Pearl River Community College honored five successful alumni Thursday, April 7, with induction into the Lifetime Achievement Hall of Fame at a dinner in Hattiesburg.
They are Lucien Bourgeois of Madison, Fred Henley of Picayune, Sonny Stuart of Jacksonville, Fla., Mike Waits of Hattiesburg and Bill Watts of Houston, Texas.
In addition to recognizing the success of former students, the Lifetime Achievement program pairs the honorees with the PRCC Honors Institute.
“What we want, ultimately, is for these people to be role models for our students,” said Dr. William Lewis, PRCC president. “What a great opportunity this is for our college.”
Each year, students interview the alumni and DVDs of the interviews are kept in the Honors Institute library.
“Those students can listen to some real keen advice on what it took to become successful on a big world stage,” Lewis said. The first inductees were honored in 2012.
Bourgeois, a native of Bay St. Louis, is a partner in the Butler Snow LLP law firm in Jackson, specializing in public finance and economic development. He graduated in 1967 from Pearl River where he was sophomore class president.
“Pearl River has a special place in my heart,” he said. “We were close together, small classes. That’s important, to spend a lot of time with your teachers. With the other people being honored, I’m privileged to be up here.”
He encouraged students to take advantage of the opportunities presented to them.
“We need you to grow this state,” Bourgeois said.
A native of Picayune, Henley played football and was named Most Outstanding Athlete at Pearl River where he graduated in 1948. His long career in education included coaching and administration at Forrest County Agricultural High School and Picayune where he served as superintendent from 1976-86.
“This has been an honor that just floored me completely,” he said. “I can’t say enough about Pearl River Junior College. I spent two of the greatest years there. It launched me on a 40-year career in education. It’s a wonderful, wonderful educational start for anybody.”
Henley said his wife, three children and three grandchildren are also Pearl River alumni and a fourth grandchild is expected to attend PRCC when he graduates from high school.
Waits also played football at Pearl River, graduating in 1964. He has served as city engineer for Hattiesburg and as engineer for the Pat Harrison Waterway District and the state of Mississippi. He is retired from Shows, Dearman and Waits Inc. in Hattiesburg.
“My love for Pearl River Junior College goes a lot deeper than football,” he said. “I was an undisciplined student. I was very fortunate to be at a junior college. I had teachers who took me under their wings and helped me.”
Through Shows, Dearman and Waits, he has done engineering work for PRCC since the mid-1980s.
“I’ve literally been connected to this school 50 years,” Waits said.
Bourgeois, Henley and Waits all noted that the college represents more than an educational milestone for them because they also met their wives at Pearl River.
Neither Stuart nor Watts were able to attend the induction.
Stuart, a native of Poplarville, practiced law for 25 years and has been involved in real estate development for 37 years as president of Stuart Company and with O’Neal Stuart Investments LLC and Gulf Coast Wetlands Mitigation Answers LLC. He graduated from Pearl River in 1965.
Watts also played football at Pearl River in 1960 and 1961 and was vice president of the sophomore class. A chemical engineer, he worked for Exxon Production Research Company and as a consultant, focusing on development of complex computer programs used to forecast oil recovery.
Mike Waits of Hattiesburg, from left, Lucien Bourgeois of Madison and Fred Henley of Picayune were inducted April 7 into the Pearl River Community College Lifetime Achievement Hall of Fame.