Determination and hard work pays off for Dr. Tyrone Jackson.
The Mississippi Delta has long been a fertile ground providing opportunity for those in and around it. The jobs provided can be an educational ladder to bigger and better opportunities for anyone willing to climb. For Rosedale native, Dr. Tyrone Jackson, his first job was delivering newspapers. His current job is serving as president of Mississippi Delta Community College. And, he is the first African American president of the school.
The office of president at MDCC has been the culmination of dreams, inspiration and hard work. And, a few extra paper routes along the way.
“I knew I wanted to be in education,” said Jackson. “Originally, I wanted to be a high school history teacher.”
After attending West Bolivar High School in Rosedale, Jackson travelled to Cleveland where he received a Bachelor’s Degree in Sociology and a Master’s Degree and Doctorate in Education from Delta State.
“I financed my education through my paper route back in Rosedale,” he said. “A paper route definitely builds character—rain, sleet or snow, the newspaper has to go.”
Paper routes work on commission so Jackson had to also collect from his subscribers to get paid and he doubled his route from 200 to 400 people in Rosedale. When he attended DSU, he also worked at the Delta State golf course, running the pro shop and sometimes helping with maintenance of the fairways and greens.
That position allowed Jackson to meet and get to know many who frequented the golf course and from providing them with excellent customer service, they saw more for him.
“There was an opening in the Recruiting Office at Delta State and customers who came in knew about the opening and encouraged me to apply for it,” said Jackson. “Betsy Elliot, Director of Recruiting at the time and Dr. Wayne Blansett, Vice President for Student Affairs at the time, hired me.”
Much like doubling his paper route, Jackson’s work ethic and demeanor helped DSU experience significant growth in enrollment, particularly minority enrollment. That four-year job was part of his 14-years on campus as a student and employee. He moved in the Housing Office as associate director of housing working for Elsie Lynn Ervin where he managed residence halls and two apartment complexes. He coupled that with advising campus Greek organizations. He drew upon his time as a member of the oldest historically African American fraternity, Alpha Phi Alpha.
“Basically, I was the advisor for historically black Greek organizations at Delta State,” said Jackson.
After five years behind that desk of sorts, Jackson transitioned to the academic side of his career at DSU. He was tasked with reuniting the graduate studies division from several educational schools to one.
“The graduate school was decentralized,” said Jackson. “I was charged with centralizing admissions processes and other graduate-related functions under the auspices of a single department.”
Working with Dr. Paul Starkey, Dean of the Graduate School, Dr. Jackson served as the Director of Graduate Studies before moving up to the position of Assistant Dean of Graduate and Continued Studies and his last position at DSU was interim Dean of the Graduate School and Continuing Education for the next several years. He even found his way onto other Delta area college campuses as an adjunct professor at DSU, MVSU, MDCC and Coahoma CC.
“I taught everything from dual enrollment courses all the way up to doctorate level courses,” he said.
The Rosedale native then found his way into the community college system with on campus permanent jobs where he flourished while improving the schools he became associated with.
First at Mississippi Gulf Coast Community, as Associate Vice President for Student Services for the District and also at the Jefferson Davis Campus as Dean of Student Services. His “job hat collection” accumulated as helped with leading the Student Services Departments of Admissions and Records, Financial Aid, Counseling, Student Activities, Fitness Center, Testing and Police Operations.
That career success brought him to Hinds Community College, the state’s largest community college, as Associate Vice President for Student Services/Dean of Students, and as Vice President for the Utica Campus and District Dean of Students. While there he heard about the opening in Moorhead and was soon on his way “home” to the Delta to apply all of his skills and knowledge to the MDCC campus from behind the college’s President’s desk. However, Jackson says he owes it all to a former teacher who put him on the path to becoming a teacher. A tough one who lived to teach and not just have students memorize facts.
“I’ve had a solid foundation to prepare me for this position,” said Dr. Jackson of his MDCC presidency. “I had strong teachers in high school but it was, Carrie Ann Bell (now deceased) my biology teacher who also taught me chemistry – she inspired me to be a teacher. She was such a brilliant person and was all about academic excellence. She didn’t use any notes and she wrote on the chalkboard from the time class started until the bell rang. She basically challenged us up one side and down the other.”
With thoughts of his former teachers who shaped him, as president of MDCC, Jackson is looking to keep and hire the best faculty members he can find.
“I want to continue our efforts to attract the best faculty and staff here at MDCC” he said.
Vocational and workforce training is high on his list of priorities as well.
“We’re going to continue to access what the needs are in our area and we’ll provide those training opportunities to address them,” he said. “We want to be the educational provider for vocational and workforce.”
And, as funds from the state have been limited for community colleges, Jackson will be looking to raise money to help meet the college’s needs both inside and out of the classroom.
“I want to lead the efforts and assist students and staff in maximizing our assets,” he said. “I want to make sure we’re hitting on all eight cylinders.”
While his day job doesn’t leave a lot of time for hobbies, Jackson has found time to serve on numerous boards. He has served as a board member for Habitat for Humanity, United Way, United Village and graduated from Delta Emerging Leaders and Leadership Mississippi. On the Coast, he served on the Harrison County Youth Leadership and Gulfport Chamber of Commerce Boards and he is a graduate of Mississippi Community College Leadership Academy and a graduate of Leadership Gulf Coast. But, of all the honors and accolades surrounding his name, he is proudest to be married to Kashanta and is father of Tyler (12) and Kennedi (8).
By Mark H. Stowers
The Bolivar Bullet