• 75°

SN grad Adams gave back to education

By Staff
Emma Lancaster West – Lights of Legacy
The fourth and final entry culminating "Black History Month" under the "Lights of Legacy" series is Mr. Paul Joseph Adams III. He is not a native son of Brewton but is a product of Southern Normal School. His contribution in education merits for him a place in African-American history as one of its history makers.
Mr. Adams learned the value of education from his parents, Patsy Lois and Paul Adams Jr., who enrolled him in private elementary and high schools in Alabama. After receiving a bachelor of arts degree from Alabama State University, he moved to Chicago where he worked in mental health education while earning his master of arts degree in psychology from Northwestern Illinois University.
In 1978 Mr. Adams found Providence St. Mel as an independent school when the archdiocese decided to close it. Mr. Adams became principal at this time and in 1996, he became president of Providence St. Mel School in Chicago. After saving the school from financial crisis, he raised thousands of dollars to advertise the school's plight, the message caught on and donations began to pour in from around the nation and Adams transitioned Providence St. Mel into a non-profit independent school.
At Providence, Adams focused on developing a strong academic standard while enforcing strict disciplinary codes. To guarantee the safety of his students, he moved into the vacant convent inside the school to ward off thieves and vandals. His dedication became legendary and during the next two decades, Adams successfully transformed Providence St. Mel into a premier learning institution for African-American students. During Mr. Adams' tenure every one of Providence St. Mel's graduating seniors has been accepted to an institution of higher learning. Many have gone on to become doctors, lawyers, judges, entrepreneurs, computer engineers, professional athletes and educators.
Dr. Michael Pressley, one of the country's most renowned educational researchers, states in his most recent study, entitled: Providence St. Mel: "How a School That Works for African-American Students Works" "critical to the success of urban education is strong leadership." Clearly, Providence St. Mel's phenomenal accomplishments result from the strong leadership and commitment of its nationally recognized President Paul Adams III.
Because of his credentials and outstanding accomplishments at Providence St. Mel, Mr. Adams is the recipient of numerous awards for his efforts including , McDonald's Education Achievement award, the African-American Male Image award, the Rozell R. Nesbit community education award and four honorary doctorates from Amherst College, Lake Forest College, St. Mary of Woods College and National Lewis University. Adams was named an American Hero in Education by Reader's Digest and voted Man of the Year by the Chicago Urban League he also received the distinguished Crystal Apple Award from Michigan State University; presented in recognition of educators who have "achieved success beyond all expectations." The award also represents further validation that Dr. Michael Pressley has named Providence St. Mel as "Model of Urban Education."
Mr. Adams is a native of Montgomery, who was inspired by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. during the Civil Rights Movement. However, Adams left the south and moved north to pursue a career in business before turning to his lifetime love of education.
The Black Heritage committee shares its gratitude and commendation to those history makers who are giving themselves in service to their communities in an effort to help encourage and empower others.