40-year teaching career comes full circle with mother-daughter connection

When Anna Wilson met Dr. Lisa Smith last summer at fall orientation, she told her, “you taught my mother.”

Smith, Professor of Art at Jackson State Community College, remembered. She taught Wilson’s mother, Rosemary Arnoult, some 40 years ago at Parkway Junior High School. It was Fall 1980, and Smith was beginning her first full-time teaching job.

This past semester, as she ends her teaching career, Smith taught Wilson and even hired the student as her office assistant. “I knew she would be excellent because her mother was so wonderful,” Smith said.

Wilson calls this past semester of getting to know and working with Smith an honor. “Even before orientation at Jackson State, my mom was telling me about one of her favorite teachers she had in junior high that now taught at Jackson State. That teacher was Dr. Smith. When orientation did arrive and I received an advisor, I didn’t realize it would be Dr. Smith.”

Her mother told Wilson that Smith is the same now as she was 40 years ago: bubbly, exuberant and fun. “If orange or pink were a person, it would be her,” Wilson said.

Teaching keeps you young, Smith said, adding that she has enjoyed her interaction with her students. Though she never had children of her own, she considers her students as her children. “Sometimes, they even ask for money,” she said, laughing.

“Once she starts laughing,” Wilson said, “there’s really no stopping her or yourself from joining in. You’ll usually know she’s coming by her cheerful sound down the hall. As far as teaching goes, she’s inspiring. She’s open to new ideas and techniques.”

Smith, who grew up on a farm in Gibson County, said “teaching tends to run in my family.” Her uncle was her eighth-grade teacher; her cousin was superintendent of Milan schools.

She graduated from Union University with honors and a bachelor’s degree in art and business administration. Her master’s degree in drawing and painting is from Stephen F. Austin State University in Nacogdoches, Texas, and her doctorate in education is from the University of Memphis.

She spent six years teaching at Parkway Junior High, one year at the University School of Jackson and six years at Union University. In Fall 1995, Smith started at Jackson State and “found my home,” she said.

Smith is the only art professor at Jackson State. Her retirement in December 2019 means Jackson State will hire a replacement to start in Fall 2020. Smith taught extra courses in the fall semester to accommodate her students.

She’s looking forward to retirement. “I can’t wait to get into my studio and do artwork of my own.” She likes painting in all mediums and working with glass and hand-made paper. She also plans to travel with her husband, Jerry. She particularly likes to see famous artwork.

“I have enjoyed teaching so much,” she said. “I was going to teach for 30 years; all of a sudden 40 years went by.”

Cohen honored by WeTALC for contributions to library profession

An organization of West Tennessee librarians decided to create a new award in honor of long-time member Scott Cohen, Director of the Library for Jackson State Community College.

After naming it the Scott Cohen Torchbearer Award, the West Tennessee Academic Library Consortium (WeTALC) then decided to make Cohen the award’s first recipient.

The Torchbearer Award honors an individual who contributes to the advancement of the library profession through innovation – a description that fits what Cohen has done his entire career at Jackson State.

“I had no idea,” said Cohen, when asked about getting the award. “I was just totally moved – really. I didn’t understand how I deserved it.”

WeTALC was started in 1967 to foster cooperation and share ideas among academic librarians and their staff in West Tennessee. When Cohen joined Jackson State in 1972 as the college’s reference librarian, he quickly became involved — and active — in the consortium.

He has co-hosted special meetings and a technical conference. For many years, he maintained the group’s website and he still maintains the group’s directory. When the group languished with no leadership, Cohen kept it going by prompting members to host meetings or to get a task done. “The organization is important,” Cohen said. “Librarians need a place to share ideas.”

Cohen feels good about the future of the organization. “I am glad that knowledgeable and enthusiastic librarians are taking WeTALC to a new level by changing the types of programs for the meetings and electing new officers.”

He continues to guide WeTALC as needed; for example, he has developed a list of suggested locations for the group’s twice-a-year meetings for the next 12 years.

Sylvia Rowe, Library Technology Specialist at Jackson State, credits Cohen for getting her interested in becoming an academic librarian and says he constantly looks for ways to better serve students and make the library more accessible to everyone. “He is open-minded about technology and innovation in the library.”

The same energy he has used in being an active member of WeTALC is also used with innovative ideas for the Jackson State library.

Rowe calls him a lifelong learner. “If there is something new coming up in academic librarianship, I can guarantee that Scott already knows about it and has discussed it with other academic librarians. I find his intellectual curiosity refreshing, and I appreciate that he encourages that in me.”

Every day is a new challenge, Cohen said, adding that he has no plans to retire. Besides, he’s got that 12-year list of meeting locations to put in place.