Award Acceptance Speech
by Dr. William R. Harvey
Newport News, Virginia
Saturday, January 14, 2006 @ 6:00
Thank you Gordon for that wonderful introduction. Thank you
also for your personal and professional friendship throughout
the years. To members of my family who are present; faculty, staff,
and students from Hampton University; friends, ladies and gentlemen,
thank you for sharing this event with us.
To Mr. Hoey, Chairman Witt, and the members of the Peninsula
Chamber of Commerce, I am honored and humbled to be the 2005 recipient
of the Distinguished Citizen Award. I join a long line of distinguished
men and women who have received this honor. It has been my good
fortune to have known each and every one of the
recipients since you started this honor in 1981.
You should know that a great number of the past honorees have
served as mentors, role models, supporters, and confidants of
mine. Because of time limitations, I will only mention a few.
It is important, however, that young professionals, students and
others know that they did not get where they are by themselves.
All of us got where we are today because we stood on the shoulders
of others who paved the way for us to use our talents and energies
to do what we do best. That certainly was my case.
I look at your first recipient, Frank Blechman who won
this award in 1981. As a young President in 1978, I served on
the Board of United Virginia Bank with Mr. Blechman. After one
of our Board meeting, Frank asked me casually, how things were
going. I told him that there were many challenges, both short
and long-term. As an example, I indicated that the crane that
took the coal off the barge at our steam plant was broken and
because of Hampton's precarious financial situation at that time,
I had no idea where I could get the money to replace it. The crane
was important because it was used to unload the coal which provided
steam and hot water to the dormitories and cafeteria for the students.
Frank pondered for a minute and told me to call him that afternoon.
I made the call about 4:00 o'clock and Frank informed me that
he had arranged for Lockwood Brothers to deliver a used crane
to the campus the next day. I asked about the cost and he told
me that it was already taken care of. That's the kind of person
that Frank was. The crane was exceedingly important, but the lesson
that was reinforced was perhaps more important. That lesson was
to help others if you can. Be of service to somebody. Other recipients,
Caleb West, Dick Bagley, Herb Bateman, Ann Kilgore, Ed Joseph,
Walter Segaloff, McKinley Price and D. I. Rosser, just to name
a few, have provided enormous guidance and support to me and Hampton
during the 28-years that we have lived here. A couple of those
outstanding individuals must be singled out even more.
Gordon Gentry is one of those. I have known Gordon as a banker,
Trustee, friend, and public servant. He has provided wise council—financial
and otherwise—to a great number of persons for a great number
of years. His tireless service to others serves as an excellent
role model for all of us to emulate. He is respected and loved
by many, but no one any more so than my wife and me.
What can one say about Herb Kelly, other than thank you? Herb
is the embodiment of community responsibility and service. His
passion for the law is only matched by his passion for service.
There are so many examples that I could give to illustrate this
point, but I will mention only two. One morning Herb called me
and indicated that he was thinking about representing Allen Iverson
who then was a high school student who had gotten into some legal
trouble. He asked me what I thought and I told him it was a good
idea. I am sure that he had talked to others, including members
of his firm, but the fact is that Herb did represent Allen pro
bono, or free of charge. Herb, I think it is safe to say that
you can now send him a bill. He has enough money to pay his debt.
Another time Herb called me one Monday morning and said that
he saw me being interviewed on television during half-time of
a game between Hampton and Norfolk State. The game was on the
previous Saturday evening and I had gone to the game with just
a sweater, slacks, and had not shaved during that day. Herb told
me that my interview went well, but he thought that when I was
on public display like that, I should be better attired. Herb,
I want you to know that it is indeed a rare occasion that I go
to any ball games without having a suit and tie on. On the few
occasions when I do not, I always think about the verbal spanking
that you gave me that day. Again, I say thank you for that woodshed
It is within that backdrop that I gratefully accept this award.
As is the case with the receipt of any honor or award, the recipient
is acutely aware of the fact that few accomplishments are achieved
alone. This is certainly true of my work at Hampton and in the
community. My wife of 39-years has been a solid rock of support
and strength for me and our three children. Without her, my life
would not have the equilibrium in which to function properly.
I tell people all the time that she is the straw that stirs my
drink. Therefore, she must certainly share in this award. At Hampton,
I could not do what I do, or as much as I do, if it were not for
my staff, my colleagues on the faculty and in the administration.
It has long been my belief that collective competence is better
than individual competence. Therefore, it is the team approach
among these groups which ignites the creative juices for all of
us. They, too, must share in this award. I also share this award
with my students—past, present, and future. Much of what
I do is for them. Without a doubt, I share it with my children—Kelly,
Chris, Leslie—whom I am extremely proud of, and daughter-in-law
Valerie, along with our two grandchildren—Taylor and Gabrielle.
They are the reason for my being. Taylor, thank you for wanting
to come out and see Pa Pa receive his award tonight. I share it
also with my little sister who is here tonight, and my deceased
mother and father—who were simply the best. For without
their guidance, love, devotion, and sacrifice, I would not be
where I am today.
Finally, I thank God for His many bountiful blessings and for
His steadying hand on my life. If God is with us, who can be against
And yet, in the beauty of this gathering, and the glory of the
occasion, we know that there are many challenges which lie ahead.
There are critical times ahead for our world, our nation, and
our peninsula. We have challenges of health, safety, business
ethics, education—K-12 and higher education—planned
growth, transportation gridlock, and crime.
What is needed from all of us is responsible leadership.
Leadership which embodies integrity, honesty, fairness, courage,
respect for oneself and others, decency, dignity, responsibility
and service. And in my judgment, the greatest of these is service.
If anyone really wants to be a leader,
If anyone really wants to be great,
If anyone really wants to be a person of honor,
They must do as Jesus says,
They must serve others.
Perhaps the greatest love that I have outside of my immediate
family, is serving others. I have been fortunate in my life because
I have been given the Power To Serve. Think about it. Think of
the joy, thrill, and exhilaration of providing leadership and
combating ignorance, disease, and misery. Think of the joy of
taking raw coal and making it into a polished diamond, as thousands
of Hampton graduates have become in the 28-years that I have been
President. Think of the thrill of providing a setting where faculty
members can do important research on such things as breast cancer,
hypertension, diabetes, and Alzheimer's, as faculty members at
Hampton are doing as I speak. Think of the exhilaration at any
institution having faculty members who have launched six weather
satellites as atmospheric scientists at Hampton are doing today.
Think of the exhilaration of developing a proton beam cancer treatment
center which will ease human misery and save lives. And the list
I am blessed to have the power to serve. I am blessed to be
in a position to make decisions for the good of humanity.
In that regard, I wish each of you to know that the course of
my life thus far is the course that I intend for its future. This
means than any examples of leadership—which I may have exhibited—I
plan to continue. Able leadership is, in its purest form, a contribution
to our community and to our society at large. It is that particular
human trait, that as evidenced through the course of history,
possesses the potential to right wrongs, ease human suffering,
provide guidance and direction, uplift the downtrodden, speak
out against wrong—even when it is not popular to do so,
and ultimately change the course of the universe. To be recognized
as an individual deserving of the kind of award presented to me
this evening, humbles me in my self-reflection and fills me with
Peninsula Chamber of Commerce, your mission is to advocate and
nurture the economic and business interests of the Virginia peninsula
and the region. As an educator and businessman I stand ready to
continue to assist you in the achievement of your endeavors.
Thank you again. Not only for your kind recognition of me, and
of my small contributions to my fellow man, but also to your aspiring
me along the continued course of my life.