ELLISVILLE – Jones College’s Alumni Association and Foundation expanded its Honor Alumni recognition event to include four new awards at Homecoming celebrations on October 8, 2022. “Rising Stars,” Mason Strickland of Soso, and Ashton Williams of Petal were honored along with “Achievement and Excellence Award” recipients, Cellie Scoggin of Laurel, and Marcus K. Tucker of Brandon. Ann Tucker of Laurel received the “Legacy Award,” and Billy and the late Linda Howard of Laurel were awarded the “Distinguished Service Award.” Also honored as “Outstanding Alumni of the Year” were Sam Britton, a native of Waynesboro and resident of Laurel, and Jerome Harless of Moselle.
“This is a unique year,” said Jones College President, Dr. Jesse Smith. “We’re beginning a new tradition by recognizing the fabric of who we are as a college and what we are as a college, represented by our alumni. Recognizing alumni who are on their way, just beginning their careers and have had early success to alumni of the year, and the alumni and friends of the college who have impacted the college, their communities, and other lives through distinguished service. All these folks working together make Jones College what it is, the fabric of our community.”
Rising Star recipients are Jones College alumni who have demonstrated success early in their careers and have accomplished professional and personal success throughout the community. Mason Strickland attended Jones in 2015 and graduated in 2017, as a member of the Bobcat Baseball team. As the pitcher in 2016, he helped the Bobcats earn the first National Championship in Baseball. Strickland continued his education and baseball career at the University of Southern Mississippi where he graduated in 2019 with a bachelor’s degree in liberal studies. Currently, he is teaching 7th grade history at South Jones High School and was recently named head baseball coach and FCA sponsor. He and his wife Tiffany have been married for three years and have one daughter and are expecting a baby boy in November.
“JC had a huge impact on my future,” said Strickland. “The coaching staff mentored me to where I wanted to be a coach just like them. The people and players I had the opportunity to be around in those two years are friends that I will have for a lifetime.”
Ashton Williams was at Jones from 2011 through 2013, majoring in accounting and he was a member of the Bobcat Brigade. He continued his education at USM, earning his BSBA and his Master of Professional Accountancy. The licensed C.P.A. is the Controller for Codaray Construction LLC. He is married to Hayley Williams who was a member of the Lady Bobcat Soccer team. They have been married for six years and have two children, four-year-old Jack and 10-month-old Sophie.
“Looking back, going to Jones College was one of the greatest decisions I’ve made. Mr. Bedwell and Mr. Holifield (JC business instructors) provided the best-in-class introductory accounting courses that would eventually be the foundation upon which my whole career was built. The relationships that were formed while at Jones remain the strongest friendships I have to date,” said Williams.
The Achievement and Excellence Award recognizes a graduate of Jones College, who has demonstrated professional and personal success throughout the community who is 40 or younger. Receiving the Achievement and Excellence Award were Cellie Scoggin and Marcus K. Tucker.
Cellie is a 1991 graduate and was involved in the Student Government Association and Baptist Student Union. The USM graduate is the owner of Kids First Education, LLC which is Mississippi’s leading educational consulting firm. She leads a team of 200 educational specialists across Mississippi, Alabama, and Arkansas while also serving as co-owner of the ice cream shop, Betsy’s on Magnolia, and an Air B & B in Laurel. She and her husband of 30 years, Patrick raised two sons, Patrick Lee Jr. and Tom who are both married and have children. Her parents, David and Cynthia Sheppard are retired Laurel educators.
“My experiences at JC laid the foundation for my academic career. Each of my instructors were consistent in modeling best practices for academic as well as social and emotional learning…connecting with me on a personal level. I have taken those practices and applied them to my educational work across Mississippi, Alabama, Arkansas, New York, Oklahoma, and Louisiana for the last 29 years,” said Scoggin.
Marcus K. Tucker came to Jones in 2005 and graduated from the Business and Marketing program in 2008. He played defensive back on the football team while also working at Ellisville’s Corner Market. Tucker worked his way up to being the co-manager of the IGA Sunflower in Hattiesburg before being promoted to manager and transferring to the Vicksburg store. He has been the manager of the Jackson store for the last couple of years and was just recently promoted to District Manager of the North/West Region with the Roberts Company, managing stores throughout the state.
When Tucker is not working for the grocery store giant, he’s helping clients as a personal trainer in his business, T-Powered Fitness. As a member of the JC Advisory Committee, the Northeast Jones High School graduate continues to give back to the college by helping current students find their career pathway. Marcus and his JC college sweetheart, Zakkiyya, have two sons, and one daughter and have been married for 15 years and live in Brandon. His parents are Sidney and Victoria Tucker of Laurel.
“I am very grateful for the way Jones College showed me that they cared about my future from the time I stepped on campus. Even after I graduated, my marketing instructor, Ginger Keeton was always willing to help me navigate through any obstacles as I built my career. Jones equipped me with the necessary tools and skills I needed to accomplish challenges not only in my career but in life overall. Thank you, Jones College, for making me feel like family.”
The Outstanding Alumni of the Year Award is awarded to an alumnus of Jones College that recognizes the accomplishments and service of former students who have exhibited exceptional service and brought honor to the College. Outstanding Alumni of the Year honors went to Sam Britton and Jerome Harless.
A Waynesboro native, Sam Britton graduated from Jones County Junior College in 1976 and then earned his business degree at USM. After classes, he worked with his uncle in their pipeline construction business. When the oil business crashed in the 1980’s, Britton returned to school and earned a degree in accounting and his C.P.A. before establishing his own accounting firm.
With 30 years’ experience in finance and accounting, Britton has served in the State Auditor and State Tax Commission’s Offices, as the Public Service Commissioner for the Southern District, and as Treasurer for the Jones College Foundation Board. He was recognized by the Mississippi Business Journal in 2014 as a “Mississippi Leader in Finance.”
Britton’s sister, Katherine Barker of Vicksburg accepted the award on his behalf and shared these comments. “I am humbled and honored to be named one of the Jones College Outstanding Alumni of the Year. In life I have learned, most good things don’t just happen simply by accident or chance. Jones College is the perfect example where good things have happened because of the dedication and hard work of the administration, faculty, staff and students. Also, the contributions of the community cannot be overlooked or underestimated. Jones College not only educates but also enables individuals to build connections that last a lifetime and create success stories. On a larger scale, I believe JC helps to make America great and Jones does it one student at a time. I am grateful for this award and all the other opportunities Jones has afforded me,” wrote Sam who is currently recovering from a medical condition.
Businessman and entrepreneur, Jerome Harless was also named Outstanding Alumni of the Year. He is a 1976 graduate of Jones and went onto own multiple businesses in the oil and gas industry, NASA and other related industries. He has served as deacon of his church and on the JC Foundation Board of Trustees and the Trustmark Bank Board of Trustees. Harless retired after 40 years in business with “more grit in his pinky,” JC President, Dr. Jesse Smith said, as he awarded Harless with the award.
“I enjoyed this great institution when I was here, when Dr. Terrell Tisdale was president and over the last 45 years since then, it has just gotten better as Jesse has taken over. I consider JC to be one of the best schools in Mississippi. I had some great teachers who helped prepare me for my future. I appreciate the honor and look forward to serving in the future,” said Harless.
The Legacy Award spotlights an alumnus of Jones College who has illustrated over the years continued support and has made consistent contributions to honor the College with at least 50 years since graduating from Jones College. The Legacy Award was bestowed upon Ann Tucker whom, the college president said perfectly represents a legacy.
“She has left her mark for over 50 years and has taught many. There is a power in her soul and if you get in her world, you will be hers from then on. She is a powerhouse of a teacher!” said Jones College President, Dr. Jesse Smith.
Tucker has been teaching English at Northeast Jones High School for 63 years. She graduated from JCJC in 1959 and while in Home Economics classes at JC, she decided to be a Home Economics teacher. She soon realized that was not practical because few jobs were available in that field. After graduating from USM, she and her husband, the current Jones County Beat 3 Constable, Mack Tucker married and have been farming in the Myrick community for 55 years of their 63-year marriage. The two have two daughters who also graduated from JC, and all three grandsons graduated from JC.
“This is a very special time for me,” said Tucker. “I was led to believe by my mother, she was a teacher for many, many years, education is the foundation for life for you to succeed and above that was God. All of my family went to Jones. If you graduate from Jones, then you have a solid ground to stand on and you can go anywhere and do anything you want. I believed my mother. Without Jones, I do not think that I would have been the successful teacher that I have been in the classroom.”
The Distinguished Service Award is presented to a friend of the College who exemplifies a genuine interest in Jones College and embodies the core values of inspiring greatness, leadership, respect, and selfless service to our community.
Billy and Linda Howard were recognized as the recipients of the Distinguished Service Award for the integral part they have played in the community. In 1968, Laurel native Billy Howard left his 13-year career at General Electric as an electrical engineer with a few million dollars to start his own company, Howard Industries, Inc., a manufacturer of distribution transformers. He met his wife Linda a year later, they married, and she helped lead the booming business. With her experience in higher education administration, the Perry, Georgia, native and Billy Howard imparted some wisdom to the new president of Jones College, Dr. Jesse Smith in 2006.
“I told Billy what I wanted to talk about, and Ms. Linda had a complete worksheet. She said here is what you need to do, and how to do it. If you do these things, you’ll be off to a good start. That was two hours of their time they gave me, and I still live by those words today,” said Smith.
Billy and Linda are considered the epitome of success, Smith shared with the audience. The company moved from being 23rd in the nation to a top producer of transformers in the U.S. Now, Howard Industries sells transformers in all 50 states and 130 foreign countries. The couple also started a trucking company, Howard Transportation and in 1994 they established a ballast manufacturing company, manufacturing electronic and HID ballasts for the lighting industry. In 1998, Howard Technology Solutions was developed and in 1999, computers were produced.
“Today, the company is still growing with Michael, my son heading up the 1.2-billion-dollar company. Jones College trained a lot of our people and are still training our welders and so many others,” said Billy Howard. “When I started the company, I had 100 people and Jones trained every one of them and that got us started really well. I’m so appreciative of Jones College.”
The community is also very appreciative of Howard Industries’ investment into every aspect of the couple’s hometown and beyond, Smith said. Helping anyone who asked and doing what they thought was best for the community, they established programs like the Adopt A School Program, co-chaired fundraiser drives for air conditioning for all Laurel city schools, expanded the high school practice field and weight room, upgraded the high school science lab and the elementary school’s language lab, sponsored numerous local youth athletic teams and are contributors to numerous colleges, including the creation of a company policy that pays for books and tuition for any employee to earn a higher ed degree. The Howards have also earned numerous honors and awards locally, from the state, southeastern region and nationally and are members of many boards and committees to help their alma maters, Mississippi State University and Mercer University in Macon Georgia, the industry and economic development and their hometown/region in general. Additionally, the couple have managed to grow their international company to employ 4,150 personnel.
All the honored alumni were recognized with a medallion during half-time of the football game before recognizing the Homecoming Court and Mr. & Miss JC.