Temple University's founder Russell H. Conwell once spoke of finding "acres of diamonds" in one's own back yard.

It's a philosophy Bernard C. Watson said he subscribed to during decades of working as an educator at Temple and around the city.

His commitment to seeking equity in education for the poor resulted in the creation of an urban studies department in the university's College of Education, he said.

For his work, Temple's College of Education established the Bernard C. Watson Endowed Chair in Urban Education - the first named after an African-American in the university's history.

Last night, nearly 100 people gathered in Mitten Hall on the North Philadelphia campus to pay tribute to Watson.

"He'd always stood for excellence and provided people the opportunity to succeed," said C. Kent McGuire, dean of the College of Education.

The endowed chair is the second such position established within the college and will focus on improving urban education, especially for children, Watson said.

"It's not enough to be in a classroom," he said. "You have to be committed to going out and creating opportunities to empower people."

Temple President Ann Weaver Hart said she was delighted with the university's efforts to reach out to surrounding communities.

"It makes our mission more visible and solidifies our commitment," she said.

Now retired, Watson said he was honored, and hopes Conwell's ideas will continue to guide Temple.

"We were once at war with the community," he said, "but over time it will change." *