Education holds deep roots in Jimmy DeLoach's family.
His mother, a teacher, principal, and later Chatham County School Board member, has only recently "slowed down"—she now just teaches Sunday school at her church. His two older sisters also went into teaching, as well as members of his extended family.
But for DeLoach (B.S.Ed. '82), whose career took him to football fields as a coach and later as a small business owner, there is a difference between being a teacher and being an educator. "An educator is a person who provides instruction. A teacher is a person who helps others acquire knowledge, competencies or values," he says. "I chose in my life, both professionally and personally, to be a teacher."
DeLoach was a walk-on member of the University of Georgia football team in 1977, which later opened doors for him working with coach Erskine Russell at Georgia Southern from 1984-1986. DeLoach and his brother, Eddie, now run the Savannah business Eddie founded, Tidewater Landscape Management.
Even as a small business owner, DeLoach sees his role as more than just "the boss."
"We as a teacher/business owner have so much influence on people's choices and what they will become in life from just our small time with them," says DeLoach. "Our small business has provided a stable environment and positive feedback for the skill that they have provided at Tidewater; many of our employees have spent their entire working lives with us."
DeLoach has a firm commitment to God and to serving others. But his faith was tested in April 2015 when his daughter, Abbie, was one of five Georgia Southern University nursing students killed in a wreck on I-16 outside of Savannah. In the wake of her death, DeLoach sought to find a way to continue his daughter's spirit and drive. The result is the Abbie DeLoach Foundation, which has three goals: To help cover the costs of others' educations, to serve through mission work, and to recognize collegiate athletes who show exemplary dedication and discipline.
The foundation has partnered with world missions at Compassion Christian Church in Savannah to provide education and job opportunities to women in India, sponsor nursing students to train in Ecuador this summer, and work with schools, camps, and local churches in Africa, China, Poland, and Greece to help traumatized children return to a normal life.
The Foundation also gives out scholarships to area athletes during its annual banquet, and more recently, established a scholarship fund in Abbie's memory through the College of Education.
When talking about his daughter, DeLoach cites the adage, "If you don't stand for something, you'll fall for anything." "This one quote is what Abbie's personality was all about. If she had something burning inside of her, she locked in and everyone was either on the team or got out of her way," he says. "The clear vision of what made Abbie Abbie gave me the strength and courage to start taking steps of overcoming my loss and grief and pushing forward in small goals."
Much has been achieved in the few years since her death, but for DeLoach and his family, the teaching continues.