More than 50 people gathered at Crowder College Friday night to celebrate the life of Dr. George Washington Carver. This annual event is held near the anniversary of his death on Jan. 5, 1943.
The main speaker was Dr. Eulanda Sanders, a new member of the Carver Birthplace Association Board who is a professor at Iowa State University. Other speakers were Paxton Williams, former executive director of the CBA board, and Mikki Johnson, a Carver volunteer from Nevada, Mo.
Sanders, who teaches clothing and textiles at Iowa State University, used her own family as an example of Carver's influence on people. Sanders came from a family of eight boys and one girl. Her parents were farmers who cared about their children and their children's education. All nine children got post-secondary degrees, thanks to the efforts of their parents.
The family lived on a farm in Southeast Colorado. Although the children learned about black history at school during the month of February, they were taught much of their black history at home. That is when Sanders became aware of George Washington Carver.
Sanders' grandfather worked for the state farm agency and was known as "Mr. Colorado Agriculture." He and all the family used George Washington Carver as an example in their lives and careers.
Sanders taught at Colorado State University before going to Iowa State.
"When I was in Ames making plans to move, I saw the Carver building on campus. That was a great experience for me," she said.
Later when she had her textile students research Carver's life, she first learned of his interest in clothing and textiles.
"When one of the students reported that, I was just jumping up and down in my office," she said.
Today Sanders is doing research of Carver's works with textiles, using examples of his crochet and embroidery work for her study. She is especially interested in learning about the patterns that he used in his knitting and crocheting. Some of the patterns, such as the Christian Cross, point to his religious beliefs, but the plants and other items depicted are of interest to Sanders as she wonders what each pattern meant to Carver.
In his talk, Paxton Williams spoke about the influence of George Washington Carver in his life. Since leaving the Carver Monument to attend law school, Williams has met many people whose lives have also been influenced by George Washington Carver.
Williams noted that because Carver succeeded in so many fields of endeavor that talking about him before a crowd is very difficult.
"He had a great impact in so many things and did them all well. As a speaker, that makes it hard to talk about him in depth — we can't get into the details of all the Dr. Carver did," Williams explained.
He encouraged the Carver Birthplace Association to "dream big" as did Carver. Williams said much can be done with little, noting that an elderly woman who knew Carver once said "Dr. Carver used what the people had, and the people had nothing."
Mikki Johnson, one of the founders of the commemorative dinner, gave a reflection of Carver, as she had done every year since the dinner stated five years ago.
Dr. Roy Shaver was honored for his service on the Carver board. In accepting the award he noted, "I don't know anyone in Neosho who is honored more, for doing less."