1 year ago

Power Moves: Bobbie Knight taking helm at Miles College is the latest in a lifetime of leadership

Becoming president of Miles College – the first female chief executive in the school’s 122-year history – wasn’t part of Bobbie Knight’s retirement plan.

After 37 years with Alabama Power, where she held several leadership positions, including vice president of Public Relations and vice president of the company’s Birmingham Division, Knight wasn’t in the market for a new, full-time job.

Indeed, Knight had plenty going on even after her 2016 retirement from the power company.

In 2017, she was elected to Miles’ board of trustees and co-chaired newly elected Birmingham Mayor Randall Woodfin’s transition team. Then, in 2018, she was appointed to the Birmingham Airport Authority, where her colleagues immediately elected her chair. She also had her own consulting company, not to mention other, ongoing volunteer civic obligations.

But when longtime Miles President George French announced last year that he was leaving to become president of Clark Atlanta University, the Miles board of trustees quickly turned to Knight to serve as interim president of the 1,700-student college in Fairfield near Birmingham.

“I was absolutely floored,” Knight said.

“I deliberated long and hard after I got over the initial shock of being asked to consider this opportunity and I have continuously prayed for the wisdom, strength and courage it will take to lead this institution with integrity, compassion and a servant’s heart,” Knight said during a press conference announcing her appointment.

Bobbie Knight shares her plans for Miles College from Alabama NewsCenter on Vimeo.

“During this transition, the job before me is clear; first, to serve the students of Miles College by ensuring they receive a quality education, that they are equipped with the tools they need to be successful here and in the future and that they enjoy a safe and fulfilling campus life. Second, my job is to maintain a fiscally sound institution. I have a business background and my plan is to use business principles and practices to keep this institution financially strong.”

It didn’t take long for Knight to make a mark.

In January, Miles announced it had received its single largest contribution from an individual donor in school history – $1 million.

The donation came from a celebrity more often associated with another Alabama institute of higher learning: Charles Barkley, the former Auburn University and NBA basketball great and television commentator.

Barkley singled out Knight in his comments about the donation. “I’ve gotten to know Bobbie Knight over the last year and it was really something I wanted to do,” Barkley said in a statement. “To have a female president is a big deal and I want to help Bobbie be as successful as she can be.”

Knight said that even though Barkley didn’t attend Miles or any other historically black college or university, “he understands how vitally important HBCUs have been in this country.”

Barkley’s donation drew national attention, and Knight hoped it would set the stage for more contributions as Miles embarked on a $100 million fundraising campaign. Before the month was over, the school announced it had received a $50,000 contribution to its football program from Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback and Hueytown native Jameis Winston.

“Having someone of Jameis’ stature selflessly contribute to our growth here at Miles gives credence to what we are trying to accomplish, which is to give our student-athletes the best collegiate experience possible,” Knight said in a news release.

That Barkley cited his relationship with Knight in making his donation is hardly the first time Knight has been recognized for her skills – and for making a difference.

Knight grew up in the Birmingham neighborhood of Zion City, one of five children. Her mother worked as a pastry chef in the long-closed Pizitz department store bakery. Her dad was an inspector at Stockham Valves and Fittings, at that time an important member of Birmingham’s heavy industrial sector. He passed away when Knight was 14.

“Bobbie truly comes from humble means,” said Robert Holmes, a retired Alabama Power executive and longtime civic leader who serves as vice chair of the Samford University board of trustees. Holmes watched Knight rise through the company ranks, starting with an evening shift in customer service and moving through positions of increasing importance.

“She has an unparalleled work ethic,” Holmes said, noting how Knight went back to school to get a law degree while working full-time.

After becoming a vice president at the power company, Knight was chosen among 21 women worldwide for the annual Leadership Foundation Fellows Program of the International Women’s Forum. The exclusive fellowship for female executives included study at Harvard University and the Judge School of Business at Cambridge University in England.

Knight has been honored with numerous other accolades through the years, including Outstanding Alumni in Public Relations by the University of Alabama School of Communications and recipient of the Women’s History Award from the Birmingham Chapter of the NAACP.

She has served on numerous civic and nonprofit boards, including Red Mountain Theatre, VOICES for Alabama’s Children, the Alabama Literacy Council and United Way of Central Alabama. She helped to create Birmingham’s Railroad Park as a member of its founding board and served as chair of the board of the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute.

“When Bobbie gets engaged in projects, she gets engaged,” said Norm Davis, a retired financial services executive who has known Knight for 25 years.

“Bobbie is very strategic in her thinking and her actions,” said Davis, who was working with French on plans for Miles’ fundraising campaign when French announced his move to Atlanta.

“She’s just done everything right,” he said about Knight’s new role as college president. “She’s one of those people that, when she sees something where she can make a difference, she is always willing to roll up her sleeves and go to work.”

He recalls observing Knight on a scalding summer afternoon, watching practice for the Miles marching band. “She is all over the campus, engaging the kids. She is working on strengthening the graduation rate, recruiting students, building relationships.

“She continues to build the community,” Davis added, noting that he and Knight both believe a vibrant Miles College can serve as an economic engine in Fairfield and for western Jefferson County.

“I think we have the opportunity to make a huge difference in this region. That’s what I see,” Knight said.

“She is going to leave Miles better than how she found it,” Holmes said, citing Knight’s passion for the community that raised her.

“Bobbie wants to give back to the city, and the county and the state, from where we’ve both gotten so much from,” said Holmes, also a Birmingham native. “She is a living example of what one can do.”

Power Moves, an ongoing series by Alabama NewsCenter, celebrates the contributions of multicultural leaders in Alabama. Visit AlabamaNewsCenter.com throughout the year for inspiring stories of those working to elevate the state.

(Courtesy of Alabama NewsCenter)

2 hours ago

Techstars Alabama EnergyTech Accelerator taking applications for 2021 class

Startups from around the world are encouraged to apply for the Techstars Alabama EnergyTech Accelerator 2021 class.

In its second year, the innovative program, located in Birmingham, seeks early-stage startups focused on emerging energy technologies. Areas of interest include smart cities, electric grid resiliency and sustainability, industrial electrification, connectivity and electric transportation.

The class will run for 13 weeks and include 10 companies. Through their participation in Techstars Alabama EnergyTech Accelerator, startups will receive seed investment, business coaching and mentorship through Techstars’ worldwide network of business leaders.

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At the end of the 90 days, the program will culminate in Demo Day, a public pitch event on Dec. 9.

“We had a fantastic first year, made successful through the hard work and creativity of our inaugural class, even during a pandemic,” said Nate Schmidt, Techstars Alabama EnergyTech Accelerator’s managing director. “If you have an energy tech startup, you simply don’t want to miss out on the amazing opportunities and relationships this accelerator will provide your business.”

Techstars Alabama is supported by Alabama Power, the Economic Development Partnership of Alabama, the Alabama Department of CommerceAltecPowerSouth and the University of Alabama. They play a key role in the accelerator process, with the common goal of growing the number of startup companies based in Alabama and making the area a hub of innovation activity.

The application deadline is May 12. For more information, visit the Alabama EnergyTech Accelerator program page at Techstars.

(Courtesy of Alabama NewsCenter)

3 hours ago

VIDEO: Gov. Ivey extends mask mandate, lottery could be an option as gambling bill languishes, Merrill backs off ‘no excuse’ absentee balloting and more on Alabama Politics This Week …

Radio talk show host Dale Jackson and political consultant Mecca Musick take you through Alabama’s biggest political stories, including:

— Did Governor Kay Ivey make the right decision when she extended the mask mandate?

— Is the Alabama Legislature going to look to move forward with the lottery if they can’t get a more comprehensive gambling bill?

— Why did Secretary of State John Merrill support and then retract his support for “no excuse” absentee voting?

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Jackson and Musick are joined by Matt Murphy of Talk 99.5 in Birmingham to discuss the issues facing the state of Alabama this week.

Jackson closes the show with a “Parting Shot” at Alabama Democratic Party Chairman and State Representative Chris England (D-Tuscaloosa) for not following through on his plan to make the party more relevant in Alabama.

Dale Jackson is a contributing writer to Yellowhammer News and hosts a talk show from 7-11 AM weekdays on WVNN and on Talk 99.5 from 10AM to noon.

6 hours ago

Mo Brooks: Stopping H.R. 1, amnesty keys to winning in 2022 midterms — ‘Then we will be able to neuter Joe Biden’

FLORENCE — With the third month of the 117th Congress now underway, House Democrats have pushed forward in their efforts to pass H.R. 1, which would impose so-called reforms to the country’s voting system.

Also among the priorities for Democrats, who control the White House, House and Senate, are immigration measures that could include amnesty for illegal aliens.

During an appearance at the Shoals Republican Club on Saturday, U.S. Rep. Mo Brooks (R-Huntsville) panned those efforts and said he hoped to stymie the progress of House Democrats on those two fronts.

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Brooks told those in attendance that if Republicans could prove successful in those efforts, it would set the GOP up for wins in the 2022 midterm elections and hamstring President Joe Biden’s push to promote a left-of-center agenda.

“We’ve got to stop H.R. 1, and we’ve got to stop the amnesty and citizenship that Joe Biden has promised,” he said. “If we do those two things, then we’re going to take back the House in 2022. I hope we will take back the Senate in 2022. And then we will be able to neuter Joe Biden over the next two years if we control the House and Senate and set the stage as well for us taking back the White House in 2024 with whoever our nominee may be.”

@Jeff_Poor is a graduate of Auburn University and the University of South Alabama, the editor of Breitbart TV, a columnist for Mobile’s Lagniappe Weekly, and host of Mobile’s “The Jeff Poor Show” from 9 a.m.-12 p.m. on FM Talk 106.5.

8 hours ago

2021 Birmingham Heart Walk goes virtual

COVID-19 has forced many nonprofits to shift gears in their fundraising efforts and the American Heart Association (AHA) is no exception. The AHA’s 2021 Birmingham Heart Walk has been reimagined as a digital experience this year to maintain necessary safety protocols due to the ongoing pandemic.

Through the event design, AHA is striving to get more people moving in Birmingham while continuing to raise life-saving funds and keep participants safe in the process. The Birmingham Heart Walk is Saturday, June 12, from 9-11 a.m. and participants can walk from anywhere.

Leading up to the event, participants are encouraged to track their activity through the “Move More Challenge” using the free Heart Walk activity tracker app that can be downloaded from Apple or Google Play. Once registered, users have 30 days to log minutes, and any activity counts. Top movers and fundraisers will be recognized on Heart Walk day.

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“The American Heart Association holds a special place in my heart,” said Southern Company Vice President of Technology David Coxwho will chair the walk for the second time. “They have done so much for my family and for my daughter, Emily, who was born with multiple congenital heart defects. I’m pleased to partner with this outstanding organization in their efforts help our community connect and stay active as we adapt to this virtual world.”

More than 600,000 Americans die each year from heart disease, and the risks have only been compacted by the pandemic. Among COVID-19 hospitalizations, 40% are heart or stroke patients, so this year, donations from the Heart Walk will help fast-track COVID-19 research and train front-line workers in addition to the many other research projects and resources funded by the AHA.

Fundraising and activities for the Heart Walk are beginning to ramp up as the warmer months approach.

“Now is the time to sign up, lace up and start fundraising for the 2021 Birmingham Heart Walk,” said Hannah Carroll, Heart Challenge director of the Birmingham AHA. “Signing up now ensures you won’t miss any of the fun this year, like Rally Days and our new activity tracker.”

On Feb. 18, Cox hosted a virtual kickoff for business leaders in the Birmingham area who will be fielding teams at this year’s Heart Walk. He encouraged counterparts to begin their fundraising efforts by saying, “We’re here for a reason – to fight for a world of longer, healthier lives.”

To view Emily’s story, click here. To learn more about the 2021 Birmingham Heart Walk or to create a team, click here.

(Courtesy of Alabama NewsCenter)

11 hours ago

Schoolyard Roots growing stronger, smarter kids in Alabama

When kids participate in the life of a garden, they see the complete cycle of growing food, cooking and preparing it to eat. School gardens are exciting places for kids to learn basic academic subjects, too.

The Tuscaloosa community came together more than 10 years ago to develop a garden-based learning program called the Druid City Garden project, now called Schoolyard Roots.

Schoolyard Roots employs a full-time teaching staff that provides garden lessons for students, as well as professional development training for teachers. The school gardens provide an outdoor experience rare to many students. They are more likely to make healthy choices and try new foods. Students gain a sense of responsibility, to collaborate and work together as a team.

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“When we see a child’s health and education improve, we know that we’re not only investing in that child’s life today – we’re helping them build a better future,” said Nicole Gelb Dugat, interim executive director. “Schoolyard Roots builds community through food. By increasing access to fresh, locally grown produce, we empower our community to make healthy and sustainable food choices.”

In March 2020, the impact of COVID-19 significantly affected the teaching community. Almost immediately, the Schoolyard Roots team began distributing produce from its gardens directly to local families. By the end of last year, the program had distributed more than 750 pounds of fresh garden vegetables to the community.

“We stewarded our gardens as fresh-air sanctuaries, where children and adults could relax, refocus and reconnect,” said Dugat. “Through it all, we shared vegetables and flowers. We cultivated moments of peace and learned together. We could not have done any of it without our incredible community of supporters.”

They found hope and inspiration in the small miracle of seeds planted by the students. Gardens bring joy, peace and courage in times of struggle. And gardens remind us to have hope for new growth and what is to come.

Schoolyard Roots partners with Tuscaloosa-area elementary schools to bring learning to life through teaching gardens. The nonprofit works in 11 elementary schools across Tuscaloosa County.

Its mission is to build healthy communities through food with the Gardens 2 Schools program.

Gardens support and encourage healthful eating as a key component of children’s physical wellbeing, which can aid their academic and social success, too. The garden is woven through many aspects of a school’s curriculum and adapted for different grade levels.

“The Gardens 2 Schools program cultivates curiosity,” Dugat said. “The program teaches the students how to work together (and) learn self-reliability and compassion.”

(Courtesy of Alabama NewsCenter)