by Claire Miller
When Crystal Bradley enrolled in the College of Education’s Urban Teacher Leadership program and began taking classes with Asa Hilliard, she was impressed with his teaching style and the way he made the material relevant.
“He hardly lectured; class was more like a Q&A session,” she explained. “He was a big fan of providing examples of the principles, theories and methodologies he was teaching, and all of his examples were recent, tangible and inspiring. He would challenge us to apply our new knowledge in the classroom and share when we experienced failures and successes.”
She appreciated his ability to truly listen to her classmates and build his lessons around their thoughts and concerns. But more than that, she was impressed when she realized that the same teacher who facilitated class discussions each week was also an internationally-recognized scholar whose research influenced urban school districts across the country.
“When I first met Professor Hilliard, I had no clue about his contributions to the field of education,” Bradley said. “I quickly learned how renowned he was. I was impressed that although he was well established, he never made you feel beneath him or irrelevant. He treated us all like scholars and had very high expectations of us.”
Hilliard (Nana Baffour Amankwatia II), who served as the Fuller E. Callaway Professor of Urban Education in the College of Education at Georgia State University, passed away on Aug. 13, 2007, but his teachings and research still influence faculty, staff and students on campus today.
Hilliard joined the COE faculty in 1980, and early into his tenure at GSU, he made a mark on both the Atlanta and Portland, Ore., school systems when he helped design and implement the “African-American Baseline Essays,” a series of essays that highlight African ancestry and contributions to the creation of civilization.
His research on ancient African and indigenous African education, racism and education, which was highlighted in several books and journal articles, earned him a spot on the Professional Advisory Council of the National Association for the Education of African-American Children with Learning Disabilities in 2006. He also was a founding member of the Association for the Study of Classical African Civilizations and the National Black Child Development Institute.
“He made a tremendous contribution to understanding the role of culture in human development and the education of children of African descent,” said Miles Irving, associate professor of educational psychology and one of Professor Hilliard’s colleagues. “There have been several scholars of African descent who had strong national reputations, but he was one of the few who really had an international reputation and whose contributions were recognized so widely. Having someone like that in the College of Education helped with the reputation of the college and of Georgia State in general.”
Professor Hilliard worked closely with the faculty, staff and students in the COE’s Alonzo A. Crim Center for Urban Educational Excellence. He helped write a formal definition of “urban education” that the center uses as it prepares teachers like Bradley for serving urban school populations, and he encouraged his students to recognize how culture plays a role in teaching.
“He recognized that we all bring things to the table from our own cultures, and that’s how students relate to the curriculum taught in schools,” said Bryan Murray, business affairs coordinator for the center. “His philosophy was, let me see who you are and that will help me teach you.”
The COE hopes to continue Professor Hilliard’s legacy through the Asa G. Hilliard III Scholarship. The scholarship is to be awarded to a graduate student interested in researching one of two topics that Professor Hilliard addressed in his scholarship and teaching: How scholarship across the disciplines has been implicated in the “creation and teaching of racist beliefs [that] remain with us today, often wearing the cloak of scientific legitimacy”; and the development of “scholarship that advances scientific understanding of the theory and practice of educational excellence for African Americans at any level of the educational system.”
For more information on giving to this scholarship, please contact Stephanie Douglas, director of development, at (404) 413-8132 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
For more biographical information on Professor Hilliard, click here.