Green Jays Basketball off to a hot start

Jackson State’s men’s and women’s basketball teams have started the 2019 season undefeated, and two Green Jays have earned Tennessee Community College Athletic Association player of the week honors. Both teams have solid 3-0 conference starts and are 8-0 in overall play according to the TCCAA website. After having a rough campaign in 2018, this strong start propels the Green Jays to the top of the TCCAA standings for 2019.

Men’s head coach Deron Hines understands what the start could mean to this team. “We were picked to finish 9th in our league so we have a lot to prove. With the good start we have gotten off to we need to stay focused because people will start targeting us every night,” said Hines. If the Green Jays maintain their current momentum, they will finish well ahead of the projected 9th place ranking.

Women’s head coach Kelvin Lester appreciates the start but still feels like he can get even more from his team. “We still have a lot of areas to improve in, but I’m proud of the effort and fight that this team shows night in and night out,” said Lester. The wins have come in a variety of ways including a come from behind 68-62 win over Chattanooga State Community College and a 93-55 blowout win against Columbia State Community College.

On November 19, sophomore guard Kavion Hancock was named Tennessee Community College Athletic Association player of the week by averaging 19 points, five assists, and four rebounds while shooting just over 53% from the field and adding 2.6 steals a game. Hancock played a vital role in wins over Bethel University Junior Varsity, Chattanooga State Community College, and Blue Mountain College Junior Varsity. Freshman guard Alexis Akins earned women’s basketball player of the week on November 26. Akins averages 18.6 points per game, shooting over 50% from the field and adding four rebounds per game according to the TCCAA website.

Both teams resume action at home on Wednesday, December 4th with the women’s game starting at 5:30 and the men’s contest at 7:30 as they host Southwest Tennessee Community College.

The Voice of Jackson State

When you call Jackson State Community College’s main phone number, the first thing you hear is the voice of Margie Lester.

She is known as the Voice of Jackson State, and if she can’t answer a student’s question, she knows who can. Lester has been the college’s receptionist for more than four decades.

She enrolled in Jackson State after graduating from Jackson High in 1969. At the time, she didn’t have the money to register, so Dean of Students Marion Smothers paid her fee.

“He was so kind and helpful,” she said. “That really made an impact on me – just that one little act.”

When she graduated two years later, Chester Parham, in charge of public relations for Jackson State, offered her a job as his secretary. She told him she didn’t know how to take shorthand.

“He said, ‘that’s okay. I talk slow enough. You can write in longhand.'”

A few years later, Jackson State President Dr. F.E. Wright came to Parham’s office and said the college could no longer pay for a full-time secretary for him and that he would have to share a secretary with another department.

Dr. Wright then turned to Lester and said, “I want to offer you a full-time position as college receptionist.”

Besides greeting people and answering questions, the job included operating the college cord-switch switchboard, Lester said. “The switchboard was a big monstrosity. We had four telephone lines for the whole campus.”

When a call came in, she had to pull a cord and place the ends in two places in the switchboard for the call to go through to the right person. Then she had to unplug the cord when the conversation was over, so other calls could come through.

If four people were on the phone, callers would get a busy signal. So, Lester took a lot of messages.

“I was constantly on the switchboard,” she said. “The switchboard had no call waiting, no voice mail. I hand wrote notes.”

During her breaks on the switchboard, she would often tape those notes on people’s doors. “I went the extra mile. I wanted people to get their messages.”

Margie at the switchboard in the seventies
Margie in the early 70s

Today, the college has hundreds of extensions. Besides handling the main campus in Jackson, Lester can also switch calls to Jackson State’s campuses in Lexington, Savannah, and Humboldt.

She is dedicated to her job and respected by her colleagues. Dee Henderson, who is now retired, gave Lester her nickname, the Voice of Jackson State.

In fact, one of Lester’s most prized possessions is a framed copy of a magazine article headlined “the Voice of Jackson State.” Students wrote the story, and Bank of Jackson President Gary Grisham, who remembered her from his days as a Jackson State student, matted and framed the article and gave it to her. Today, it hangs on the wall next to her.

Lester grew up on the UT Experiment Station where her dad, Joe Allen Mays, was a farmer. She has two children, Jeffrey and Jeremy, who are fraternal twins. Jeffrey and his wife, Tori, have two sons. Jeremy and his wife, Julia, have two boys and a girl.

Lester has enjoyed her many years at the college. When Dr. Wright first offered her that position in the mid-1970s, she said, “I had no idea it would lead to this lengthy employment.”

She developed close relationships with many people at the college, including Dr. Walter Nelms, who was Jackson State’s president from 1976 to 1997. “I really admired him,” she said. “Though he was my boss, we became friends. We still keep in touch.”

Lester has no plans to retire.

“I just love being around young people,” she said. “Jackson State is like a family. It’s a great college; it still means a lot to me.”

Smiley to meet public at JSCC

Nationally-syndicated radio personality and standup comedian Rickey Smiley will be at Jackson State Community College on Friday, December 13. Smiley is scheduled to be at the Student Center from 10:30 a.m. to noon for a meet-and-greet event with the public.

Smiley will be broadcasting his program from Thomas Media’s Hot 96 and 96 Kix stations in downtown Jackson. As a primary sponsor, JSCC will host the public event on its campus.

Smiley was originally scheduled to be at the college on November 8, but the event had to be rescheduled. “We are very happy Mr. Smiley was able to reschedule this event,” said Brian Gann, JSCC vice president of student services. “Everyone at Jackson State is excited about having a celebrity like Rickey Smiley on campus for the public.

Gann went on to say that this is a great opportunity for JSCC to make a positive connection within the community.

“We welcome anyone who would like to meet Mr. Smiley and learn more about JSCC,” Gann said. “Our staff will be on hand to talk with anyone interested in learning more about opportunities to improve their lives through education at Jackson State.”

Jackson State Community College Presidential Search Advisory Committee’s first meeting and public forum set for Nov. 15

The Search Advisory Committee that will lead the search for a new president of Jackson State Community College has been selected and will meet Nov. 15 at the college, following a public forum to gather campus and community input.

The forum is scheduled from 10:30 to 11:30 a.m. in Room 111 of the Jim Moss Center for Nursing building on the college’s main campus at 2046 North Parkway, Jackson. Members of the public and the college community can express their views about the characteristics, qualities, and skills the next president should have.

The Search Advisory Committee will meet from 12:15 to 2:30 p.m. in Room 111 of the Jim and Janet Ayers Health Sciences Building. There will also be a brief public comment period at the start of that meeting. Both the forum and the first committee meeting are open to the public.

Jackson State’s fifth president, Dr. Allana Hamilton, was appointed Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs of the College System of Tennessee by the Tennessee Board of Regents in September and assumed her new role at the system office in Nashville last month. Dr. Jeff Sisk, president of the Tennessee College of Applied Technology at Jackson, is also serving as interim president of JSCC until the next president is selected and takes office.

The committee’s first meeting is mainly an orientation session for its members. The committee’s charge is to identify up to three finalists, who will be invited to the campus¬†for interviews with the committee and forums with the campus community and public. TBR Chancellor Flora W. Tydings will then select a final candidate for submission to the full Board of Regents for its consideration and approval. The goal is to have the new president in office by July 1.

The 17-member Search Advisory Committee includes four members of the Board of Regents, the college’s governing board, plus representatives of the Jackson State faculty, students, staff and alumni, and the local community. The committee is chaired by Regent Barbara Prescott.

Read more about the presidential search process, including the preferred and expected criteria for the position and how to apply and submit nominees.

Members of the Search Advisory Committee members are:

Regent Barbara Prescott, Chair

Regent Emily J. Reynolds

Regent Greg Duckett

Regent Robert Pepper

Ms. Candyce Sweet

Ms. Terri Messer

Ms. Shiloh Coleman

Ms. Marian Sagahon

Ms. Robin Marek

Dr. Delita Thompson Johnson

Ms. Dana Nails

Mr. Tim Dellinger

Mr. Kyle Spurgeon

Mr. Jim Ferrell

Mr. Bill Kipp

Ms. Janet Ayers

Dr. Keith Carver
Chancellor of the University of Tennessee at Martin

Innovation choral ensemble to perform Winter Concert

Innovation, Jackson State Community College’s choral ensemble, will perform its winter concert on Monday, November 25. The performance will begin at 6 p.m. in Ayers Auditorium at the McWherter Center on the college’s main campus. The event is free and open to the public.

This year, Innovation will sing a medley from the movie The Nightmare Before Christmas. They will also sing a number of other Christmas selections including Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy and several African spirituals.

Now an annual tradition, the event has made strides to help others by raising funds and awareness for the JSCC Nest (formerly the food pantry). In addition to providing food to students in need, Jackson State’s Nest also provides an emergency relief fund that supports students in need. The Nest also makes other essentials available such as clothing, personal hygiene products, and gas cards.

While admission is free, donations to the JSCC Nest are suggested. Most people attending this event either bring items for the pantry or make a monetary donation.

The Nest serves many students over the course of a year. Anyone can contribute to the food pantry year-round. Contact Student Services at 731-425-8820 to make a donation.

Smiley event at JSCC to be rescheduled

Due to unforeseen personal circumstances, the meet-and-greet event with Rickey Smiley at Jackson State Community College will be rescheduled. The event, originally scheduled for this Friday, November 8, will be rescheduled for a day in December. Information about a new date will be posted as soon as it becomes available.

JSCC professors enhance effectiveness through personal research

Scholarly works written by Dr. Liz Mayo and Professor James Mayo, both of whom serve as associate professors of English at Jackson State Community College, are receiving recognition.

Dr. Mayo’s essay, “‘Some Unheard-Of Thing:’ Performing Xenophobia and Gender Conformity in the play The Member of the Wedding,” was recognized by the Carson McCullers Society as the “Outstanding Conference Paper” for 2018. Her essay was presented at the Carson McCullers in the World: A Centenary Conference” in Rome, Italy.

Both Dr. Mayo and Prof. Mayo presented papers at the conference, and both of their essays were chosen to be included in an anthology of conference proceedings to be published this winter by Negative Capability Press.

A separate scholarly essay by Dr. Mayo will be included as a chapter in a forthcoming book on the short fiction of Carson McCullers published by Mercer University Press; she will present this chapter at the American Literature Association Conference in San Diego next May. Also, her scholarly work on South Korean writer Han Kang’s The Vegetarian will appear as part of an anthology to be published by Routledge in 2020. She continues to write both academic articles and creative nonfiction essays focused on teaching including publications appearing in The Chronicle of Higher Education and Inside Higher Ed.

In addition to his September conference paper presentation on Wallace Stegner at the Western Literature Association Conference in Estes Park, Colorado, Prof. Mayo has recently finished a scholarly essay on Norman Maclean’s novella, A River Runs Through It, which will be published in the journal Renascence: Essays on Values in Literature. Beyond academic writing pursuits, Prof. Mayo also published his poem “Revisionism” in the August-November issue of Our Jackson Home, and he was a featured columnist in the most recent Carson McCullers Society Newsletter.

Both professors say that working on their personal research enhances their effectiveness as writing instructors.

“The Pollinators” to be hosted by JSCC Honors Program

The Jackson State Community College Honors Program will host a screening of the award-winning documentary film The Pollinators, Wednesday, November 6, at 6:30 PM in the Ayers Auditorium. The event is free and open to the public.

The Pollinators is a cinematic journey around the United States following migratory beekeepers and their truckloads of honey bees as they pollinate the flowers that become the fruits, nuts, and vegetables we all eat. The many challenges these beekeepers and their bees face en route reveal the many threats to their survival that bees face now. The filmmakers talk to farmers, scientists, chefs and academics along the way to give a broad perspective about the threats to honey bees, what it means to our food security and how we can improve it.

This film has already been selected by 25 national and international film festivals and has been honored as “Best Documentary” at seven of them. The Tennessee Beekeepers Association, Tennessee Environmental Council, Tennessee Sierra Club, and many other groups fully endorse this documentary and are promoting it statewide.

The trailer for the movie can be seen at