Lt. Col. Oliver North, a retired combat-decorated veteran and best-selling author, will keynote the Jackson State Community College Foundation’s first annual banquet on April 21 at the Carl Perkins Civic Center.
A syndicated columnist and television host, North served in the U.S. Marines as an officer for 22 years. He was assigned to the National Security Council staff in the Ronald Reagan administration and served as counter-terrorism coordinator from 1983 to 1986.
“He is a highly decorated war hero, and he is a great supporter of education,” said Dee Henderson, Jackson State’s director of development and alumni affairs. “It should be an interesting evening with a world-class speaker. We hope that the community, through their support by attending, will gain personal insight not only into Jackson State, but also have a connection to someone who is relevant to our time and is knowledgeable of military affairs.”
The nonprofit Jackson State Community College Foundation is the school’s top fundraising arm and will sell sponsorships, tables and seating for the event to support various needs on campus.
“The foundation helps the college with financial needs, both of the college and the students we serve,” Blanding said. “It is a vital part of assisting the citizens of West Tennessee through scholarships, facility needs for adequate classroom needs, and programs of the college.”
In addition to raising capital for facilities, the April Foundation Banquet will provide scholarships for nontraditional students – people ages 25 and older who may not qualify for regular scholarships.
“These are people who are going back to get a degree, or they are taking classes to move up the job ladder where they work,” Henderson said. “And some, perhaps, their business closed, and they were laid off. They are the economic backbone of West Tennessee. They pay taxes. They live here. They support their families. They have a vested interest in West Tennessee, and we want to help them achieve their academic and economic goals.”
The event will also raise awareness about the college and its far-reaching impact. Jackson State serves 14 counties in West Tennessee with a total population of approximately 450,000. It is the area’s leader in providing top quality education and training for local employers.
The foundation’s board of directors chose to host Col. North as a guest speaker because he is well-known and knowledgeable about global affairs in today’s world, Henderson said.
His awards for service in combat include the Silver Star, the Bronze Star for valor and two Purple Hearts for wounds in action. North was involved in planning the rescue of 804 medical students on the island of Grenada and played a major role in the capture of the terrorists who hijacked the cruise ship Achille Lauro. Described as an American hero by Reagan, he helped plan a raid on Muammar Qaddafi’s terror bases in Libya and was targeted for assassination by Abu Nidal, a terrorist killed in Baghdad in 2002.
“Lt. Col. Oliver North is a combat decorated U.S. Marine with an extensive background in terrorism,” Blanding said. “He is also an inventor, columnist and host of ‘War Stories’ on Fox News Channel. We expect him to share his knowledge of the world today and further educate us all on these conditions.”
North serves on the board of the National Rifle Association and is the founder of Freedom Alliance, which provides college scholarships to the children of military personnel killed in the line of duty.
Blanding said he wants the community to attend the Jackson State Foundation Banquet to not only support the foundation, but also to have an opportunity to hear North firsthand. The fundraising banquet is expected to become an annual event with keynote presentations from other nationally recognized speakers each year.
“An event of this magnitude has never been done by JSCC before,” Blanding said. “We hope to make this a tradition with this one as our launch. The choice of the speaker was for the public’s interest.”
The foundation will continue to look for interesting speakers who can address important topical issues to provide value to the community while raising funds and awareness for the college, Henderson said.
“Jackson State Community College is proud to be a part of the West Tennessee community, and we are proud of our students and graduates,” Henderson said. “We’re also very proud of the relationships we have built with others in West Tennessee, including with businesses and industry.”
Tickets for the event can be purchased by calling the civic center box office at 731-425-8587.