How do you know when you’ve made it? When your employer names a program after you.
That is what happened last year to Cathy Randall, the longtime director of the University of Alabama’s computer-based honors program. It now is called the Catherine J. Randall Research Scholars Program.
Randall isn’t just the director of the program. She was a member of its first class in 1968.
She also is a 2018 Yellowhammer Woman of Impact.
According to a University of Alabama news release, Randall has guided the computer program to a powerhouse that attracts elite students from around the world. Honors students take courses on complex problem solving, project management and research fundamentals. Students later select research projects and work closely with faculty members.
The Alabama Academy of Honor, which includes 100 outstanding living Alabamians, inducted her and then tapped her to chair the organization. She also has served as national president of the Mortar Board — a national honor society for college seniors — and headed the board of directors at the Alabama Women’s Hall of Fame.
Beyond her professional career, she’s participated in relief efforts following deadly tornadoes that ripped through Tuscaloosa in 2011. She has served as director of the American Legion’s Alabama Girls State. She won the Living Legend award in 2007 and Tuscaloosa’s Lifetime Achievement Award for Women of Distinction in 2005.
Perhaps closest to Randall’s heart has been the charitable work she has done at her church, Christ Episcopal. Among those endeavors has been the Lazarus Project, which helps poor people pay utility bills.
“The most important part of who I am is my faith,” she told the Tuscaloosa News in 2012.
The Birmingham native moved to Tuscaloosa to go to school and met her future husband, the late H. Pettus Randall, while he was a law school student.
“I came to Tuscaloosa as a freshman at the university, met Mr. Wonderful and never left,” she said in the Tuscaloosa News article.
Randall served as youth chairwoman for Albert Brewer’s gubernatorial campaign and got her future husband involved. The couple married a year later and went on to have three children.
The university named her one of the top 31 women graduates of the century, an honor she shared with “To Kill a Mockingbird” author Harper Lee.
“She is one of the most kind, caring people I know,” Lee told the newspaper before her death in a rare interview. “She is one of my dearest friends, and I love her to death.”
Randall told the Tuscaloosa News that it is important to make time for faith and service.
“When we say we don’t need to pray, that’s when we need to pray twice,” she said. “In the same way, when we say we don’t have time for community service, that’s when we need to do more.
Randall will join Gov. Kay Ivey and special guests from across the state for a Birmingham awards event March 29 honoring the 20 Yellowhammer Women of Impact whose powerful contributions advance Alabama. Details and registration may be found here.
@BrendanKKirby is a senior political reporter at LifeZette and author of “Wicked Mobile.”
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