Students and leaders from the University of Alabama’s Blackburn Institute.

Students and leaders from the University of Alabama’s Blackburn Institute.

By Midge Padgett Putnam

On Wednesday, October 30, 2019, Bullock County hosted students and leaders from the University of Alabama’s Blackburn Institute. The Blackburn Institute is a leadership development and civic engagement program specifically focused on improving the State of Alabama.

Their afternoon began at Bonnie Plants with an agricultural production tour with Stan Cope, Sidney Phelps and Freeman Agnew. After Bonnie, the bus group toured downtown Union Springs with Tourism Director Midge Putnam.

Joining Putnam at the Red Door Theatre for a panel question and answer concerning historical facts about Bullock County and the impacts of the arts in the community were Union Springs Mayor Saint T. Thomas, Jr., City Attorney Elizabeth Smithart and Attorney Lynn Jinks.

After leaving the theatre the group arrived at Pizzazz by Nazz where literacy in Bullock County was addressed by Superintendent of Education Dr. Christopher Blair and Patricia Butts, Director of the Lee County Literacy Coalition. Dinner was catered by the USA Cajun Station.

The Blackburn Institute is named in honor of Dr. John L. Blackburn. A nationally renowned leader in higher education, Dr. Blackburn served as dean of students at The University of Alabama and was instrumental in the University’s peaceful integration.

In 1994, The University of Alabama’s Division of Student Affairs formed the Institute to foster Dr. Blackburn’s belief that people link strategic actions through the generations for progressive and ethical change.

Through its work with students, alumni (Fellows), and advisory board members, the institute develops a network of leaders who have a clear understanding of the state’s challenges. Selected students participate in a one-year curriculum of activities and events; after which they continue their involvement for their remaining time at The Capstone. Upon graduation, participants earn recognition as Blackburn Fellows and begin their work through professional and civic involvement in their home communities and throughout the state, both individually and through the Fellows Involvement Network (FIN).

Supported by an advisory board of established leaders committed to the State of Alabama, the Blackburn Institute promotes change through an intergenerational network that learns from the past, takes action in the present, and plans for the future.

The mission of the Blackburn Institute is to develop a network of diverse leaders who understand the challenges facing the State of Alabama and the nation and who are committed to serving as agents of positive change.

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