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The woman who stands beside Ronald Mason Jr., the husband and the father. The women who set university policy and advise Mason, the president. The woman who ensures that students have a safe, secure environment to learn. The women who make sure students leave Jackson State better than they came. They all are Jackson State University’s Women at the Top. Three of them sit on the President’s Administrative Cabinet: Dr. Velvelyn Foster, vice president for academic affairs and student life; Evola Bates, chief of staff; and Regina Quinn May, general counsel.

Over the next several months, Jackson State will begin at least two large-scale economic development projects designed to transform and uplift communities surrounding the university.

“I have said for some time that women truly are the backbone of Jackson State University,” says Dr. Bettye Ward Fletcher, interim president from 1999–2000.

To some Jackson State professors and alumni, the Ayers case was more than a lawsuit filed on behalf of the state’s three historically black universities; it was a movement.

Shorter, more intense classes. A boundless campus. Nontraditional students as traditional students. Although unconventional, this is the Jackson State that President Ronald Mason Jr. sees in the university’s not-so-distant future.

May 14, 1970, a definitive moment in Jackson State’s history, ultimately would affect the families of two promising young men, Phillip Lafayette Gibbs and James Earl Green.

ON THE COVER: Dr. Velvelyn Foster, vice president for academic affairs and student life; Evola Bates, chief of staff; and Regina Quinn May, general counsel, walk down Gibbs-Green Plaza at Jackson State University.


The Jacksonian is published twice a year by the Office of University Communications at Jackson State University.

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Contact the Office of University Communications at P.O. Box 17490, Jackson, MS 39217 (601) 979-2272 (phone) (601) 979-2000 (fax) Visit the Office of University Communications at 1400 John R. Lynch St. Administration Tower, Second FlooR. DIRECTOR OF UNIVERSITY COMMUNICATIONS ANTHONY DEAN MANAGER OF PUBLIC RELATIONS TOMMIEA P. JACKSON SENIOR EDITOR/WRITER RIVA BROWN

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Redevelopment Lynch Street Project HOOP Economic Impact

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First White Student Gibbs-Green Building Spotlight

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Former SGA Presidents


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Murray and Martin David Chambers

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Johnson Family Baseball

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College/Division Briefs




Dear Jacksonians: As a historically black institution, Jackson State University has a rich tradition of educating African Americans and embracing students of all ethnic backgrounds. This edition of The Jacksonian magazine highlights the many struggles of JSU’s past, while celebrating its growth and giving readers a quick look at what’s to come. Read about the Ayers case, arguably one of the state’s most important lawsuits in higher education, which sought equality among Mississippi’s public HBCUs and traditionally white institutions. JSU alumni, current faculty and a former JSU president share inspirational stories of perseverance that resulted in important changes within the eight public institutions of higher learning. For the first time in years, family members of Phillip Lafayette Gibbs and James Earl Green share their emotional accounts of loss and life after the 1970 shooting deaths of their loved ones. Thirty-seven years after that fateful day, we, too, must remember their ultimate sacrifice. As we begin to wrap up $200 million of construction on campus, we are now shifting our sights to the community surrounding Jackson State. Learn about JSU’s plans to embark on one of the largest development projects in the history of Jackson and the only one of its kind in terms of residential and commercial development. You may have seen them around campus and know their names, but you will learn more about JSU’s Women at the Top in this cover story. It gives a glimpse into the lives of the university’s most powerful women, who are moving this institution to higher levels. Thank you for your continued support of Jackson State University, where we are “Challenging Minds, Changing Lives.” Respectfully,

Ronald Mason Jr. President, Jackson State University



According to fiction writer Gail Godwin, good teaching is one-fourth preparation and threefourths theater. The MADDRAMA performing troupe couldn’t agree with her more. On any given day or night, you can walk into Jackson State University’s Rose Embly McCoy Auditorium and find students in tight hallways and small classrooms rehearsing lines, practicing dance moves and being fitted for costumes. There’s a hustle of bodies in motions and voices in tune. The place is a mad house bursting at the seams with action. MADDRAMA, an acronym for Making A Difference Doing Respectable And Meaningful Art, gives JSU students an outlet for creativity while providing an education in the arts. The goal of the troupe is to heighten the awareness of theater in the African-American community by producing quality performances. “Aristotle said that theater shouldn’t just entertain, it should educate. We want our audience to leave with a message,” says Dr. Mark G. Henderson, artistic director of MADDRAMA and director of theater at Jackson State. “We’re not just an acting troupe. We’re an organization that focuses on it all. We use song, dance, music and comedy to deliver our message. That message ranges from attacking the stereotypes placed on black males and the

struggles of black women to the uniqueness and style of black entertainment. It also focuses on the importance of family and the plight of AIDS in the black community. Henderson says the troupe’s plays are relevant but not unique to the African-American experience. For instance, MADDRAMA’s spring produc– tion, One Monkey Don’t Stop No Show, is a comedic love story about the upwardly mobile black family of the Rev. Avery Harrison, his wife, Myra, and their attempt to move up in the elite society of Philadelphia, Pa., in the late 1970s. The play also addresses the way they handle death, teen pregnancy and marital woes. One Monkey, which played on campus in February, was not your usual Black History Month production about slavery and hard times. “This show reminds us to lighten up a little,” Henderson says. “It lets us know that it’s OK to laugh, even at situations we don’t always find funny.” Founded in 1998 as a community troupe, MADDRAMA gives students the opportunity to expand beyond the campus to develop and distribute their talents. It became an official campus organization in 2005. The group is a part of the Special Interest Council and serves as a major recruitment device for the Department of Speech and Dramatic Arts and the university. It’s also a vehicle for students to get recognized

nationally by the theatrical community, traveling throughout the South and performing in major cities such as Los Angeles, Chicago and Atlanta. When you ask members of MADDRAMA what they like most about the troupe, a sense of family takes center stage. Timothy Jones, 20, was a transfer student from Dillard University in New Orleans, dealing with losing several family members and his best friend in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, when he auditioned for the role of Delicious, the pimp, in the 2005 production of MADDRAMA’s New Beginnings. “The advisers, Dr. Henderson, Mrs. (Theresa) Smith and the members were there for me. They were very supportive,” says the sophomore speech communications major, who was a part of the production crew for One Monkey. Jones didn’t get the part. When auditions were held the next year, he auditioned again and was cast as the dumb athlete in the same play. But Jones will tell you he gained so much more. “Now I want to impact lives like Dr. Henderson did for me. I want to be a speech teacher,” says Jones. Kenneth Jones, 25, a former member of MADDRAMA and a 2003 speech communications graduate, says the family atmosphere inspired him to give back to the community. He is the founder and CEO of Philly X-Treme, a youth organization for minorities in north Philadelphia, Pa. He also is a youth counselor with New World Theatre, where he assists with political and social activities. “MADDRAMA had everything to do with what I’m doing

now,” says Kenneth Jones, who was named to Ebony’s 30 Leaders Under 30 list for 2007. “It gave me the desire to educate and be that family for the students I work with that MADDRAMA was for me.” Jeremy Ward, a sophomore speech communications major from Vicksburg, Miss., says it’s Henderson’s work ethic that keeps him going. “Doc is a role model. I’ve wanted to act since junior high. He’s constantly working trying to find new material for us,” says Ward, who played the Rev. Avery Harrison in One Monkey. “I don’t know when he sleeps. He’s always doing something to make our troupe better. MADDRAMA builds character on and off the stage.” Henderson says building character is part of the intensive month-long process. “We have workshops where we teach techniques like stage direction, but we also teach discipline. We practice a lot and we need disciplined members in order to put on quality performances.” “We’re not just an organization where you wear a T-shirt,” says Kimberly Crump, the organization’s secretary and a junior speech communications major from Houston, Texas. “You gain acting experience,” says Crump, who also was a part of One Monkey’s production crew. We place emphasis on black, quality theater.” Timothy Jones believes MADDRAMA is lifting the standard of black theater. “We’re about bringing integrity back to the arts.”


Dr. Mark G. Henderson and MADDRAMA members Jeremy Ward, Kimberly Crump and Marcus Thrash prepare for the troupe’s production of One Monkey Don’t Stop No Show.

Caleb Johnson (Terry Jordan Jr.) is annoyed by the Rev. Avery Harrison’s (Jeremy Ward’s) impromptu sermon as Harrison’s niece, Beverly (Tiffany Williams), listens in One Monkey Don’t Stop No Show.




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f President Ronald Mason Jr. has his way, Jackson State University will never be an oasis within the city of Jackson. Such an existence, he says, would mean the 130-year-old institution would be disconnected from the historic and struggling residential communities surrounding it. “Our plan was to build a living, learning community, and now that the campus itself is much more attractive and inviting, the plan has always been to move off campus next,” Mason says. Over the next several months, those plans will be in full thrust with the start of at least two large-scale economic development projects designed to transform and uplift surrounding communities. The comprehensive, megamillion-dollar plans – among the largest in the city of Jackson – call for residential, commercial and retail construction that would infuse funds into the local economy while creating safe, clean neighborhoods bordering the campus. While boasting outlets for shopping, restaurants and recreational amenities such as bike paths, parks and lots of green space, Mason says the revamped areas also would offer affordable, new housing options. “Somebody who makes $40,000 a year would be able to buy a house that in this market would cost you $225,000 by the time it’s all said and done,” Mason says. Those initially targeted for the housing, Mason says, would be university, state and city employees. Mason admits the initiatives are audacious, but on the heels of an on-campus construction boom that will end in 2008 with a $22 million engineering building and a $24.5 million student union, he also believes they are doable. “When we first got here and started talking about all the stuff we were going to do on campus, I wasn’t sure myself at the time we could do it because it was so ambitious, and then it happened,” he says. “So now I’m a little less worried. I’m almost convinced that what used to be pie in the sky really isn’t pie in the sky.” A

SELLING THE IDEA As an urban university in a cluster of historically black neighborhoods, Jackson State faces the daunting task of both creating a plan that would retain some of the historical elements of the nearby areas while simultaneously gaining the trust and confidence of local residents leery of change. One of those areas located southwest of the campus is Washington Addition. Once known as the whistle-stop community of Gowdy before being annexed by the city of Jackson, Washington Addition was home to many prominent Jackson State faculty and administrators. And one of the oldest black churches in the city, College Hill Baptist Church, sits within walking distance of the university’s main entrance. It was founded in 1907 on land donated by JSU. Blonda Mack, a lifelong resident of the area and president of the Washington Addition Neighborhood Association, says the university must be mindful of that history while seeking urban renewal. “From north to south, all the streets in this area are named for national presidents (McKinley, Grant, Washington, Cleveland, Lincoln and Harrison),” Mack says. “The streets running east and west are all named after teachers and professors of Jackson State. We have people who were born and raised here

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and have lived here all their adult lives. “It’s a very important area, because out of Gowdy came most of our black leaders in this city,” Mack says. “Look at the makeup of the Legislature and elected officials in the city and county. People like (Sen.) Alice Harden and (Hinds County Circuit Judge) Tomie Green were all reared here.” Troy Stovall, Jackson State’s senior vice president for finance and operations, is overseeing the redevelopment plans for the area just south of the campus that includes Washington Addition. He says university officials are taking great care to be respectful of existing neighborhoods. “Our overall goal is to reconnect to downtown and to turn those underutilized areas into a vibrant community,” Stovall says. “But we do have an onus to do no harm to those folks already living there. That’s kind of our working mantra.” Stovall says one of the most important elements of the initial phase is to reach out to established community groups, such as churches, neighborhood associations and businesses, to seek their input into the planning process.

“Our overall goal is to reconnect to downtown and to turn those underutilized areas into a vibrant community. but we do have an onus to do no harm to those folks already living there. that’s kind of our working mantra.”

“We’re working with the folks who are already there,” he says. “There are lots of vacant and abandoned property, and we’re planning on leveraging and turning that into more traditional neighborhoods.” Stovall says most of the work in the area bordered by Morehouse Avenue, U.S. 80, Valley Street and Terry Road is still in the planning stage. The university’s goals include tackling one block at a time, he says. “Over time, we want to create a new entrance to the community near Lincoln Street near the John A. Peoples Jr. Building. And one of the things we’re going to change, quite frankly, is the fence surrounding the campus in that area,” Stovall says. “As opposed to a perimeter fence, we want to put up something more inviting and engaging for the community. We want to be seen as part of the community.” To ensure the project’s success by having adequate resources, Stovall says the university is working closely with both state and city officials as well as the West Jackson Community Development Corporation.

troy stovall, Jackson state university’s senior vice president for finance and operations

The task is daunting, he says, because the university is facing about 30 years of disinvestment – including poor lighting, streets and drainage – in the area. “We’re hoping by this summer to start digging some dirt,” Stovall says. (Jackson State) will only go as far as the community around us can go. We can build $20 million


Focuses on southwest end of Jackson State Will offer mixed-income affordable housing options initially for university employees, city workers and state workers Focuses on one of the oldest African-American communities in Jackson Would create a new entrance to Jackson State near Lincoln Street University’s initial phase of the project is slated to begin in summer 2007 on Barrett Avenue Sources: Urban Design Research Center Development Plan, Harvey Johnson Jr. and Troy Stovall

Troy Stovall, Jackson State University’s senior vice president for finance and operations, reviews redevelopment plans in his office.

Focuses on northeast end of Jackson State near Olin Park and Deer Park neighborhoods Includes about 50 acres that would provide a clear link to downtown Jackson Would provide additional student housing, mixed-income, single-family housing and rental townhouses Would include commercial and retail development including a community service-type center and health center Includes plans for 300 units of for-sale housing, 150 to 500 units of rental housing and approximately 25,000 square feet of new retail space Phase 1 slated to begin in spring 2007 Former Jackson Mayor Harvey Johnson Jr., director of Jackson State University’s Lynch Street Corridor/Parkway Initiative, is pictured with UniDev LLC’s conceptual elevations of “The Village at Jackson State University.”

in new stuff on campus, and it’s no good if we don’t have surrounding areas that are secure and can be supportive of that investment.”


CONNECTING TO DOWNTOWN JACKSON On the northeast end of the campus, near the Olin Park and Deer Park neighborhoods, former

STREETS IN WASHINGTON ADDITION In 1903, the first four streets immediately south of the Yazoo and Mississippi Valley Railroad west of Dalton Street belonged to Jackson College. These streets were named for individuals who were connected with the college and the American Baptist Mission Society, the college’s main source of funding.

MOREHOUSE STREET Named in 1903 in honor of Henry L. Morehouse, the corresponding secretary of the American Baptist Home Mission Society.

FLORENCE STREET Named for Florence E. Johnson, a teacher in the grammar school at Jackson College.

BARRETT STREET Named for Jackson College’s second president, Luther Barrett.

TOPP STREET Named for E.B. Topp, an 1883 Natchez Seminary College graduate and missionary. Research by Eddie L. Brown Jr. Source: History of Jackson State University: The First 100 Years, 1877–1977 by Dr. Lelia Gaston Rhodes

Jackson Mayor Harvey Johnson Jr. is pushing the development of a 50-acre area that includes some of the 73 tax-abandoned and neglected parcels the university recently received from the state of Mississippi. Johnson, director of the Lynch Street Corridor/ Parkway Initiative, says plans for his project include additional student housing, singlefamily housing, rental town homes, commercial and retail development, as well as a community service-type center and perhaps a health center. The area that stretches from Dalton to Rose streets and from Rose to Minerva streets, tentatively dubbed “University Village,” would be a sole development of the university that could be under way within the next two years. “It’s not unlike what some other universities are doing across the country,” says Johnson, a visiting professor in JSU’s Departments of Public Policy and Administration and Urban and Regional Planning, School of Public Policy and Planning, College of Public Service. For example, in Philadelphia, Pa., the University of Pennsylvania made a push in the late 1990s to reinvigorate west Philadelphia’s disintegrating neighborhoods, resulting in safer neighborhoods surrounding the campus and the return of young families, professionals and businesses to the area. If successful, Jackson State would be the first historically black college or university to push a major development project outside the boundaries of its campus, says Johnson, who was the first African-American mayor in Mississippi’s capital city.

Sources: Urban Design Research Center Development Plan, Harvey Johnson Jr. and Troy Stovall

During the first phase, Johnson says plans call for student housing to be constructed as well as some retail spaces. “People are going to be surprised at the pace once we get started,” he says. During the building blitz, Johnson says the university also will have a relocation program that will focus on helping both renters and homeowners relocate to safe and sanitary housing. “We don’t want to move them out of one bad situation into another one,” he says. “Of course, it is going to cost more money than the traditional (methods), and there are no federal dollars involved.” Johnson says he also is considerate of neighborhood buy-in. “You don’t want to just go in and tear down everything so that people can’t recognize where they are. We’ll just have to incorporate some of these structures into our development,” Johnson says. “Some things we’ll need to assimilate and some of the styles of housing, such as porches with columns that were conventional foundations, will be replicated.” At the end of the overhaul, Johnson says the campus should have a clear connection to downtown Jackson. Eventually, that will translate into a clear connection to the city, Mason says. “I’m convinced this will happen the way I know it can happen,” he says. “Muhammad Ali used to say, ‘I’m a bad man.’ They called him conceited. I’m not conceited … I’m just convinced.”



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Lizzie Cooper once owned four pieces of property on Lynch Street. Two of the properties are now a part of a JSU parking lot and a baseball field.


Lynch Street is named for John Roy Lynch, a former slave who was the first African-American speaker of the house in Mississippi and one of the first African-American congressmen during Reconstruction.




movement. Under a plan called the Lynch Street Initiative, Jackson State will spearhead a major overhaul of the area as part of a larger plan to improve the communities surrounding the campus, says President Ronald Mason Jr. “You’ll see what they call new urbanism along Lynch and Dalton,” Mason says. “You’ll see a lot of walking trails, green space and lots of mixedused development.” While some of the area will focus on preserving history, Troy Stovall, Jackson State’s senior vice president for finance and operations, says some of the rebirth will include the construction of townhouses and businesses, such as coffee shops and restaurants. “We want to get things there that will compliment what had been there and provide some services that we just don’t have now,” Stovall says. Highlights of the initiative include renovating some of the remaining historic structures in the

900 block of Lynch Street. “We envision this as a place where people can come and look at what happened during the civil rights era and how it played such an important role in history,” says former Jackson Mayor Harvey Johnson Jr., director of the Lynch Street Corridor/Parkway Initiative. The Council of Federated Organizations building, for instance, was the headquarters of the 1964 Mississippi Freedom Summer project, which registered African-American voters and established summer schools. Ten years earlier, WOKJ-AM radio, the state’s first blackprogrammed radio station, began broadcasting there. COFO was the umbrella organization for the Congress On Racial Equality, the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, the Southern Christian Leadership Conference and the NAACP. Across the street from the COFO building, Medgar Evers had an office at the Masonic Temple, where Martin Luther King Jr. and others spoke. And down the street at the Chambliss Shoe Hospital, owner Jesse R. Chambliss Sr. was a founder of the Jackson Negro Chamber of Commerce and the State Mutual Savings & SPLAY £#4 G6


he stretch of Lynch Street between Jackson State University and Terry Road is on the fast track to becoming a redeveloped historic corridor that pays homage to the civil rights

Loan Association. Milton Chambliss, Chambliss’2'-0"grandson, says he’s thrilled progress is being made to revitalize the area once known as a “black business thoroughfare.” For the past few years Chambliss, a 1978 JSU alum who chairs Jackson State’s e-City Historic Preservation Committee, has helped craft plans for upgrading the area. “The street was just lined with businesses, activities and live music,” says Chambliss, who now owns his grandfather’s building. “It would be nice to at least restore a remnant of that in the last block that is still intact.” While Jackson State owns most of the properties along the Lynch Street corridor, Chambliss says other property owners are working to improve the area. Lizzie Cooper is among them. She has been counseling alcohol and drug addicts and AIDS victims at Ms. Lizzie’s Center at Lynch and Poindexter streets since 1991. Cooper says she has been approached about relocating. She is OK with doing so as long as the plans serve Jackson. “I think in the beginning, I didn’t really understand it. Now I see how Jackson State is better and helping the community,” says Cooper, who also provides children with food, clothing, shoes and transportation to church. “In the short term, when you’re looking at it, you can’t really see it. But when you look at it in the long-term, it’s going to be really fantastic.” 2 G4 #4

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REBIRTH OF LYNCH STREET CONTINUED FROM PAGE 9 While at least two other Jackson State redevelopment projects will get under way before the Lynch Street initiative moves into the forefront, Johnson says he expects it to become a reality within the next few years. “We have already started tearing down additional structures in that area. Although there was a slight delay, it is back on,” Johnson says, “and we might get some federal funding for that area as well.” Chambliss says if the initiative is successful, it could be a boon for both the university and the city of Jackson. “People will come from around the world just to see those places.”

Project HOOP helped Lenora Jimmerson-Honer, a driver at Jackson State University, became a homeowner more than a year ago.



enora Jimmerson-Honer says she’s ready to welcome more Jackson State University staff and faculty members as neighbors. More than a year ago, the 47-yearold driver was one of the first Jackson State employees to benefit from a university-sponsored program aimed at increasing homeownership among its staff. Before getting the beige, 1,500-square-foot home, Jimmerson-Honer and her family lived in an apartment. Being the owner of a threebedroom, two-bathroom house has boosted her outlook on life. “The program gave me another chance,” says Jimmerson-Honer, who also is enrolled at JSU and hopes to graduate in December with a degree in social work. Called Project HOOP, or Home Ownership Opportunities Program, the federally backed initiative that benefited Jimmerson-Honer provided low-interest loans and access to affordable, renovated housing surrounding the campus. Its goal was to help revitalize the Washington Addition neighborhood just south of the Jackson State campus. Partners in the program have included Jackson State, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, the city of Jackson and Jackson Metro Housing Partnership. So far, about a dozen homes have been reno-

vated through Project HOOP. But Troy Stovall, JSU’s senior vice president for finance and operations, says because of some early challenges with the program, oversight of Project HOOP is being shifted to the West Jackson Community Development Corporation, a nonprofit JSU initiated in 1984. Despite the changes, Jimmerson-Honer says she’s living proof that the university should continue to push for economic and community development programs that can make a positive difference in the lives of those with low to moderate incomes. “It’s especially beneficial for the faculty and staff. I got to buy a house for $35,000 that can be sold for $85,000,” says the married mother of three daughters. “They helped me to qualify and helped me with a down payment. There is no way I would have been able to buy a house on the salary I’m making.” The Project HOOP program targeted low- and moderate-income individuals and families. Under the income guidelines, a single person’s income couldn’t exceed $29,750. The income level for a family of four couldn’t exceed $42,500. Under the program, Jimmerson-Honer says she was allowed to lease her home for a year until she became eligible to buy it. “It allowed me to do something I’ve always wanted ... to own my own home.”

The former Ebony Theater, which sits between the old Chambliss Shoe Hospital and Ms. Lizzie’s Center in the 900 block of Lynch Street, is one of the first black movie theaters in Jackson. It is slated for renovation under the Lynch Street Corridor/ Parkway Initiative headed by former Jackson Mayor Harvey Johnson Jr.

Milton Chambliss’ building, which housed the old Chambliss Shoe Hospital, is the only structure on Lynch Street listed on the National Registry of Historic Places.




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11 District, Mississippi TelCom Center and other activities on campus can be nothing but an even greater economic impact,” Stovall says. Watson says the bottom line of the study is to show how the university uses its tax dollars. “We would like to justify that the tax dollars that were put into Jackson State have been very well spent as they come back to the economy,” Watson says. “JSU is actually an economic engine in the city of Jackson, the tri-county area and the state of Mississippi.”


Output  Jobs

Labor Income

Hinds County

$148.7 M 1,776


Jackson Metro Area

$170.1 M 2,086


Capital Expenditures

$60.7 M  758.1


Jackson e-City

$21.5 M  188.3

$5.6 M

Proposed Stadium

$4.2 M  50.7


Source: “The Economic Impact of Jackson State University,” The MURC Digest, February 2007


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distressed area immediately surrounding the university. The research also shows that JSU’s capital expenditures for large-scale construction projects, such as the engineering building and student union, show a significant economic impact, assuming materials and supplies were purchased locally. “Part of Jackson State University’s mission is to be a catalyst for the economic development of the capital city, the surrounding community and the state,” says Dr. Felix Okojie, JSU’s vice president for research, development and federal relations. JSU’s economic impact can be even greater with the construction of a proposed new football stadium in e-City near the central business district, the study shows. The estimated impact of the proposed stadium is an additional $4.2 million in output for that area, the researchers write. They derived that figure after using average JSU football attendance data from 2000–04 at the Mississippi Veterans Memorial Stadium and assuming that it was similar to data from Albany State University in Georgia. “We believe putting a stadium downtown, linking it with the Farish Street Historical

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recent study by Jackson State University researchers estimates that JSU has had an economic impact that more than exceeds its cost to taxpayers. JSU’s tax subsidy was approximately $33.8 million, 2004 figures show. However, recent research indicates that in the Jackson metro area, JSU had approximately $170.1 million in output, which is the production of goods and services. It also produced 2,086 jobs and $56.4 million in labor income. The study, titled “The Economic Impact of Jackson State University,” was released in February 2007 in The MURC Digest, a publication of JSU’s Mississippi Urban Research Center. It was written by Dr. Jerry Watson, assistant vice president for economic development and local governmental affairs; Dr. Mukesh Kumar, a professor of urban and regional planning; Dr. Gregory N. Price, an economics professor; and Vincent E. Mangum, a graduate student in public policy and administration. “To the extent that JSU as a project creates benefits that exceed its costs, it improves the economic status quo by affecting favorable changes in the allocation of goods and services that determine the well-being of households in the state of Mississippi, the relevant regional economy and the city of Jackson,” the researchers write. JSU President Ronald Mason Jr. says, as a nearly $200 million company in the heart of Mississippi’s capital city, Jackson State is an economic driver. “We are a big business and the study shows that.” Troy Stovall, JSU’s senior vice president for finance and operations, says, “While it is about the investment in our students, it is also about the overall economic impact we have in terms of job creation and of people buying, selling and owning homes in the community.” In addition to showing the economic impact on the Jackson metro area – which includes Hinds, Madison, Rankin, Copiah and Simpson counties – the study shows the impact JSU has had on Hinds County and e-City, an economically



JSU political science professor Isaiah Madison is the ‘architect’ of the historic Ayers lawsuit.




sk Isaiah Madison about the Ayers case and he can talk for hours. Rightfully so. The Jackson State University political science professor spent countless days and nights working with the Black Mississippians Council on Higher Education – a grassroots organization he’d helped to found – which gave rise to the case before Jake Ayers Sr. was named lead plaintiff. Madison is known as the “architect” of the historic lawsuit, actually writing the 37-page complaint that, at the time, was the largest lawsuit filed in the state of Mississippi. The document contained what he called a “three-pronged attack” to enhance Jackson State, Mississippi Valley State and Alcorn State universities; equalize education and employment for blacks at white schools; and increase the presence of blacks on the Board of Trustees of Mississippi’s Institutions of Higher Learning. The 1975 suit sought $1 billion. “It grew out of the people, not top down from lawyers and courts,” says Madison. “It started off as a true citizen’s movement, an

alliance of African Americans from across the state, made up of civil rights activists, students, alumni, SNCC (Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee), CORE (Congress of Racial Equality) and the NAACP.”

Jake Ayers

Separate but unequal was a familiar experience to Madison growing up in the small DeSoto County community of Lake Cormorant, Miss. Training at Howard Law School prepared him for the painstaking challenge before him. Once Madison returned to Mississippi in 1973, he joined with attorneys of the Committee for Civil Rights Under Law. Madison also met up with his high school classmate, Dr. Leslie Burl McLemore, a JSU associate professor of history and political science who became vice chair of the Black Mississippians Council. “We spent two years organizing, listening and conducting research,” says McLemore. “It was labor intensive to say the least.” It was during one of those meetings that Jake Ayers Sr. became the voice to lead the plaintiffs in the suit. A father, husband and active community member, Ayers’ vision for his children embodied everything for which the lawsuit stood. “It was clear that Jake Ayers was a great teacher,” Madison says. “Everybody knew Jake Ayers would be the plaintiff.”

STUDENT INVOLVEMENT Communicating with interested parties statewide was possible because of a strong network of students and alumni who relied on mimeograph machines, not computers, printers or the Internet. Leaflets provided the information about the meetings, which were usually held at churches, or in Jackson, at the Masonic Temple on Lynch Street. Campus meetings were often held in secret. “We also met ‘unofficially’ at the auditorium of the Charles F. Moore building,” says Madison with a laugh. “Now we can let that cat out of the bag.” Dr. Mary Coleman remembers those meetings and how her professor, McLemore, encouraged her to attend. “Once there was a huge meeting over in Dansby Hall. McLemore made us all go over there,” says Coleman, now an associate dean in JSU’s College of Liberal Arts. “I had just left a high school in Forrest, Miss., that had been desegregated, and I was curious to know what the outcome would be.” Like Coleman, many students were too young to join the cause without their parents’ permission. That wasn’t the case for Louis Armstrong, a Vietnam veteran who retuned to JSU in 1973 to complete his undergraduate degree. “The sororities and fraternities were discouraged from participating and so was the Student Government Association,” says Armstrong, a former Jackson city councilman. “Ike (Isaiah) Madison and his legal team didn’t really have anybody, so they ended up talking to the most radical group on campus: the Veterans Club.” Although they hadn’t attended one of the three public black colleges, Tougaloo College

Alvin O. Chambliss Jr. argued the Ayers case before the U.S. Supreme Court.

Dr. Ivory Phillips kept the Ayers case alive through writings published in the

Jackson Advocate.

students and alumni were an indispensable resource for the Ayers case. “There were so many Tougaloo graduates involved,” Madison says. “They had a tradition of championing the civil rights movement in Mississippi. As a private school, they had freedom that public colleges did not have.” TENSE TIMES A brewing effort to sue the state was not openly welcomed on the campuses of MVSU, ASU and JSU. Some school administrators, fearing the repercussions of protests, strongly discouraged Armstrong from participating. “I was told it was career suicide for me to get involved,” he says. “Someone even said, ‘Your mom sent you here to get an education. If you don’t take your name off that lawsuit, you’ll never find a job in Mississippi.’ ” Dr. John A. Peoples Jr., a former Jackson State president, remembers being told that he was too ambitious, and that JSU would never become a comprehensive university. Still, his commitment was unwavering. “You have to decide whether you are going to stand your ground or be so glad to have a job that you coward down and say nothing,” says Peoples from his Jackson home. “It was tough on me, but I had made a commitment to Jackson State.” SUSTAINING THE LAWSUIT Madison left the Ayers case and the state of Mississippi in 1985 after the death of his oldest sister. He moved to California to care for the children she’d left behind. Alvin O. Chambliss Jr., a 1967 JSU graduate and Madison’s fellow classmate at Howard,

Dr. Leslie Burl McLemore, a political science professor, directs JSU’s Fannie Lou Hamer National Institute on Citizenship and Democracy.

JSU alumnus Louis Armstrong, a former Jackson City Council president, joined the cause after returning to JSU from Vietnam.

took over as lead counsel. “I didn’t worry about all the distractions,” says Chambliss, a distinguished visiting professor at Indiana University. “I’ve never been the type of person who allows my environment to define my vision. I just started to rely on God and let him direct my path.” Sustaining a lawsuit for nearly 30 years was difficult, especially when most of the progress involved hours of courtroom stays, legal arguments and research. But Dr. Ivory Phillips kept the story in the public through writings primarily in the Jackson Advocate, a black-owned newspaper. “From 1984 on, I attended every hearing,” says Phillips, dean emeritus of JSU’s College of Education and Human Development. “I think my writing may have helped to keep the issue out there for people to see it.” Meager funding limited the effort, making the support of expert witnesses who chose to forgo consultation charges crucial. Financial assistance from the North and Central Mississippi Rural Legal Services ensured the case’s survival. While working with legal services, Armstrong attended the Ayers hearings in the nation’s highest court. “I had the privilege of sitting at the U.S. Supreme Court and hearing our attorney, Alvin Chambliss, and a couple other lawyers argue our case,” he says. “I was nervous that Alvin would be too nervous. He’s an emotional attorney.” RESULTS OF AYERS The settlement awarded $503 million to three schools over a 17-year period with JSU receiving 43.4 percent and ASU and MVSU both receiving 28.3 percent. Each of the schools were awarded new

Dr. Mary Coleman was an undergraduate student when the Ayers case began. She’s now associate dean of the College of Liberal Arts.

Dr. John A. Peoples Jr. served as JSU’s president from 1967 to 1984.


academic programs, funds for facilities and additional funding once they reached a 10 percent non-black student enrollment. The settlement awarded JSU bachelor programs in civil engineering, computer engineering, telecommunications engineering and health care administration; master’s programs in public health, urban planning and communicative disorders; and doctoral programs in business, urban planning, social work, higher education and public health. McLemore was torn over the decision to settle. “One mind said we should have returned to court to ask for additional things that we wanted. “Another said let’s settle so we can benefit. We could continue for the next 50 years and in the final analysis, JSU, Alcorn and Valley would be losers. Then generations of students would not benefit from improvements.” Everyone benefits from Ayers, Madison says.

“This successful citizen-driven law reform movement in higher education stands out as one of the most successful and substantial higher education reform movements in U.S. history. “The case not only showed that HBCUs were constitutionally appropriate avenues of diversity in American post-secondary education,” he says, “it also helped to solidify the constitutional legitimacy of gender and religious-oriented colleges and universities. “The intention was never to only enhance the black institutions to become a private preserve of the black community but to be a blessing to everybody, not just African Americans.” Unlike similar cases, Ayers took on academic programs, testing, admissions and funding, Chambliss says. “Ayers is one of the most important cases for black people in America in the educational sphere,” he says. “It has the potential to surpass

Brown vs. Board of Education.” Students must appreciate the efforts that make their educational pursuits possible, Peoples says. “Don’t take for granted the new buildings, new courses and degrees are matter of course. Some people shed blood for those things. These things didn’t come easily.” WHAT’S NEXT? The case has been settled, but all parties agree it must not be forgotten. “I would hope for current students to review the Ayers case, evaluate it,” says Madison. Coleman hopes that students will become more studious and aware of their generation’s responsibilities. “Someday they will have to struggle to enhance the enhancements,” she says. “Will they be ready? The children destined to rule will be those who determine what happens with these institutions.”


April 1973: Attorneys Lewis Myers and Isaiah Madison convened a meeting to bring Mississippi’s public colleges and universities into compliance with Brown v. Board mandate while protecting interests of blacks.

Court ordered the state to establish JSU as the “comprehensive urban university.” 1996: Bennie Thompson was designated lead plaintiff.

May 1973: Black Mississippians Council on Higher Education created to mobilize a statewide campaign and develop a plan of action. January 1975: Twenty-one black plaintiffs, including Jake Ayers Sr. of Glen Allan, filed a lawsuit against the state of Mississippi. April 1975: The U.S. Department of Justice required states to discontinue racial discrimination in public services and programs or lose all federal financial assistance. 1987: After a 10-week trial, District Judge Neal Biggers Jr. dismissed the lawsuit, saying that Mississippi had met its constitutional duty to eliminate its racially segregated university system.

2000: Gov. Ronnie Musgrove called the parties to work out a voluntary settlement agreement. After nine months, a $503 million settlement agreement was submitted to the District Court. March 2000: The signatories to the settlement included Bennie Thompson as lead plaintiff, attorney Isaac Byrd, etc. for the plaintiff class, attorney John Moore for the United States, attorney William Goodman, et al. and Gov. Ronnie Musgrove and Attorney General Mike Moore for the Board of Trustees. The lead attorney for the plaintiffs, Alvin Chambliss, declined to sign the agreement – insisting that it did not meet constitutional muster. January 2002: Judge Biggers approved the settlement agreement.

February 1990: A three-judge panel of the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals reversed the District Court’s decision.

January 2003: The 5th Circuit affirmed the District Court’s approval of the settlement agreement.

September 1990: The entire 5th Circuit reversed the panel’s decision and affirmed the District Court’s ruling.

November 2003: A three-judge 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals panel heard arguments from a group of plaintiffs led by former plaintiff lead attorney, Alvin Chambliss, challenging the constitutional adequacy of the settlement agreement. The panel affirmed the District Court judge.

June 26, 1992: The U. S. Supreme Court by a vote of 8 to 1 disagreed with the District Court and sent the case back for a decision to eliminate the vestiges of racial discrimination at the eight public universities. 1994: In a 12-week trial, the District Court heard testimony from the parties on the adequacy of the Board of Trustees’ plan to meet constitutional muster. The plan provided for the closure of MVSU and MUW. March 1995: Biggers ordered the state to spend more money to establish new graduate and undergraduate programs at JSU and ASU. The District

May 2004: The plaintiffs appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court, arguing that the settlement was unconstitutionally and unfairly executed. Oct. 18, 2004: The U.S. Supreme Court declined to hear the appeal. Sources: Plaintiffs’ records, U. S. court files, Mississippi Institutions of Higher Learning and newspaper archives.

Challenges for change: Jackson State looks to enhance diversity among students BY TOMMIEA P. JACKSON


ackson State is historically black, but its mission always has been to serve students of all races. While the numbers of non-black students have increased from approxi– mately 2.4 percent in 1996 to 4.1 percent in 2006, the historic Ayers settlement mandates that Jackson State, Alcorn State and Mississippi Valley State universities increase their non-black enrollment. After three consecutive years at 10 percent, each university will receive millions in funding. Once JSU reaches the status, the university would get nearly $5 million in public and private endowment funds, according to Mississippi Institutions of Higher Learning. Each year thereafter, JSU would receive $2.17 million from the Legislature’s public endowment appropriation and 43.4 percent of private endowment additions. Of the $1 million collected, JSU’s share would be approximately $434,000, IHL reports say. At JSU, new academic and residential buildings, programs, scholarships and non-black

Brian Thomas is Jackson State’s newly hired minority recruiter.

recruiters have helped to increase the number of non-black students. Vineeth Tuluri, a senior computer engineering major from India, has seen the number of nonblack students increase since he enrolled. “When I came, I felt like I was the only international undergraduate student,” says Tuluri. “There were a lot more graduate students. Now, I see there has definitely been a step up from the time that I came.” Daniel Canales, a Hispanic student from Texas, has had a similar experience. His love of the Sonic Boom of the South marching band led him to JSU. “I’ve definitely seen the school become more diverse since I’ve been here,” says the senior meteorology major, who is on a band scholarship. Additional scholarships would attract more international students, says Tuluri, whose father teaches in the physics department. “It takes a lot of money to come here.” While scholarships are key to attracting nonblack students, JSU’s other-race scholarships are limited. “We had somewhere near $100,000 for 2006,” says Dr. Bettye Graves, associate vice president for enrollment management. Newly hired minority recruiter Brian Thomas looks to show non-black students the opportunities at JSU. “Basically, I’m just trying to get JSU’s name and information to the prospective students.” JSU President Ronald Mason Jr. takes the “they will come” approach. “We would like to reach a goal of 20 percent non-African-American students because our

The famous Sonic Boom of the South marching band lured Texas native Daniel Canales to JSU.


Vineeth Tuluri of India has seen an increase in non-black students at JSU.

students need to see non-African Americans,” he says. “It’s that kind of world. “Our method is to build the best Jackson State we can build, and whoever wants to come can come.”


1996 1997 1998 1999 2000 2001 2002 2003 2004 2005 2006 151

195 202





BLACK 5,879 5,939 5,919 6,048 6,466 6,680 7,296 OTHER TOTAL








6,218 6,333 6,292 6,356 6,832 7,098 7,783





7,310 7,756 7,815 7,717 163




7,815 8,351 8,416 8,256

Source: Mississippi Institutions of Higher Learning Fall 2006 Enrollment Fact Book


W 16

hen Valerie Rovin Campbell arrived at Jackson State in fall 1970, she had no plans of making history. She did. “I was the first white girl to move into Alexander Hall,” recalls Campbell from her Jackson, Miss., home. Campbell learned of Jackson State while attending a Bahá’í youth conference in Chicago. She’d traveled internationally, but had not been to the South. “It was an interesting time and there was a little animosity there, but I thought of this time as an adventure,” says Campbell, now 60. “I imagine that I was as nervous as anyone would be in a new situation.” During her two-week stay, Dr. Oscar A. Rogers, former Graduate School dean, asked if she was interested in pursuing a master’s degree at Jackson State. “I didn’t think much about it at first,” says Campbell, who is a training and technical assis-

Rovin In 1970, Valerie one of e m ca be l Campbel ents at ud st the first white earned e Sh e. at St n Jackso 1972 in ee gr de a master’s e in 1990. at or ct do a d an

tance specialist for STG International. “But later I got notice that I’d received a national defense loan. I thought, ‘Well this must be what I’m supposed to do.’ ” One of the first white students to enroll at Jackson State, Campbell arrived months after the shooting deaths of Phillip Gibbs and James Green outside Alexander Hall. Campbell’s skin color was only one factor that made her stand out. The California native was accustomed to wearing shorts and sandals, not nylons and heels. “I was always very casual, but everyone down here was very formal,” she says. “That was nice but it wasn’t me.” Campbell’s faith taught her about “the oneness of mankind” and to appreciate racial differences. That belief had led Campbell to join the civil rights movement in California. As an undergraduate student at California State University in Fullerton, Campbell was active in CORE (Congress on Racial Equality) and the Black Student Union. It was while working with the Bahá’í Club at Jackson State that Campbell met her future husband. He is African American. “They were putting together a Bahá’í float, and I was working on an industrial arts float behind the Industrial Arts building,” says Larry Campbell, whose father, Ike Campbell, taught in Jackson State’s Industrial Arts Department. “I just went over and started helping. We got to be friends and quite a while after that we started dating.” The two were married in 1974, one year after Larry Campbell completed his bachelor’s degree in industrial arts. With a master’s degree from JSU, he is now a sergeant with the Jackson Police Department Reserve Unit. “Some female students didn’t like male students visiting me in the dorm,” continues Valerie Campbell. “That was probably the most difficult thing. That was a small minority of the students, but even a minority can make a loud noise. “I know who I am and am not intimidated by people,” says Campbell, who earned two degrees in early childhood education from JSU, a master’s in 1972 and a doctorate in 1990. “Nobody is any better or

Stefania Strunk

is an internatio

nal studies maj


worse than me.” Nearly 40 years after Campbell arrived at Jackson State, Stefania Strunk enrolled as a freshman. Interestingly, the two have similar voices. “Without my faith, I would be scared of what people think,” says Strunk, of Mt. Clemens, Mich. “I would not have the boldness to stand on what I believe. God created everything to be equal.” Strunk, who is white, says her friends questioned her decision to attend an HBCU in Mississippi. Strunk’s dance teacher and high school athletics director were graduates of JSU and encouraged her to learn more about the university. Like Campbell, Strunk’s visit to the South would be an adventure. “I’d never been to Mississippi,” says Strunk, who expects to graduate in 2010. “I knew about racism and other things, but I said, ‘Lord, I’m not scared.’” “As soon as I came to the campus, I fell in love,” says Strunk, an Honors College student and campus president of Fellowship of Christian Athletes. “I’m excited about the possibilities for me here and opportunities for international travel.” Strunk’s entire experience has not been easy, but the occasional negative comment hasn’t changed her love for the school. She’s even considering a run for Miss JSU. “I like to break the mold of things.”

e Lafayett Phillip l. d o ie o h rr c a as m high s bs Thom enior in Dale Gib n she was a s he Gibbs w



he night of May 14, 1970, should have been peaceful for students at Jackson State College. More than a week had passed since the tragic May 4 shootings at Ohio’s Kent State University, and despite demonstrations and marches, the crisp night air served as a reminder to students that the academic year had ended. However, the morning of May 15 revealed evidence of hatred, abuse of power and a bold disregard for African-American life. This definitive moment in the college’s history would

James E arl Gree n’s moth poses w e ith her her dau r, Myrtle Gree James is n ghter, M picture attie Gre Burton (right), d in the en Hull backgro . und.

ultimately affect two families known as one: Gibbs-Green. NEWLYWED LOVE Phillip Lafayette Gibbs, the third child of four siblings, was born Sept. 1, 1948, in Ripley, a small town in northeast Mississippi. Gibbs was smart, loved to read poetry and enjoyed sports. He attended Line Consolidated High School, where he met his sweetheart, Dale Adams. She was a senior in high school and he was a senior in college when they wed. “We loved every minute of it, and each other,” says Dale Gibbs Thomas. In fall 1969, Phillip left his hometown and wife

behind to study medicine but changed his major to political science. “Money was tight,” she says. “He really wanted to become an attorney, but I don’t think he ever got around to completing applications for law school. We just had so many other financial obligations.” A true family man, Phillip enjoyed nothing more than playing with his son, Phillip Jr. “He thought his son was the first child born on earth!” Thomas says, laughing. “I guess most fathers think their boys are the best. He nicknamed him — ‘Man.’ We still call him that today.” Thomas appreciated Phillip’s jovial spirit, espe-



cially during sensitive matters. “What I really loved about him was how he’d never let my father get to him when he’d stay with us on the weekends. My father didn’t dislike him or anything; it was just that we married at such a young age. “He thought I could’ve been doing other things than being married. But Phillip was always willing to do whatever it took to get along, which made me and my mother very happy,” Thomas says with relief. “We didn’t have to choose between our men!” Phillip was curious about current and national affairs. “Riding in the car one day, he asked, ‘Did you hear the story about what happened at Kent State?’ I said ‘Sure.’ He replied, ‘That’s just awful.’ ”


FULL OF LIFE On Dec. 19, 1952, Myrtle Green Burton gave birth to her fifth child, James Earl Green, nicknamed “Earl.” The young James enjoyed running. “He liked to joke and make people laugh,” Burton, 80, says from her west Jackson home. “But he loved to run.” James attended Isabel Elementary, Blackburn Junior High and Jim Hill High schools, where he was on the track team. He also worked at Rag-a-Bag, a convenience store near Lynch and Hattiesburg streets. Working six hours after school, he usually got home at midnight. “He’d always give me the money he made from working and divided the treats from work among his brothers and sister,” Burton says. Mattie Hull, 60, the oldest of nine Green children, says James’ reputation for giving was synonymous to his humor. James affectionately referred to her as “Big,” a shorter nickname for “big sister.” “Earl loved to keep up the devil all the time,” she says with a generous laugh. “We lived across the street from a man who only had one leg, and when Earl was a little boy, he couldn’t find one of his socks. He walked around and asked everyone if they had seen it. Finally giving up, he said, ‘Well, I guess the man across the street has it.’ ” YOUTHS STIR THE NATION On May 4, 1970, the nation’s attention turned to Kent State. A dozen National Guardsmen opened fire on a crowd of student rioters, killing four and wounding nine others who were protesting America’s invasion of Cambodia. Meanwhile, many Jackson State students were accustomed to taunts and racial slurs hurled from car windows by white motorists using the Lynch Street corridor to return to “their” side of town. Days after the Kent State shootings, tensions


between Jackson State students and the motorists escalated. On the night of May 13, 1970, having heard a false rumor that Fayette, Miss., Mayor Charles Evers – brother of civil rights leader Medgar Evers – and his wife had been killed, students and area residents began breaking windows of B.F. Roberts Dining Hall and pelting white motorists with stones in retaliation. On his way from work, James noticed the students had become restless. He followed his normal route home, crossing over Lynch and taking a shortcut near Roberts. The next night, according to the Hinds County

grand jury report, the Mississippi Highway Patrol and Jackson Police Department entered the campus near Stewart Hall to contain a fire at the Dalton Street intersection. Phillip was on his way to Alexander Hall to pick up his sister, Mary. His car was packed, and the two were soon to leave for home. The grand jury report says the Guardsmen stopped in front of Alexander Hall, where they saw male students from the crowd run into the dorm stairwell. According to an officer, a male “sniper” broke a window from inside the stairwell and fired a handgun at officers. But James “Lap” Baker of Jackson says a bottle hurled at the feet of an officer and sexually charged comments from students about the officers’ wives and daughters started the night of terror. “We were at Alexander the way we were always there,” says Baker, a member of Jackson State’s Class of 1970. “That is where we congregated. It was our campus. There was no cause for the city police and the Highway Patrol to be on our campus.” At 12:05 a.m. May 15, without warning, the officers opened fire on what seemed to be the entire campus, concentrating much of the gunfire at the dorm’s entrance, where most students fled for safety. After the 30-second gunfire, 275 holes were left in the west wing of Alexander Hall, reported the FBI in a later investigation. At least eight students were wounded and four students were in a state of hysteria. As frightened students peered from their hiding places, officers gathered their shell casings. The only evidence left were the lifeless bodies of Phillip, 21, in the Alexander Hall stairwell, and James, 17, in front of Roberts Dining Hall across the street from Alexander Hall. A CRUEL REALITY Hull says she thought it strange that James had not called before leaving work. “Before he would leave work for home, he would always ask me to have him some rice ready. But that night he didn’t.” Hull says her brother, Sam, began to search for James. Sam returned home at least twice, hop-

ing his brother was there. On his final trip to the college, Sam heard school officials read a list of names of injured and dead students. Sam delivered to his family the news of James’ death. Phillips’ young wife was awakened from her sleep around 3 a.m. Phillip’s sister, Nerene, was banging hysterically at the Adams’ front door, screaming that he was killed in a car wreck. “But as she continued to talk,” Thomas says, “she later made reference to Phillip being shot. After an hour or so, we went back to bed.” Thomas hoped it was a dream. “It wasn’t until later that day when one of Phillip’s friends drove his car home. It was packed as if he were ready to come home. Then I knew it was true.” At age 18, Thomas was a widow and single mother. Phillip Jr. was only 11 months old. After hearing the tragic incident on a newscast, Thomas’s brother phoned from California to check on his sister. “‘Now you’ve got Man; you’re not pregnant,



right?’” he asked. “I don’t know why he asked me that,” Thomas says, “but after the funeral I kept feeling sick. Still sick after six weeks, Thomas’s mother made her go to the doctor. She was pregnant. “That was awful. He (Phillip) never knew. He never knew he had another son,” she says of Demetrius. LIVING FORWARD Since then, the Gibbs and Green families have come to grips with the pain of losing a loved one. “When I discuss it now, it’s still there, but not like 1970,” says Thomas, “and often questioning God, I would ask, ‘Why me?’ It just hurt so badly.” Burton, who has buried two husbands, says, “There is no pain like a mother who has to bury her child. It really hurts.” Today, Thomas, 54, and her sons live in Phoenix, Ariz. She works as an insurance underwriter.

ooking forward, the families of Phillip Lafayette Gibbs and James Earl Green encourage Jackson State to continue to keep their memory alive. They want JSU administrators to share in the responsibility of passing the story down accurately. They also want students to seek knowledge, attend classes and make the most of their educational opportunities – things Gibbs and Green valued before their lives were cut short. “Heaven forbid, but this could very well happen again, if we don’t know our history,” says Dale Gibbs Thomas, Gibbs’ widow. On May 14, 1970, Gibbs, a 21-year-old JSU student, and Green, 17, a Jim Hill High School senior, were killed and at least eight other students were wounded in a hail of gunfire on campus. Ten days earlier, at Ohio’s Kent State University, National Guardsmen opened fire on a crowd of rioting students, killing four and wounding nine. Sitting on a bench on Gibbs-Green Plaza, Mike Kreger of New Orleans says he didn’t know about the 1970 tragedy or that the plaza was designed to keep white motorists off campus. “We learned about Kent State University in high school, but I didn’t know that basically, the same thing went down here at Jackson State,” the freshman finance major says. “They should teach us that in our University Success classes.” In the mandatory University Success course, freshmen learn positive study habits, student conduct and an overview of JSU history. The Gibbs-Green incident is not included in the history. “We must go beyond the books,” says Janelle Hannah-Jefferson, a University Success instructor in the Division of Undergraduate Studies. “I make sure I incorporate all of JSU history in our guidance classes. I have noticed there are many students who don’t know about the Gibbs-Green

Phillip “Man” Jr., now 37, is an automobile finance collections manager. He has one child, Cierra, 13. Though a toddler when his father died, Phillip Jr. says he and Demetrius feel as if they knew their father. “My mother was sure to keep him before us.” Phillip Jr. attended JSU in fall 1991. “Where we live is 3 percent African American,” he says. “I just wanted to witness living in a majority black city and attending a majority black school. Also, for that one semester, it was such an honor for me to live in the same dorm my dad lived in.” Demetrius, currently working in the mortgage industry, received his bachelor’s in business administration from JSU in 1995. “Once people knew who I was, they would tell me where they were and what they were doing the night of the Gibbs-Green affair,” says Demetrius, 36. “Everyone has their own story about the night. That’s when it hit me. The Gibbs-Green affair was a big deal.”

affair,” she says. “It’s my job to bring that history alive even for those who aren’t interested in JSU history.” Several campus groups are working to keep the Gibbs-Green story alive. The Student Government Association, Division of Student Life and the court of Miss JSU-elect sponsor an annual Gibbs-Green Memorial and Candlelight Vigil on the last Monday in April. The Gibbs-Green activities largely have been one-day events. In conjunction with Gibbs-Green Week in 2002, JSU sponsored the Mississippi Student Unity Summit, which included 12 public and private colleges and universities. Current students can remember Gibbs and Green by visiting the Class of 1971 memorial monument outside Alexander Hall. Curtis Johnson, JSU’s director of accountability and coordination, says there have been discussions about a more prominent marker on Gibbs-Green Plaza, such as moving the monument from Alexander Hall to the plaza or erecting a sign. “It is our responsibility to mark this part of history and make students aware of past sacrifice and the opportunities of which they are now able to partake,” Johnson says. At Kent State, students learn about the tragedies at both universities. Kent State sponsors an annual speaker’s program where a chronological list of events detailing both the Kent State and Jackson State tragedies is followed by the ringing of the victory bell. In addition, Kent State’s May 4 Task Force awards four full, merit-based academic scholarships for incoming freshmen and one student activist scholarship. Evangeline Robinson, JSU’s executive director of Institutional Advancement, says scholarships at JSU are established by family members or other donors. Enjoying the spring weather under the shade of an amphitheater on Gibbs-Green Plaza, Krystal Brown of Chicago says school pride is instilled in students when they know their school’s past. “When new classes come in, they should be required to learn this type of history,” says the junior speech communication studies major. “If you don’t know your own history, you will either repeat it, or allow someone else to commit the exact same thing against you.”



Since its beginning as a humble seminary, a growing college and now, a thriving university, Jackson State has had many faces. Some buildings, though updated, look the same, while others are new. The following is a brief tour around the campus with highlights of the past and present.


Named for the first Natchez Seminary president, Dr. Charles Ayer, Ayer Hall was constructed in 1904. It included a chapel, the president’s office, library, several recitation and reading rooms, and 44 sleeping rooms for male students. The basement was used for trunk storage and bathrooms. Renovated in 2004, Ayer Hall now houses the Margaret Walker Alexander Research Center.



The original dining hall was named for Benjamin Franklin Roberts, a director of food services for 11 years. It was built in 1953 as a dining hall at a cost of $210,303.17. It was renovated in 2006 and is currently used by Financial Services and the Registar’s Office. The current dining facility was built in 1976.


The library was erected as a stand-alone building in 1959 for $391,901.42. On Oct. 25, 1970, it officially was named for Henry Thomas Sampson, a Jackson State executive dean noted for his extraordinary administrative skills and time spent in the library. A total of 160,126 square feet in additions and renovations were completed in 1996.


Formerly the Old College Gymnasium Building, the 12,974-square-foot Band Building was constructed in 1949 by the Department of Industrial Arts at a cost of $87,570.93. The building was renovated in 1970. In 1976, the music department moved into the F.D. Hall Music Center Fine Arts Building, named for Dr. Frederick Douglass Hall, a renowned musician and faculty member from 1921–27. Hall revised the college’s alma mater, “Jackson Fair,” in 1921.


Formerly housed in the campus’ old Army barracks, the building is named for Joseph H. Jackson, a former Jackson State University quarterback who was inducted into the JSU Sports Hall of Fame in 1980. In 1987, Jackson donated $200,000, then the largest single donation, toward the establishment of an endowed chair in philosophy and social ethics. Also known as the SEB, the 66,350-square-foot, three-story brick building was built in 1973 at a cost of $1.5 million. It contains 40 classrooms, faculty and department offices, two lecture rooms, a seminar room and facilities for the Lottie W. Thornton Early Childhood Center.


Completed in 1947 for $213,750, Green Hall was formerly known as the Sherman Lawrence Green Administration Building owned by Campbell College, an African Methodist Episcopal school that relocated from Vicksburg, Miss., to across the street from Jackson College. Later, Green Hall was sold and used by Jackson College to house Student Affairs until it was demolished in 2004. Campbell College Suites, which officially opened in spring 2007, has been named in honor of the historic school.

Sources: Jackson State University archives, H.T. Sampson Library; History of Jackson State University: The First 100 Years, 1877–1977 by Dr. Lelia Gaston Rhodes



Lottie Thornton, ’43–’44

William Jenkins, ’67–’68

Orlando Richmond, ’85–’86

Gladys Peters, ’03–’04

Lottie Thornton, the first female SGA president to serve then-Jackson College, is enjoying life in Jackson, Miss. Thornton taught English at her alma mater for 40 years and now celebrates 22 years of retirement. Her dedicated service resulted in the Lottie W. Thornton Early Childhood Center on campus being named in her honor. “I spend my time doing what I want to do, when I want to do it,” says the Class of 1944 salutatorian. “These days, I have to do what my body tells me to do; however, I don’t sit around worrying about the things I can’t do.” Thornton, 83, is active as a deaconess at Farish Street Baptist Church and member of the JSU Alumni Association, Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority and the Mary Church Terrell Literary Club. Thornton fondly remembers serving the student body. “There were about 29 people in our senior class, and they wanted to have the senior picnic off campus,” recalls Thornton, who earned a degree in elementary education in 1944. “But the dean of Jackson College, Henry T. Sampson, wanted us to keep it on campus. I argued until he finally relented. Then I told him I wasn’t going; I had to finish writing my commencement speech.”

After graduating from Jackson State University in 1986 with a bachelor’s degree in political science, Orlando Richmond earned a juris doctorate from Georgetown University Law Center in Washington, D.C. Richmond, 43, returned to Mississippi to work for Butler, Snow, O’Mara, Stevens & Cannada in Jackson, then the state’s largest law firm. In 1994, Richmond and another attorney became the firm’s first African-American lawyers. In 2001, Richmond formed his law practice in Columbus and Jackson, Miss. In 2005, he became the first African American appointed as city attorney for West Point. The licensed and ordained minister began preaching at age 19. He married the former Allison Turnage, who attended JSU from 1982–86. “We were the first to need housing for married students,” says Richmond, partner in the law firm of Richmond & Abston. “By virtue of my academic scholarship, we were able to live in the faculty housing on Lynch Street.”

In 1973, William Jenkins left Mississippi for a career in education. By 1978, Jenkins was teaching English at Parkway North High School in St. Louis, Mo. It was predominantly white and had been ordered by the courts to integrate. The only black teacher at Parkway, Jenkins used his experiences to ensure black students received the best education available. Now an author, the Greenville, Miss., native has published 10 books, which have become the standard for school districts across the nation. “There is no difference in educating black children,” says Jenkins, who earned a degree in English literature in 1968. Some of his book titles include Understanding and Educating African American Children and From Excuse to Excellence. His recent book, What’s Missing in the Education of African American Children, is available at A minister since his freshman year at JSU, the 63-year-old notes that he was the first SGA president who was not a member of a fraternity.

After graduating from Jackson State University in 2004 with a degree in chemistry, Gladys Peters received a master’s of public health from the University of Southern Mississippi in Hattiesburg. During the 2006–07 academic year, the 25-year-old taught kindergarten through third-graders in the Hattiesburg Public School District. “I work with a lot of students who can’t read at all,” says the Columbia, Miss., native. “It has been a very humbling experience.” Though she has always enjoyed working with children, Peters began working at Jackson State’s Institute of Epidemiology and Health Services Research in March to study post-traumatic stress disorder within Hurricane Katrina survivors. She hopes to study minority health disparities and chronic diseases prevalent in Mississippi. Peters says her fondest memory as SGA president was having the largest number of students in JSU history register to vote in the 2004 presidential, state and local elections.

‘ BY RIVA BROWN he woman who stands beside Ronald Mason Jr., the husband and the father. The women who set university policy and advise Mason, the president. The woman who ensures that students have a safe, secure environment to learn. The women who make sure students leave Jackson State better than they came. They all are Jackson State University’s Women at the Top. Three of them sit on the President’s Administrative Cabinet: Evola Bates, chief of staff; Regina Quinn May, general counsel; and Dr. Velvelyn Foster, vice president for academic affairs and student life. Seven of them are deans: Dr. Dollye M.E. Robinson, Dr. Glenda Baskin Glover, Dr. Evelyn J. Leggette, Dr. Ally C. Mack, Dr. Johnnie Mills-Jones, Dr. Gwendolyn Spencer Prater and Dr. Dorris Robinson-Gardner. One of them is the director of JSU’s Department of Public Safety, Chief Rebecca Coleman. The other is the president’s wife of more than 20 years, Belinda D. Mason. On the following pages, these women share personal stories about how they got to the top and what keeps them there. They speak candidly about their upbringing and aspirations, their trials and triumphs, their unwavering faith in God. Most of these outstanding women are among African-American female higher education administrators nationwide who have labored tirelessly for years to earn their positions. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, black women in executive, administrative and managerial positions make up about 7.8 percent of the professional staff at degreegranting institutions, based on fall 2003 data, the latest available. But at historically black colleges and universities, black women made up 44 percent of the total in these positions, according to fall 2001 figures, the latest available from the National Association For Equal Opportunity in Higher Education, or NAFEO. At Jackson State, the numbers are higher: 52.9 percent in fall 2006, according to JSU Institutional Research and Planning. In the book Black Women in the Academy: Promises and Perils, writer Josie R. Johnson

’ explains why these women may have encountered difficulty reaching these ranks. An AfricanAmerican female has three obstacles that prevent her from working as a senior administrator, she writes. “One is the negative attitude that exists in the larger society regarding the role of women in our society. Then there is the resistance to females that exists among today’s academic community. Third, these challenges are compounded by being an African American.” Dr. Bettye Ward Fletcher understands these obstacles well. During her tenure at Jackson State, she rose from instructor to interim president, becoming the only woman in the history of the university to serve in the top position. In between, she worked as director of the Interdisciplinary Alcohol/Drug Studies Center, a dual position as dean of the Graduate School and director of research, as well as vice president for research and development. “I came to Jackson State in 1975 as a staff member working on a grant,” says Fletcher. “I really started at the basement level.” Fletcher says to attain full gender parity, the university must continue to create an environment that supports women in attaining seniorlevel roles, including presidencies. “I have said for some time that women truly are the backbone of Jackson State University,” says Fletcher, interim president from 1999–2000.

“Those women who are in mid-level management roles, they provide a tremendous level of leadership within the university. Now, the challenge for the university is to support those women in moving to higher-level positions, be they at Jackson State or at other institutions.” Fletcher says attitudinal barriers that prevent people from viewing women in those key roles must be overcome. “Oftentimes, men tend to support and recommend for positions people like themselves – other men,” she says. “They need to provide support for women to move into senior decision-making roles. Women have to be more than institutional caretakers; we need to be policy makers.” Fletcher says Jackson State is the institution it is today because of the contributions of women. “I applaud all of the women who give so untiringly of themselves, personally and professionally, for the benefit and the advancement of the institution,” she says. “Notwithstanding the tremendous leadership of men, but it’s also because of the contribution of women who have been in the trenches doing the hard work of moving Jackson State forward. “I call them the unsung heroes, and you’ve got plenty of them on campus now,” she continues. “It’s important for not only the university but for the community and the state of Mississippi to celebrate the contributions of these women.”

Dr. Bettye Ward Fletcher, JSU’s interim president from 1999–2000, is now president and CEO of Professional Associates Inc. in Jackson, a research and evaluation firm that works primarily with philanthropic and nonprofit organizations as well as educational institutions.





he didn’t want to do it. She didn’t want to become a high-level higher education administrator. Or become President Ronald Mason Jr.’s go-to person to get the job done. No. Evola Bates wanted to become a child psychologist. But she never did. Instead, she and Mason rose through the ranks at Tulane University in New Orleans before he tapped her to become the first chief of staff at Jackson State University. Bates is pursuing a career she never imagined for herself. Now, she can’t imagine being anywhere but Jackson State. “I love coming to work. The whole idea of being in a learning environment I enjoy,” Bates shares. “Even though I’m not practicing psychology, there are times when I have given advice to students, which I also enjoy.”







CAREER HIGHLIGHTS Bates spent 15 years at Tulane University in New Orleans, where she held several positions, including vice president for Human Resources and Administration. She was responsible for the overall operations of the human resources function at the university and medical school, which served about 5,000 employees. Today, she is a member of Leadership Mississippi.

enced severe culture shock. She went from eating rice every day to eatMAKING A STATEMENT Bates first went to Tulane to earn a master’s degree so she could work ing potatoes. “To live a day without rice coming from New Orleans was her dream job. She took a job there as an employee relations coordinator unthinkable,” she says. because staffers got free tuition. She also met Polish, Italian, Cuban and Puerto Rican people. “To me It was a slight step down the career ladder for Bates, who had spent a they were all white,” Bates says. “I didn’t know nationalities as part of my decade at the Total Community Action Agency in New Orleans, the latter life coming from an all-black environment. years as human resources director. “I learned to have an appreciation for others and their cultures,” Bates “I didn’t mind,” she says. “I just needed a job.” Mason, a lawyer at Tulane, says. “That helped me when I got to Tulane.” heard the university hired a black person and wanted to meet her. Bates was the first African American the university hired in a salaried position in THE JSU PARTNERSHIP human resources. Mason quickly shared his ideas for Tulane with her – to Fast forward 20-plus years. Bates and Mason are working at Tulane, she hire more African Americans and people of color in key positions. as vice president for human resources and administration, he as a senior Because of promotions and more promotions, Bates never finished her vice president. second degree. She served as affir She gets a call from Mason asking mative action officer, assistant direcif she will leave Tulane if he became tor and director of human resources, a college president. “Sure, I’ll go with vice president and member of the you,” she tells him, rolling her eyes. president’s cabinet. “I really never thought it would hap Working in such demanding posipen.” tions kept her away from her twins, Then Mason called and said Chicago Rashi and Ravi. But they understood State University was pursuing him for she was busy helping Mason transa presidency. “I was praying and begform Tulane. Bates and Mason were ging, ‘Please, don’t let him get that successful in hiring several Africanjob,’ “ Bates recalls. “I didn’t want to American undergraduate and law go.” When he didn’t accept that poschool professors, as well as key misition, Jackson State contacted him. nority staff members. Bates’ reaction was better this time. “We helped diversify the campus “I said, ‘Oh, OK. That’s a good fit for and helped them understand and be you. It’s not far from home.’ ” compassionate toward blacks and Mississippi’s capital city was no minorities,” Bates says. “We made a more than three hours from the Cresstatement.” cent City, making it easier for her son, Evola Bates holds her 3-month-old twins, Rashi and Ravi, in 1978. Ryan, then a seventh-grader, to visit APPRECIATING DIFFERENCES his friends. Plus, Bates had a connec Bates’ upbringing and early edu- Bates on teamwork: tion to Jackson State and the Magnocation gave her the foundation she lia State. Her mother is from Sontag, President Ronald Mason Jr. and Evola Bates Miss., and she remembers coming to needed to forge through trying times at Tulane and, eventually, Jackson State. became a formidable team after they met at Tulane Jackson with her Jackson State alumGrowing up in New Orleans as one of University in New Orleans more than 20 years ni-cousins when the university battled the oldest children in a family of seven rival Southern University. girls and three boys, Bates was used ago. She believes their tenure at Jackson State Despite those ties, Bates still felt like to being the caretaker. “I was mama’s will be the most fulfilling. “Our work to change an outsider at historically black JackState. After all, she graduated helper. Whatever needed to be done, I the academic and physical structure will leave a son from and worked at predominantly did it,” she says. “Also, I was always white institutions. the bossy one. I thought my opinion legacy for all Jacksonians to be proud of.” “I had everything going against me,” needed to be heard.” Not only was she says Bates. “Being an outsider, you part of a big family, Bates also was part have to find your way, but you have to do your job.” A higher power helped of a large, yet close-knit “cool” group of friends in high school. “The idea of being interested in different kinds of people and their sto- Bates stay strong. “My first year here, I prayed a lot because there were ries, who they were and what made them tick, started then,” she says. some people who were against us being here,” Bates says. “God gave me Bates had to rely on that interest when she enrolled in Albertus Magnus the strength to do this.” College, a predominantly white Catholic school in New Haven, Conn. She At Jackson State, Bates serves on the president’s cabinet, coordinates ended up at the East Coast institution after visiting Albertus’ table during activities for the president’s office and serves as a liaison between the her high school’s College Night. president, administrators and staff reporting directly to the president. “No one talked to them so I did,” she says. “They were giving scholar- Despite her powerful position, she never thought of herself as a leader. ships to black kids from the South to go up North in hopes of diversifying “It may come off that I am. Maybe I am living it and not knowing it,” she the campus.” When she arrived at the then-all-girls school, she experi- says. “Being around Ron, I see him as a leader and me helping him.”




26 r. Velvelyn Foster’s five sisters and six brothers excelled at basketball or football. She was the only mediocre athlete. Everyone in her family can carry a tune with ease. She can’t sing a lick. “I didn’t get those kinds of talents,” says the valedictorian of the segregated Lincoln County Training School. “But I did get the talent of being persuasive, being a strong leader and being disciplined when it came to the books.” The youngest child of a railroad union leader and a homemaker made sure she brought those talents back to Mississippi – and to her alma mater – after she completed graduate degrees at Carnegie Mellon in Pennsylvania. Her upbringing and her involvement in the civil rights movement made her want to give back to the state that has given her so much. “My intent was to return to Mississippi to teach and to work with students and their parents in the black community to make sure that they understood the importance of education,” says the Bogue Chitto, Miss., native, “so they, too, could receive the education they needed to come back to the state.” POSITION





B.S., social science, Jackson State University, 1964; M.A., history, CarnegieMellon University, 1967; D.A., history, CarnegieMellon University, 1970



STUDENT TURNED ACTIVIST their degrees prompted a change of mind. In each position she has held, Foster had a At Jackson State, Foster was an average yet Early in her career, Foster was given respon- reputation for being a strong advocate for facconscientious student who thought getting in- sibilities many other young professors did not ulty and students. volved in civil rights was a natural thing to do. have, such as representing the university at “I have always thought that the role of aca “I wanted to be involved with movements that national forums and national faculty develop- demic affairs was to be an advocate for stuimproved society,” she says. “My father taught ment alliances. Such activities gave her an op- dents and faculty,” says Foster, who spent six us one thing: Nobody was better than us, and portunity to view the two sides of the university years as president of the Faculty Senate. likewise we were not better than anyone else. that often have an adversarial relationship: the “I was a strong advocate – a strong advocate He stressed that people had different talents, faculty and the administration. for faculty and students, but I was also a realisand one talent may be better than yours, but no Foster realized that for a university to be re- tic advocate. I knew that in order to get anything one was intrinsically better.” ally great, faculty and administration must work done, I had to work with people, not against During her freshman year, she demonstrated toward a common vision and common goals. them.” in downtown Jackson in support of the Tougaloo Nine, a group ALWAYS A SERVANT of students who integrated the Foster was asked to serve as direcJackson Public Library. That was tor of the Institutional Self Study, a her first encounter with police us10-year assessment of programs ing dogs to break up a march. It and activities of the university, a was one of the most frightening mandate by the Southern Associatimes in the teenager’s life. tion of Colleges and Schools, the “I’m deathly afraid of dogs,” national accrediting body. After a Foster shares. “If I were going to successful review that resulted in be discouraged from participata 10-year reaffirmation of accrediing in future civil rights activities, tation, Foster was then asked to that would have been the thing. serve as associate provost for acaBut I continued.” demic affairs. Later, she marched in protest “I was reluctant to take the posiof the assassination of Medgar tion because directing a self-study Evers, which led to her arrest at is an exhausting, energy-draining Dr. Velvelyn Foster represents the faculty at Dr. James Hefner’s inauguration as the the Mississippi State Fairgrounds seventh president of Jackson State University in 1984. job, and I don’t think people unin downtown Jackson. The arderstand how stressful it is,” she rested protesters were held for says. “I was thinking about retirabout a week in an area where Foster on leadership: ing.” animals were kept. “I think the role of a leader is to provide vision, and to After 37 years at Jackson State, As a result of her arrest, JackFoster admits there are times that son State brought charges to develop a team with the skills, talents, dedication and she asks herself, “Why am I still suspend Foster and her room- commitment needed to actualize that vision. I think a here?” mate, who also participated in Mid-way through her career, she leader should always surround herself with people who briefly the protest. But she says strong considered a position someleadership and support from can take her place. I have always tried to surround myself one had nominated her for as an several faculty members helped with the strongest, most creative and skilled people that assistant dean in Atlanta. But she them remain in school. didn’t seriously consider it. “Jackson State was a state- I could find, including student assistants. They make “I have always been very happy supported institution that had to your job easier as they build their own professional at Jackson State and always at least pretend to be supportive wanted to be a part of the develof the state law,” Foster says. reputation. One key to building such a team is to always opment of this institution,” she “Tougaloo, being a private insti- give people credit for what they do. Never take credit for says. “I recognized very early the tution, did not have to contend potential of Jackson State and what someone else does.” with state-imposed restrictions.” wanted to be here when we realized that potential.” “It’s not what’s best for faculty or what’s best Foster says her biggest challenge is ensurFROM ACTIVIST TO ADMINISTRATOR After Foster graduated from Jackson State, for administrators, it’s what is in the best inter- ing that adequate resources are available to she taught middle school in Natchez, Miss., for est of students who are matriculating at the uni- continue to move the university to national and a year before heading North to earn advanced versity,” says Foster. international prominence. degrees. Despite this exposure, Foster says she had no “When I think about anything that I do at this She left with the intent to return to Mississip- ambition to become a university administrator; institution, I think about how it is going to make pi to teach on the pre-college level and perhaps she just wanted to be the best scholar/teacher this university a stronger institution, how is it become a principal. However, correspondence she could be. going to positively benefit the students and how from then-President John A. Peoples Jr. asking “My philosophy has always been that the best is it going to positively benefit the faculty,” she her and her future husband, Dr. E C Foster, to way to progress professionally is to do a good says. “My motivation is always to help and to consider Jackson State when they completed job at whatever position you are in.” serve.”




28 egina Quinn May has learned to maneuver through the minefields in life: earning a professional degree, dealing with life and death, and balancing work, marriage and motherhood. The main lesson that these experiences have taught her is simple: “Ask for help when you need it.” “Sometimes we don’t ask for help because we’re too proud. We have a persona that we have to maintain, to do it all ourselves,” May explains. “We’re a proud people and we want people to respect us, but the reality of it is that we all have challenges. I think the message is that in order to help people, you sometimes have to admit some of your own frailties and share some of your problems.” POSITION





B.S., political science, University of Southern Mississippi; J.D., Loyola University School of Law



May, who serves as Jackson State University’s first-ever general counsel, encountered obstacles after enrolling at Loyola University School of Law in New Orleans. Because New Orleans is a predominantly black city, she thought there would be plenty of African Americans in her first-year law school class. To her chagrin, there were only 14 in a class of 250, and she was one of only three who graduated. “To successfully matriculate and graduate from Loyola, I had to get very focused on my studies and formulate a plan,” May says of achieving that goal. “For me, talking to people who had been successful in that Loyola system about what to do in order to successfully complete the program was key.” ROLE AS GENERAL COUNSEL As the university’s chief legal counsel, May states, “Our office’s primary function is to provide legal oversight and advice on matters involving the university.” The office does four things: drafts and reviews contracts; manages and coordinates legal services; provides training to university personnel to ensure they comply with university policies, procedures and the law; and reviews and revises university policies, procedures and handbooks. May says one of her most important roles as general counsel is that of legal counselor, giving advice to department heads and, of course, President Ronald Mason Jr. Jackson State is the only historically black college or university in Mississippi that has an Office of General Counsel. May is the only African American and the only woman general counsel with a university or college in the state. May reflected upon her decision to apply for general counsel for Jackson State and remembers: “I was blown away by President Mason’s vision for the university that he delivered at a banquet. He spoke so eloquently and with such passion that I remember thinking: ‘He just might be able to pull this off.’ ” LIFE AND DEATH One of the people May always counted on to help her through difficult times was her

Regina Quinn May graduated from Murrah High School in Jackson in 1978.

May on her Afro: “I used to liken myself to revolu– tionaries such as Angela Davis, and I would laugh at other women when it would rain and they would run to their cars. I liked the idea of being able to stroll in the rain with no concern at all about my hair getting wet. When Stokely Carmichael spoke at USM, he asked why I wore my hair in a ’fro. I responded: ‘This is the way my hair grows, and I don’t see any reason to process it.’ ... But I do now.” mother, Willie Etta Griffith Quinn. Losing her “Ma Dear” was one of the greatest challenges of her professional career. She passed away while May was in private practice. “I remember in my teenage years, I would imagine that she had died just to prepare myself for the loss,” she says. “Nothing could prepare me for the crater in my soul

when she died. “Though she was terminal, I questioned the medical treatment (or lack thereof) that she received,” May adds. “She died on my birthday, which was the same as my wedding anniversary. I took that as her way of saying to me, ‘Don’t sue anybody; it is just my time.’ ” When May lost her nephew, Donovan, in a car accident in 2003, she knew it was time to help her sister, Sandra Moffett, as others had helped her. She accompanies her sister to the annual Christmas vigil of Compassionate Friends, a support group for parents who have suffered the death of a child. “Sitting in a room full of families who have lost their children (young and old) is a heartwrenching experience, and the only thing greater than the immense grief is the love that permeates throughout the sanctuary,” May says. “Sandra has had her share of difficult days, but her time is spent ministering to others.” BALANCING ACT The youngest of six children, May says she had no idea of the amount of time and number of sleepless nights involved with being a mother. John Richard May III will be 3 years old in August. “Surely, if my mother dealt with six, I can deal with one,” she surmises. “So I stopped whining and just did what I needed to do.” She then quickly admits, “But I still whine every now and then.” May says she could not do what she does without the support of her husband. “In addition to being my husband, John is my best friend and my lawyer. He’s got my back.” But more important than her husband and son is May’s personal relationship with Jesus Christ. “I don’t want to proselytize,” May says, “but when you are dealing with all the challenges I am constantly facing, you need God. “Everything that I have done in life has had its own set of challenges. You exchange one set of challenges for another. The key for me has been that regardless of what ocean I’m in, I know to whom I am anchored. I know that whether the waters are calm or turbulent, I will be OK.”





y interest in expressing myself and processing life through writing began when I read Harriet the Spy in third grade. Like the character in the book, I recorded what I observed in my neighborhood in Lafayette, La. I’ve kept a journal ever since. After graduating from college, I worked for the local paper, The Daily Advertiser. I worked in the newsroom and the production department. My experience reporting and learning how the paper went from layout to film to plates to print helped me land my next job. I became a feature writer for a small, local Catholic newspaper, The Morning Star. I did a little of everything – typesetting, layout, writing and photography. I met Ronald while working as editor of a local community newspaper. The Southern Consumers Times was operated by Southern Consumers Cooperative. Ronald worked as general counsel for the Southern Cooperative Development Fund, which was housed in the same building. Several people in the building became regular contributors to the paper, including Ronald. EDUCATION




B.A., journalism, University of Southwestern Louisiana (now the University of Louisiana at Lafayette), 1980; preprimary credential, American Montessori Society, 1996




Ronald and I married in 1985. Jared was born three years later. In my attempt to be the best parent I could be, I joined The Parenting Center at Children’s Hospital in New Orleans. While there, I found and read my first Maria Montessori book called The Secret of Childhood. This book changed my mind about children and parenting. By the time Kenan was born, I decided to change my career to become a Montessori teacher. Before I was able to begin my training, I was diagnosed with lymphoma. I had a pain in my chest and was treated for pneumonia. What no one knew at the time was that I also had a malignant tumor in my chest. It wasn’t discovered until the pneumonia cleared and the pain returned. I was hospitalized soon after and underwent surgery, chemotherapy and radiation. It was a difficult and scary time. My teacher training had to be postponed. Jared was 4 1/2 and Kenan was a little over a year old. I had to deal with many fears, including the possibility of not seeing my children grow up. People were so kind and family stepped in to help Ronald care for the house and the children. The experience of facing a life-threatening illness made me listen to my heart in making future decisions. What the world would have us believe to be important usually is not. One of the most liberating realizations I had during my illness was that I am more than my body. That everything in this physical world is temporary. That love, loving experiences and memories are permanent. A year after completing all treatments and well on my way to recovery, I finally entered The New Orleans Montessori Teacher Training Center. From there, I worked at the school where I received my training and did student teaching. I later took a position assisting in a K-1 class at Jared and Kenan’s school. New Orleans was my home for 16 years before the opportunity to move to Jackson came up. In hindsight, I was ready for a change, but change is generally hard and I was reluctant. My adjustment to Jackson was easy, but my adjustment to being a president’s wife was not. The university I attended was large and predominantly white, and during the entire four years there I don’t recall ever seeing the wife of the president. I had no concept of

life as a student at a historically black college or university, nor as the spouse of an HBCU president. Before becoming part of the Jackson State family, I wondered and asked about the expectation of my role. I was told that I would have to define my own role as did the presidents’ spouses before me. My role continues to evolve but the responsibilities that are clear to me are to be a support to my husband, to be there for my children and to help keep them grounded, and to not forget who I am and what’s really important. Our life is full, very active and exciting. It can be a challenge to live an ordinary life under extraordinary circumstances. As an introvert, the demanding and constant lifestyle can be overwhelming, but I’ve learned to pull back or make sure there is down time for us all. After moving to Jackson, I did not look for work right away. I needed to get an idea of what our new life was going to be like. It wasn’t long before it became clear that my focus should be on my family. When my oldest son was a senior in high school and began to drive, I began to think about going back to work. I became an academic tutor at McWillie Elementary in one of the 3- to 6-year-old Montessori classrooms. Two weeks after I started working, Hurricane Katrina hit.

The year after Katrina was challenging and wonderful at the same time. It was difficult to watch so many relatives and friends suffer, but one of the blessings was having Ronald’s parents and his daughter, Nia, live with us. A year later, Nia took a job in Baton Rouge, La., my in-laws moved back to New Orleans this past November, and my oldest son is a rising sophomore at Howard University. I continue to work for the Jackson Public School District in the Montessori program as well as for The Little Samaritan Montessori Center. I recently turned 50. I am so grateful to reach this milestone. Ronald wanted to celebrate it in a big way, but I was in no hurry. I figured we could celebrate later or throughout the entire year! One way I’ve decided to commemorate my 50th birthday is by volunteering to train and walk a half marathon to help raise awareness and funds for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society. I have so much to be grateful for. All of my life’s experiences have been full of blessings and lessons. I believe I was able to experience and enjoy these last 15 years since my diagnosis because of the people who contributed, walked, ran or cycled to fund research and programs of the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society. What a gift to be able to return the favor.

The Mason family is pictured at Jared’s graduation from Murrah High School in May 2006. From left to right, Kenan, Nia, Belinda, Jared and Ronald.




improved just as it did in the rest of the state. Most of this was because of African-American officers like Coleman who stood and fought for respect and fair treatment. Coleman gives much credit to an organization called Jackson Concerned Officers for Progress, which united African-American officers and their causes. Coleman describes J-COP as a “mouthpiece

became the first African-American female to hold the position of deputy chief under Chief Jimmy Wilson. This made her the highest-ranking female – black or white – in JPD’s history. After 20 years of making history, Coleman became the first African-American female to retire from the department. She continued her career in Forest Hill, Texas, where she became not only the city’s first African-American police chief, but also the first African-American woman known to hold such a position in Texas history. Less than a year later, she came to work for her alma mater. Today, Coleman is primarily responsible for keeping Jackson State – including its students, faculty, staff and property – safe during a time of unprecedented growth. It is a responsibility that Coleman is passionate about, both personally and professionally. She has two daughters who attend the university. Tyrone Kidd, administrative captain for JSU’s Department of Public Safety, says Coleman is “very good at keeping us on task until the job is complete.” “Through her years of experience in the field of law enforcement, she has obtained a wealth of knowledge that I feel fortunate to have been exposed to. I feel that working with her can only enhance my own career.” Coleman credits support from the university administration and a good working relationship with JPD, along with the hard work and dedication of her own officers and staff, as factors in keeping the campus safe. Above all, Coleman credits a “strong and unwavering belief and faith in God” for her success. She lives by the principle that once you put God first, everything else will fall into place. Lee Vance, a Jackson State University student, is also Precinct 2 commander at the Jackson Police Department. BARBARA GAUNTT

n 1974, the Jackson Police Department was dominated by white males. It was a little more than 10 years removed from being integrated by blacks. It was only four years after Phillip Gibbs and James Green were killed at Jackson State University. During that incident, local and state law enforcement, including Jackson police, used firearms. During this time of significant change and high racial tension in Mississippi, Chief Rebecca Coleman became one of the first three African-American females to join JPD. Today, Coleman is the first African-American female director of JSU’s Department of Public Safety. Coleman, who first wanted to be a social worker, says she became a police officer because she had a great desire to help people. Coleman remembers when she and fellow recruit Mary Riddley were the only two African-American females in a 14-week class at the Jackson Police Training Academy. The routine was like a military boot camp with its rigorous physical training and strict academic standards. Many leave voluntarily because they cannot keep up. But both Coleman and Riddley endured the treatment and eventually graduated. Coleman says they both wanted a career in law enforcement, not just a job. By combining that with their personal determination, they were able to persevere. There were more tough days ahead, such as dealing with white male training officers who did not want to be in the police car with her. She also had to stand up to others who thought it was OK to use racial slurs in her presence. As time went on, the racial climate inside JPD

to voice the concerns and grievances of the African-American police officers to the powers that be in the police department, city government and the community.” Coleman continued to distinguish herself in her pioneering journey through JPD. In 1977, she became the first African-American female officer to reach the rank of sergeant. When asked about how other officers responded to her, she says she initially was “stonewalled” by both blacks and whites. And to her surprise, some of the white officers were the first to offer her words of encouragement. In the following years, Coleman served in several positions, including supervising the Youth Division and the Child Protection Unit. In the late 1980s, Coleman was appointed as the administrative assistant to David Walker, JPD’s first African-American police chief. In 1989, she






McLaurin Vocational Attendance Center, McLaurin High School, 1970; B.S. in sociology, Jackson State University, 1974



ynamic, dedicated and determined, seven of the 10 academic deans at Jackson State University are African-American females, a rarity in higher education, which historically has been dominated by white males. On the following pages, you will learn more about how these Women at the Top became great – and chose to pursue careers that guide others to greatness. These exceptional women could be anywhere in the world, but their devotion to students and passion for service keeps them at Jackson State. Whether helping recent high school graduates or seasoned adults realize their academic, personal and professional goals, or broadening students’ horizons beyond the United States, they all are leaving a lasting legacy that will inspire alumni, friends and supporters of Jackson State for years to come. BY RIVA BROWN

DR. DOLLYE M.E. ROBINSON ‘dean of deans’ r. Dollye M.E. Robinson has been called the “dean of deans.” She earned that title because she knows her priorities. Helping students grow and mentoring current deans. In that order. “I see myself as a mentor for every dean that’s here,” says Robinson, who also teaches a music history class three days a week. “It’s very important to me because I won’t be here forever, although people seem to think I will be,” she says, chuckling. “But you need to have people with the ideas and the ideals of taking care of students.” Here’s how Robinson has continued to serve Jackson State for more than half a century. And counting. ON COPING AT WORK: “People look at me and say, ‘My goodness, you’re in your 55th year. How in the world do you manage?’ I manage because of students. Now, I don’t think I would have stayed here if I would have just had to deal with adults all this time.” ON EVALUATING YOUR PERFORMANCE: “Self-evaluation is important. I do a self-evaluation after class. I ask myself, ‘What have I done in this class that’s going to impact these students’ development?’ Evaluations by outside persons, that’s important, too. But the most important thing is that if you’re going to be working at a university, I don’t care what you’re doing – whether you’re president or the person that picks up paper on the yard – the most important person to evaluate you happens to be these students.” ON SUPERVISING FORMER BOSSES: “It posed no problem because I knew that in order to be in charge of anything, you must know what you’re doing, how you’re doing it, with whom


you’re working and how to get the best from them.” ON SETBACKS: “You should not get discouraged and disgusted when you don’t do all the things that you think, because there will be people who will try to derail you. Everybody is not going to push you into a better life. You’re going to have to do that internally. And for those of you who try to derail you, don’t be angry about that. Know it’s going to happen. And if you do, you try to help that person get their minds straight. That’s hard to do.”

POSITION: Dean, College of Liberal Arts since 1994 EDUCATION: B.S., Jackson State College, 1948 M.M., trumpet and music education, Northwestern University, 1959 Ph.D., music history and music administration, Northwestern University, 1967 CAREER HIGHLIGHTS: Served JSU as music instructor, assistant band director, band director, head of Department of Music, chair of Division of Fine Arts, director of Institutional Self-Study, music professor, and assistant and associate dean of the School of Liberal Arts FAMILY: Niece, Petsye Laura Elizabeth Huyghue; sister, Annie Laurie Robinson


ompetition comes easy when you’re growing up in a house with a halfdozen kids. Just ask Dr. Glenda Baskin Glover. She competed for the most comfortable spot on the bed, the best seat at the dinner table, the biggest piece of chicken. Glover later applied that competitive spirit to academics – a spirit that propelled her to become one of two African-American women in the nation to be a Ph.D., a lawyer and a certified public accountant. “I saw first-hand the racial discrimination and overt prejudices of the day,” Glover says. “In my mind, the way to attack that was to be competent and competitive.” Later, she realized life wasn’t all about competition; it also was about being successful, and then becoming significant. “If you can be ever so successful and still not make a difference, your life has no meaning,” she says. “I wanted my life to have meaning and to be important to somebody.” Growing up in Memphis, Tenn. – sitting at the feet of her father, Henry Baskin, who made their modest home a “safe” house for civil rights workers from the North – Glover wanted to become a college professor and a lawyer. As a high school student and undergrad, the majorette who liked to read the dictionary studied math because it was one of the hardest majors. She decided to become a CPA after searching the library to find the most difficult exam to pass. She soon discovered CPAs had the lowest pass rate. “I said, ‘If this exam is that hard, I’m going to take it to see if it is doable,’ ” she remembers. “I chose the path of most resistance.” After working as an auditor for Fortune 500 companies and Wall Street firms, Glover’s ultimate goal became to sit on a corporate board – where the real decisions are made. Glover says she seriously considered two college presidencies, but she has no interest in such jobs. Her desire is to be the best dean she can be and continue serving on corporate boards. When asked why she remains at Jackson State University, she responds: “It’s the students that keep me here.” Glover advises students to set high goals. “Each time you’re close to achieving a point under that goal,“ she says, “then your goal becomes more and more unending in the quest for being all God provided for you to be.”

thers knew Dr. Evelyn J. Leggette was destined to become a leader before she realized it herself. She’s evolved from director of Jackson State University’s Right-to-Read Program to dean of the Division of Undergraduate Studies because, every step of the way, someone recognized her skills and ability. “I wasn’t seeking out any of these jobs, to be honest,” Leggette says. “They were coming to me at a very fast pace.” Leggette says she stood out because she always expressed an opinion at the university on developing programs and services to help students to succeed. “I did that whether it was going to merit me anything or not,” she says. “I wanted to make sure students were better when they leave here than when they came.” Throughout her 30-plus career at Jackson State, Leggette has remained committed to helping students develop their total self and earn a college degree. She was one of the original members who helped to develop University College, a program at Jackson State specifically designed to recruit and retain freshmen. Dr. Dollye M.E. Robinson, dean of the College of Liberal Arts, is one person Leggette considers a mentor because of her leadership qualities. “She demonstrates the kind of attributes I think are a must for a leader,” Leggette says. “She is a great encourager and motivator, a positive thinker, a true academician and scholar.” Over the years, Leggette has grown into an even better leader by working hard, though not necessarily for the money. “Make sure you’re not afraid to work hard at every level and to demonstrate that you have the skills, the ability and the courage to lead and to do,” Leggette says. “It will not always be that the compensation is great or the job is very easy. You just have to have that passion to want to serve and to make sure you are helping others,” she says. “If that passion is great enough, somebody will see that this person has the utmost dedication for the job. “We cannot be afraid of work and going beyond the call of duty and think we’ll be paid for every individual task and job we do,” Leggette adds. “It has to be that driving passion and excitement within that makes you want to serve, to help others and to leave a lasting legacy of service.”

hange the world. Make a difference. Many people have these goals in mind when they introduce innovative ideas. But when Dr. Ally C. Mack suggested that Jackson State University create the Office of International Programs, her initial goal was much simpler: Reduce her workdays from 18 hours to 12. For four years, she worked around the clock as professor and chair of Jackson State’s Department of Political Science and executive director of the Mississippi Consortium for International Development. Mack was driven because she was part of a group that brought the training component of the U.S. Agency for International Development to Mississippi. “USAID came to Jackson because during a meeting in Washington, a Caucasian woman stood up and said that black institutions were incapable of providing training to people coming from various parts of the world,” Mack recalls. “So we brought these people here and showed them.” Mack remembers writing three, sometimes five, proposals a week. “You had to do it better than anybody,” she says. “You had to stay on it. You couldn’t just slough off. You still have to stay on it.” Years later, Mack remains on top of things by introducing international visitors to Mississippi, and exposing the university and its students to the world. Her biggest accomplishment at Jackson State, she says, is getting units across the university to seek exposure outside the United States. “They are moving into the global arena, it’s because of our initial efforts, and I think it’s a really good thing,” Mack says. “Our students will not be prepared unless they are exposed internationally.” Mack says students need international experience before they leave Jackson State partly because “it changes them – they want to do something to help people they see as less fortunate.” She notes that approximately 95 percent of the students are on financial aid, funds that can be used to study abroad. “Our students must be able to compete in the global marketplace, and the global marketplace, as we say at Jackson State, is right here, right now.”

t just sounded good. That was reason enough for the Florida high school student to become a physical therapist. But her mother – a single woman who worked in a cafeteria – gave Dr. Johnnie Mills-Jones a reality check. “I can send you to college, and I know I can do it for four years, but I don’t know if I can do it for longer than that. I think physical therapy takes six to eight years,” Mills-Jones remembers her mother saying. “Get into something that you like where you can get out in four years.” That’s when the Miami native decided to become an educator, curriculum writer and program developer/trainer. Some of the most significant people in her life were teachers. The ones who bought her clothes for a debutante ball and other special events that her mother could not afford. The others who made the 12th-grader take ninthgrade Spanish instead of home economics. Those who ensured that she fully developed her academic talents and potential. After college, Mills-Jones settled into a career teaching kindergarten through third grade. Until, after working with some student teachers, she realized it was time to do more. “I saw things that would not help the student teachers survive as teachers – especially teachers in lower socioeconomic communities – or be successful in culturally diverse settings. I had a passion to produce a ‘better teacher,’ or ‘a teacher for the real world,’ ” she says. “I soon learned that it was not enough to help them while teaching in the college classroom,” says Mills-Jones. “I needed to be an administrative person at the top, become dean, maybe making critical decisions about the teacher training curriculum to determine what teachers need to have to get the best out of children.” Nearly five years ago, Mills-Jones challenged herself by changing her focus from educating youth and school personnel to educating adults in general. “My interests changed to, ‘How do I motivate the seasoned adult to want to continue to learn?’ ” she says. Mills-Jones continues to challenge herself by focusing on her work preparing learners 25 years of age and older. “Always realize that the quality of your work speaks louder than anything else,” Mills-Jones says. “And when it comes to leadership, know how to roll up your sleeves and follow.”



triumphant despite adversity


ven if it was just sending a card, she’s been there for faculty during major events in their lives. Even if they don’t tell her, she’s been a role model to staffers who tell others. Even if she remembers their faces but can’t recall their names, students from two decades ago still remember how her teaching touched their lives. Dr. Gwendolyn Spencer Prater recalls getting letters of appreciation about these things. Things that made her feel, after nearly 30 years at Jackson State University, her work as a professor, chair and founding dean has been more than worthwhile. “It’s the positive things I think about and look back on,” Prater says, “just those things of working with people, giving back and sharing with others.” Looking back to her youth, Prater aspired to be a clinician, then a professor, to help prepare students for the social work profession. Her upbringing and schooling sparked her interest in the field she says is her passion. She recalls listening to women in her mother’s beauty parlor talk about their problems and attending a segregated Catholic school that emphasized sharing your gifts. She also remembers engaging in the civil rights movement as a Tougaloo College student and talking to an alumna of her alma mater, who was the first African-American female social worker at the Veterans Administration Hospital. Pursuing a career in social work “was the best decision,” Prater says. “I’ve never been sorry.” Sometimes Prater misses the direct contact with students. But she understands the importance of her broader role as an administrator, a position she says she never sought. “If you do things well, you don’t have to toot your own horn; people recognize it,” Prater says. “Over time, you get asked to do more and apply for more.” Prater says she started to leave JSU a couple of times over the years as other opportunities presented themselves. But her work made her stay put. “I have had the opportunity to grow and expand my horizon and that of the university with increasing levels of challenge,” Prater says. “I can’t look back and say there’s anything else I’d rather have done.”

Ph.D., social work, University of Southern California, 1977

ome white higher education administrators told Dr. Dorris Robinson-Gardner that she had what it takes to become an administrator. But taking the steps to do so didn’t go over so well with them. At the University of Arkansas in the 1980s, she was the only African American and only female pursuing a doctorate in higher education administration. Before she took her entrance exam, some “talked down” to her, treating her like they didn’t expect her to score well. Then she scored 20 points above the cut-off score on the Miller Analogies Test – a score they later used as the norm for admission into the program. During class, they tried to ignore her. They even stopped talking when she walked into the classroom. But they never deterred her. Then the time came to take the 40-hour area comprehensive examination to complete her doctorate. Study questions were given to other students, but none were available for her. They wanted her to give up because she had a 3-weekold baby at home. She refused. “I said, ‘I came here to get a doctorate degree in higher education administration, and that’s what I’m leaving with,’ ” she recalls. And that’s exactly what she did. That degree helped her become the first African American and first female to serve as state coordinator of academic programs with the Arkansas Department of Higher Education in Little Rock. Even today, some men continue to have issues with her. She’s a stately woman, standing 6 feet tall. Many are forced to “look up” to her. “It is a man’s world,” Robinson-Gardner says. “I’ve always faced some kind of adversity.” But she doesn’t think she’s faced more adversities than anyone else working in higher education administration. “Mainly I ignored it,” she says. “Whatever my goals were, I tried to find a way to make it happen. I have learned to get along with all types of people and keep my goals in mind.” Seven years after she left the state position in Arkansas, Robinson-Gardner became dean of the Division of Graduate Studies at Jackson State University. She took the job after being “courted” for the position for 2 1/2 years. She’s been here a decade now. “I initially was told I needed to go into administration because I was good at managing people, planning, directing, evaluating and communicating,” she says. “But it occurred to me over the course of my lifetime that I never wanted to be an administrator, I wanted to teach full-time, share information, broaden horizons.”

While most couples spend the majority of their work-weeks in separate offices fulfilling individual career goals, Drs. James and Jean Brooks and Drs. Raghu and Vijaya Gompa share one common bond all day, every day – JSU. BY ELTEASE MOORE

Drs. James and Jean Brooks university’s respect for our confidences and nology for three years. But this is not their first Instead of going to the movies or walking in professionalism is also what has kept us here,” time working together. The Gompas worked as the park, Drs. James and Jean Brooks enjoy assistants in the Department of Mathematics at Jean says. spending time together at work. the University of Toledo while they were Ph.D. The social work professors, one of Jackson Drs. Raghu and Vijaya Gompa students in the mid-1980s. State’s many married couples, have been work Drs. Raghu and Vijaya Gompa have been with Today, Vijaya is a professor of mathematics eding at the university since 1972. JSU’s College of Science, Engineering and Techucation, while Raghu is a professor of mathemat After meeting as graduate students at ics. “Being able to work together in the Dethe University of Michigan’s School of Sopartment of Mathematics at Jackson State cial Work, the couple decided to try a posthas been a plus for us because it allows us graduate career in Mississippi. to complement each other’s strengths,” Ra So they packed up their 1965 Volkswagen ghu says. and headed to JSU’s faculty apartments. Mathematics is intertwined in all aspects Being assured of their safety, the interraof their lives. “While doing chores we even cial couple was hired separately two years talk about work,” Raghu says. “We depend following the Gibbs-Green shootings on on each other’s strengths to guide us,” Vicampus. jaya says, completing her husband’s sen The belief that they have a purpose to tence, “and while we are talking, we don’t help students get their degrees keeps them even consider it to be about work.” motivated to continue their work at JackAfter being asked what they like to do for son State. fun, there is silence. “Now that I think about Drs. Jean and James Brooks are professors of social work at Facing the same deadlines and having Jackson State University. it, math is our life,” Raghu says, chuckling. the same drive are among the many rea“We must work on that!” sons the parents of five adult children, in Part of the reason the Gompas’ lives recluding three together, keep their marriage volve around math is because they spend intact. a lot of their time writing grants, conduct Their motto for keeping married life seping workshops and doing research in their arate from work life is “what happens at field. The couple also has written and pubhome stays at home.” lished several articles in books and schol Playing a role in seeing JSU’s School arly journals. of Social Work, College of Public Service By working together, the parents of three evolve has been worth their stay. It once sons – Neal, Thaige and Shawn – believe it was a part of the Department of Sociology, saves time because they do not have to talk which offered only a minor in social work. about their workday at home. It became a separate department in 1975. They know each other’s workloads and Believing that this will be their only and have the same grade deadlines. As a result, final job working together, James and Jean Dr. Raghu Gompa is a professor of mathematics at Jackson State they never clash and they can appreciate the are honored to have worked in such a close- University, and his wife, Dr. Vijaya Gompa, is a professor of fact that they both can share their loyalties mathematics education. knit and family-oriented environment. “The to one institution.





horter, more intense classes. A boundless campus. Nontraditional students as traditional students. Although unconventional, this is the Jackson State that President Ronald Mason Jr. sees in the university’s not-so-distant future. The 54-year-old Columbia University-trained attorney says he hasn’t decided alone that these would be JSU’s priorities. “People always ask about my vision and I say, ‘What’s the point?’ What matters is the vision of the people Jackson State serves.” Birthed as Natchez Seminary in 1877, this school began with 20 newly freed slaves who hoped to become ministers and teachers. Today, as the only university located in the capital city of the largest metropolitan area in the state of Mississippi, Jackson State is poised to become a premier institution deserving of the Magnolia State. As JSU prospers, Mason often says, so does the city of Jackson, therefore the state of Mississippi.

THE PAST Arriving at JSU in 2000, Mason convened the Blue Ribbon Commission of higher education, government, science, technology and industry experts who together began planning JSU’s future. Their product, “Beyond Survival: The Millennium Agenda for Jackson State University,” set forth five key strategies: redefining the academy, technology infusion, enhancement of management resources, increased image and visibility, and model learning and working environment. Since its completion in 2002, JSU officials have meticulously followed the plan of approximately 200 action steps. “We’ve accomplished our goals,” says Mason. The university’s eight schools were reorganized into six colleges: Public Service; Lifelong Learning; Education and Human Development; Liberal Arts; Business; and Science, Engineering and Technology. The newly established First Year Experience Program, he says, has prepared freshmen to handle the rigors of college life and has led to a noticeable increase in student retention. “We started at 27 percent and we’re pushing 40 now,” Mason says, describing JSU’s six-year graduation rate. “That means we’re serving people better.” Jackson State now has three supercomputers, a system that allows

students to view scientific data in three dimensions, video conferencing capabilities and campus-wide Internet access. Resource management also has improved, Mason says. Mississippi Development Authority and Mississippi Institutions of Higher Learning awards in 2006 were evidence of that success. Banner, a new information management system, allows JSU faculty, staff and students to access personal information regarding salary or grades within minutes. University Communications has led the charge to tell JSU’s story through its various print, broadcast and Internet efforts. “The proof is in the pudding,” Mason says. “We’re starting to get notice in Black Enterprise, Washington Monthly and a cover of Diverse Issues in Higher Education magazine. That means PR is doing its job.” THE PRESENT With everything on schedule, Mason says transforming JSU into a model learning and working environment is a longer, more involved process. “The campus is much more attractive and inviting, but we have plans to move off campus,” says Mason. After Gov. Haley Barbour and Secretary of State Eric Clark announced the transfer of 73 parcels of tax-forfeited land to the university in Feb-

ruary, Jackson State publicly discussed plans to help develop the surrounding community into what Mason calls a “true urban oasis.” The plan involves building homes, rental properties and retail shops that would seamlessly connect the campus to downtown Jackson. “We want to build a community that is a nice place to live,” Mason says. “Ideally, you’d be able to walk from the JSU campus and have anything you need taken care of.” JSU’s Administrative Council is taking up where the Blue Ribbon Commission ended and is charting the next phase of JSU. The group is looking at ways to improve recruitment, marketing, brand awareness and possibly offer online courses. “The hardest part about change is making that change stick,” says Troy Stovall, who is responsible for leading the group of vice presidents, academic deans, department chairs, administrators and major directors. “Now is the time for us to step back and look to see what we need to do. “We need to take more time to think about the future,” says the senior vice president for finance and operations. “I think President Mason says it best: ‘We need to prepare ourselves so that when the future arrives, we are ready.’ ” THE FUTURE The remnants of segregation has meant JSU’s alumni – many of whom pursued public service careers that do not demand six- and seven-figure salaries – have less wealth and do not contribute as much to their alma mater, says Mason. Therefore, Jackson State historically has had to do more with less. Moving forward means JSU has to reach out beyond its

body of alumni to businesses and private citizens. The Campaign for Jackson State is well on its way to raising $50 million for student financial assistance, faculty and staff development and program support by 2010. The Blue and White Gala, held in April, officially launched the campaign’s public phase. A first of its kind at Jackson State, the black-tie event welcomed current and potential supporters of the campaign. Less than two years after its start, but more than half way to the goal, Mason considered raising the bar. “Maybe we ought to look at $75 million, just to give my folks something to do,” Mason jokes. “The fundraising will get harder as time goes by, but so what? We might as well set a goal people can rally around. A capital campaign should really stretch you.” The results, Mason says, will be a Jackson State that stretches the normal concept of what the university should be. “I know it is different from the way higher education does it now, but in the 21st century, Jackson State will be technology-driven. Nontraditional students will become traditional students. “Today, people are having four or five careers. We will graduate people who know how to learn as opposed to learn how to know. Maybe people will study more from home, but Jackson State will look different.” Shorter, more intense classes and additional evening classes will be necessary to serve men and women who often manage work, family and community commitments while pursuing an education. Mason says a better Jackson State means a better Mississippi. “Imagine if the state had put more money here. It would be a different city, a different central Mississippi and a different state altogether.”


Jackson State University President Ronald Mason Jr. says JSU soon will be a premier institution worthy of the Magnolia State.

 J.D. SCHWALM


JSU tackles obesity, promotes health BY PAMELA BERRY-PALMER AND GABRIELLE J. SPENCER


he mandate seemed small. Replace some of the fried foods on the campus food menus each week with baked or broiled offerings to encourage healthier eating habits among students, faculty and staff. When he suggested the calorie-reduced menu, Jackson State University President Ronald Mason Jr. says he never anticipated he’d have to convince others it was a good move. “I’ve really had to push to get this done,” Mason says. “Some people have been very resistant to change.”


of fresh and healthy food choices and a poor understanding about nutrition among students as possible causes. Although there have been no surveys done at Jackson State, Chondra Johnson, director of the Walter Payton Recreation and Wellness Center, believes JSU is not immune to the trend. To counter the problem, Johnson says she has supported efforts to diversify food choices to ensure healthier foods are available. But she’d also like to see nutrition and fitness counseling incorporated into the overall student experience.

Jackson State University President Ronald Mason Jr. sports a Funky Revolutionary T-shirt while working out on a treadmill at the Walter Payton Recreation and Wellness Center.

In Mississippi, a state that leads the nation in obesity rates, it should come as no surprise that residents are nearly fanatical in their allegiance to fatty, fried and calorie-dense foods. An estimated 64.5 percent of Mississippi adults are overweight, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta. And those statistics don’t stop outside the borders of the state’s colleges and universities. The prevalence rate of obesity in college students across the United States has doubled over the past 10 years, according to the 2006 Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System. The survey credited the rise to more colleges and universities contracting out some on-campus meals to fast food chains such as Taco Bell and McDonald’s. It also cited an absence

“I’d like to see a program that would gear the students to be in the Payton Center a couple of times a week,” she says. “I’d also like to see some of their lessons geared toward nutrition and fitness.” Johnson also hopes to implement a freshman weigh-in that would identify any potential fitness and nutrition problems early. “As they go through their education, we would be able to watch and monitor their changing weight,” Johnson says. At Jackson State, students have free access to the Payton Center, a state-of-the-art fitness facility that offers perks such as aerobics, yoga and spinning classes. It boasts amenities such as basketball courts, racquetball rooms and a wide range of fitness

equipment. The center also routinely hosts free nutritional-counseling lunches that target healthy eating habits. But Johnson says not enough of the university’s students are taking advantage of the oncampus facility. Dominique Howse, a senior mass communications major from Wisconsin, believes Jackson State already is doing its part to encourage fitness. “The university is doing a great job,” says Howse, 21. “The question is whether the students are doing their part of getting engaged with the resources that are being provided.” Joshua Etchison, 23, thinks so. “I went to the health and wellness fair, and I see a lot of people going to the Walter Payton Center,” says Etchison, a sophomore computer engineering major from Hattiesburg. Mason says one of his primary goals while undertaking some of the campus renovations and upgrades has been to incorporate design elements that would increase healthy fitness habits. “I envision this being a walking campus where everyone is encouraged to walk to where they need to get,” Mason says. “We’ve done things to encourage this, such as install bike racks and place the parking lots on the outer edges of the campus.” Mason is so serious about promoting health he has even written a wellness book that is being sold to raise money for the Campaign for Jackson State. The book, called The Funky Revolutionary, a Mind, Body and Spirit Workout, is a guide to pursuing mental and physical fitness while listening to the music of James Brown. Both the book and the workout CD and MP3 are available online at Howse says she’d like to see the university sponsor campus-wide health days that are hyped like fraternity and sorority-related events. “Let’s get a DJ on the plaza promoting health and wellness,” she says. “We need factual information. We need to understand the difference between being healthy and having a ‘nice shape.’ They should create a campus street team just to promote health and body image.”

WJSU air personality Alana Jackson is a senior mass communications major from St. Louis.

WJSU: first radio station in state to go digital BY ANTHONY DEAN


ackson’s premier jazz source is celebrating “30 Years in Your Ears” as the only radio station in Mississippi to convert its signal to digital and one of only 1,223 stations across the nation to

do so. The final phase of WJSU’s digital installation upgrades was completed Dec. 11, 2006, and the station is now broadcasting with both traditional analog and HD RadioTM signals. One of the benefits of HD RadioTM is multicasting, the ability to broadcast multiple program streams over a single FM frequency. The station is anticipating using a second channel, WJSU-2, which will broadcast alternative programming 24 hours daily, possibly via the Internet. More than two years in the making, the move to high definition is a technological milestone, says Gina P. Carter, WJSU assistant general manager and development director. “We’re excited about the new technology,” Carter says. “Programs we are unable to offer on 88.5 FM, we can offer to our listeners via WJSU-2.” Regular FM radio will continue to work just fine, but the potential for new services might encourage listeners to try out a digital radio

sooner, says Dale Morris, WJSU engineer. “It’s just like when the country went from blackand-white television to color,” says Morris, a 13year WJSU station veteran. “If you didn’t have color, you could still watch it, but you needed a newer television to see color.” To make the leap to digital, Morris says WJSU had to install new equipment that included a new $160,000 transmitter as well as other smaller enhancements, for a total price tag of nearly $250,000. Much of the upgrade for the award-winning station was funded through a grant from the Department of Commerce and the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, which is assisting stations throughout the country in making the move to digital. Station listeners provided matching funds. WJSU will continue to depend on its listeners to help sustain the new technology. Called “the sound of the future” by the Federal Communications Commission, digital radio is the latest breakthrough in radio that eliminates many of the imperfections that often occur with analog radio transmissions, such as signal interferences. Other characteristics of the new

technology are FM sounds akin to CDs, AM sounds akin to FM and text-based artist and song information. The possibilities are endless. Surround sound, rewinding a song just played, or recording a program for playback are some future possibilities for HD RadioTM. One of the other benefits to making the switch to digital will be for the students, says Dr. Bobbie Trussell, WJSU program director. Students training at WJSU to become broadcasters will be trained with the latest technology available, making them much more marketable when they begin to seek jobs, Trussell says. “WJSU has always involved students in hosting its programming. I am a prime example of that,” says Alana Jackson, a student and WJSU air personality. “This new technology will hopefully give students the opportunity to move from program host to station programmer once WJSU-2 comes to fruition. “I would love to see WJSU bring back reggae. HD radio certainly makes this possible,” adds the senior mass communications major from St. Louis. “I am excited to experience a whole other world of programming possibilities. Students at Jackson State are extremely fortunate. We will be able to work and learn at essentially two different stations on equipment that some of the 100,000-watt stations don’t have yet.” Being the “first” definitely has some challenges. In cities such as Chicago, Atlanta, Albuquerque, N.M., and Albany, N.Y., HD radios are readily available to the public. But in Mississippi, radio receivers are only available through online electronic retailers. Receivers have a starting cost of about $200. But in April, some WJSU listeners got the new radios at no charge. During the 2007 Spring Friend Raiser, WJSU’s annual fundraiser and membership drive, the station gave away six HD Radio TM receivers. Winners were among the first to experience the crystal-clear clarity of digital. After “Thirty Years in Your Ears,” the station has never sounded better. To learn more about WJSU and listen online, visit


BY RIVA BROWN They were as beautiful as they were brilliant. And before they passed away last year, they chose to pursue one of the most intellectually challenging subjects in the world: physics. Jackson State University has established a scholarship in memory of the honors graduates. The Kristy and Trista Physics Scholarship is named for Kristy Lorrine Murray, 23, of Hazlehurst, Miss., and Trista Danielle Martin, 22, of Magnolia, Miss. They were killed Nov. 17, 2006, in Pennsylvania when, en route to an airport to return home for Thanksgiving, their vehicle swerved to avoid hitting a deer. The high-school salutatorians graduated from Jackson State in May 2006 and were pursuing doctorates in materials science and engineering at Pennsylvania State University. Dr. Quinton L. Williams, chair of JSU’s Department of Physics, Atmospheric Sciences and Geoscience, says the scholarship honors their hard work, commitment and achievements. “It will offer deserving minority female students with similar backgrounds the opportunity to continue the journey that they were unable to complete due to their deaths,” Williams says. “It is extremely important that we support this scholarship because scholarships played an integral part in them being able to accomplish what they did,” adds Williams, president of the National Society of Black Physicists. Both Williams and Dr. Wilbur L. Walters, an assistant professor of physics and civil engineering at JSU, say it was a pleasure teaching and mentoring Kristy and Trista, who always worked to achieve academic excellence. Kristy Murray and Trista Martin graduated with honors from Jackson State University in May 2006 with bachelor’s degrees in physics.

“These two young physicists have set high standards and serve as role models for African-American females who wish to study physics,” Williams and Walters write in a tribute. “We are very proud of them and will forever be connected through the common bond of the field of physics, which we love.” Trista was active in JSU’s Society of Physics Students and her sorority, Delta Sigma Theta. In summer 2006, she worked for Northrop Grumman Ship Systems. During previous breaks, she worked at the Center for Nanoscale Systems at Cornell University and Georgia Institute of Technology. Trista’s mother, Sara Martin of Fernwood, Miss., says establishing the scholarship is sort of like a “permanent landmark” in their honor. “For this scholarship to be established for another or some other deserving African-American female, I couldn’t think of any better tribute that the university or the physics department could establish,” Martin says. “I believe it was just destiny that things happened the way they did and that they were both happy in what they were doing and the accomplishments they had made,” says the 1977 and 1997 JSU graduate. Kristy served as president of JSU’s Society of Physics Students and also was Miss Sophomore. During summer 2006, she worked at Corning Inc. in a materials characterization group. In earlier summers, she conducted research at Texas A&M University, Glaxo SmithKline and at Cornell with Trista. Kristy’s mother, Carol Neal of Hazlehurst, says the scholarship honors their memory and motivates other young ladies to attend college and major in physics. Although they attended Jackson State — and there are a lot of students who attended Jackson State — this shows that they were not just a number, that they were persons who were highly thought of,” says Neal, a 1976 JSU graduate. “Kristy stated that Jackson State is the best university in the world. I thank Jackson State for letting the memory of my daughter continue to go on, that everyday, somehow Kristy will always be thought about.”

How to contribute to the Kristy and Trista Physics Scholarship: Make checks payable to: JSU Development Foundation Memo line: Kristy and Trista Physics Scholarship Mail tax-deductible contributions to: JSU Development Foundation P.O. Box 17144 Jackson, MS 39212

BY PAMELA BERRY-PALMER Through a scholarship fund created in his

name, David “Wavee Dave” Chambers will continue to uplift and support inner-city youths in the Jackson metro area. Jackson State University has officially established a scholarship in honor of the beloved Tiger mascot, who died Dec. 21, 2006, following complications from his kidney disease. Chambers’ battle with kidney failure began about a decade ago after an allergic reaction to medication for a lung infection resulted in kidney poisoning. Chambers, 42, donned the JSU Tiger suit for more than 20 years, wowing fans with his animated antics and diehard spirit at football and basketball games. JSU Director of Accountability and Coordination Curtis Johnson says it is fitting that such a person be honored with a scholarship fund. “I think that for an individual who has given his all, that there should be some permanent marking, be that a scholarship, room or building, to be left as a guide to show others what path they should attempt to follow,” says Johnson, Chambers’ longtime friend and mentor. “David stayed here at Jackson State as mascot longer than he was with his parents. He gave his life to Jackson State, and it is appropriate that he be commended and remembered for that.”

Baby Tigers Britton Hayes, 7, and Joliyah Daughtry, 5, pose with interim Tiger mascot Terrell Lewis at a Jackson State University basketball game.

Jackson State President Ronald Mason Jr. says Chambers’ presence at sporting events would be missed. “His game-day presence and his work with the Baby Tigers warmed the hearts of JSU fans for more than two decades,” Mason says. “In his last years, despite serious health challenges, he never failed to bring smiles to the faces of the thousands of JSU fans.” Even the Jackson City Council was moved by Chambers’ passing, honoring the Chicago native with a resolution for his contributions. In the one-page document signed Jan. 2, 2007, Chambers was described as an “excellent teacher and role model.” “A legend in his own time, Wavee Dave’s legacy and example of life speaks to one of compassion and urgency in pursuing your dreams,” the resolution states. Johnson says the Wavee Dave Scholarship will be used to help future Jackson State mascots pay for their education. “To raise money for the Wavee Dave Scholarship, we will have some fundraisers throughout the year and we’ll make them annual events,” Johnson says. Aside from his love for Jackson State, Chambers also was well-known for his passion for working with a mini entourage of “Baby Tigers,” who performed with him at sporting events. In addition to performing flips, dance routines and pranks on unwitting referees, the mostly inner-city youths were children who Chambers mentored. Johnson says even through his illness, Chambers “set the standard for what a Jackson State Tiger should be.” Replacing him as mascot, he says, will be difficult. Johnson says any future tryouts will be open to both male and female students. “We don’t have a date yet. But we want to make sure that during the selection process, persons will be involved from across the campus and from the community because Wavee Dave was a mascot for everybody … not just Jackson State. We want to make sure we do our best to

How to contribute to the David “Wavee Dave” Chambers Scholarship: Make checks payable to: JSU Development Foundation Memo line: Wavee Dave Scholarship Mail tax-deductible contributions to: JSU Development Foundation P.O. Box 17144 Jackson, MS 39212

select a new one.” Jackson State freshman Terrell Lewis, 18, a former Baby Tiger, donned the suit as an interim mascot at basketball games . Lewis says he still remembers the first time he went out before a crowd as the JSU Tiger. “During that first game, I was so scared,” Lewis says. “My main concern was that he had just passed, and I wondered how people would take me being the mascot. But when I looked out at the crowd, I saw all those fans that are always at every game and they were all crying. But I went out and introduced myself to them and let them see who was in the suit and after that, they began to take to me. Some of them told me to go out there and don’t try to be David … do me.” Dr. Hilliard Lackey III, president of the JSU National Alumni Association, says Chambers left a lasting legacy at the university. “Wavee Dave was an institution and a Jackson State icon, but more importantly, he was a warm, caring human being that was truly loved, respected and admired.”


When Trey Johnson sank his last basket as a Jackson State Tiger against the Florida Gators at the NCAA Tournament in March, he added another chapter to the Johnson family legacy. 44

During his two-year tenure as a super shooting guard, Trey could count on one thing at home or on the road. A whole section of the stands would be filled with fans, mostly wearing jerseys donned with his number 24. They were not just a group cheering for Clint “Trey” Johnson III, who finished this season as the nation’s second-leading scorer, averaging 27.1 points per game; they were all his family members. They were there to show their love and support for the 6-5 mass communications major, who could be a first-round NBA draft pick in June. Among his many awards are the Cellular South Howell Trophy as Mississippi’s top four-year collegiate basketball player. Trey’s exploits on the basketball court have been well-documented — from basketball powerhouse Murrah High School (Jackson, Miss.) to Northeast Mississippi Community College (Booneville, Miss.), Alcorn State University (Lorman, Miss.) and finally to JSU in 2004. The fact that Trey landed at Jackson State can be viewed as more of a matter of destiny than an act of fate. Many of his family members are JSU alumni, including his father, Clint Jr., his older brother, Will, his paternal uncles, Emmett and Phillip, and his aunt, Lyndia. Trey is the sixth member of the Johnson clan to attend JSU. Except for Lyndia and Trey, they all played baseball. Clint Jr. was a star pitcher for the Tigers from 1974-78. His best year was 1977 when he went 9-2 and was named All Southwestern Athletic Conference. He and both of his brothers were members of the baseball team in 1977. Emmett was an outfielder and Phillip was a catcher. The Johnson family, including (from left) Trey’s father, Clint Johnson Jr., Trey “Phillip may have had the rawest talent of Johnson, his mother, Phyllis Polk Johnson, and his brother, Will Johnson, pose any of us,” says Clint Jr., principal of Jackson’s after JSU’s final regular season game against Alabama A&M. Callaway High School. “He could hit the ball a country mile.” Clint Jr. was drafted into the Boston Red Sox organization following his senior season in 1978. He played six years of pro baseball, mostly in the Red Sox’s AA affiliates. Will signed a baseball scholarship with the Tigers in 2001. He was named to the All-SWAC team as a pitcher and first baseman after his freshman season. A biology major, he graduated with honors in 2006 and is enrolled in graduate school at JSU.


Baseball was part of the Johnson family’s bloodline. Trey’s grandfather, Clint Sr., was an outstanding player in the sandlot leagues around Canton, Miss. Was Trey a maverick of sorts, breaking family tradition by playing basketball instead of baseball, and attending the Tigers’ arch-state rival, Alcorn State? Maybe not. While baseball was the favorite past-time of the Johnson family, especially on Trey’s father’s side, basketball was the sport of choice on his mother’s side. Several of his mother’s family members ruled the hardwood at Alcorn. “He gets his basketball genes from my mother,” says Trey’s mother, Phyllis Polk Johnson, who also was a basketball star and is now a nurse practitioner. “My mother and father (Richard Polk and Mary Polk) attended Alcorn, and they both are in Alcorn’s athletic Hall of Honors. My mother was a Hall of Fame basketball player at Alcorn, and my father was a Hall of Fame football and baseball player at Alcorn.” Phyllis’ sister, Beverly Polk Young, and brothers, Richard and Charles, also attended Alcorn. But Phyllis, who was an All-State guard at South Leake High in Walnut Grove, Miss., in 1975, went to Mississippi University for Women on a basketball and academic scholarship. The genes from Trey’s mother’s side of the family didn’t kick in until later. “Baseball was my sport,” says Trey, who was named the Southwestern Athletic Conference Basketball Player of the Year following the 2007 regular season. “I played baseball most of my life. I didn’t take basketball that seriously until my junior year when I made the team at Murrah High.” “Trey was a great baseball player,” says Clint Jr. “He started playing T-ball when he was 6 years old. We traveled all over playing baseball, making all the select circuits.” Trey was a pitcher whose fast ball had been clocked in the low 90s, the same speed the Major League pitchers throw. He played baseball so well that he was drafted by the Kansas City Royals while still in high school. Trey averaged 19.0 points a game his senior year at Murrah, and basketball became his main athletic focus. He enrolled at Northeast following his final year at Murrah. He led the team in almost every offensive category. With his stock as a basketball player rising, he and his

family decided on a four-year college. He transferred to Alcorn, where he averaged 12.0 points a game and led the team in free throw percentages. After a year, he transferred to JSU and sat out a year. “I liked Alcorn, but it just didn’t feel right for me,” Trey says. “I liked the direction JSU was going. Coach (Tevester) Anderson had been hired the year before I transferred to JSU, so it felt like the right time and the right move for me.” “He wanted to play at Jackson State and be close to home,” Phyllis says. “We wanted him to do what made him happy.” So, as destiny would have it, Trey ended up playing basketball at Jackson State, a school where his father, uncles and brother starred on the baseball diamond. “My oldest sister, Lyndia, was the first one of us to attend Jackson State,” says Clint Jr. “She started there in 1969. We felt that Jackson State had a rich history in both academics and athletics, and the university presented a great and challenging Clint Johnson Jr., Trey Johnson’s father opportunity for us.” Trey completed his highly productive career at JSU as the Tigers’ single season leading scorer with 947 points (2007), passing previous record 45 holder Lindsey Hunter’s 907 points (1993). Incidentally, Hunter was the last Tiger drafted in the first round when the Detroit Pistons made him the 10th overall pick in the 1993 draft. Hunter, a 13-year veteran, is still playing in the NBA. Like his father, uncles and brother before him, Trey is an outstanding athlete who keeps adding to the Johnson family legacy at Jackson State. Like his mother and maternal grandmother before him, he did it on the basketball court instead of the baseball diamond.

“My oldest sister, Lyndia, was the first one of us to attend Jackson State. She started there in 1969. We felt that Jackson State had a rich history in both academics and athletics, and the university presented a great and challenging opportunity for us.”

Trey Johnson plays his final basketball game as a JSU Tiger at the NCAA Division 1 Men’s Basketball Championship on March 16 at the New Orleans Arena.




merica’s favorite pastime has a new field and a new coach at Jackson State University. Since construction began on a new School of Engineering building on the old field, JSU’s baseball team had been without a home, playing home games at Smith-Wills Stadium in Jackson and Trustmark Park in Pearl, and practicing at Veterans and Battlefield parks in Jackson. Now, the Tigers are home again on a brand new field with amenities that can stand with the best, including a natural grass playing surface, an irrigation system and Major League standard lighting. In addition, there are bathrooms in the dugout, a four-cage setup (there was only one cage on the old field) and more seating. “The new field is more modern,” says Omar Johnson, JSU’s head baseball coach. “It’s set up a little bit better. At the old park, nothing was paved, so the bleachers sat right on the ground. People wouldn’t want to come and get muddy. This (new field) is nice and clean, and cosmetically it just looks a lot better than the other place.” JSU Athletics Director Robert “Bob” Braddy named Johnson head coach in August 2006. Before coming to Jackson State five years ago, Johnson was the assistant coach at the University of North Alabama, where he also was a player. He says things are going to be different under his leadership. “We’re going to pitch better. We’re going to play better defense,” Johnson says. “We were fortunate in the past to have been offensively one of the better teams in the country. We’re going to maintain that and do better where we fell short in the past.” Braddy, a former head baseball coach, is proud to Omar Johnson has been the have a new field for the team head coach of Jackson State University’s baseball team since August 2006.

Jackson State University’s new baseball field measures 325 feet down the foul lines, 368 feet left center field and right center field and 403 feet dead center. It features a natural grass playing surface, an irrigation system and Major League standard lighting, according to Facilities and Construction Management.

under his watch. “I’m very excited about it and very thankful to the administration,” he says. “I think of all the players who played on the old field that went on to play professionally, and I’m sorry that they didn’t get this opportunity. But it’s an awesome field and it’s something we all can be proud of.” Athletics Facilities Director Johnnie Brown is not sure what role the new field will play in the success of the team’s program. The team played its first game there in mid-March. “They haven’t been on it long enough. It’s not yet player friendly,” Brown says. “It’s a new surface, so it will take a certain amount of time to tell.” But Johnson is hoping the new field draws more fans and prospective players. “Every little bit helps,” Johnson says. “It will help more with recruitment of players. If you recruit well, you’ll win more games and get more people enthusiastic about the sport.” The team is excited about the new field as well. “We haven’t had a place to call home for almost a year now,” he says. “We’re excited about playing there and having a consistent place to go practice.” What excites him most is the opportunity to coach at Jackson State. “New field, old field; I’m still excited. It wouldn’t make a difference,” he says. “It’s a very important tool when you’re trying to build or maintain a program so it can achieve as much as you want it to.”

COLLEGE OF BUSINESS The College of Business launched the “Five in Five Fund” in November 2006, an initiative to raise $5 million in five years. The funds for the Campaign for Jackson State will provide endowed chairs, scholarships and graduate fellowships. By early spring, 98 percent of the college’s administrators, faculty and staff contributed to the fund, raising nearly $190,000. For the sixth consecutive year, big four accounting firm Ernst & Young has funded the College’s Accounting Career Awareness Program. As the 2006 College of Business Corporate Partner of the Year, the company’s program has led 85 percent of its high school participants to enroll in JSU’s College of Business. COLLEGE OF EDUCATION AND HUMAN DEVELOPMENT After taking part in the first annual HBCU-Educational Testing Service Workshop, during the spring, JSU’s College of Education and Human Development and the Mississippi Learning Institute representatives will serve on ETS advisory committees, including item writing and revision and scoring teams. JSU is one of 30 institutions nationwide with membership in Teachers for a New Era, a landmark initiative designed to strengthen K-12 teaching by developing state-of-the-art programs at schools of education. In the fall, JSU will collaborate with Florida A&M, the only other HBCU in the group. COLLEGE OF LIBERAL ARTS The College of Liberal Arts Advisory Council was established in January to help develop resources to attract and nurture a talented and worthy student, faculty and staff population. The group of approximately 15 includes professionals in the areas of law, music, art, theater, business and education. The Center for University Scholars dedicated the Matthew Holden Jr. Reading Room in January in Johnson Hall, which holds more than 4,000 books on topics including the slave trade and presidential politics. The books were donated by the COLA Advisory Council member who is also the professor emeritus of the University of Virginia. COLLEGE OF LIFELONG LEARNING The Migrant Education Program serves children 21 years or younger in 27 central Mississippi counties with supplementary educational and supportive services provided to other children. Now in its second year, more than 750 children now benefit from the summer programs, translation services and school supply provisions. Teachers, counselors and caregivers looked to solve problems related to school violence during the “ABCs of Excellence in Childlife Management” conference in March. Participants trained with Diane Dodge, founder and president of Teaching Strategies Inc. and lead-author of The Creative Curriculum, a popular series used by many preschool teachers COLLEGE OF PUBLIC SERVICE The College of Public Service celebrated reaccredidation of the Department of Public Policy and Administration’s master’s degree program and the Department of Communicative Disorders master’s program. The programs have been reaccredited through 2011 and 2014 respectively. The Center for Excellence in Minority Health and the Institute for Epidemiology received a $1 million grant from the Delta Health Alliance. Through established partnerships with schools and community groups who provide HIV/AIDS and cardiovascular disease information, JSU will serve as a resource for research activity. COLLEGE OF SCIENCE, ENGINEERING AND TECHNOLOGY The Dr. Abdul K. Mohamed Endowment Fund was established in the spring to honor the former CSET dean who retired after nearly 30 years at JSU. More than $100,000 was raised during Mohamed’s retirement gala in February for the fund’s two endowed chairs and four endowed scholarships. The Region II Mississippi Science and Engineering Fair brought more than 1,300 sharp young minds to JSU in March as they demonstrated their research in areas including biochemistry, physics and zoology. The winners in the upper fair advanced to the state competition and/or the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair in Albuquerque, N.M.


DIVISION OF GRADUATE STUDIES Jackson State University has joined U.S. and Canadian research institutions in the Council of Graduate Schools’ Ph.D. Completion Project, which seeks to create intervention strategies and pilot projects, and to evaluate the impact of these projects on doctoral completion rates and attrition patterns. Seventy-four students were inducted into the Mu chapter of Alpha Epsilon Lambda in November. Alpha Epsilon Lamda is an organization that seeks to promote leadership, scholarship and intellectual development among graduate students. Students must have a minimum 3.80 grade-point average. DIVISION OF INTERNATIONAL STUDIES Jackson State University is now the only official site in central Mississippi to administer the computer-based Test of English as a Foreign Language, or TOEFL. This new offering allows JSU to recruit students from around the globe. The Islamic Studies Initiative was launched in the spring with the arrival of a Fulbright visiting specialist from Tashkent, Uzbekistan. The initiative enables DIS to establish bridges of collaboration with faculty to incorporate the study of Islamic culture in various facets of the university curriculum. DIVISION OF STUDENT LIFE The Division of Student Life led efforts along with Mississippi Urban Research Center and Southern Institute for Mental Health Advocacy, Research and Training in an HIV/AIDS awareness campaign during Black History Month and National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day in February 2007. HIV/AIDS activist Marvelyn Brown was the featured speaker. Brown, who contracted HIV shortly after her 19th birthday, has appeared on the Oprah Winfrey Show, BET and MTV. Through the Community Service/Service Learning Center in the Division of Student Life, 45 JSU students spent an Alternative Spring Break serving food to hungry and homeless citizens of Washington, D.C. Since June 2005, the university has documented more than 150,000 student-volunteer hours.


DIVISION OF UNDERGRADUATE STUDIES The W.E.B. DuBois Honors College celebrates a 100 percent record of admission to graduate and professional schools and the job market and a 95 percent retention of honor students. It also hosts the “Honors Week @JSU” celebration, honoring the outstanding academic excellence of undergraduate students. The National Resource Center for the First Year Experience and Students in Transitions named Dr. Evelyn J. Leggette, division dean, as one of the semifinalists in the 2007 Outstanding First Year Student Advocates. DIVISION OF LIBRARY & INFORMATION RESOURCES Java & News @ JSU Cyber Café opened on the first floor of the H.T. Sampson Library in March. The only site on campus that offers wireless Internet connection, the 2,200-square-foot café boasts of cozy seating spots, gourmet brews and iced beverages, and deli-style food options. The H.T. Sampson Library launched its new Web site in February, featuring more online access to new databases and online journals. Using their university-assigned pass code, JSU students, faculty and staff also may access the resources at each of the four satellite libraries, including the Cleopatra D. Thompson Curriculum Center, Health Sciences Library, Information Services Library and the Jake Ayers Research Library. Visit the new site at OFFICE OF RESEARCH, DEVELOPMENT AND FEDERAL RELATIONS JSU’s National Center for Bio-defense Communications received more than $4 million in 2006–07 to develop a GIS-based system for emergency responders. The center will establish a common operating system guided by the need to improve situational awareness within a broad disaster response and management framework, and train local and state emergency responders. National Institutes of Health-National Center for Minority Health Disparities awarded more than $1 million to the Center for Excellence in Minority Health for research, education and training in minority health issues in Mississippi.

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PAID Jackson, MS Permit No. 290

Jacksonian Spring/Summer 2007  

Jackson State University magazine

Jacksonian Spring/Summer 2007  

Jackson State University magazine