fact…”Friends of Copey” are different…and the best!

Stephen and Edeltraut are wonderful “Key Friends”. It is a truly unique history because our history begins before our paths ever crossed and that is not very common. But, I have so many special stories about the devoted “friends” who have remained supportive. I hope to share more of these with you in the future.

Thanks for making a difference!

 

 

 

 

Dr. Celeste Gaia…Key Friend!

Dr. Celeste Gaia, Director of International Education at Emory & Henry College since 2007, is Emory & Henry College’s master-mind behind the now popular “Pathway Project”.

Celeste Gaia

Dr. Celeste Gaia

She received her Ph.D. in Experimental Psychology from the University of Tennessee and her academic work and body of professional publications are substantial. She is highly respected among her peers, colleagues, students and others within the academic community.

As the Director of International Education and a strong advocate for global citizenship education and cultural exchange, she is the college’s strongest advocate for study abroad programs. Also, she is the campus liaison for international students.

I first met Dr. Gaia in 2012. Several of Dr. Gaia’s students had just returned from their study abroad assignments and were the dinner guest speakers at an Emory & Henry College Board affair, describing their very positive international educational experiences. I was struck by the excitement and enthusiasm the students expressed as each student shared their life-changing experience while abroad.

WOW! During that dinner presentation…the thought/vision struck me! If “we” could bring Copey students to Emory & Henry College, perhaps they also would return home to Costa Rica with life-changing experiences.

Church service

2019 Pathway Project Students

In 2013, I discussed in detail my vision with Dr. Gaia. She agreed to partner with me in an effort to develop such an opporunity for the Copey students.

Necessary authorizations/permissions, room and board, course tuition, hosts, local travel, and other logistical arrangements where needed to host Copey students and chaperones on the E&H campus. Dr. Gaia spearheaded this effort requiring much dedicated time and attention.

My challenges were a little different. I had to help Angela, the Copey Learning Center Director, sell the idea to the Copey community. Culturally, this is not typically a familiar proposition. Getting permission from parents to allow their students to travel to America to unknown destinations and be in the care of unknown “friends” would not be an easy task.

Also, there was the small issue of funds needed to support the transportation costs to America and back to Copey. I had to launch a fundraiser and we successfully raised the funds to cover the costs.

In June 2016, the first two Copey students arrived in the USA as our guests to spend approximately two weeks on campus.

Angela with students

Xavier, Casey, and director Angela

Thanks to Dr. Gaia, there is more to the story.

While establishing the “pathway” for Copey students to visit the E&H College campus, Dr. Gaia went a step further. She also established a process for E&H students to travel to Copey for a four or five week volunteer assignment. The E&H students to make the first journey were Xavier and Casey…very special students!

Today in 2019, nine Copey students plus chaperones have journeyed to the E&H College campus and seven E&H students have served as volunteers in Copey.

Kara Stewart.1

Kara

Kara Stewart, the 2018 E&H “Pathway Project” student, wrote these words on her final day in Copey before returning back to the USA: “This is so bittersweet for me because I miss my friends and family like crazy, but boy I wish you all could just come here. This place [Copey] is truly incredible.”  Today, the “Pathway Project” is a truly amazing success story.

Without question, Dr. Gaia is a real “Key Friend” of Copey! In only four years, sixteen students have had life-changing experiences similar to the Copey experience Kara describes…largely due to the willingness and determination of one “Key Friend” who saw the vision and agreed to help.

Dr. Gaia…you are a Key Friend who “makes a difference”.

 

 

 

 

 

Dr. C. Franklin Church…Key Friend

Veteran’s Day…!

Remembering my fallen friends:  Danny Watkins, Michael Charles, Kenny Delaney, and Frank Campbell, Jr.. Each served and gave their all! Also, remembering all my other fellow veterans, here and those that have passed on.

Key Friend…!

In a previous Post, I identified three “Key Friends” recognized for having an extraordinary impact on “Friends of Copey’s” success. This week I highlight one of the three and provide some of the background and reasons for the distinction of “Key Friend”.

Dr. C. Franklin Church has worked in the medical field over 30 years. He spent time in the clinical and the administrative fields, both in practice and in the health plan perspective. He received his medical degree and postgraduate training at Duke University. His work

Dr. Lin Church                                 AGB Co-Chair

Dr. Lin Church: AGB Co-Chair

history includes family physician and medical service with a health care provider. Other titles include founding partner of Raleigh Family Physicians, Senior VP and NC Medical Director affiliated with United Healthcare Group Company.  And, he is a former President of the North Carolina Academy of Family Physicians. Even today while in semi-retirement, he is the Chief Medical Officer for IndUShealth, located in Raleigh, North Carolina.

Dr. Church’s connection with my family goes back much further than his days of medicine. In the early 1940’s, when Dr. Church was still a toddler, he and his sibblings were under the watchful eye and care of my mother while my father was employed by Dr. Church’s father. The relationship between my mother and Dr. Church continued right up to the day my mother passed away in 2013.

Before officially launching the Anne G. Broady Scholarship Fund (AGBSF) in late 2013, I asked Dr. Church to co-chair this scholarship project with me. He agreed and both his moral and financial support has been a true blessing. Last Febuary 2019, we completed our sixth year of the AGBSF. We, “Friends of Copey”, estimate the scholarship funds raised has provided financial assistance to the equivalent of 100 students or more.

Although this is a staggering level of support provided voluntarily, we believe the more remarkable benefit has been our ability to help the Copey Learning Center keep their educational doors open over these six years. In doing so, our support has allowed both those capable of paying and those needing some help to have this rare opportunity in the rural community to learn English. Lin church

Dr. Church’s reputation as a leader in the medical profession is well established. And for me, he is also well established as a “Friend of Copey”.  The AGBSF would not have gone this far and done this much without his close and personal interest and support. To have him as co-chair has provided the scholarship fund and other projects we support, the stability and sustainability needed to be effective and successful.

And, working together to honor the memory of Anne G. Broady is an added blessing. We know she would be amazed to see our unanticipated alliance working closely with 2,500 miles of separation for a cause that is even outside this country…all done to honor her memory. Thanks Lin!

A Follow Up Note!

Thanks to you who sent such warm and heartfelt messages regarding the passing of Lou Peery, my dear friend. I appreciate having some of the very best people out there being “Friends”.

Last but Certainly Not the Least! katherine-johnson-academy-2

 

Katherine Johnson continues to rack up awards and recognitions. This week, President Trump signed the “Hidden Figures Congressional Gold medal Act” into Law. This law will serve to honor Katherine (age 101), Dorothy Vaughan, Christine Darden, and Mary Jackson for their contributions to NASA during the Space Race.

Lou Peery…My Friend

“Though it is hard to let you go, in the Father’s hands we know, that a life-time’s not too long to live as Friends.”      By Michael W. Smith

This is now my second week in east Tennessee and southwest Virginia. I reported last week the news about my long time friend, Lucian “Lou” Peery, whose medical condition was not good. He passed away at home October 30th at the young age of 72.  2222222222

Gene Gabriel, our fraternity brother, and the third member of this close trio, joined me as we gathered by Lou’s bedside to say our collective goodbyes on Sunday October 27. We three have been as close as brothers since college and it was important we three have our time together…apparently our last time together. It was nearly magical as we spoke to Lou and knew Lou was aware that we had come to visit him. Lou understood everything perfectly. I might add that the odds of this happening as it did can only be explained by way of “divine intervention”.

My initial introduction to Lou dates back to 1965 when we were both high school seniors on opposing football teams. Because of events at this football game involving both Lou and me, it should have been a clue that one day Lou and I would again meet. I enrolled in Emory & Henry College in 1966 and in 1967, Lou arrived as a transfer student. We would have the distinction of being the first two and only Afro-American males and athletes enrolled at Emory & Henry College. We instantly became friends, teammates, roommates, and fraternity brothers. We even joined the US Air Force following our graduation from college.

After joining the military, there would always be at least 2,500 miles between us. When Lou’s military service time ended, he returned home to Tazewell, Virginia. When my service time ended, I became a resident of Anchorage, Alaska and later Washington state. The distance did not matter as the next 45 years involved phone calls and visits which sustained our relationship until the end.  Lou Peery

Yesterday, during Lou’s going-home service, Larry Blankenship, a long-time friend, spoke about Coach Lou’s tremendous impact on his community, the countless number of kids he coached, and the many lives Coach Lou touched. Over his 35 years coaching, several of Coach Lou’s players made it to the professional baseball league because of the early instruction and guidance Coach Lou provided. The size of this man inside and out earned him a status of a “giant” in his community. Larry did an outstanding job representing the community who knew and loved Lou the “Coach”.

I was also asked to speak and my message related to “friendship”. I had enjoyed a completely different connection to Lou than Larry and the community. Ours was much more personal and our distance apart demanded that we skip talking about careers and politics and many other matters. We had very little time or need to compare individual accomplishments. We had accumulated so many past memories and shared so many wild experiences, those areas were the places we would naturally default to.

I would spend 95% of the time just enjoying his company, his amazing humor, and his wonderful gift of joke telling which served to bring so much joy and laughter into the time we shared. And, even from a long distance, I knew what Larry spoke of regarding the “Coach”. I summed it up yesterday from my viewpoint in the following way:

  1. Lou lived a life of purpose. Although he spent 35 years as a high school baseball coach, he was far more than that. He was a light others would follow. He was an inspirational motivator, counselor, and had the ability to move players to be better today than yesterday….and better tomorrow than today. He led by example.
  2. Lou made a difference. He did not have the greatest tools, the greatest intellect, the best timing, and certainly Tazewell, Virginia may not have been the best location to build a successful career. But, Lou took each of these less than perfect conditions and did the miracles only those who have been ordained or called to do. It all resulted in the betterment of others. He made it all work and he made a difference.
  3. Lou lived life as a servant. In biblical terms, he served by putting others above self.  Although referred to often as a “giant” of a person in his community and he was a big man, Lou never thought he was larger or bigger than those he served each day.  The following is a local newscast regarding his service.

https://wvva.com/sport/top-sports-stories/2019/11/05/remembering-lou-peery-the-man-who-was-and-is-tazewell-baseball/

Lou being a very humble man and someone who prefered to have others stand in the bright light of  fame and success, it was difficult yesterday to play down the impact he had on his community and how important he was as my friend and brother. I hope he will forgive me for writing this post in his honor.