Virginia Secretary of Education Gerard Robinson is now a Bluefield College graduate — at least symbolically.
The private liberal arts Christian college in southwest Virginia honored the Virginia policymaker with the presentation of an Honorary Doctorate degree during a ceremony in Richmond, Virginia, April 18.
Just one year after giving his first college commencement speech at Bluefield College, Robinson accepted his first Honorary Doctorate from the same institution.
“I am moved to have Bluefield College bestow an Honorary Doctorate upon me,” said Secretary Robinson. “I have received numerous awards during my tenure as secretary, and each one is very special to me. This honor, however, is particularly special and unique since it is the first honorary doctorate I have received in my career.”
And, presenting the award was not just any Bluefield College representative, but the BC brass. In fact, five members of the BC Board of Trustees made the trip to the state capitol to pay tribute to Robinson.
“On behalf of the Bluefield College Board of Trustees, it is a privilege to present this honor to Secretary Robinson,” said Board chair Julie Johnson of Bluefield, West Virginia. “He is a person of great intelligence, character, enthusiasm and commitment while humbly serving the public to make a difference in education and the world. He believes in the mission of Bluefield College and a transformational educational experience for students. He is an inspiration to us.”
Joining Johnson, Bluefield College’s first ever female chair of the Board, were fellow trustees Dr. David Bailey of Richmond, Virginia; Bob Houck of Culpeper, Virginia; Sid Lanier of Williamsburg, Virginia; and Susan Tussey of Mechanicsville, Virginia. Ruth Blankenship, BC’s vice president for advancement, and Karl Heilman, a BC advancement officer, also participated in the ceremony.
“Secretary Robinson’s lifelong commitment to enabling students to have the very best educational experiences led our Board of Trustees to honor him with the 25th Honorary Doctorate in Bluefield College’s history,” said Dr. Bailey, a political consultant and lobbyist who serves as vice chair of the BC Board. “We are honored to have him named as one of us.”
Secretary Robinson served as keynote speaker for Bluefield College’s 87th Annual Spring Commencement in May of 2010 during which time he talked about the value of Christian education. Speaking at his first college commencement since becoming Virginia’s Secretary of Education, Robinson spoke to BC graduates about the importance of fulfilling a Christian mission, regardless of their career path.
“As you leave this campus today, you take with you not only a degree from Bluefield College, but a decree to go out into the world and do great things,” Robinson told the BC seniors last May. “Make sure you take your Christ-centered education with you in whatever career you pursue.”
As Secretary of Education, Robinson has assisted Governor Bob McDonnell in the development and implementation of the state’s education policy for 16 public universities, the Virginia Community College System, five higher education and research centers, the Department of Education, and state-supported museums.
Throughout his career he has led numerous initiatives for urban school reform and policy development. As executive director of a non-profit organization in New York City, he opened a charter school in New Jersey. Before becoming Virginia’s Secretary of Education, he also served as president of the Black Alliance for Educational Options (BAEO), a national non-profit organization whose mission is to empower families and to increase quality educational options for black children.
Before BAEO, Robinson served as a senior research associate for the School Choice Demonstration Project at the University of Arkansas and as a senior fellow at the Institute for the Transformation of Learning at Marquette University, where he assisted in reform efforts related to private and public school choice programs. He is also a former Los Angeles elementary school teacher. His impressive commitment to education is why the Bluefield College Board chose to grant him an honorary degree.
“Secretary Robinson is a dedicated public servant, who has an extensive background in education, especially serving as an advocate for those who have benefited the least or been disenfranchised from quality educational experiences,” said BC President David Olive. “This honorary doctorate degree is very fitting for someone of his stature and his strong commitment to improving education at all stages of life, from K-12 to life-long learning for adults.”