Jana L. Earnest Wilson, a former Hickman High School student who now lives in Springfield contributes this reflection on the life of Eliot Battle. Find more submissions here, and submit your own by emailing submissions@ColumbiaMissourian.com.
Many years ago, when I was on the verge of dropping out versus just plain failing out of school at Hickman, Eliot Battle stepped in.
I received a phone call from him asking me what my story was. My grades were pathetic, but he had looked at my PSAT scores, and he wondered how I could average 92nd percentile and yet be failing out of school.
Having faith in me that I clearly did not, one winter day when school was canceled due to weather, he hand-delivered his letter of recommendation to the dean of Student Affairs at Columbia College. I later learned that when asked why this girl who was having trouble passing high school should be admitted to their college, he simply said, "Let her in and she will show you. I bet she gets a 4.0 her first semester." (And I did.)
What Eliot told me was to never sign anything giving anyone access to my high school transcript and they would not be able to have a copy of it. It took a long time, as I went part time the majority of the time to work and care for ailing family members.
Approximately ten years after I started, I sat in the living room of the house on Rollins with Muriel and Eliot as I presented Eliot with a plaque thanking him for all he had done. (The blue plaque makes an appearance in this multimedia piece from Vox Magazine.)
Not many people can say that they went to college on the word of one man. I had no diploma, no GED, no SAT, no ACT, just the faith and word of one man — Eliot Battle.
I graduated eventually at the top of my class with a degree in Occupational Therapy from Texas Woman's University, Houston Medical Center. I graduated over 20 years ago, and not a single workday has passed without a thankful heart and Eliot Battle on my mind.
He has and will continue to heal countless patients through my hands. I am proud to say that I have known both Muriel and Eliot, and my lifetime will forever be enriched for knowing them.
This story is part of a section of the Missourian called From Readers, which is dedicated to your voices and your stories. We hope you'll consider sharing. Here's how. Supervising editor is Joy Mayer.