legendary Brevard County visionary
SPACE COAST DAILY TV: The Space Coast Daily “Brevard Masters” Series profiles Dr. Maxwell C. King, a legendary Brevard County visionary who has inspired thousands to achieve their goals through the pursuit of higher education.
ABOVE: MAXWELL C. KING PHOTO GALLERY
BREVARD COUNTY, FLORIDA – A classic American success story, Dr. Maxwell C. King has devoted his life to making the dreams of others come true.
Twice recognized by his peers as the best community college president in America, King – for three decades president of what is now Eastern Florida State College – is known as a visionary who has inspired thousands to achieve their goals through the pursuit of higher education.
A New Year’s Day baby of Depression-era America, King was only seven years old when his father died of tuberculosis complicated by pneumonia.
His mother kept her brood of eight children together through tremendous sacrifice and her children rose to the challenge, each working hard, some at several jobs, to keep food on the table.
King delivered newspapers, picked tomatoes, shined shoes, sold peanuts, pruned orange trees, helped repair roads and worked aboard a dredge boat.
He remembers going to school shoeless because the family couldn’t afford the luxury.
When he told his fifth-grade teacher he intended to go to college, she shook her head, later telling another teacher about King’s impossible dreams of an education.
The shoeless fifth grader not only made it to college, but he devoted his career to making community colleges affordable and accessible for all.
NATION’S YOUNGEST COLLEGE PRESIDENT
King’s teaching career began in St. Lucie County High School. By the time he was a ripe old 32 years of age, he had been appointed the president of Indian River Community College, a job that made him the nation’s youngest college president.
He became the third president of Brevard Community College in 1968 and served as district president for 30 years.
Among his educational accomplishments were the development of distance learning programs throughout the United States and South America.
Among a roomful of awards are the Nation’s Outstanding Community College President, an honor presented by the Association of Community College Trustees.
“Max wakes up every morning, showers, puts on his suit and goes off to volunteer.”
He embraced volunteerism with the same fervor and dedication that he approached his career.
In James Ross’ biography of King, “The Only Way to Lead,” King’s wife, Doris, is quoted as saying that “Max wakes up every morning, showers, puts on his suit and goes off to volunteer.”
ABOVE VIDEO: Dr. Maxwell C. King was honored with the 2014 Central Florida Humanitarian Lifetime Achievement Award.
After retiring from Brevard Community College, several days a week he would drive 70 miles one-way to his hometown of Ft. Pierce, where he was volunteer director of development for Sunrise Theatre, the same theater that had provided him with a job as a teen.
His efforts paid off in millions of dollars for the restoration of the historic venue.
King was also critical in the creation of a runaway and youth crisis shelter in Cocoa for Crosswinds Youth Services, helping to raise $2 million for the shelter and subsequently an additional $3 million for a new learning center at Crosswinds, the Jim and Cynthia Handley Learning Center.
The Cocoa Village Playhouse was the next “target” for volunteerism. The historic facility needed renovations and expansion to accommodate more youth programs. The result: a new annex that transformed the playhouse.
King also served as chair of Wuesthoff Hospital’s Hospice House and as chair of Diamond Community School’s capital campaign.
He helped raise funds to build new headquarters for the Cocoa Beach Chamber of Commerce and served on the board of Junior Achievement, Alzheimer’s Association, Webster University and Brevard Museum of History and Natural Science.
The Brevard Library Foundation, the Economic Development Commission of East Central Florida, the Salvation Army, the Astronaut Memorial Foundation, Harry and Harriette Moore Memorial Foundation, Navy League of Cape Canaveral, Military Order of World Wars, the Space Missile Museum Foundation and the American Heart Association are among other nonprofits that benefitted from King’s support.
SKY IS LITERALLY THE LIMIT
When he celebrated his 80th birthday in 2008, King challenged the community to raise money for BCC scholarships.
He did this with a unique approach…he went skydiving for the first time in his life.
“I thought if I could jump out of that plane, I could probably help the college and other charities in the community,” said King.
The idea worked and King raised hundreds of thousands of dollars. The sky is literally the limit when it comes to King’s interest in making Brevard a better place.
‘MAX IS A GREAT AMERICAN’
In 1989, Florida’s Governor and Cabinet honored King for being recognized as America’s top administrator in higher education by the American Association of University Administrators.
Florida Agriculture Commissioner Doyle Conner noted that King’s accomplishments “improved people’s lives.”
“That is what he looks at when he decides whether to pursue a goal, and our state is much better because this has been such a concern to him,” added Conner.
Former Florida Governor Jeb Bush perhaps summed King best. “Max is a great American,” wrote Bush to BCC Board Chair Jim Handley.
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