EVERETT MILES PUTS YOUNG PEOPLE FIRST DURING RETIREMENT
A couple of telephone calls and a love of making a difference in the lives of the underserved led to accomplishments that Everett Miles never would have predicted.
His parents had very little formal education, but they believed in its value and wanted it for their children. They were intelligent and had a strong work ethic; the dry-cleaning business they built in Richmond, Virginia, was the largest in their community. It made sense, then, that Miles would embrace learning and study business administration.
Utilizing his undergraduate and graduate degrees in business administration, Miles worked in banking before taking a job at IBM in Raleigh, where he worked for more than 30 years and had the opportunity to travel the world. He also earned a master’s certificate from George Washington University in project management.
As he continued to enjoy career success, he started putting his skills to work in his community. While he enjoyed working with young people, cities like Raleigh and Durham and organizations like Duke University asked him to sit on boards and join commissions focused on the arts and on bringing housing, medical care and employment opportunities to underserved populations. He also began teaching business courses, mentoring students and encouraging their career choices.
“I always told young people to present themselves in such a manner that people will say, ‘Wow! You are amazing!’,” Miles said.
After retiring from IBM in his mid-60s, Miles became the executive director of a nonprofit community development corporation. One day, however, a telephone call changed his life and set him off on his “Second Act.”
Miles had been recommended to receive the Louis Stokes Fellowship in Community Development at Case Western University. The $70,000 fellowship would allow him to earn yet another master’s degree, this time in social science administration. For three years, he flew to Cleveland once a month for classes, and graduated first in his class.
Eventually, Miles and his wife, Anita, moved to Hilton Head Island, where he again earned a reputation for his community involvement.
“Everett chaired our board. He led us through strategic planning and enhanced our focus on young people,” said Eric Turpin, executive director of the Native Island Business and Community Affairs Association. “Kids motivate him; he fights for them and makes a huge difference in their lives. He has helped NIBCAA to do the same.”
Miles’ community service work also earned for him the Honored Islander Award from the Town of Hilton Head Island. But he wasn’t done yet. Soon a second phone call again changed his direction.
“Everett, we need your help,” came a call from the Beaufort County school district. “Will you be a social worker for us? We could use your expertise.”
He agreed to take on the role for a year, but he loved the work and 10 years later —after serving as a social worker at both Battery Creek High School and Hilton Head Island Middle School — he recently stepped down to become a substitute teacher at Hilton Head Middle. He was looking to reduce his hours, he said; after all, he is about to turn 80.
While he is proud of the work he did in his early career, mentoring and assisting students and their parents has been one of the great joys of his life.
“Miles exhibited an extraordinary dedication to impacting the lives of young people in our school system,” said Reggie Deas, a personnel director with the school district. “His ability to connect with and motivate students made it easy for them to be successful.”
But the feeling is mutual, Miles said: “The kids call me Grandpa.”
PHOTOS BY LLOYD WAINSCOTT