Street name reflects dedication of Dr. Michael Blackwell
Dr. Michael Blackwell strolled down Watson Avenue Thursday afternoon, through the heart of Baptist Children's Home Mills campus, his home for the past three decades.
Following a touching ceremony that paid tribute to his 30 years as president, Blackwell arrived at the corner of Watson Avenue and West Main Street with his wife, Catherine, as a group of staff and children gathered around. Standing under a hooded street sign, Blackwell had no idea of the surprise awaiting him.
"I expected there might be some presentations," Blackwell said. "I thought we were coming out here to recreate a picture, perhaps of one from 1983 we took out here, but it was beyond anything I could have imagined."
When the black cloth slipped from atop the sign, Blackwell learned a secret many close to him had been keeping for some time. The City of Thomasville renamed Watson Avenue to Blackwell Boulevard in honor of the man whose faith and dedication impacted the lives of thousands of families in need.
"Coming out and seeing Blackwell Boulevard, I, literally, could never, ever have imagined anything like this," said Blackwell. "I feel absolute humility and elation at the same time. I don't deserve any kind of recognition like this, but I'm honored that our staff and children have come together to pay tribute to what has happened over the past 30 years."
Blackwell, 71, arrived at BCH in 1983. After graduating from the University of North Carolina at Chapel HIll and Southeastern Seminary in Wake Forest, he spent the early part of his professional career working in radio, television and newspapers. The motivational speaker and author of five books knew almost immediately that serving as president would be the last job he would ever have.
"I knew when I came, I wanted to spend the rest of my professional career here," Blackwell said. "I have never entertained going anywhere else. I knew when I came this is where God wanted me to be and that's been validated every day for the past 30 years. When you set roots down somewhere you can get things accomplished."
Prior to the sign unveiling, Mayor Joe Bennett proclaimed June 27as "Dr. Michael Blackwell Day."
"Dr. Blackwell has just meant so much to this city, Baptist Children's Home and this campus," said Bennett. "He's quite a leader and we're so blessed to be out here celebrating 30 years of him being with us."
Make no mistake, Thursday's tribute was not a retirement ceremony. Blackwell has no immediate plans to end his tenure as the longest serving BCH president and remains focused on the future of the nonprofit organization. Blackwell said a major capital campaign is set to take place over the next three to five years to raise between $17 and $20 million for several much-needed projects.
"That's going to be occupying my time until 2016," Blackwell said. "We're going to be setting the foundation for the future for the next 30 years."
BCH provides residential programs and services to North Carolina children and families in 19 communities statewide. Established in 1883, it is Thomasville's oldest continuing business and the largest home for children in the Southeast. BCH serves children who come from dysfunctional families as a result of abuse, neglect or abandonment.
Staff Writer Eliot Duke can be reached at 888-3578, or firstname.lastname@example.org.