Pearl River Community College honored the accomplishments of five outstanding alumni by inducting them into the Lifetime Achievement Hall of Fame on Thursday, April 29.
Families and friends attended the dinner and induction ceremony in Hattiesburg to recognize John Hall, Dr. Carolyn Holden Lund, Maj. Gen. James I. “Ike” Pylant, Dr. Mike Walters and the late Martin Smith.
The five, along with previous honorees, will serve as mentors to the students in the PRCC Honors Institute.
“We’re here to recognize some very special individuals,” said Dr. William Lewis, PRCC president. “They came to Pearl River, went out into the world, found their way and rose to great achievements in their chosen fields.”
Hall, a Poplarville native, attended Pearl River in the late 1950s and went on to a long career with the United State Department of Agriculture National Finance Center. He retired in 1996 as director of the center’s Financial Service Division and had a second career with the Gulf State Operations Division of Affiliated Computer Services in New Orleans. He and his wife, Carol, live in Metairie, La.
“Pearl River had a major impact on my life, both personally and professionally,” he said. “That education served as the foundation for my career.”
As a child, Lund lived on the Pearl River campus where her father, the late Dobie Holden, was football coach and her mother, the late Earlora Holden, was a teacher. She attended the college before earning three degrees in nursing. Lund retired as director of the Graduate Nursing Program at Southeastern Louisiana University. She and her husband, Dan, live in Mandeville, La.
“It’s a very, very moving experience for me to be recognized by this institution that has been such a part of my life,” she said. Lund described PRCC as a shining example of the nation’s two-year college system.
“It’s a story that needs to be told,” she said.
Pylant came to Pearl River as a 17-year-old mostly interested in getting a car. He completed a two-year machine shop program in 1966.
“It changed my life dramatically,” he said. “It turned my life around.”
He worked for Boeing as a machinist before making the Mississippi Army National Guard his career. He served as commander of Camp Shelby and retired in 2008 as assistant adjutant general for the State of Mississippi. He and his wife, Nancy, live in Purvis.
Smith, who died Feb. 26, 2015, attended high school and two years of college at Pearl River and served as the attorney for the PRCC Board of Trustees for approximately 50 years. He served 20 years in the Mississippi Senate and was the first administrative director of the Administrative Office of Courts. Dolores Smith of Poplarville, also a PRCC alumnus and a retired college instructor, accepted her late husband’s honor.
“Martin loved Pearl River Community College and he loved the town of Poplarville,” she said. “He loved serving both. Martin was so pleased when he found out he would be honored and was looking forward to it.”
Walters, former school superintendent in Petal and Tupelo and founder of JBHM Education Group, credits Pearl River with nurturing him through the turbulent years of the late 1960s.
“We got a lot of support and we got the time to grow up,” he said. “A lot of us would not have made it without that support.” The college continues in that tradition, he said.
“Pearl River Community College is more relevant today than ever,” Walters said. “Education is more than GPA. It’s about helping kids figure out how to be adults.” He and his wife, Lillian, live in Terry.
The event was held at Southern Oaks House and Gardens in Hattiesburg. Gold sponsors were Hattiesburg Coca-Cola and Wesfam Restaurants Inc. of Huntsville, Ala. Maroon sponsors were Bancorp South Insurance, Coast Electric Power Association, John Hall, Dr. Carole Holden Lund, Maj. Gen. James I. Pylant and Service Master Cleaning Alternatives.
Alumni inducted into the Pearl River Community College Lifetime Achievement Hall of Fame are, from left, Maj. Gen. James I. “Ike” Pylant of Purvis, Dolores Smith of Poplarville, who accepted on behalf of her late husband, Martin Smith; Dr. Mike Walters of Terry, Dr. Carole Holden Lund of Mandeville, La.; and John Hall of Metairie, La.
PRCC Public Relations photo