The passing of her father in 2018 prompted Gwendolyn Addison-Duncan, assistant professor at West Kentucky Community and Technical College, to become a lifetime member of the NAACP's Paducah chapter.
"My father was a proponent for equality and made a lot of change in his lifetime," Duncan said. "He was an avid supporter of the United Negro College fund, Historically Black Colleges and Universities, and the NAACP. He was a very proud man; proud of his heritage and wanted to make a difference in his community."
So Duncan was a bit surprised by the recognition she received after becoming a lifetime member of the NAACP during the Paducah-McCracken branch of the NAACP's 79th Annual Freedom Fund Banquet at Walker Hall on Sunday.
"I truly did not know that becoming a lifetime member came with any public acknowledgements, recognition or even a plaque," Duncan said. "I am extremely humbled as I truly thought that I would simply make a commitment, pay my membership dues in full, and do the work."
Duncan said she should have made the decision to become a lifetime NAACP member sooner, but after her father passed away, she knew she had to honor his legacy of civil rights and equality.
"In essence, it was a decision to not only become a NAACP member but to make a lifetime commitment to the cause and fight for equality," she said.
The daughter of the late Elder Leon Addison and Barbara Betard, Duncan grew up on a livestock and agriculture farm in South Carolina. Her father, a native of Harleyville, South Carolina, came from a generation that had to sacrifice education for survival, but he still earned his high school diploma. He was also the first African American to serve on the volunteer fire department in his South Carolina township and later helped design some of the infrastructure at some of the largest commercial sites in the Greater Charleston area. He retired in 2002 after almost 30 years and as superintendent of construction for Coward & Hund Construction Company in Charleston. He also served as a member and president of the Dorchester County District Four School Board in South Carolina and was instrumental in the consolidation of the county's school system.
A licensed practical nurse since 1987, Duncan became a registered nurse in 1993. She received a bachelor's degree from Murray State University, a master's degree from the International Theological University College of Religious Studies and a doctorate in philosophy from Newburgh Theological Seminary. She said she always wanted to be a nurse because of her "nurturing spirit." Duncan was hired as a nursing assistant instruction at WKCTC in 2016 and is now program coordinator for the nursing assistant and aide program.
A first-generation college graduate, Duncan credited her father with making sure that education held a high place in her life. "He told me that knowledge could never be taken from me. He taught me to speak up and speak out," she recalled. "He taught me how to fight with my voice and words."
In addition to Duncan's recognition, WKCTC students Lamont Bell of Caruthersville, Missouri; Keiana Byas of Barlow; and Nakyia Kelly, Kiana Miles, Brantarius Milliken and Darin Roseberry, all of Paducah, were announced as winners of the Boyles-Coleman Scholarships, totaling more than $5,000. The scholarship is a bequest from the late Clyde and Lanelle Boyles to establish the scholarship in honor of former Paducah City Commissioner Robert Coleman and is presented each year at the banquet.