Abbett Leadership Center at Lincoln Elementary a way for family to honor former two-term mayor

Lincoln Elementary School Interim Principal Ashley Ransom holds a photo of former Huntington Mayor Terry Abbett inside the new Terry R. Abbett Leadership Center, located inside the school’s library. The center, which is still under construction, will be unveiled during an awards presentation set for May 5 at 6 p.m.
Lincoln Elementary School Interim Principal Ashley Ransom holds a photo of former Huntington Mayor Terry Abbett inside the new Terry R. Abbett Leadership Center, located inside the school’s library. The center, which is still under construction, will be unveiled during an awards presentation set for May 5 at 6 p.m. Photo by Rebecca Sandlin.

Originally published May 2, 2016.

When former Huntington Mayor Terry R. Abbett died Oct. 16, 2015, memorial donations flooded in, amounting to about $2,000.

Abbett’s widow, Connie, and her family decided they wanted to put the money to good use to honor the two-term mayor, his accomplishments and a salute to the school where he began his education.

“We came up with Lincoln School, because that’s where he attended elementary school,” Connie Abbett explains. “He would go back there and speak to the students, and he was just always proud of being a kid from the east side of Huntington, and considered that a great education and really grateful for that upbringing, which led, eventually to his political career and ended with the mayor. He was really proud of that.”

The culmination will result in the Terry R. Abbett Leadership Center. The memorial, which will be located inside Lincoln Elementary’s library, will display photos of Abbett as an adult, highlights of his career as well as his school photos growing up. The center’s shelves will feature books at each grade level on topics such as making good choices, life skills, being your personal best and setting and achieving goals.

“We’ve purchased lots of books about leadership and leaders, like the President,” explains Lincoln’s Interim Principal Ashley Ransom. “We have some pictures of Mr. Abbett in the Lincoln choir, a long time ago. We have an award that he won from Lincoln, so we’ll have that displayed as well – just different ways so the students can relate and say, ‘Oh, Mr. Abbett, he was a leader in our community. I want to be like him.’”

The center will also highlight other community leaders, such as fire fighters and teachers, and what skills are needed to become a leader.

A few of Terry Abbett’s accomplishments while he served as mayor, between 2000 and 2008, include construction of the Bendix-Hiner Spray Park, the south side fire station and the Joe Street sewer project, Connie Abbett says.

“Every retail front in the shopping center on North Jefferson Street was occupied,” she adds. “That corner store where Aaron’s is was vacant, I think, for some 35 years. And he always worked with industry in town, with Bendix and Hiner Transport. They did a lot to help him with the development of the splash park. He also partnered with Hayes-Lemmerz, to make the Hayes-Lemmerz Skate Park.”

The center will also present an annual “Terry R. Abbett Leadership Award” to a citizen who attended Lincoln Elementary and who has made a positive contribution to Huntington.

Ransom has been working on the guidelines for the award. A recipient, a graduate of Lincoln Elementary, has already been selected for the initial award.

“This award is to be given each spring to keep Terry’s passion for Huntington as a focal point for our students and alumni,” Ransom explains. “Every year we’re going to look at what it takes to be a leader, what are the qualifications that it takes to be a leader and who do we know that is a Lincoln graduation that can fit those qualifications. … The award is going to be someone that’s trustworthy, someone that’s truthful. So those life skills that we target here at elementary from K-5, those are qualities that we’re looking for.”

A permanent plaque will also be displayed at the school with the names of the recipients who have been chosen for the award.

The invitation-only grand opening of the Terry R. Abbett Leadership Center, and presentation of the first leadership award will take place on May 5, at 6 p.m. at the Lincoln Elementary School Library. The donors to the Abbett Center, as well as Terry Abbett’s family will also be thanked for their contributions, Ransom says.