Texarkana College celebrated Black History Month Wednesday with an event-filled program which included dancing, drumming and inspirational stories.
Performances were given by the Spring Lake Park Precious Gems-Pearls and The Scholars Drumline.
Derrick McGary, the event's featured speaker, told the story of Vertus Hardeman, a man, despite his challenges, always kept love in his heart for his fellow man. He was a victim of a U.S. government human radiation experiment at the age of 5 that left him with a painful skull deformity that forced him to cover his head for 80 years. Born in Lyles Station, Ind., he never borrowed money and invested his savings in real estate. He died in 2007 at age 85 and gave $8 million to his church and educational scholarship funds.
McGary, who is on the Texarkana College Board of Trustees, was the youngest member elected to the Texarkana, Texas, City Council. He said that although Hardeman never went to college, he believed education was the great equalizer. McGary added that one of the man's favorite sayings was "If I am angry, my prayers won't be answered because my heart's not right."
"Vertus never attended college, he graduated high school with honors, but he never went on to college, but he knew that education opened up new experience, the opportunity for one to expand the level of curiosity and it would help all of us learn more about one another and see each other in the eyes that God intended us to be seen," McGary said. "If he could do this, despite what happened to him, and go on and live a life of honor, a life of dignity, as well as leave a legacy of love, leave a legacy of community, then all of us today should see that legacy as one that's worth building on and work toward building the legacy that Mr. Hardeman lived."
Special guest was Dr. Joycelyn Elders, former U.S. Surgeon General. She was the first African American and the second woman to head the U.S. Public Health Service and the first person in the state of Arkansas to become board certified in pediatric endocrinology. She was inducted into the Arkansas Black Hall of Fame in 1995 and the Arkansas Women's Hall of Fame in 2016.
She was recognized and received a gift from her sorority, Delta Sigma Theta Inc.
TC President Dr. Jason Smith announced a scholarship fund would be created in honor of Robert A. Jones, who serves as the college's dean of students. Jones is a professor of mathematics and serves as the president of the Greater Texarkana Branch of the NAACP. He serves as the sponsor and adviser for TC's Black Student Association and has received numerous awards, including the college's Endowed Chair for Teaching Excellence, Volunteer of the Year for the city of Texarkana the Wilbur Smith Award for working with area youths.
"He is one of the greatest mentors this community has ever known and encourages students to reach their highest potential," Smith said.