Some 200 people came out Saturday night to honor a local educator.
A thank you dinner was held for former Newberry Academy Headmaster Bobby Dawkins in recognition of his 29 year tenure at Newberry Academy.
Dawkins owned Newberry Memorial Gardens cemetery some 29 years ago and after moving to Newberry was discouraged with the school system.
As he looked for options for his three children, he began asking questions about Newberry Academy.
And with no experience in education he took the position.
That first year his salary was just $13,000 but he owned other businesses that helped pay his bills.
The board told him they were wondering many of the sames things such as why the school did not have a high school, band or athletic teams and asked if he would become the new leader of the school.
Since then the school has grown to include a high school, sports and band and other activities.
Dawkins told the crowd gathered Saturday at Newberry College that the first high school graduating class had just three students but since then 300 have graduated.
Thomas Heyward Principal said that over the years 100 percent of Academy student have taken national tests and have done well above the average.
Dawkins says he has kept up with the students over the years and that they have done well above average and a number have graduated from four year colleges and are really doing well.
He added only one student was arrested during his tenure and that was for minor charges that were later dropped.
“I really love the kids; they made the job worth doing,” he said.
Also over the past 29 years, Newberry Academy won 13 state championships and there have been a number of buildings added to the Smith Road campus.
In fact the gym built in 1995 was named after Dawkins.
He also said he had been fair and consistent with this discipline; even to the point of suspending two of his three children, his nephew and board members’ children.
“We have a quality of education from preschool through the 12th grade,” said Dawkins.
But he added there were some down times like losing two staff members and a student just after graduation. Another was watching as three students were told their mother had been murdered.
“I have loved my job,” he says.
While Dawkins adds that he wished he would have seen tax credits passed in the state legislature this year, it was not.
Those speaking remembered Dawkins as wearing many hats including janitor, bus driver, fund raiser, talent scout, landscaper and public relations officer just to name a few.
Heather Dawkins Stalker remembers her dad whistling and the jangle of his keys each morning as he got ready to start each school day.
She also remembers her dad cheering at games and even getting kicked out of a few.
As the underdog Eagles won a state basketball championship at the buzzer former parent and now Manning City Administrator and Methodist minister Pat Goodwin says he and Dawkins he a celebration dance on the court.
“We all look up to you, literally,” said former student Jimmy Wiseman, of the man who was called the giant when Wiseman was a 4-year- old at the school. “He is a person who was always there for me.”
“He was driven by passion for success,” said Goodwin, who was the director of Boys Farm while in Newberry and became good friends with Dawkins. “He let people know there were eduction options in Newberry and for surrounding areas.”
Former teacher Jane Mason remembered Dawkins for his work ethic, compassion and stubbornness.
But mostly Dawkins was remembered for his love of the students and the school.
As the night came to an end, the City of Newberry honored him with a resolution for his work to educate students and his service to the community.
And through donations from the community, teachers, students and other he was presented with a golf cart to use during his retirement.