April 28, 2012 10:52:02 PM
Carmen K. Sisson - [email protected]
A year ago, Mississippi University for Women was steeped in uncertainty, deep in the throes of a presidential search, with a newly-merged alumni association working to establish a framework and identity to move forward.
Last weekend, during homecoming festivities, the MUW Alumni Association named its new board members as well as the president-elect for 2013-2014. And the future is brighter than ever, they said Saturday morning.
New board member Jennifer Katool, of Jackson, said she gets emotional when she thinks about The W and how much it means to her.
Katool graduated from MUW in 1978 with a bachelor's degree in home economics education and a certificate in culinary arts. She later obtained a master's degree in institutional management from the University of Southern Mississippi in Hattiesburg.
In 2007, when then-President Claudia Limbert disaffiliated the MUW Alumnae Association and replaced it with the MUW Alumni Association, Katool remained an active member of the disenfranchised group, which renamed itself Mississippi's First Alumnae Association.
Last spring, the two groups merged after lengthy negotiations, and Katool said it's time for everyone to move forward and work together to address the challenges the university faces.
One of her big focuses will be bringing alumni back to campus and getting them actively involved again, she said. She also plans to work not only on recruiting new students to campus but also in helping them make necessary connections.
"It's so hard for these kids coming out of college," Katool said. "It's so hard to find jobs and get established."
Over the years, she's remained close to her classmates, and through the alumni association, she's made new friends. They frequently vacation together, bonded by their love for The W.
"I'm excited to be back on the board," Katool said. "I feel like I belong again. It's been such a big part of my life. We had the best time in college. Our class has gotten even closer lately since everyone's kids have grown up."
While on campus last week for homecoming, Katool had the opportunity to see new President Dr. Jim Borsig in action, and what she saw was encouraging.
"He just 'gets' it," Katool said. "I'm very excited about that. We're all ready to work together again."
New board member David Ivey, of Sandy Springs, Ga., was equally enthusiastic. He was the first male to serve as student body president and earned his bachelor's degree in history from MUW in 1992. He later received his master's degree in public policy and administration from Mississippi State University and a juris doctorate from David A. Clarke School of Law in Washington, D.C.
He said his love for MUW has grown through the years, and he's proud of his family's long involvement with the campus. He's optimistic for the future he will help shape as a member of the alumni board.
"I think the W has really come out of a couple of very challenging years," Ivey said. "Last year, with the merger, it's a bright new light for the school. Being part of that, being able to go forward under a merged alumni association, is exciting. I'm looking forward to being able to offer new ideas on how to continue the momentum in getting our group back together so we can focus on the future of attracting some of the brightest minds in our country."
Elaine Evans, who serves on the MUW Alumni Association as co-president with Andy Thaggard, said with the new board in place, it's time to concentrate on growth.
"We think it's a time for unification," Evans said. "Borsig has great, great ideas. It's a good time to grow and support The W."
Other new board members include Augustus Argrett, Class of 2002; Katy Pacelli, Class of 2000; Mary Libby Payne, Class of 1954; and Amy Tate, Class of 1997.
All new board members will serve three-year terms.
President-elect for 2013-2014 is Cheryl "Sherrie" Ann Jackson Cooper, of Ocean Springs. Cooper is a 1982 graduate of MUW and serves as co-owner and chief financial officer for Back Bay Fuel & Ice, office manager for P&M Seafood and consultant for CC Cooper Communications.
The merged alumni group is entering its second year of a three-year transition period.
Carmen K. Sisson is the former news editor at The Dispatch.