Older Americans Month – Celebrating Dr. Walter Allen Sr.
The theme of Older Americans Month 2020 is Make Your Mark. As we close out the month of May, ACCA would like to recognize Dr. Walter Allen Sr., a local trailblazer who has made his mark on the Athens community in a big way for over 50 years.
Destined for greatness from the beginning, this Allendale, SC, native graduated from high school in 1947 at the age of 16 as a seasoned band member and orator. After graduating from Claflin College and serving in the Army as a musician during the Korean War, Allen decided that he wanted to teach and help students. In 1958, he started his career as a music teacher and band director at Athens High & Industrial School/Burney-Harris High School. Dr. Allen went on to teach at Pattie Hilsman Middle School (which he helped integrate) and several elementary schools, served as assistant principal at Athens High School (now Clarke Central), taught at Truett McConnell University, and eventually became an adjunct professor of educational psychology at UGA.
During his time in the school system, Dr. Allen helped more than 150 students to secure scholarships and funds for college, an accomplishment of which he is most proud. Not one to brag, you would never know by talking to him that he himself is decorated with a doctorate, five master’s degrees, countless certificates and course hours in various disciplines and can play every band instrument from brass to woodwinds.
In 1995, Dr. Allen was one of 65 American teachers selected by the International Foundation of Education and Self-Help to teach music at the U.S. International University in Nairobi, Kenya. He says it is one of the highlights of his life. Merging his ties between the U.S. and Africa, Dr. Allen helped start an international exchange program with historically black colleges and universities, which has since expanded to other colleges and universities.
Now an avid member at the Athens Community Council on Aging’s Center for Active Living, Dr. Allen continues to make his mark. Not a week goes by that a former colleague or student does not recognize him and stop to shake his hand. You can catch him at the Center for Active Living on a weekly basis singing, reciting poetry, and sharing his many talents with staff and fellow members. Since sheltering in place began, Dr. Allen continues to spread his infectious love of the arts and language on the Center’s weekly Zoom video social hour!
Thank you, Dr Allen, for showing us what Aging Well and Living Well looks like at every age and every stage of life!