This article was written by a cohort from Morgan State University’s Urban Ed. Leadership doctoral program.

I was born and raised in New York…and learned early on how it felt to have a “double consciousness”– what DuBois describes as the feeling of having a divided identity. Up until middle school, I lived in a majority Black community. My family was Black, my teachers were Black, the school administrators were Black, my pastors were Black, and my community was Black. It didn’t stop there. My family celebrated Kwanzaa (and we still do today) and we were raised on the powerful philosophy of Black Pride! In my teen years, we moved out of my community to an area where I became a minority in a new and strange place. My teachers were white, the administrators were white, and my neighbors were white. Talk about a culture shock! My parents had the intuitiveness to know that we could not lose our cultural connection to our community. So, we continued to worship and spend most of our free time in the Bronx–around our people. 

When it was time for me to go away to college (which was not optional in our household), I just knew that it would be an HBCU all the way! I found myself craving the culture that raised me and nurtured me to love myself in all my Blackness—despite what the world has done to dim our light. Morgan State University was my HBCU of choice. At Morgan, there was love, nurturing leaders, young activists, culture, and high expectations sprinkled all around me. Best of all, there was that ol’ skool educator love! The warm demanders who reminded you of your parents and grandparents back home. The type of folk who had no problem calling you out but then bringing you back in when you needed that extra support. I’ve had many of those during my HBCU experience…and Dr. Warren Hayman was one! He shepherded me along my doctoral journey from the interview to get in, all the way to the defense of my dissertation. The wisdom of the ol’ skool educators of the world are so invaluable to the next generation of conscious critical thinkers and doers!

I would not be where I am today without the Dr. Haymans of the world–this I know for sure. I can only hope that the ol’ skool educator spirit is so deeply ingrained in my soul that I will be able to pay it forward to our next generation of young leaders. Thank you to my warm demanders who always expected more of me than I ever thought possible! My future is because of you.” – Dr. Nia I Fields 

It was Fall of 1987. Rumors were that Dr. William (Bill) H. Cosby Jr. was producing a new television spin-off using the Denise Huxtable character as she ascended from her parent’s home to a new life in college. The fictional HBCU was called Hillman College, and was based in Virginia. For many of us, it was the first time we saw, on national television, the portrayal of interesting, intelligent, Black young adults pursuing a higher education on a predominantly Black campus. The characters, all unique and fascinating, made for programming that spoke to the diverse Black experience in America, all in a spirit of oneness and mutual respect. Yet the often unsung, but immensely necessary characters, were the University Professors. 

Veteran actors such as Roscoe Lee Browne (Dr. Barnabus Foster), Glynn Turman (Colonel Bradford Taylor), Jennifer Lewis (Dean Dorothy Dandridge Davenport), Rosalind Cash (Dean Hughes), Robert Guilliome (Dean Winston), and Whoopi Goldberg (Dean Winston) all epitomized that parental and almost regal presence that the elder faculty bring to a University campus. These individuals made the ‘home away from home’ a lot more bearable. It was their wisdom and guidance that propelled us to higher standards of behavior and achievement. For several grad students at the illustrious national treasure, Morgan State University, our Dr. Barnabus Foster was, and continues to be, the man Dr. Warren C. Hayman Sr. 

As the saying goes, ‘what you don’t wanna do’ when first meeting Dr. Hayman is to assume that his age, clean scalp or tendency to take a moment to recall your name are any indication of frailty! All it takes is one violation of any kind, and the perpetrator was doomed to face the infamous Hayman Check! We loved it when a new student was ignorant of the facts and would attempt to challenge Dr. Hayman in this way. As much as we wanted to intervene on his behalf, we all knew that Dr. Hayman could — and would — handle his own. We just had to wait. He never raised his voice, barely flinched or even gazed in the direction of the violator; but at the end of the conversation, no one could indicate that they were unaware from when he came, and what he knows.

We admired Dr. Hayman so much that we took it upon ourselves to use his name and call ourselves the #H9. Even though there was never nine of us in the group, Beverly Botchway, Dr. Nia Fields, Dr. Edwin Green Jr., Dr. William Nolan, Dr. Ayize Sabater, Eric Roberts and Marquenta Taylor thought the nine followed the H nicely, but thought less about the number and much more about the letter. Carrying Dr. Hayman’s name is a source of pride, and a constant reminder of a pivotal reason that many of us have (and the remainder will) earn the terminal degree – in Education. 

Dr. Hayman has done it all –  a classroom teacher, administrator, superintendent and college professor; in addition to being a husband (61 years), father, mentor, coach and an all-star athlete! All of his years of experience and knowledge converge into the focused, concise, one-line giving, trash-talkin, you can’t BS me if you tried, will call you out for playing with technology in his class, community schools champion! And we are all much better off for having experienced his scholarly prowess. 

To further commemorate this masterful mind, we leave you with several Dr. Hayman quotes that describe the man, his method and his madness, and gives credence to the often undervalued presence of the seasoned professor: 

“I’m reminded of…” 

Dr. Hayman made real the saying “there’s nothing new under the sun.” There is not a topic, event or happenstance that a Dr. Hayman can’t immediately connect to a historical parallel. Seasoned faculty brings wealth of knowledge into the classroom and helps students draw connections between what is now and what was then. Of the many strengths that the HBCU experience offers its students, making the experiences of the past real and increasing its relatedness to current events as opposed to limiting it to a random historical happenstance, is the most imperative. The seasoned professor can infuse their lived experiences into the learning environment, allowing students to gaze into the mind of a person who once faced overt racism, and the challenges that they had to endure in those instances. The seasoned professor has a keen ability to let students into a world and time that the student has never experienced, and thus keeping the legacies of the past alive through storytelling and folklore. Subjects and areas of study at HBCUs are more than topical; they are representative and contextual which provides students with a strong foundation on which they can thrive — a strong sense of self and community. 

“She needs to call me.” 

Dr. Hayman literally knows everyone, and everyone knows him. Countless times in class we would discuss certain authors, scholars, etc.;having a picture in our minds of this elusive untouchable figure out in the universe, only to have Dr. Hayman retort, ‘Hey, she was supposed to call me back.” or “Yes, we’re working on something together next month.” or “I remember when I used to mentor him and he would…” Our jaws would drop as he recited these things as if he were reading a grocery list. This network repudiates the commonly held notion that HBCUs do not offer its students the wide network and social capital needed to be successful in the work world. Indeed HBCUs in and of themselves a strong powerful network, and our seasoned professors have always taken advantage, on behalf of their students, of the vast rolodex of individuals who would take on the responsibility of nurturing future leaders. Many of us would not be where we are today were it not for the connections gifted to us from our universities. 

“I’m blanking on that.” 

While on the surface this may appear to be the uttering of an exasperated person, when you dig deeper you realize often it takes time for someone with such a vast mental database of expertise to decisively choose the best source for the situation at hand. But don’t fret! Dr. Hayman would occasionally say he was blanking on something only to follow it with facts, meticulous details of events, policies and procedures from 40+ years prior. We learned that ‘blanking’ was a mere placeholder, and prompted him to search the deep interwebs of his mind to get the piece of information he needed at the moment. And he never failed at this task. 

“Mr. Green, now you know better than that.” 

Probably the most impactful statement to hear from a seasoned professor is a reminder of who you are, what you know and what you can do. We talk a lot in education about having high expectations for our students. These reminders not only connected us to those familiar yet often distant voices of our loved ones, but it also let us know someone was concerned about us. Much like children in grade school, as adult grad students we too needed that loving affirmation that seasoned faculty exude from their very being. 

The HBCU experience is one that cannot be matched. It is affirming. It is life-altering. It is an effective producer of world changers. Deeply embedded and often regarded as hidden figures, the faculty brings life to things that make HBCU students and graduates feel connected to university! Yes, we donate and visit for the upgrades to the campus, strut our University gear, reconnect with old friends, but we also come back to re-experience those professors who poured into us, who gave so much of themselves to help us be all that we were created to be. It is this rootedness that propels us to push harder when the road gets rough, to think more intently when the odds seem stacked against us, to advocate fiercely when our backs are against the wall and our collective humanity is at stake. We can because they did! 

Dr. Warren C. Hayman Sr., we love you, we appreciate you – not just for who you are, but for all that you represent to us and to the countless HBCU students who have been positively impacted by a seasoned professor! 

Signed with Love, Gratitude and Deep Appreciation, The #H9