MIAMI — Dorothy Edwards blazed a trail in education and spent a lifetime teaching physical education and guiding the young of Miami’s inner city schools.
Two months after she turned 100 and in tribute to Women’s History Month, a grateful community, especially some of her former students, turned out to witness the naming of the student services center at Miami Northwestern High School – where she once worked – in her honor.
“Dorothy Edwards has a heart that has launched thousands of careers,” said Phillip McKinnon, a member of the Northwestern High class of 1966, who credits Edwards with helping prepare him for college. “She drowned us with knowledge and I’m proud to call her my ‘Mama Doc.’”
U.S. Rep. Frederica Wilson, D-Fla., presented Edwards with a proclamation for being a “beloved and well-respected educator.” The congresswoman echoed McKinnon’s sentiments.
“She set the tone for so many of us in this community. She helped us become young ladies, taught us how to dress and speak and we are proud to be inheritors of her legacy,” Wilson said.
Some who paid tribute to Edwards at a March 20 ribbon-cutting ceremony knew her only from her reputation as a caring educator. They included Miami City Commissioner Keon Hardemon, a Northwestern High alumnus.
Edwards not only inspired him but also blazed a path for him to follow, such as attending FAMU, pledging Alpha Phi Alpha and making history before he even knew she had already done so, he said.
“I’m one of those people that really takes very seriously what history means to our community. Before today, I’d never met Mrs. Edwards but had heard of her. It’s refreshing to see where it all started,” Hardemon said.
“The type of legacy she left has been passed to me and it is one that I will pass to others. I’m just blessed to be in the presence of someone who laid the foundation for black society in Miami. When you consider the fact that I followed in her footsteps without even knowing her, it really means a lot to me,” he said.
Edwards is one of the first three women to earn a degree in physical education from Florida A&M University and the second woman to be hired as a physical education teacher by Miami-Dade County Public Schools. She also holds a Master of Science in Business from New York University.
Throughout her career, Edwards taught physical education and business and served as a guidance counselor at Booker T. Washington High in Overtown and Miami Northwestern and the-then D.A. Dorsey high school in Liberty City – all with mostly black student populations.
She also served as a swimming instructor for the American Red Cross. Edwards ended her career at Miami Northwestern, where she taught P.E., served as dean of girls and then assistant principal, retiring in 1971.
She is a diamond member of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority.
The idea for honoring Edwards originated with Nathaniel “Spooky” Miller, chairman-emeritus of the board of the Miami Northwestern Alumni Association. He saw it as important to honor her many years of service and for embodying the history of Northwestern High.
“It’s better to get up and get, rather than sit down and sit,” Edwards said. “’Do unto others as you would have them do unto you’ and you will never, never regret it. I’m happy today.”