I was born in 1952, the second of three children of William and Betty Garland. I grew up at 345 Clarendon Avenue in a quiet, working-class neighborhood in the Hilltop with well-kept houses, trimmed lawns, and an abundance of children playing touch football on the side streets and pick-up basketball games in the alleys behind our houses. My father was in the business of buying and selling industrial machinery and represented the fourth
generation of entrepreneurs in our family. My mom was a housewife until her three children had graduated from high school, and then taught kindergarten until she retired in 2008.
I started kindergarten at Highland Elementary School at the age of four, followed by attending John Burroughs Elementary School through the sixth grade. I went to Hilltonia Junior High School from seventh through ninth grades and completed my tenth through twelfth grade years at West High School. While at West, I participated in track, football, and basketball. I won the District Long Jump during my junior and senior years.
After graduating from West High School in 1970, I attended Waldorf Junior College in Forest City, Iowa. While there, I was selected All Conference Wide Receiver in football. I was also selected as the Academic Athlete of the Year, receiving the most letters and best grades, while participating in football, basketball, and track. After receiving my Associates Degree in Business and Accounting from Waldorf, I continued my education at Augustana College in Sioux Falls, South Dakota graduating with a Bachelor’s Degree in Business Administration in 1974.
Upon graduation from Augustana, I began working for IBM Corporation in their data processing division, marketing large systems to retail organizations in Columbus such as Sears,
Federated Department Stores, and Big Bear Incorporated. In 1977 I left IBM and joined our family business, Garland Enterprises, and began to sell industrial machinery internationally. I founded Garland Caribbean Corporation, an organization that bought and sold sugar mill equipment and ran dredging operations throughout the Caribbean. In 1982, I became CEO of Niger Steel and supervised the reconstruction of their Steel Rolling Mill located in Enugu Anambra State. Over the next four years, I worked on a flourmill construction site in Benue State and numerous road projects in Southern Nigeria until a series of coups forced my departure from Nigeria. Upon my return home, I founded The Great Lakes Machinery Corporation, which operated for the next twenty years in the business of selling industrial machinery throughout the Great Lakes, Canada, and Mexico.
During that period of time, I was also involved with the
Amachi Program of Big Brothers/Big Sisters Organization,
which mentored children of incarcerated parents. In addition, I coached Special Olympics basketball for the Columbus City Schools during nineteen of those years.
In 2008, the pastor of my church (Grace Apostolic Church), the Rev. James Gaiters, asked me to begin programming at the Ernest L. Hardy Center. It was a building the church owned that had been underutilized. The mission of the center was to provide inner-city youth and their parents with the tools they need to become more viable within society. We started programming there in 2009 with 23 kids in the summer program that, over the years, has increased to 400 children throughout the 50-day summer program. Also, there are 150 kids involved in an afterschool program, which runs from October to April. During the past two years of the pandemic, we have delivered over 200,000 meals to children in the neighborhood who could not attend the summer camp. Our mission at the Hardy Center is to prepare young minds for a prosperous future through literacy, life skills, and leadership. I pray to God that in some small way we are doing that. At any rate, I have given-up all hope of retirement.
In closing, I would like to acknowledge a few people. First, my grandfather, J.L. Garland, who was the wisest man I ever knew. Second, Carl Fulton, my mentor and little league football coach, who always had confidence in me and never gave-up on me. And thirdly, my high school track coach, Bill Huckaba, who is the kindest man I have ever known.
In the Columbus area, Stephen Garland was a 2013 Jefferson Award Winner. This is an annual award honoring the contributions of individuals who fulfill a need for service and help solve community problems. His work at the Hardy Center certainly justifies this remarkable award.
Vida Fulton Williams, Class of 1973, nominated Stephen.