For 41 years, Dr. Frank Roberson built a legacy as an educator both in the classroom and in administration, teaching and working with hundreds of students and teachers.

Sunday, hundreds of Roberson's family members and friends filled the gym at Horse Creek Academy to celebrate that legacy and honor Roberson on his retirement or “the stepping-down,” according to the program, as Horse Creek's executive director.

Over his years in education, Roberson said his focus always has been “student-oriented.”

“I looked specifically for learning opportunities for the student,” he said.

Roberson said his years at Horse Creek Academy have special meaning. Eight years ago, he had major brain surgery, and doctors gave him a less than 2 percent chance to live.

“I remember on my sickbed I promised God that if he would spare my life and return my brain to a level of functionality that I would continue to do his work until I retire,” Roberson said. “This today is phenomenal. What a tremendous honor. I thank the board from the bottom of my heart.”

A native of Aiken County and a graduate of then-Langley-Bath-Clearwater High School, Roberson always wanted to be a teacher.

Ruby Kemp, now 92, taught Roberson English at LBC and was one of the biggest influences on his career, Roberson said.

"She gave me my first F," he said. “I was under some foolish notion that because I tended to her yard on the weekends that I could not do my work in her class and get a pass, but she said no to that,” Roberson said. “That was a valuable lesson that I carried throughout my career.”

Roberson started his career teaching social studies at Ridge Spring-Monetta Middle School and then taught history at Midland Valley High School.

He next became an assistant principal at Leavelle McCampbell and then principal at New Ellenton Middle School before taking the position of associate superintendent for instruction for Aiken County Public Schools.

Before coming to Horse Creek Academy, Roberson was the superintendent for Richmond County schools in Augusta after having been the superintendent of schools in both Edgefield and Marlboro counties.

He also ran an education improvement firm that took him across Georgia and South Carolina working on school improvement.

Jake Edwards, the president of the executive board of directors at Horse Creek Academy, said he appreciated Roberson's investment in the individual.

“There are two parts to every story,” Edwards said. “One part is organizationally: what he has done for the overarching vision and direction and goals for the school and putting us on track for our future.

“The next thing is how he has developed people individually. Today, we're taking the opportunity to celebrate both of those pieces.”

But the celebration is not without some sadness, Edwards said.

“It's happy and sad. It's a funny mix of emotions,” he said. “We are celebrating on one hand, and then we're grieving on another. He has brought so much to HCA. We're super excited for him, but we're also saying goodbye. Of course, he'll always be here as a dear friend.”

Kevin Murray, the vice president of the Horse Creek board, agreed.

“He will be dearly missed. We're sad he's retiring,” he said.

Brad Means, a new anchor WJBF Channel 6 News and “The Means Report” gave the keynote address.

Larry Wood covers education for the Aiken Standard.

A native of Aiken, Larry Wood covers education for the Aiken Standard.