As part of its Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day observance, Thomas Nelson Community College presented its 11th Annual Presidential Leadership Award to Golden Bethune-Hill, founder and volunteer executive director of the Community Free Clinic of Newport News and former executive vice president of Newport News-based Riverside Health System. The College established its Presidential Leadership Award to honor King's life and work by recognizing an outstanding community leader.
During the Jan. 16 ceremony in Wythe Hall Gallery at the Hampton campus, Thomas Nelson President John Dever said Bethune-Hill is an exemplary recipient who personifies King's stance on humanitarianism and civic involvement. Her clinic located on 25th Street provides healthcare for thousands who cannot afford services and may not otherwise get help. "We can be sure that Golden Bethune-Hill has gone the extra mile to help cure the ills in our community. It is with grace that she has served the community so well," said Dr. Dever, stressing that this year's recipient is an exceptional role model for students.
Bethune-Hill acknowledged her husband, Charlie W. Hill, and other family members who were in attendance and expressed appreciation for the award. She said sharing and helping others were cornerstones of her upbringing. So, establishing the clinic came natural, and similar community efforts can be achieved by anyone with a heart to get involved. "It takes a village plus. You can do anything you want to do," she said.
More than 100 Thomas Nelson nursing students along with members of the College's Local Board, Educational Foundation Board, President's Cabinet and academic deans were in attendance. The audience also included a former Thomas Nelson president, several local, state and federal government officials and past Presidential Leadership Award recipients. In addition to Dr. Dever, other program participants were Dr. Gregory McLeod, Historic Triangle Provost; Science, Engineering and Technology Instructor Tom Pringle and former Assistant Professor of Nursing Dr. Hazel Ruff.
The program closed with remarks from Student Nursing Association President Ashleigh McCann and the organization's Vice President Marci Hopingardner, who read a congratulatory letter to Bethune-Hill from Sen. Mark R. Warner.
A Hampton resident and Hampton chapter NAACP member, Bethune-Hill has a bachelor of science degree in nursing from Greensboro's North Carolina A&T State University and a master's degree in nursing administration from Richmond's Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU). Her background includes service as a senior vice president with Centra Health in Lynchburg, Va., vice president for Patient Care with Saint Clare's Hospital System in Denville, N.J. and progression from staff nurse to assistant director at Montefiore Hospital and Medical Center at Bronx, New York.
She was named among outstanding alumni by North Carolina A&T, tabbed by VCU as an Alumni Star and chosen as one of its 120 visionary leaders during VCU School of Nursing's 120th anniversary. Other honors include Daily Press' 2013 Citizen of the Year Award, a 2010 Humanitarian Award from the Virginia Center for Inclusive Communities, a New Jersey Governor's Award for Excellence in Administration and many more. Having served on Virginia Governor's Technology Commission and the Commission for Nursing's Future in Virginia, she was recently appointed to the Community Service Board of Newport News and Hampton.