Campus Observes Mary McLeod Bethune Birthday
(By Deborah Circelli, staff writer - Daytona Beach News-Journal)
DAYTONA BEACH -- Jimmy Huger was in the ninth grade when his minister father asked Mary McLeod Bethune to speak at his church in South Florida.
Huger told her he wanted to be an actor like Rudolph Valentino because he dressed well and had pretty girls all around him.
Huger said Bethune, founder of Bethune-Cookman University, told his father as soon as he finished high school to be sure to send him to Bethune-Cookman and she would straighten him out.
Little did he know, his family would move a year later to Daytona Beach and he'd attend Bethune-Cookman for 10th, 11th and 12th grades, when it offered high school classes, and then remained there for part of his college.
At 95 now, Huger, Volusia County's first black councilman, has spent the past 80 years in and out of the college serving in various capacities, including working there for 40 years because of Bethune's encouragement.
He shared his story Monday after attending a 135th birthday observance on campus for Bethune whose official birthday was July 10, but celebrated annually at events throughout the nation on Monday, family members said. Bethune died in 1955 at age 79.
Her granddaughter, Evelyn Bethune, who serves on the university's Women's Advisory Board, sang at the observance. Following the ceremony, she said her grandmother "was an icon" who came from humble beginnings to become a world-renowned educator, civil rights and human rights leader and advisor to U.S. presidents.
Bethune said her grandmother taught people it doesn't matter where you come from -- "What matters is what you do."
"We all have an opportunity for greatness. It's a choice," Evelyn Bethune said.
Bethune said her grandmother would want people to know that it's never too late to accomplish something or to improve where you are in life.
Huger, who also served on the Daytona Beach City Commission, said everything he accomplished was because of Mary McLeod Bethune.
"She believed I could be somebody and she insisted I remember that," he said.
The Rev. Victor E. Gooden, pastor at New Life Church who also works at Bethune-Cookman University, spoke at the local observance about how important it is to follow the principles Bethune left behind, including love, hope, faith, thirst for education and living harmoniously with your fellow men, to name a few.
"Knowledge is power and power is knowledge," he said to the group. "What will your legacy be?"
Charles Bethune, 51, a teacher in Atlanta, said his great-grandmother put "a lot of faith in God" and "persevered through a lot of hard and difficult times."
"She lived so others could have a better life," he said.
Reprinted with permission of the Daytona Beach News-Journal © 2010
About Bethune Cookman University:
Founded in 1904 by Dr. Mary McLeod Bethune, Bethune-Cookman University (B-CU) today sustains her legacy of faith, scholarship and service through its relationship with the United Methodist Church and its commitment to academic excellence and civic engagement. B-CU offers more than 40 degrees on its main campus and online college. Located in Daytona Beach, B-CU is one of three private, historically black colleges in the state of Florida. The institution boasts a diverse and international faculty and student body of more than 4,000. For more information, visit www.cookman.edu.