Maya Angelou remembered for love of education, planned to return - WBTV 3 News, Weather, Sports, and Traffic for Charlotte, NC

Maya Angelou remembered for love of education, planned to return to teaching

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Maya Angelou with members of the Wake Forest University administration (Source: Dr. Barbee Oakes) Maya Angelou with members of the Wake Forest University administration (Source: Dr. Barbee Oakes)

Maya Angelou is being remembered as a modern Renaissance woman who survived the harshest of childhoods to become a force on stage, screen and the printed page.

Angelou died Wednesday morning at her home in Winston-Salem, where she had been a professor of American studies at Wake Forest University for more than three decades.

At 86-years-old, she was an American treasure and a North Carolina Poet Laureate. She was also a fixture over the years in Charlotte.

For the past 12 years, Angelou has come to Charlotte in June for a summer ritual at a hotel in uptown Charlotte. It was the annual United Negro College Fund (UNCF) Maya Angelou Women Who Lead Luncheon.

During one of those trips she sat down with WBTV's Steve Crump.

Crump says there was a tapestry of ladies hats from many shapes and sizes, which could have been mistaken to be the star of the show. But Angelou always shined the brightest.
"We are deeply saddened to hear of the passing of  longtime friend, volunteer and supporter, Dr. Maya Angelou," Marilyn Baldwin Richards, Area Development Director of UNCF told WBTV on Wednesday.

"Dr. Angelou has been a volunteer with UNCF for more than 25 years. She has continually participated in the UNCF Maya Angelou Tribute to Achievement and the UNCF Maya Angelou Women Who Lead Luncheon annually."

Dr. Angelou's friendship to the people of Charlotte goes back several decades.

Twenty years ago, she took the stage in a local production at Ovens Auditorium titled Tambourines to Glory, by Langston Hughes.

"I've got a big voice and there are singers who real are good," Angelou told WBTV's Steve Crump. "So I'm gonna try to lose my voice. I'm gonna try to ween my voice into the tapestry which will be their voices."

Her voice often spoke of overcoming impossible obstacles.

"The hells we have lived through and lived through still have sharpened our senses and toughened our wills."

Honored by presidents with the National Medal of Arts and the Presidential Medal of Freedom, Angelou recited the most popular presidential inaugural poem in history.

It was her poignant words that turned a nation on it's ear during President Bill Clinton's 1993 inauguration.

"Come you may stand upon my back, and face your distant destiny, but seek no haven in my shadow," she said.

That poem "On the Pulse of the Morning" became a best-seller.

Dr. Barbee Oakes, Assistant Provost for Diversity and Inclusion at Wake Forest University, says Angelou had planned to return to the classroom this fall.

Angelou wanted to talk about race, gender and social injustice.

While she's stopped teaching at Wake Forest in 2011, Angelou continued to contribute to the university.

Oakes says Angelou had an impact on students, faculty and staff, saying she used every class as an opportunity to teach life lessons to the students.

Angelou was willing to pour herself into anyone willing to receive her knowledge, Oakes told WBTV.

Oakes says Angelou was key to making progress on diversity at Wake Forest.

Any time Angelou was teaching a class, there was a wait list with the names of hundreds of students.

Angelou's classes were small, about two dozen seats, so she could have personal relationships with her students, Oakes told WBTV. She always stayed accessible to students after graduation.

Here in Charlotte, she was known as a philanthropist who helped raise money for the United Negro College Fund that would benefit local places of learning like Johnson C. Smith University and Livingstone College, and to this Charlotte audience she would offer a simple parting shot - "God loves me."

North Carolina Governor Pat McCrory issued a statement following her death.
"Dr. Maya Angelou was a giant in every endeavor she chose to devote her talents," said Governor McCrory.

"She counseled presidents and historic figures such as Dr. Martin Luther King. Yet, she'll be remembered most for her compassion for people around the world, regardless of their station in life. Maya Angelou was a tremendous source of pride for North Carolina and her adopted state is grieving her loss."

Members with Angleou's Ladies Who Lead Luncheon say the event will continue this summer, for its 13 year, in "honor of her legacy and her love of young people and commitment to education."

The luncheon will be held on Saturday, June 28.

When her friend Nelson Mandela passed away last year, Angelou wrote that "No sun outlasts its sunset, but will rise again, and bring the dawn."

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