Paul Edwards pressed “record,” and in a jolly and passionate tone, updated his voicemail greeting.
To him, the news “deserved an announcement.”
“Yes, that day has come,” Edwards is heard saying in his voicemail recording. “I have actually retired.”
After 26 years as North Campus’ director of Access Services, Edwards, who also oversaw the Access programs at the Meek Center, and the West and Hialeah Campuses, retired from Miami Dade College on April 30.
The 66-year-old Edwards began advocating for students with disabilities at MDC in 1986. He helped hundreds of students during his tenure.
Edwards, who is blind, helped establish more handicap-accessible areas at the North Campus such as walkways, automatic doors and ramps. He also fought to stock the department with up-to-date technology for students with disabilities.
“The most rewarding part was seeing many of the students get a chance to have a second education,” Edwards said. “I will miss interacting with students the most.”
The College is in the process of finding a replacement for Edwards. His students say his departure has left a huge void.
Access Services student Marie Auberg said “it won’t be the same without him.”
“It was very sad at first when he retired, I even cried,” Auberg said. “Paul Edwards was a great person, a very happy and very kind man. I will certainly miss him.”
Edwards plans to stay active by continuing to work as president of the Florida Council of the Blind, and will also host five streams of broadcasting on ACB radio.
Jose Izquierdo, Access’ assistive technology specialist at North Campus, has worked with Edwards since 1997 while he was still a student at the College.
“I don’t think I will ever have anyone else like him,” Izquierdo said. “I will always remember his sense of humor, his knowledge, the ability he had to calm down the students, and the talks we would have.”
Edwards says he has been able able to bring a new perspective to the College with his own disability.
Born in San Francisco on Dec. 29, 1945, Edwards was a premature baby. He weighed two pounds, six ounces and was placed in an incubator. When he was removed from the hospital, it was clear something had gone terribly wrong. The heat of the incubator had burned the retinas of Edwards’ eyes, leaving him blind.
“Because of my disability I raised more awareness of issues” he said. “But because of the fact that I have a disability, I expect more of students, and I know by experience what a person with disabilities can achieve.”
Edwards was the first blind student to attend the University of the West Indies in Jamaica. He received a bachelor’s degree in history, and a master’s degree in both international relations and secondary education.
“I’ve learned that if a student really wants to accomplish something,” Edwards said “they can really do it.”