President's Column

I am honored to serve as APA's 2018 president. In this first column, I want to pay homage to my parents, whose lives had such a powerful impact on my career.

My father was a career noncommissioned officer (NCO) in the Air Force. He enlisted in San Antonio, Texas, where I was born. In the 1950s, we began our tours as an Air Force family living in Northern California, Bermuda, Hawaii, the Philippines and eventually North Carolina. My father was well-known as an excellent mechanic and crew chief. Pilots asked for him because he was an exceptional leader and had high standards when it came to the maintenance and repair of planes. Race did not matter in that daily life-and-death context. My father served in Vietnam as well.

My mother was active both on and off base during those years. In Texas, she began her lifelong role as a Sunday school teacher for adults, having been taught by an itinerant Baptist Bible teacher. When we moved to Bermuda, she introduced Vacation Bible School to the island. She also founded a reading group that met for decades after we left Bermuda for Hawaii. In Hawaii, she was elected treasurer of the NCO wives' club at Hickam Air Force Base—an unusual position for a black woman in the 1950s. Also, she served as a leader for the Girl Scouts on base. In the Philippines, at Clark Air Base, my mother learned how to make dress patterns—a skill that made me the best-dressed mistress of ceremonies at my college in North Carolina.

Her most significant public contributions came in Fayetteville, North Carolina, where she became involved in the local chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. Under her leadership, the chapter's life members were the majority of the chapter members. That was an unusual membership pattern for a chapter. It was an equal opportunity group with many white life members as well. She continued to teach Sunday school for another 30 years. She also worked for the Social Security Administration, where she sought to eliminate barriers that interfered with senior citizens' access to benefits. Along the way, she earned her college degree at the local black college.

I learned many lessons from my parents: Competence matters, learning is a constant state of mind, respect and honor your elders, and make a difference by investing in organizations. These lessons will guide me throughout the next year.