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VSU will say goodbye to long time professor and mentor Shirley Hardin

Photo Courtesy: Rebecka McAleer and Von Kennedy/THE SPECTATOR

Written by Niamani Carlyle-Hollis, Staff Writer

VSU will bid farewell to yet another great professor. Dr. Shirley Hodge Hardin, Valdosta State University Director of African American Studies and Professor of English, will be retiring after 40 years of teaching.

Effective on January 1, 2016, Dr. Hardin will officially be a retired great, but not without celebration. A committee of Valdosta State graduates is hosting a retirement celebration in her honor that is set to take place on January 16, 2016 at 7:00 PM. The establishment of an academic scholarship for VSU students will also take place at this special event.

For years, Dr. Hardin has taught, encouraged, and mentored hundreds of students throughout her career. Starting in 1976, Dr. Hardin accumulated many academic accomplishments, some of which include coordinating “Helping Everyone Receive Optimum Educational Success” Institute, or HEROES, and a USG Board of Regents co-sponsored African American Male Initiative, which involved a successful four-year academic partnership between VSU and 25 Valdosta High School ninth-grade African American males.

“My true vocation has always been teaching and learning, imparting knowledge and life lessons while learning from others,” said Hardin.  “I have always sought to leave every individual much better—knowledge and character wise—than when he or she first walked into my classroom.”

Dr. Hardin is a dedicated member of several distinguished, professional organizations, such as the National Association of African American Studies and Affiliates. She currently has two major works in progress “Love and Laugh: The Collected Poems of Shirley H. Hardin” and “Us Somethin’ Special: Four Generations of Southern African American Women’s Voices.” She has devoted much of her life to community agencies, institutions, and outreach ministries, which are educational, social, civic, and faith-based, in the Valdosta and Lowndes County area, and she has been a committed member of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc. for 43 years.

One cannot help but to be inspired by the tenacity that Dr. Hardin exudes on a daily basis and her hard work and dedication have not been in vain, as she has been the recipient of numerous academic awards including the “Valdosta/Lowndes County Educator of the Year” and the “2015 Lifetime Achievement Award in Education and Community Service.”

“I am convinced that the part of my job I enjoy the most is imparting knowledge to my students and learning from them as well,” Hardin said.

“As a teacher, I pray that I am able to look beyond an individual’s apparent flaws, social handicaps and academic shortcomings, to envision the success that person can become.”

However, the announcement of Dr. Hardin’s retirement does not come easy for many, as she has been such a light in so many people’s lives.

“It is going to be really different going into the AFAM Department and Dr. Hardin not being there,” said Senior Tynisha Bledsoe, 22. “She has made such a huge impact on my life and been such an inspiration. You know she just pushes you to be great and the best you can be. I’m sure everyone is going to miss her.”

While the transition may be hard for many of her students to make, there is certainly a mutual respect and love that Dr. Hardin has expressed for her students and the VSU campus.

“Of course I will miss those students who are eager to learn, eager to share with others. I will miss the creativity, energy, excitement of being in the classroom,” said Hardin. “I will miss my involvement in delighting audiences with academic lecturers and cultural performances. In African American Studies, I have always tried to center our students in their own culture as well as show the interdisciplinary of the subject matter.”

Dr. Hardin has strived to live according to the same values that she has tried to instill in her students, and wants to encourage all of VSU to understand where they come from and where they are going.

“First, embrace your racial and cultural heritage, defy the damaging stereotypes and learn to appreciate the real beauty of diversity found among all groups of people,” said Hardin. “Second, I am addicted to Maya Angelou’s wisdom, especially when she says ‘I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.’ In short, I have tried to live my life –in and out of the classroom –encouraging success and individual creativity.”

Though Dr. Hardin may not be present on campus after her retirement, her legacy and the many lessons and seeds of knowledge that she has planted throughout the years will continue to inspire VSU students and faculty for years to come.

Tickets for Dr. Hardin’s retirement celebration are limited. Registration and ticket information can be found at http://www.valdostastate.org/payingitforward.

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