Turning Point celebrates 39 years by honoring unsung heroes

Turning Point honors three community “unsung heroes” April 17 on the University of Minnesota campus. Retired University of Minnesota administrator Dr. Frank Wilderson, David Goodlow and William “Bill” Smith are the honorees at the culturally specific, community-based inpatient and outpatient chemical dependency treatment program’s annual event at The Commons Hotel’s Meridian Ballroom, 615 Washington Ave SE, Minneapolis.

Dr. Frank Wilderson
Dr. Frank Wilderson

Wilderson worked at the university for 37 years as one of the very few Black professors at the school’s College of Education. He helped make the Twin Cities campus more “user friendly” for Black students and other students of color as an advocate and, as the Afro-American Studies Committee chair, helped drafted plans for the Afro-American Studies department before retiring in 1999.

He also is nationally renowned for his work in Black mental health issues as a founding member of the National Association of Black Psychologists, was appointed by President Lyndon Johnson to serve on a national advisory committee on persons with disabilities, and helped developed the basic structure for the Office of Education’s Bureau for the Handicapped.

David Goodlow
David Goodlow

Goodlow “is a great, great guy,” notes Turning Point Founder-President Dr. Peter Hayden of the program’s first employee. “He was the first one I asked” to join the organization when it started in 1976.

Smith, a retired engineer, is a member of Turning Point’s first graduating class in 1977 and has remained clean and sober ever since. All three men have “a deep connection to our legacy,” adds Marketing Director Ray Richardson.

Through short testimonials and a video presentation, the three-hour dinner event is “a unique way to honor the people in the community,” proclaimed Turning Point Chief Operating Officer Liz Reed. She notes that it’s important that community people are publicly recognized for their work: “We often as the Black community do not honor our people.”

William 'Bill' Smith
William ‘Bill’ Smith

“They have been monumental for a period of 40 years fighting those battles” in advocating for community health issues, says Reed on Wilderson, Goodlow and Smith. “They’ve done it very silently. They are like unsung heroes.”

Previous Turning Point honorees include retired Macalester College professor Mahmoud El-Kati (2013) and Hennepin County Judge Pamela Alexander (2014). Hayden admits that El-Kati “really started us” as a community organization, and Alexander is a longtime community health and justice advocate, adds Reed.

Turning Point turns 39 years old in June. North Memorial Medical Center became partners last October with the organization and provides on-site paramedic staff twice a week. There are also plans for a walk-in clinic, and another building expansion is in the works.

Despite its proven success as one of the nation’s first culturally specific social services organizations, “We need more Turning Points” both locally and nationally, concludes Hayden. “I never was offended by competition because there are too many ills in our community to do it all.”

For more information on the 3rd annual Turning Point Honors, call Turning Point at 612-520-4004. To purchase tickets, go to https://turningpointhonorsevent.eventbrite.com.

Charles Hallman welcomes reader responses to challman@spokesman-recorder.com.