Horace Belmears resume reads like a doctoral dissertation in the art of Getting It Done.
The longtime teacher, coach and counselor has spent his career doing just that. Through his lesson plans, and living example, hes shown generations of young people that they can get it done, too.
Because of his work with and influence on students, West Virginia University will honor him with the Neil S. Bucklew Award for Social Justiceone of the highest awards for student advocacy the University can bestow.
Belmear will pick up his award at a 7 p.m. ceremony Friday, April 20, during WVU s Weekend of Honors celebration in the Mountainlair Ballrooms. Thats just one floor up from where the 90-year-old still keeps regular office hours in Room 158.
He launched his teaching career in 1946, eight years before Brown v. the Board, at Fairmonts all-black Dunbar High School. He wasMr. Belmearin class andCoach Belmearon the field.
Either way, he brought enthusiasm and energywhether he was teaching a civics lesson or showing an up-and-coming Dunbar Tiger how to turn a double play at second base.
Being in his class also meant having shined shoes and sayingSirandMaamto your elders.
It meant showing that same respect to your textbook and team.
It meant being on time and on your best behavior, because you were always representing your school and your community.
Belmear earned degrees from West Virginia State College and West Virginia University, and hes studied at the University of Illinois, Duquesne University, Boston University and the University of Maryland.
Even today, his resume is open-ended, as it notes that hes notched more than 200 credit hours toward a Ph.D. in physical education from the University of Pittsburgh.
And today, if you ask him about hisphilosophy of education,hell let out a snorting laugh, then sum up 60 years in about six minutes.
Thats how long it takes to tell the story of a kid named Cornell who just wanted to be on the football team at Dunbar. There was a catch. Cornell was a below-average athlete on his best day, but his coach wanted him around, because he knew every play. Every assignment, every blocking pattern.
Trouble was, Cornells enthusiasm for learning didnt always translate to the classroom. His grades dropped just enough for Dunbar to boot him off the team.
Belmear lobbied the administration, and in doing so, he turned Cornell into an assessment of what Dunbar as a school was doing rightand what it wasnt.
We had a meeting,Belmear recalled,and I brought Cornell in. He was nervous, but I just started asking him about plays. �€~Cornell, what do you do on play 27?�€~I hit the linebacker, Coach.
What about Play 28?Cornell knew.
What does the left guard do on Play 29?Cornell knew.
He went through the entire playbookand Cornell knew.
For Belmear, it was both evaluation and revelation.
I said, �€~Ladies and gentlemen, he gets it. Hes smart. We need to engage our kids in class. We need to do better here.
Cornell dressed for the next game, and the textbook side of his brain caught up with the playbook side.
Dunbar closed 10 years after the Brown decision, but Belmear pushed on, first as an education service officer for the U.S. Army who counseled officers and enlisted personnel pursuing degrees; then to the University of Pittsburgh for stints as a freshman orientation counselor and admissions director for the schools Allegheny County campus.
He continued his career at WVU , serving as director of foreign student admissions and assistant dean of admissions and records. At his side was his late wife, Geraldine, who was also an advisor and assistant dean. She helped establish WVU s Center for Black Culture, and she was the foundation of her husbands life, he said.
And that was on top of raising two sons and a daughter while becoming the first black woman in the country to head a county Homemakers Program.
They had 65 years together. She died two years ago.
Bless her heart,he said.Bless her heart. If she wasnt in my life, I wouldnt have been anything. Its all her.
These days, its about the book hes writing on his life in educationno title, as of yetand spending time with his seven grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.
He hopes he makes an impression on students of color just by walking through the Mountainlair every day, he said.
Belmear even gets to be a mentorand a comically, cranky one at thatto his sometimes office mate, Knute Scholl, a 22-year-old human resources and industrial relations graduate student from Madison who uses Room 158 as a home base for studying and writing papers.
He always tells me to �€~tidy up,Scholl said, grinning.I say, �€~But Mr. Belmear, its not messy.He always says, �€~Oh, but it is.Its a real privilege to be around people of his generation, when you look at what they had to do to just get by. Im gonna help him go shopping for a computer. Hes my graduate course in life.