My life has been spent with books that have the unique power to enlighten and empower the reader by providing knowledge to the person reading between the covers that generally cannot be taken away, lost or removed. Being the chief executive of the Napoleon Hill Foundation that promotes and sells motivational, self-help business books the world over, our immediate goal is to help create a new entrepreneurial culture among the youth of Wise, Dickenson, Scott, Russell, Lee, Tazewell, Buchanan Counties and Norton through an all tuition-paid, online college credit course available to high school students 16 years of age or older to give a head start at forming a start-up.
As a young man, growing up in the 1950s, I developed a love for books. Our home did not have any books except the Bible, so I utilized our high school library often. However, the librarian would only let us check out one book at a time. During the weekend, and especially during the winter, I needed more than one book. Thankfully, students were allowed to work in the library and twin sisters were in charge of the checkout counter. I quickly realized that I could go to the library and check out one book from one sister and then I would go back later in the day and check out another book from the other sister. I felt like I was the smartest person in the world by circumventing the librarian’s one book rule. However, I am sure the twin sisters knew what I was doing the whole time.
After high school, I attended Clinch Valley College, which was a two-year college. I never dreamed that I could afford a four-year university, so I took a job with a finance company, making $1.15 an hour. I was thrilled – that was a lot of money to me. The finance company provided free materials on banking, lending, marketing, and other subjects so I was able to learn, free of charge.
I worked in the consumer finance office for a few years when I received job offers from other businesses in the area. One day, a gentleman who started a bank at age twenty-nine, sought me for a management position in his bank. Eight years later, I became president of a bank, and I served in that position for eighteen years.
During my time at the finance office and the bank, I took night classes and finally received a degree in accounting. I was not content with this, so I decided to attend the Virginia Bank Management School and later, the Stonier Graduate School of Banking.
Among the books I read, were some titles on self-help and success by Napoleon Hill. Napoleon was a local author from Southwest Virginia and his books have been read all over the world. I began speaking about Napoleon Hill and gave a lecture on Hill to the Pound Historical Society in Pound, Virginia. After that lecture, I wrote a letter to the Napoleon Hill Foundation in Illinois and told them what I was doing to promote Napoleon Hill. I was invited to attend the Napoleon Hill Foundation board meeting and at the meeting, I was offered a position as a board member. This was a great honor for me.
A few years went by and the Executive Director for the Foundation decided to retire, so I applied for the job. I received the job and have been in this position since 2000. I had a deep desire to share the success principles that Napoleon Hill spent his life studying and felt that the University of Virginia’s College at Wise was the best place to start. Therefore, we originated the Keys to Success Course and it has been taught for more than twenty years. The success stories that the students of the Keys to Success course have achieved would fill numerous books.
Currently, the Napoleon Hill Foundation has a scholarship program at the University of Virginia’s College at Wise which has allowed hundreds of students to pursue higher education. Now, we have developed an online course based on the Keys to Success for students in Southwest Virginia. This course is available for high school juniors and seniors and all tuition will be paid by the Napoleon Hill Foundation. Additionally, students can receive three-hours of college credit from the University of Virginia’s College at Wise upon successful completion of the course. This course has been made possible by the generous contributions from the Virginia Coalfield Economic Development Authority and other businesses in Virginia.