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Educating the Educator
Making a Positive Difference in the Lives of Others

by C. L. Stambush

Educating the Educator

Middle and high-school science teacher Harolyn Torain ’71 had been in her profession for 21 years when she learned the value of accepting opportunities when asked to be the first alumna and first African American to serve on USI’s Board of Trustees. A humble, quiet woman—one of four children her parents insisted all earn educations beyond high school—she didn’t seek to sit at the table where decisions with lasting impact are made. Although she preferred the classroom, being part of USI’s board was the best experience of her life. “You are not sitting around voting on things on a whim, these are things that make a difference in the life of the University. The life of the students and faculty,” she said.

Torain recalls her time as a student in the 60s, starting out in the Centennial building before the current campus opened, as freeing and fun. “I’d drive to campus and stay all day,” she said, hanging with friends and studying. Torain, a Black woman, was a traditional student surrounded by older people returning from Vietnam, young mothers and few people of color sharing one commonality. “I saw different levels of seriousness about the work,” she said, “but we all got along well.”

Appointed by USI’s President David Rice (1967-1994) to the Board in 1990, Torain recalls his leadership and caring nature. “When I was a student, I used to talk to him about things I was concerned about on campus. Maybe me having the guts to talk to him was the reason he selected me for the board.” Torain served on USI’s Board for 16 years (1990-2006), during a time of rapid, dramatic growth and witnessed many firsts, such as Dr. Linda L. M. Bennett becoming the first female president and Dr. Ronald S. Rochon, the first African
American provost. Buildings sprang up and courses and degree opportunities were charted. Four new graduate programs and 11 new academic majors were created. “You had to be ready to foresee the needs of the future,” she said. "There were so many people doing wonderful work who helped me so much. I smile
every time I think of them."

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