College Creates Donna Watson Alumni Award
Bluefield College bid farewell to Dr. Donna Hardy Watson, a pillar of the Teacher Education Program who stepped down from her position as dean of the School of Education at the close of the 2016-2017 academic year, but the school took steps to assure her legacy would remain through the creation of the Dr. Donna Watson Goodness and Light Alumni Award.

College Creates Donna Watson Alumni Award

By Chris Shoemaker | September 18, 2017 | RSS

Bluefield College bid farewell to Dr. Donna Hardy Watson, a pillar of the Teacher Education Program who stepped down from her position as dean of the School of Education at the close of the 2016-2017 academic year, but the school took steps to assure her legacy would remain through the creation of the Dr. Donna Watson Goodness and Light Alumni Award.

Created collaboratively by the School of Education (SOE) and the Office of Alumni Relations, the Goodness and Light Alumni Award is designed to recognize SOE graduates who are “doing great things in our schools and classrooms,” according to Dr. Thomas Brewster, a 1991 alumnus of the BC Teacher Education Program who has been called to fill the shoes of Dr. Watson. The award, he added, will be given annually in her honor and will recognize a graduate of the School of Education who “embodies her mantra of spreading goodness and light within the field of education.”

“It’s indeed a privilege to be able to recognize the legacy of Dr. Watson by honoring a graduate of our School of Education,” said Dr. Brewster. “This award will give us the opportunity to recognize members of our outstanding alumni base with an honor that best expresses our appreciation for their service to our education communities. We are proud of Dr. Watson’s important contributions to the school and the eternal influence she’s had on our graduates.”

Dr. Watson, a 1980 graduate of the BC Teacher Education Program, returned to her alma mater in 1996 after 16 years in secondary education to teach for her mentor and founder of the Bluefield College Division of Education, Dr. Gerald Clay. After 10 years solely in the BC classroom, she became chair of the division following Dr. Clay’s retirement in 2006. Three years later, she led the Division of Education on a quest for national accreditation by the Teacher Education Accreditation Council (TEAC). And in 2009-2010, she served as faculty president and earned the school’s Distinguished Faculty Award.

“Coming back to work at Bluefield College for my former professor, Dr. Gerald Clay, was such an unbelievable honor,” said Dr. Watson. “And as I did, I carried in my heart all of my students in McDowell County who taught me about the importance of goodness and light – goodness in finding worth in every student to able to share the light of learning with joy every day. I’m so excited to be able to recognize Bluefield College teacher-graduates for spreading goodness and light to their students and to encourage all teachers that what they do every day is precious and crucial to our future.”

Dr. Watson was named dean of the BC School of Education in 2013, the same year the college launched its first ever master’s degree program, a Master of Arts in Education that Dr. Watson designed with longtime Teacher Education colleague Phyllis Owens, who said Franklin D. Roosevelt best described her feelings for Dr. Watson when he said, “I am not the smartest fellow in the world, but I can sure pick smart colleagues.” During 11 years together in the School of Education, she said she and Dr. Watson reflected, designed and implemented ideas for assessment, technology and a host of other concepts.

“Never at a loss for energy and enthusiasm, Donna worked tirelessly spreading goodness and light,” said Owens, “while at the same time establishing high standards that encouraged graduates of the Teacher Education Program to continue spreading that same ideal. I did indeed pick a smart colleague.”

In 2014, Dr. Watson helped develop a new online degree program, a Bachelor of Science in Early Childhood Education. Soon after in 2016, she spearheaded efforts to gain reaffirmation of accreditation with the Teacher Education Accreditation Council and the Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation. That same year, she earned her second BC Distinguished Faculty Award for her “creative and effective teaching,” “personal and professional integrity,” and “commitment to the mission of the college.”

“It was an honor to work with her,” said Jennifer Thorn, who worked alongside Dr. Watson for 19 years as coordinator of Teacher Education data and reports. “She always went above and beyond her job requirements to ensure the School of Education was meeting, and often exceeding, the needs of the students and our public school partners in the community. Dr. Watson set high standards for our students and was always available to aid them in meeting those standards.”

During her 21-year tenure, including 11 as head of the program, Dr. Watson also added new Teacher Education endorsements in Music: Instrumental, PreK-12 and Special Education: General Curriculum. In addition, she proposed new teacher licensure options at the graduate level for biology, theater, visual art, instrumental music, vocal music, history and social science, and business.

“Dr. Watson left an amazing legacy at Bluefield College, and we are grateful for the leadership and service she provided during her tenure as professor and dean of the School of Education,” said BC president Dr. David Olive. “She loved her students, and she instilled in them a part of herself that truly is her legacy that lives on in schools throughout southwest Virginia and beyond.”

And while she will be moving on to assume the same position at King University in Bristol, Tennessee, her legacy will remain at Bluefield College through the Dr. Donna Watson Goodness and Light Alumni Award, which will be presented as part of Homecoming each year, beginning this year, Friday, October 20, at 4 p.m. in the School of Education. Alumni and friends are invited to attend to celebrate Dr. Watson’s contributions to BC and the presentation of the inaugural Goodness and Light Alumni Award. For more information about the ceremony, visit bluefield.edu/homecoming. To nominate a Teacher Education graduate for the 2017 award, visit bluefield.edu/watsonaward.

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