Described as the “gold standard” for school board members, the late Bill Askew has been memorialized by the school system he served for decades with the Fayetteville High School library named in his honor.
Askew’s family gathered Thursday morning for the unveiling of a plaque as teachers and Fayetteville City School System staff gathered for breakfast at Fayetteville High, a school that had long been a dream for Askew.
“You are in the commons area of the school that was a vision many, many years ago of the gentleman who we are honoring and recognizing this morning, Mr. Bill Askew,” Jeff Whitmore, city school board chairman, said, welcoming teachers.
“We stood together when we unveiled the school name on the building. We sat together at the first graduation ceremony for Fayetteville High School,” Whitmore continued. “The look on his face at both events said it all. It spoke of humility, of pride and a sense of accomplishment. His vision had come full circle and became a reality.
“Mr. Askew was passionate about children and quality education,” he said. “He turned that passion into community service by serving on the Fayetteville City School Board for 35 years, from 1969 to 2004. He served as chairman for 30 of those years, from 1974 to 2004, which is amazing. I know I speak for my colleagues on the school board when I say it takes a very extraordinary individual to voluntarily dedicate themselves in serving the children of our community for 35 years.
“Mr. Askew served on the Fayetteville City School Board with distinction. In 1992, Mr. Askew was named to the All-Tennessee School Board and received the prestigious C. Hal Henard Distinguished Service Award. This award is the highest honor given to school board members in Tennessee.
“Mr. Askew was, still is, and always will be the gold standard in serving as a school board member,” he added.
Askew’s number one priority in his service as a school board member was to put children first always, Whitmore said.
“As school board members, before we make any decision, we ask ourselves one question first and foremost – ‘What’s best for the children?’ This question was first and foremost on Mr. Askew’s mind while serving on our school board – he never wavered from it.
“Mr. Askew loved Fayetteville City Schools,” Whitmore continued. “His blood may have been Vandy black and gold, but he was a Fayetteville City Tiger through and through. His children attended city schools, and as a matter of fact, his grandchildren attended city schools, and he has great-grandchildren who are currently attending city schools. And, by the way, he has family members who are currently working in the city school system – what a wonderful, wonderful legacy.”
Prior to the unveiling of the plaque which will be placed on the wall outside the high school library, Dr. Janine Wilson, director of schools, presented a clock memorializing the occasion to Carolyn Askew, wife of Bill Askew.
Wilson noted that Askew was chairman of the board when she joined the city school system 20 years ago.
“He was not only chairman of the board, but he quickly became my friend, so there is no one I’d rather pay tribute to today than Bill Askew,” Wilson said, remembering Askew as “a very dear friend, a man who supported the system like no other.”
Bob Askew spoke on behalf of the Askew family, expressing appreciation for the system’s memorial – “You’ve given our family a great gift today … I can’t think of a more fitting tribute to his life well lived and his legacy for those who are coming behind. He loved the Fayetteville City School System.”
As the family gathered around the plaque for the unveiling, Whitmore officially made the dedication – “This is a lasting tribute to a wonderful and dedicated servant of the children and education, Mr. Bill Askew.”
Askew died peacefully at his home surrounded by family on Friday, June 1, at the age of 85. Along with his contributions to education, he will be remembered as a man of faith and integrity, dedicated to his family, friends and community.