PRCC inducts five into Lifetime Achievement Hall of Fame

The beginning of a far-reaching tie between outstanding graduates and the brightest Pearl River Community College students was forged Thursday, April 19, when the PRCC Lifetime Achievement Hall of Fame inducted its first honorees.Sidney Malone of Hattiesburg, Dr. Thomas J. Malone of LaGrange, Ga., Jim McQueen of Hattiesburg, the late Henry Thomas of Hattiesburg and Jean Baughman Wessel of Huntsville, Ala., were honored and met with students in the inaugural PRCC Honors Institute class.To our PRCC honor students, I propose the PRCC Honors team and the new PRCC Hall of Fame team collaborate, Thomas Malone said.The collaboration began with an honors student interviewing each of the honorees for a short oral history of their time at PRCC. An honors student also sat at each of the honorees table during the dinner.Malone provided each honors student with a copy of Outliers: The Story of Success by Malcolm Gladwell and recommended they also read Gladwell The Tipping Point.I believe Pearl River College is at a tipping point, Malone said.Malone echoed some of the remarks of PRCC President Dr. William Lewis: the college recently received a $120,000 grant from the Lower Pearl River Valley Foundation for the Honors Institute Speakers Series and has applied for grants from other sources for the institute. A capital campaign to raise funds for Honors Institute scholarships is being planned, Lewis said.The college will need to be more innovative and more entrepreneurial in years to come, he said.The five inaugural inductees into the PRCC Lifetime Achievement Hall of Fame have all become successes in their chosen fields after starting college at Pearl River.Sidney Malone attended Pearl River in 1962-64 and played on the Wildcat football team. After earning a degree from the University of Southern Mississippi, he began a career as a real estate and business developer in Mississippi and Colorado.Since I was 18, Ive been a part of the Pearl River family, Malone said. Pearl River has made a huge difference in my life. Most of whatever success Ive had, Pearl River has been around me.His brother, Thomas Malone, also played Wildcat football and attended Pearl River in 1957-59. After being inducted into the Phi Theta Kappa honor society at Pearl River, he earned both the bachelor and doctoral degrees in chemical engineering from Georgia Tech University.Malone joined Deering Milliken Inc. as a chemical engineer in 1966 and rose through the company ranks, retiring as executive vice chairman of Milliken & Co. in 2004.Pearl River has had an enormous impact on me, he said. His years at Pearl River began his transformation from a teen-ager to a maturing individual with much of the influence coming from his football coach and mentor, the late Dobie Holden.His lessons on how to win in football translated incredibily well into how to win in life, Malone said.McQueen, a native of Picayune, attended Pearl River from 1950-52 before earning degrees from USM and the University of Mississippi. After teaching high school art, he was hired to illustrate golf columns written by Jack Nicklaus, starting a 40-year career as a freelance sports illustrator.This is a very humbling experience, he said. It a tremendous honor to be a member of the first Lifetime Achievement Hall of Fame. Those two years more than adequatedly prepared me for Southern Miss and beyond.Thomas, who passed away in 2011, attended Pearl River in his hometown of Poplarville from 1957-58. He earned degrees at USM and studied at Mississippi State University but it was Pearl River that captured his heart.Dad loved Pearl River, said his son Phillip Thomas. I cant imagine anyone loving it more than Dad did. It meant more to him than any other place he went to school. He would be very, very honored by this award.The late Mr. Thomas taught school before joining Coast Electric Power Association where he was manager for 13 years and then South Mississippi Electric Power Association which he managed for 19 years.Wessel spent only the 1954-55 school year at Pearl River but was a busy student – serving as a Wildcat cheerleader and writing for both the campus newspaper and the Future Business Leaders of America newsletter.We had such a good time, a wonderful time, Wessel said. I love the school. I loved being a cheerleader. I wrote a newspaper column called Fashions and Fads. She described the teachers as superior.Wessel moved on to what she called a wonderfully interesting life. She earned her bachelor degree at Eastern Michigan University and was an airline stewardess and instructor before she and her husband, Fred, opened a Burger King franchise in Huntsville, Ala. After Fred Wessel death in 1995, she became president and CEO of Westfam Restaurants Inc., which owns and operates 27 Burger Kings in northern Alabama.

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