Dr. Freida Hill: A legacy in the making

Published 5:58 pm Friday, July 1, 2011

Good or bad, one of the last things we leave behind as we depart this Earth is a legacy.

I’ve never seen Babe Ruth play baseball but I know his legacy well.

In many cases, your legacy lives a longer and more vibrant life than you do.

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You can try to establish your own legacy by setting out a clear set of goals. For example, when my expiration date comes I hope I am remembered as a good father, a good son, a hard worker and someone who tried to run a good small-town newspaper. My legacy will dictate whether or not I was successful in any of that. All I can do is try.

Thursday, the Demopolis Higher Education Center hosted Dr. Freida Hill, the Chancellor of the state’s Community College System, and presented her with an opportunity to create her legacy.

The legacies of Dr. Hill’s predecessors are mixed and varied. She follows Roy Johnson, who brought rampant corruption and scandal to the post and ultimately wound up in jail. She immediately follows Bradley Byrne, who by most accounts cleaned up Johnson’s mess and followed that up with an unsuccessful run at the governor’s office.

Their legacies: The man who nearly ruined the two-year college system and the man who fixed it.

That brings us back to Dr. Hill. Community leadership implored upon her Thursday that we need a two-year college partner at the Demopolis Higher Education Center.

As always, money will dictate whether or not this happens and to what level and at what pace.

But it also appeared that Dr. Hill was not fully clear on the vision many share for the Demopolis Higher Education Center.

“No one has really said what you want here,” she told the crowd. “No one has said what you really need.”

Dr. Hill, what we want is for our children to have the opportunity to learn skills and trades that will afford them opportunities to earn a good living for themselves and for their families.

What we want is to be able to teach our students how to weld, how to do bodywork, how to draw blood and many other skills we need here at home.

What we want is to teach these students these skills in their hometown so they can stay here and work in our hospital, our doctor’s offices, at RockTenn and other places, go into business for themselves or do whatever they choose.

What we want is to develop our labor force with the most important resource we have as a community: our children.

What we need, Dr. Hill, is for you to determine that getting these programs in motion, and quickly, is something you want as part of your legacy. That kind of legacy is one that will be told and grow daily as students funnel in and out of the halls of the Demopolis Higher Education Center, and whose skills and new-found knowledge will give new life and rebirth to an entire region.

There’s no reason that in the annals of history Dr. Freida Hill’s legacy can’t be, “The woman who helped revitalize the workforce and educational development across Alabama’s Black Belt; The woman who, by providing new educational opportunities, helped reverse a population flight trend dating back more than half a century; and the woman who stood up for the Black Belt rather than against it.”

The opportunity is here, Dr. Hill. The groundwork is laid and there is no shortage of business, community and industrial leaders who stand ready to work with you. Each of them has treaded this territory before and knows it well.

You’ll not find a more willing army of partners in the state than what you’ll find here, and you’ll not find a region that wants and needs this as badly as ours.

The legacy of Alabama’s Black Belt Region is not well defined, but it sorely lacks prosperity.

Dr. Hill, you can change that legacy, and impact the legacies of our children, all while cementing your own.

Jason Cannon is the publisher of The Demopolis Times.