“Achieving a Lifetime of Goals” Dr. Leola Adams Named First Female Dean Emeritus

Friday, September 23, 2011

For nearly a decade, Dr. Leola Adams was the central force of success for the School of Applied Professional Sciences, the name it carried until 2004. During that time, the school was the only one of five others to receive national accreditations for all of its departments, which included family and consumer sciences, nursing, speech pathology and audiology, social work and human services with a concentration in rehabilitation counseling. The Military Sciences Department was also a component of the School of Applied Professional Sciences. Additionally, members of the school’s faculty were either licensed or certified to practice in their respective areas. The list of accomplishments is one of great length, not only for the School of Applied Professional Sciences, but for Adams as she zealously served as dean.  She stayed committed and ensured success.  With all of that, it was only fitting that she be named the first female dean emeritus of the School of Applied Professional Sciences.

“I was delighted and really pleased to receive this recognition,” she expressed.  “It is truly an honor to be emeritus for any position you have held.  It’s an honorary designation, but it is also one that in many situations carries a certain work attached,” she noted.

This thriving work consists of first being bold, courageous and conveying a sense of competence, according to Adams, something she always exhibited in life. Having been reared in a conducive environment, her mother instilled the importance of family and responsibility early on. The attainment of these lessons would prove beneficial for Adams and ultimately shape her academic career and overall life choices.

“My mother died at the age of 41 when I was just four months short of turning 16,” she reflected.  “From that moment on I knew I had to step up and take responsibility.”  As the middle child of two older brothers and two younger sisters, Adams deemed herself ‘lady of the house.’ She regularly recalled her mother’s insight on goals, family life and the teaching of important life skills.

“My mother always did everything in an orderly fashion,” she remembered.  This included conducting family council meetings on Saturday mornings, coordinating nightly educational lessons and reminding Adams and her siblings that they must strive to greater heights at all times. All of this developed Adams’ passion to work with families and her desire to help create and maintain a solid family structure for others.

“She always had a checklist to make sure this was done and that was done,” said Dolorie, Adams’ sister whom she reared since she was eight years of age. “She stepped up and did everything that a mom would do from food preparation, homework, dressing and making certain that I was safe in terms of where I was and what I was doing,” she adds.

After graduating with top honors from Ruffin High School in Ruffin, S.C., Adams enrolled at SC State University and majored in home economics.  She excelled academically, graduating number one in her department and second in the class of 1969.

Upon interviewing her instructors regarding the top graduate schools in the country for family and consumer sciences, she attended Iowa State University. There, Adams quickly exemplified her courageous, yet tenacious spirit.  “I wanted to obtain my master’s degree in one year and I insisted on taking 15 credits during my first quarter.  I was told, ‘oh no we don’t do that, nine credits are considered a full load.’  But I was adamant about finishing early and I knew I had the ability to do it.”

And she did. Adams was the first student to ever complete the two-year constructed family and consumer sciences program in just one year at Iowa State University. “I was accustom

ed to reading and studying.  I was accustomed to sacrifice and being a good student, so I proved to them that it could be done,” she said.
Adams’ best friend, Dr. Virginia Caples, who was also a student in the graduate program and completed her master’s one year behind Adams, agrees that a high level of sacrifice and determination was required to accomplish such a feat.

“As with most students enrolled in programs at majority schools, one had goals and objectives in mind and that’s your driving force.  You put forth all of the effort and you don’t get distracted by outside things,” shared Caples. “I do believe we were pacesetters from the stand point that many of the programs at majority schools do not have many or any minority students to be fully engulfed into the program, but to gain entrance and not have additional fan fare demonstrates the level of commitment that was involved.”
In 1970, Adams was offered a position to teach home economics education at North Carolina Central University, a position she held for one year prior to returning to her Alma Mater, where she served as instructor and head teacher educator in the School of Home Economics.

Determined about furthering her education, Adams went back to Iowa State University and obtained her Ph.D. in family and consumer sciences education in just two of the required three years. “When you are focused, which I was, the day of the week didn’t matter.  I had a goal because goals give you direction on how you use your time, energy and resources and they are extremely important to have,” noted Adams.

Adams returned to SC State and in 1987, became chair of the Department of Family and Consumer Sciences. She quickly climbed the academic ladder, becoming chair and interim dean of the School of Applied Professional Sciences in 1995. A few months later she began her appointment as dean of the School of Applied Professional Sciences.

“I made sure that programs were number one during my appointment as dean,” said Adams.  “My faculty knew my position on purpose, why we were there and what we had to do to be successful.  The order of importance was programs, students, then faculty, in that order,” she noted. “I would make sure to do everything I could to succeed because programs have their own legacies and we must keep them viable for this generation of students and the next generation of students.”

“Dr. Adams believed that we are responsible for our own lives as faculty members,” shared Dr. Ethel Jones who served as a full-time faculty member in the Department of Family and Consumer Sciences under Adams’ tenure.  “Her high standards encouraged others to excel above and sometimes beyond their own expectations.  She created an atmosphere where people could seize opportunities and solve issues in an increasingly self-reliant way.” As a result of Adams’ mentorship, Jones also obtained her doctorate degree from Iowa State University in just two years.  Now as chairperson of the Department of Family and Consumer Sciences at SC State University, Jones still seeks wisdom and guidance from Adams who serves as her mentor. “What I appreciate most about Dr. Adams is her charisma and her candidness.  Her physical presence in the room commands respect and authority, and her openness exemplifies the character of a true friend,” expressed Jones. “Recognizing her as dean emeritus is an honor, privilege and most deserving of an individual who believes in giving back in all aspects.”

In 2004, the School of Applied Professional Sciences merged with the School of Business, but Adams’ work was far from over.  While still dean, she served as executive director of the National Museum of the US Army Student Development and Mentoring Program and Institute for Excellence in Leadership. She was appointed interim executive director of the Center of Excellence in Transportation, then interim vice president for research and economic development/executive director of 1890 programs. In 2008, Adams retired after a long and productive tenure at her Alma Mater.

Today, Adams continues to give of herself through various talents, skills and financial resources.  She is a member of the American Association of Family and Consumer Sciences (AAFCS), the South Carolina Association of FCS (Family & Consumer Sciences) and the International Federation of Home Economics (IFHE). She serves on the Miss SC State University Committee and is chair of SC State’s Nursing Advisory  Board. Adams has spent more than half her life researching, writing and presenting scholarly papers.  She was recently featured in the book, “African American Women: Contributions to the Human Sciences.” She served on accreditation/assessment panels for numerous colleges and universities across the United States and is also considered one of SC State University’s major donors, consistently providing scholarship dollars and other opportunities to students. In her spare time, Adams enjoys speaking to various groups, traveling and collecting butterfly jewelry and other items.

In the future, Adams said she would like to write a book about how her mother has shaped her life that has clearly been filled with notable success. “My greatest achievement was something I had nothing to do with. I was born to this phenomenal woman who inspired us each day,” she shared. “Even though she was deceased, her spirit was so strong in our lives I knew it would have been unacceptable for any one of us not to rise to the occasion. I always remembered her words that whatever you did, you had to do it well and to the best of your ability,” she added. “She did so much in a short period of time to influence how the five of us grew up and all of us became what she would have considered successful adults.  That was her goal.”

“My family, friends and colleagues are always a great source of love and support for my accomplishments.”-Dr. Leola Adams

About Dr. LeolaAdams:
Favorite Childhood Memory:  (There were many, but she was able to narrow it down to two). Traveling with her favorite Uncle who instilled her love of travel and enjoying her mother’s freshly baked cakes, homemade ice cream and candy.
Favorite Color: She likes the simple elegance of black to wear, but she loves to design in earth tone colors.
Favorite Book: She loves poetry; however, the book, “Having our Say” by the Delany Sisters is great and is a reminder of her and her sister Bonnie.
Favorite Performance: “Off the Wall and onto the Stage: Dancing the Art of Jonathan Green” ballet.
Favorite Motto:  Always treat people with respect.
Favorite Music: She enjoys listening to all genres but enjoys R&B artists Anita Baker and Gladys Knight.
Favorite Subject in School: Interior Design
Hobbies: Traveling nationally and internationally.  She has traveled to 48 out of 50 states, six of the seven continents and half of the US territories.
Ideal Way to Spend the Day: Spending time with family and friends and attending cultural events.
Ideal Dinner Guest:  President Barack Obama
Role model(s): Her mother, faculty members at SC State University in which she respected a great deal, Dr. Virginia Caples  and Dr. Alyce Fanslow, who directed her thesis during her master’s program and co-directed her doctoral program while enrolled at Iowa State University.