The reunion and the honor

Lillian Tillma-DeWitt, Albany City School District Hall of Fame, Class of 2016.  Photo by Chuck Miller.
Lillian Tillma-DeWitt, Albany City School District Hall of Fame, Class of 2016. Photo by Chuck Miller.

What a wonderful night.  An absolutely wonderful night.

Last evening, I was honored and blessed to watch my high school principal, Lillian Tillman-DeWitt, join six other honorees as the Albany City School District’s 2016 Hall of Fame class.

The honorees were joined by over 200 attendees last night, including family, friends and supporters.

First off, any time I can get together with my high school classmates is a great moment.  In fact, at the event were two of my Street Academy Answers Please championship teammates, Alfreda Tillman and Donyasia Williams, and we had a great time reminiscing about life at Street Academy – the people we knew, the teachers that supported us, the moments that defined us and helped us to be where we are today.

And when Mrs. T went on stage to give her speech – the inductees were enshrined alphabetically, so she went last – she took all of us to church.  She remarked that during her time as an administrator, beginning in the mid-1950’s, her first year as a teacher netted her an annual salary of $3,100.  The next year, working a full schedule, she earned a raise of $300/year.  And she kept going from that point on, staying in education until her retirement in 1992.

And as she wrapped up her speech, she remarked about a very special moment.  One day, while walking through the hallway, she happened to hear our music teacher, George Mastrangelo, playing a song on the piano.  She asked about the name of the song and George told her it was a new song on the radio.  Upon hearing the song’s lyrics, Mrs. T decided that the song’s meaning and message were so powerful, she would have it performed as the school’s theme at every graduation.

Here’s that song.

As her final moment in the speech, Mrs. T recited the lyrics of this powerful song.

Standing ovation.

Mrs. T’s family from far and wide came to the event last night.  It was moving and breathtaking, it was a celebration of her life and her achievements and her goals.

If you ever had a teacher, a professor, an educator in your life that helped you achieve your goals, helped you stay focused and guided you toward success …

Take a moment and thank them.  We don’t always get a chance to do this, especially in our busy lives.  Thank them.

Let them know that their hard work and their sacrifice paid off.

Thanks, Mrs. T.

Thanks for everything.