POPLARVILLE - Pearl River Community College will honor a longtime employee and one of the college’s major benefactors during Homecoming 2013 on Saturday, Oct. 19.
The Alumnus of the Year Award will be presented to Dr. John Grant of Poplarville, and the Distinguished Service Award will go to The Asbury Foundation of Hattiesburg.
Both awards will be presented during the Homecoming Alumni Luncheon at 11:30 a.m. in Olivia Bender Cafeteria. Tickets are $25 if purchased after Oct. 11.
“John Grant has spent almost his entire lifetime associated with Pearl River Community College,” said Dr. William Lewis, PRCC president. “He has truly given of his time and his talents to help this institution and its students succeed.”
Grant’s 43-year career in education included 32 years at PRCC as a teacher and administrator. The son of a science teacher, Grant came to Pearl River as a 7-year-old. The family lived on campus and Grant roamed the college and its farm as his personal playground.
He played high school football on the old Pearl River field and enrolled as a student just a week after high school graduation. After class, he pushed a big-wheel mower around the campus where he used to play.
Grant took pictures for the yearbook, developing the film in a closet under the stairs in Moody Hall; was in the French Club with Jimmy Buffett and sang bass in the choir. He graduated in 1966 and went to the University of Mississippi where he earned his bachelor’s degree.
He began his teaching career at Harrison Central High School before returning home to teach at Poplarville High. Like many young teachers, he attended night classes and summer school to earn his master’s degree and doctorate.
Coming back to Pearl River, Grant taught calculus, physics and a beginning physical science course, announced Wildcat football games and eventually became department chairman.
In 2000, Grant became Dean of Academic Affairs until administrative reorganization gave him the title of Vice President for Instruction and added career, technical and workforce programs to his academic responsibilities.
Grant served five terms on the Poplarville Board of Aldermen and is an active member of First Baptist Church. He and his wife, the former Gwen Gandy, are the parents of two children - Brennan, grounds supervisor at PRCC, and Mary Jessica Perry of Auburn, Ala. - and have a 6-month-old grandson, Grant Perry.
“This is really quite an honor,” Grant said. “People land here and they don’t have any reason to want to leave. It’s a good place to work, a good place to be.”
The Asbury Foundation has given more than $620,600 in grants and scholarships to PRCC. But president and chief executive officer Bill Ray is quick to say the foundation is not supporting the college.
“We’re supporting the kids who go to Pearl River,” he said.
The Asbury Foundation is a private organization serving Hattiesburg and the surrounding area. The reallocation of assets from the sale of Wesley Health System in September 1997 provided the funds the foundation uses to strengthen education and health and to offer initiatives to improve the quality of life. An outside investment company manages the funds and grants are awarded four times each year from the interest and dividends.
The foundation gave PRCC a $262,241 grant in 2007-08 for the purchase of medical radiologic technology equipment. Pearl River was the first community college in the state to train its students with the state-of-the-art equipment.
The foundation also funded the purchase in 2011 of digital imaging equipment, computers and software for the dental hygiene program at the Forrest County Center. The upgraded equipment allows students in the two-year program to learn charting and other aspects of a dental practice by computer as well as imaging.
“The Asbury Foundation has been a true partner in helping Pearl River Community College to grow its allied health and special scholarship programs,” Lewis said. “The foundation’s support has been an invaluable source of opportunity for our students to experience exposure to world-class medical equipment and instructional programs“.
The foundation also made a $200,000 donation to the PRCC Development Foundation to endow the Asbury Scholarship. Three full-tuition scholarships have been awarded for the 2013-14 academic year.
“We’re well aware of the contributions to health care and the health-care related entities at Pearl River and we want to continue to support those,” Ray said.
Although the scholarships are unrestricted, the preference is to assist students enrolled in an allied health or nursing program. The Asbury Foundation charter requires recipients of its grants to live in Covington, Forrest, Jefferson Davis, Jones, Lamar, Marion, Pearl River or Perry counties.
Homecoming activities kick off with the PRCC Sports Hall of Fame induction ceremony at 9 a.m. at the Technology Center. Inductees are Greg Guidry of Spring, Texas, an All-American baseball player at PRCC from 1993-94; Freddie Jordan of Picayune, a basketball star in 1969-71; Audosha Kelley of Savannah, Ga., also a basketball standout from 2003-05; Jeffrey Posey of Hattiesburg, a football star from 1993-94; and James W. “Snuffy” Smith of Foxworth, an All-American linebacker from 1972-73.
Alumni reunions will be held from 9 to 11 a.m. They include the four 2003-04 state championship teams (men’s soccer, men’s basketball, baseball and football), the 2005, 2009 and 2012 soccer championship teams, the 2002-03 Region 23 champion women’s basketball team and the 50th Reunion Class of 1963, all in the Technology Center. The Classes of 1934-52 will meet at the Alumni House and associate degree nursing alumni will be in the Nursing Building.
The Voices ensemble will perform at the Alumni Luncheon. Recipients of two memorial scholarships also will be recognized - Tanner Bryan of Picayune, recipient of the Dobie Holden Memorial Scholarship, and Carson Miller of West Point, who received the Keith Daniels Memorial Scholarship.
The Wildcats will host East Central Community College at 2 p.m. at Dobie Holden Stadium. The Sports Hall of Fame inductees, Grant and the Asbury Foundation will be recognized during pre-game ceremonies.
The homecoming court will be presented at halftime before the Spirit of the River marching band performs its Buffett at the River show.
The PRCC Museum will be open from 9 -11:30 a.m. and 12:30 - 3 p.m. in the old Hancock Hall across from the PRCC Police Department.