Participants gathered at Troy University in February for the 10th annual Leadership Conference Celebrating Black History Month.
The event, co-sponsored by the University and the City of Troy, has experienced tremendous growth since its beginnings in 2002. The first conference drew 42 participants and organizers were ecstatic. This year’s event drew close to 400.
Lamar P. Higgins (1982), a member of the Troy University Board of Trustees and one of the key founders of the conference, said the secret of the event’s success is a combination of the nature of the event itself and the volunteers who make it happen.
“No one else in the region offers a conference quite like this, as we provide practical leadership advice and instruction tailored for both working adults and college-age students,” said Higgins, who served as the chair of this year’s conference advisory committee. “We have people coming from a three-state area to participate because they can’t find anything else like it.”
Vashti Murphy McKenzie, the first woman elected to the office of Bishop in the African Methodist Epsicopal Church, delivered the conference’s opening address this year.
McKenzie drew on lessons learned from her father, a teacher and track coach, in her message. She said the will to prepare and the passion to excel are two primary keys to success.
“Perseverance has little to do with talent,” McKenzie said. “You achieve not because you are destined to be great but because you are determined to. A passionate person with limitations will outperform a passive person with talent.”
Bishop McKenzie, who is a best-selling author and accomplished motivational speaker, urged those in attendance, which included several dozen TROY students, to be forces for good in their communities and to continually seek out worthwhile projects and opportunities for service. She drew prolonged applause when she asked, “Are you here tonight to do something or are you here to have something to do?”
McKenzie was elected to Episcopal office in 2000 and later in 2004, became the first woman to lead the denomination when she was elected as president of the Council of Bishops. Bishop McKenzie serves the 13th Episcopal District, which includes Tennessee and Kentucky.
Dr. Calvin Mackie delivered the conference’s closing address. Dr. Mackie is President of the Channel ZerO Group, an organization committed to maximizing the effectiveness and potential of individuals and organizations.
“The greatest leadership you can have is to put yourself in a position to take of yourself and help those who depend on you,” he said, referring to the two lessons of leadership taught to him by his mother.
As part of the closing session of the conference, four students were recognized for leadership abilities: Robert Etheridge of Dothan, James L. Watkins Jr. of Ozark and Nikki Roberson of Ozark; and the conference presented the Athletic Achievement Award to Sam Sellers of Troy.
The Leadership Conference also awarded its 2011 Leadership Award to Chancellor Jack Hawkins Jr., Troy Mayor Jimmy Lunsford, University Trustee Lamar P. Higgins and Dr. Shirley Woodie, who together pioneered the first Leadership Conference. The awards recognized their “outstanding contributions” in establishing the conference.