Students, teachers, alumni, staff and other members of the Jackson State Community College family gathered for an afternoon of reminiscing, catching up with one another and celebrating the 50th anniversary of Jackson State.
A large display of pictures that spanned the college’s history was the focal point of the Sept. 10 gathering in the Student Union Building.
Long-time employee Margie Lester recalled how she started as a student in Fall 1969, got a job in the communications department, became the college’s full-time receptionist, and 46 years later, is still working as the college’s receptionist. When she started, she had to master the old phone system with its many cords and jacks as she answered calls and transferred them to the appropriate person.
Clyde Fugate, who spent several years as a college counselor when Jackson State first opened, remembered how the Jackson State Generals got their name. After a contest among students to name the team, Fugate, Dean of Students James Toomey and student Ted Lewis helped narrow the names to two: Trailblazers and Generals. Then President Dr. F.E. Wright and Academic Dean Dr. Walter Nelms made the decision: Generals.
Joy Nelms was also one of the college’s first hires. She taught psychology and was an academic counselor for 35 years. She enjoyed helping students organize activities, she said.
Library Director Scott Cohen arrived at Jackson State in 1972 as the reference librarian. He’s seen the library evolve from a print base to electronic with most documents and even classes available online. The library today provides better access to materials, Cohen said. “We had no idea how the library would evolve.”
Tina Williamson has worked in several positions in her 40 years at the college. She started in the public relations office, working for Mary Craig. She spent many years in the counseling department under her “mentor Genevieve Brooks.” She’s seen plenty of changes, Williamson said. “It was a great place then; it’s even greater now. My life has been Jackson State Community College.”
Besides the large mural display of pictures in the center of the room, Dean of Academic Support Patrick Davis and Admissions Coordinator David Clark also caught the attention of the many people with cameras in the room. Both were wearing the same orange, pink and green plaid shirts.
As they laughed about their choice in clothing that morning, both recalled the days when they were students at Jackson State and how the college was the right option as they began their careers.
Though he made high marks in high school, Davis said, Jackson State was the first place that challenged him. At the time, Clark said, it was his only affordable option. “The experience, the teachers, Jackson State was worth all of the time I put into it,” Clark said.
“Jackson State’s purpose has always been to serve the students of the community,” said Beverly Hardin, who was one of the first faculty members hired by Academic Dean Dr. Walter Nelms. “We’ve done a really good job of that. Jackson State has been a vehicle for people to go to college who would not have gone if it had not been here.”
As young faces blended with older faces and people greeted one another with hugs, the afternoon gathering continued.
For Jackson State’s new president Dr. Allana Hamilton, the event was an opportunity for her to “meet the heritage of the college. This has been a wonderful celebration.”