“Ever since the beginning of this school, we have made it a point to try to secure teachers who would be willing to work wherever and whenever duty called, and in this respect I feel that we have been unusually successful. This school is supported almost wholly by people who make sacrifices of personal conveniences in order that they may give to us, and I cannot feel that it is right to allow a teacher to refuse, without adequate reasons to give a small sacrifice of her time to work that has the good of the girls in view, while at the same time our Northern friends and others are doing all they can to support the school in the belief that each teacher is willing to perform her duty in the same spirit that they give the money. We have a large number of girls whose mothers have entrusted them to our care [and it] seems to me that you should count it a privilege to go into their rooms once in a while and get acquainted with them and help them in a way that will impress them all through their lives. Such work should not be counted a task.” “February 9, 1895,” Booker T. Washington
Presidential Commentary by Dr. Brian Johnson
No single individual can ever be fully and thoroughly compensated at the level he or she deserves especially for all the good that one is able to do for students when working in an institution of higher learning. From attending events that celebrate student success in the classroom to cheering students on as they represent the institution’s proud brand and heritage in extracurricular activities, there is not a price that can be put on these interactions. And this was precisely Mr. Washington’s point in his communiqué to one of his teachers at Tuskegee Institute (University). Non-profit work, which includes higher education, is indeed a revenue-generating endeavor but revenue and high salaries are not the principal reasons for the existence of such organizations. The mission of non-profit organizations like Tuskegee University serve humanity in a number of ways, and the work of the university is to provide an education both inside and outside the classroom to equip a student for future employment and life-long living and learning. This is why it is generally “count[ed] a privilege to go into their rooms once in a while and get acquainted with them and help them in a way that will impress them all through their lives. Such work should not be counted a task.” For the man or woman who helps a single student on his or her pathway to full adulthood during such an impressionable period will be rewarded with something greater than mere money. This man or woman will be rewarded with the sense of knowing that his or her work has impacted not only the future of a single student but the lives of many others who will also become impacted through the single life of a single student.
Brian L. Johnson, Ph.D.