December 10, 2015

Whitney N. Yarber, Communications Specialist

Paying It Forward: Dr. Shirley H. Hardin Celebrates 40 Years in Education

VALDOSTA — Valdosta State University will host Paying It Forward, a retirement celebration and scholarship banquet honoring Dr. Shirley H. Hardin, professor in the Department of English and director of the African American Studies Program, at 7 p.m. on Saturday, Jan. 16, in the VSU Student Union Ballrooms.

Hardin will retire Dec. 31.

“I have always believed that to whom much is given, much is required,” said Hardin, who has worked at VSU for 39 years. She previously worked at Albany State University. “Although I have worked hard and was awarded scholarships and fellowships throughout my education at every level, I know that I have also needed the encouragement, support, prayers, and good will of others to ensure my success and that of the African American Studies Program at VSU. Thus, it is the most opportune time to pay it forward to so many deserving students.”

Tickets are $125 for VIP seating, $50 for general seating, and $25 for VSU students. VIP tables are available for $1,000. Participants who purchase a VIP ticket or table are invited to a photo reception with Hardin at 6 p.m. in the VSU Student Union.

The deadline to purchase tickets is Monday, Dec. 28.

Funds raised during the Paying It Forward celebration will support the establishment of additional scholarship opportunities and help the university realize its goal of recruiting, retaining, and graduating high-achieving students.

Growing up in Early County, Hardin was one of seven children born to Freddie and Susie Hodge, parents who instilled in her and her siblings the importance of education, a lesson she has carried throughout her life and shared with hundreds of students that she has mentored and inspired at Valdosta State and in the community.

Hardin’s positive synergy has been the driving force in the success of the African American Studies program, which began in 1996 and currently is the largest minor on campus with 125 students.

One of her fondest memories includes the visit of Dr. Maya Angelou to Valdosta State in 1991. Regarded as one of the greatest voices in contemporary literature, Angelou’s two-day visit had a tremendous impact on Hardin, who introduced her to an auditorium-packed audience.

In 2005, Hardin led Valdosta State’s African American Male Initiative HEROES Institute, which was sponsored by the University System of Georgia Board of Regents, to help increase the graduation rates of African American males from Georgia high schools and encourage post-secondary education.

Under Hardin’s leadership, the four-year program achieved an 85 percent success rate with students completing high school, enrolling in college or the military or securing full-time employment.

In 2011, Hardin worked with former Valdosta State Director of Testing Mary Barron and her daughter, Lawanna Barron, to endow the Claydon Hayward Barron Memorial Scholarship. The scholarship encourages the highest educational goals possible and is awarded annually to two Valdosta State students who are working toward a minor in African American Studies and who demonstrate academic excellence.

Contact Charleston L. Carter, scholarship fundraising committee chairman, at (770) 576-5729 or Derrick Carter, senior secretary in the African American Studies Program, at (229) 249-4843 for more information.

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Valdosta State University’s 2013-2019 Strategic Plan represents a renewal of energy and commitment to the foundational principles for comprehensive institutions.

Implementation of the plan’s five goals, along with their accompanying objectives and strategies, supports VSU’s institutional mission and the University System of Georgia’s mission for comprehensive universities.

The story above demonstrates VSU's commitment to meeting the following goals:

Goal 1: Recruit, retain, and graduate a quality, diverse student population and prepare students for roles as leaders in a global society.

Goal 2: Increase financial support for the institution.

Goal 3: Promote student, employee, alumni, retiree, and community engagement in our mission.

Goal 4: Foster an environment of creativity and scholarship.

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