Vivian Bowling Blevins Ph. D. Inducted 2004 - Class of 1956
Vivian Blevins, a self-labeled "coal-miner's daughter," specializes in dreams. "I have lived the American Dream and encouraged others to achieve their dreams. Sometimes this means first teaching others to dream." Vivian’s resume reflects an impressive career in teaching, administration and mentoring, resulting in opportunities for young, old, minorities and disenfranchised populations. For this, we honor Vivian tonight.
Vivian attended grade school in Cumberland, Kentucky. She was reared in a union home, with a father who helped the United Mine Workers of America organize the U. S. Steel Corporation mines in Lynch, Kentucky. "My father expected me to become educated and to hold a responsible job." Vivian remembers her mother as "the counselor, giving out good advice to neighborhood people with problems. She never met a stranger. She loved her husband and her children. She expected me to be a good person and to attend college."
While attending Woodward, Vivian lived at the comer of Cherry and Bancroft, in an apartment over a bar, "The Ace of Clubs". Danny Thomas' brothers, Bill and Eddie Jacobs, owned the building. "I seldom invited high school friends to come over. I was embarrassed because I lived over a bar." The neighborhood was diverse, characterized by busy truck traffic.
Vivian claims to be unaware of having any nicknames in high school. But rumor has it that she will answer to both "Long Tall Sally" and "The Blond Bombshell." Hmmm. Her closest high school friends were Ginny Loo, Marie Asta, Nancy Caldwell, Geraldine Spaulding, Keith Eubanks, Jerry Harvey, Bob Bell, Barbara Banks, Elaine Marks, Carl Connor, and Fred Cieslewski.
Vivian was quick to assume a leadership role in high school. "I represented Woodward on a trip to Washington D. C. and New York City, sponsored by the Toledo Council on World Affairs. I saw and experienced things I had only read about: politics, national landmarks, and diverse people. Teacher Camille Savage believed in me and gave me opportunities to develop. These opportunities came through a variety of venues, but primarily through the Junior Council on World Affairs." Vivian also remembers Howard Phipps. "He was gentle, intelligent, informed and enthusiastic about Latin and History. I absolutely loved this man."
Vivian loved everything about Woodward. "Most of all, I loved no longer being in my sister's shadow, and not being referred to as ' Marilyn' s little sister'. I became an individual and received an excellent education and leadership opportunities at Woodward, which prepared me for college and a career."
After leaving Woodward, Vivian pursued her education at the University of Toledo, where she received a Bachelor's Degree in Education in 1962. A year later, she received a Masters Degree in Supervision from Eastern Kentucky University. In 1976, she was awarded a Ph.D., from Ohio State University, in Humanities Education, with a focus on American Literature and English Education. Vivian earned additional certifications from the Harvard University Institute for Management of Lifelong Education; the Rice University Jesse Jones Graduate School of Administration; and the Irvine (CA) Mediation Center Certificate in Mediation/Conflict Resolution. Vivian’s education prepared her to teach creative writing, literature, expository writing, women’s studies, sociology, philosophy, and speech to all levels, from elementary through graduate school. Her "pupils" included prison inmates, senior citizens, 4-H Club children, and school administrators. Vivian progressed to education administration, as she served as Chief Academic Officer (1978-1983) and Chief Executive Officer (1983-1986) at Southwest Community College in Kentucky; and President of Lee College (1986-1999) in Missouri. Currently, Vivian is the Coordinator of Fine and Performing Arts Events at Edison State Community College and adjunct faculty in writing, literature and sociology. She also teaches philosophy, speech, and literature for Urbana University, and serves as a consultant to The Training Solutions Group, Inc.
Vivian has received dozens of awards from politicians, colleges, community groups and professional organizations, in recognition of her service to constituents. These awards include Texas Woman of the Year (1988); The Barbara Jordan Award from the Baytown, Texas NAACP; The Honorary Madrina Award from the California Latina Leadership Network; Nordstrom's Diversity Award; the Kentucky Colonel Award; and a Congressional Record Citation, introduced by Congresswoman Loretta Sanchez. Vivian has shared her knowledge and experience, through nearly 100 presentations on various topics, including communications, diversity initiatives, and leadership development. Her writings include plays, theatre pieces, essays, magazine articles, newspaper columns, and short stories.
Leisure time for Vivian is in short supply. "I enjoy working. It's challenging and fun." Her hobbies include creative writing, both fiction and non-fiction; reading; and travel. She has traveled extensively, throughout the United States, Mexico and Canada. Vivian has also visited Spain, France, Ireland, England, Belgium and Holland.
Vivian currently resides in Piqua, Ohio. She has always enjoyed the support of her family. She is married to Gary Sargent, and has two sons: Lance (wife, Rhonda) and Quentin (wife, Elizabeth). "I have two wonderful sons, two strong, beautiful daughters-in-law, and two talented grandchildren, Tyler and Harley." Vivian's brother, Bill, and sister, Marilyn, are also Woodward grads. Her other sister, Francis, graduated from Cumberland High School, in Kentucky. "My brother and two sisters all have graduate degrees and have enjoyed significant professional achievements. Bill was Director of the Ohio School for the Blind in Columbus, for 13 years, before retiring. Marilyn taught elementary school for 30 years and took a plethora of courses to learn new approaches to teaching kids. Frances was head of a special education cooperative in Southeastern Kentucky before her retirement. She now consults in special education and makes a real difference in the lives of children who have intellectual/emotional/physical problems." Vivian is very proud of her siblings!
One could write a book listing all Vivian's accomplishments, professional memberships and activities, community service projects, awards and publications. "I have received high honors at the state and national level, but being inducted into the Woodward Hall of Fame is very special. I believe that, without Woodward High School, I would have never enjoyed the academic and career success I have had. I'm proof that an Appalachian migrant, whose father was a factory worker at the Mather Spring Company, and whose mother was a housewife, can, with caring parents, sound intellect, quality high school teachers, and motivation, earn a Ph.D. from the Ohio State University, become a college president/chancellor and have a meaningful life of service to others. I have had a life that can only be imagined, with my roles as mother, wife, and daughter. I have enjoyed working with caring, talented people in helping college students change their lives in positive ways. I have lived the American Dream. I am that coal-miner’s daughter, who went to school hungry at times. Because of this, I have a sensitivity to the disenfranchised, and a commitment to reach out, teach and encourage others to achieve their dreams."
The world needs more people like Vivian Blevins, to share and to care. Congratulations, Vivian, and welcome to the Woodward High School Hall of Fame!