Professing history’s importance

Published 12:00 am Friday, January 31, 2003

Although raised in Norfolk, Professor Randolph Booth-Pharr has always thought about life beyond the city. His parents encouraged him in this and set standards in education that, as a young man had him inside with the books while others were outside playing games. Consequently he came to love education, and eventually he developed a plan to become a teacher himself.

Booth-Pharr finished high school in 1964 and from there went on to get a master’s degree in History. With every class that he took – nights of study instead of attending parties – his determination lead him on. When he passed tests because he knew the subjects, the energy of accomplishments spurred him past mediocrity. By the time he was finished with school, Booth-Pharr had a teaching style of his own and a mission; to not only teach, but also to challenge students to not repeat the past. He says that all the things he saw in New York and other places during his studies gave him an insight to the way the past is often replayed. The vision he had to teach and the work had finally come together in the life he had always wanted; teaching at the college level. He says his own &uot;student days&uot; will never be over, but that his love of teaching and the subject of history make him want to help students understand their impact on the community and the world in general.

&uot;History touches everybody’s life, everyone is a history participant. One of my jobs as a historian is to make each one aware that they are participants in the whole historical process. And sometimes people don’t know that they have made history when they have made it, sometimes they don’t know that history shapes their lives. It does though, history always repeats itself and when it repeats itself, if they are smart enough, they will not repeat the bad things.&uot;

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Booth-Pharr gave the example of segregation; he explained that the examination of history of segregation can help people to avoid repeating it. He went on to point out that it is the same with wars.

In classes he teaches at Paul D. Camp’s Suffolk and Franklin campuses, he makes a point to show comparisons, investigating situations, and drawing conclusions about various aspects of history of our nation and other nations.

Booth-Pharr teaches history but he also has his mind on the future.

When students study past wars in his class, they are encouraged to think beyond the facts, he challenges them to examine the causes and consequences of decisions made in times of crisis. He expressed his concern for these future leaders.

&uot;I tell my students, I want you to know this so that when I am in my wheelchair, and you are running this country, I want to make sure that you are running it properly.

Sometimes they laugh at me, but I hope that it will stick in their heads.&uot;

Booth-Pharr has also been at work making history. In 2002, he coordinated an international exchange program with Manchester College of Arts and Technology (MANCAT) in Manchester England. A group of students from Paul D. Camp flew to England with Booth-Pharr and other teachers to study the effects of the industrial revolution in literature and history.

Although everyone came back with a greater appreciation of the educational opportunities in America, Booth-Pharr’s heart was held captive by a visit to a school in the Republic of The Gambia, West Africa during the trip. The conditions there brought a fresh call in his life: to help the children who so want an education that a pencil is considered a blessing. The pursuit of educational assistance for them has resulted in &uot;The Gambia Educational Assistance Fund&uot;. Once again, Booth-Pharr is &uot;creating history&uot; for the good. And to him that is what history is all about.

Name? Randolph Booth-Pharr

Age? 55

Hometown? I was born at Dixie Hospital right on the campus of the Hampton Institute, which is now Hampton University. I was raised in Norfolk, and presently live in Portsmouth.

Family? One son owns his own business and one grand-daughter who is a good student, fine athlete and a great person to know.

Education? I have a BA from Norfolk State University, MA from New York State University and did further studies at University of Paris and Columbia University.

Career/Occupation? presently Assistant Professor of History at Paul D. Camp Community College, teaching at both the Suffolk and Franklin campuses. Previously, I was in the Navy, a transportation officer for two years and then in the reserves while work as an administrator at one of the community hospitals in Harlem, N.Y.

Volunteer Activities? One of the activities is with a consortium of churches, called Portsmouth Volunteers for the homeless. I help in many aspects of that work.

Favorite thing about life in Suffolk? The warmth and friendliness of its people.

Why did you pursue your chosen career? I have always love teaching, ever since I was little I wanted to teach. Teaching was the only profession that I pursued as an under graduated student. I wanted to teach history and only history.

Favorite thing about your job? Interacting with my students while demonstrating the passion for my discipline and hopefully getting them to understand how things will shape their lives

Least favorite thing about your job? Nothing, it is all good.

What accomplishment are you proudest of? The establishment of a foundation to help poor elementary school children in the Republic of The Gambia, West Africa.. Winner of the U.S. Department of Education Fulbright-Hayes Group Projects Abroad Grant, recipient for International Education in The Gambia. He won a Board-Funded Technology Grant titled &uot;Creating a Visual and Technological Perspective for United States History.&uot; Booth-Pharr is the coordinator of the International Exchange Program with Manchester College of Arts and Technology (MANCAT) in England. He is a goodwill ambassador and assistant to the president of the Republic of The Gambia.

Who or what motivates or inspires you? My father and mother, Thomas Lorenzo, and Olga Booth-Pharr who placed demands on me as a child early in life. That laid the ground work for later successes which I have been able to achieve. Their expectations were set at a higher level then I would have set for myself. To them I will always be grateful.

Favorite way to spend your free time? Reading, traveling and community activities. The Mission and outreach team for his church and the activities with my Kappa Alpha Psi fraternity

What words of wisdom would you like to share with others? Don’t take yourself too seriously, and remember that life is full of opportunities

What are the ingredients are in the recipe for a good life? Love for God’s creation and love for humanity

We all have our &uot;15 minutes of fame&uot; in this life. How would you spend your time in the spotlight? Using the talents that I posses assisting others in achieving their goals and maximizing their talents.

If you could change one thing about yourself what would it be and why? To maintain a calm attitude so that I will live long enough to do some of the projects that I have not accomplished yet.