Jackson State Community College
Another return to the community college sector and a return to one such institution in Tennessee. Today’s entry is Jackson State Community College (JSCC) located in eponymous Jackson, TN. Before I delve into the college itself, a little background history. In the 1950’s, the State of Tennessee began looking at the status of education across all levels. The Legislative Council, a Joint Committee of the Tennessee House and Senate, made a recommendation to the General Assembly to fund a comprehensive evaluation of public education, its finances, and its future in 1955. The legislature approved the recommendation and hired the services of the Division of Surveys and Field Services at the George Peabody College for Teachers (now part of Vanderbilt University) to undertake the study. It would be known as the Pierce-Albright Report (or study) after the two authors of the paper – Truman M. Pierce and Arnold D. Albright. I’m not sure if the decision to use the services of a private institution was to any avoid potential bias if a public university were to conduct the research or simply convenience given that Peabody is located in Nashville just a short drive away from the state house. Regardless, the Pierce-Albright Report would have a significant impact on public education in the state for decades to come. Published in 1957, the 356-page report had fifteen major thematic recommendations and 104 specific proposals. Although not all of them would be acted upon by the state, the report would come to shape higher education in Tennessee for decades after its December 1957 publication. It is an interesting read if you are interested in the history of public higher education (you can find copies for sale online on occasion; the official name is Public Higher Education in Tennessee: A Summary Report to the Education Survey Subcommittee of the Tennessee Legislative Council). Although it is an important piece, it is not what I would call an armchair read. You have to be quite interested in higher ed to appreciate it. I would also recommend a dissertation by Claire Sails Stinson from 2003 entitled A Historical Review and Financial Analysis of Higher Education Funding in Tennessee which may be found here.
One of the themes of the report is that the scope of public higher education in the state needed to be expanded with additional colleges around the state. It suggested that a public 4-year institution should be available within 50 miles of any resident in the state. In fact, it recommended public baccalaureate granting institutions be created in Chattanooga and Jackson. As it would happen, the state did not create new institutions in these cities, but it did acquire private institutions there – the University of Chattanooga in 1969 (now the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga) and Lambuth University in 2011 (now the University of Memphis, Lambuth). The report also facilitated the development of multiple community colleges across the state. Acting on the call to expand educational opportunities, the state established a new cohort of community colleges in 1963. Among them was JSCC which would be the first community college in West Tennessee developed in response to the report.
It took a number of years to locate a site, construct the campus, and hire faculty and staff. The college opened its doors to students on September 29, 1967. Today, the college has a headcount of about 4,900 students, offers Associate’s degrees in fourteen areas, as well as four certificate programs. In addition to the main campus in Jackson, it also has satellite locations in Humboldt, Lexington, and Savannah. I was on the main campus in Jackson in July of this year and these photos are from that visit. We start with two photos of the ever ubiquitous lamppost sign. The JSCC mascot is the Green Jay and the colors are green, orange, and gold. The sports teams - JSCC fields baseball, softball, and men's and women's basketball teams for intercollegiate sports - are known as the Green Jays and have uniforms incorporating these colors. Oddly enough, there are no Green Jays in the wild in Tennessee, with the nearest populations being in southern Texas. Still, the colors are great and I really like the logo on the lower part of the banner seen in the first photo. The shield has a “J” embedded in it which is really cool.
The tour starts with the second newest building on campus, the Jim Moss Center for Nursing. The building comes in at about 35,000 square feet of space and is located on the north side of the campus. It has various classrooms and simulation labs. The building is named for the former President and CEO of West Tennessee Healthcare Jim Moss. West Tennessee Healthcare contributed part of the funds for the construction of the building. It opened just before the start of the Fall 2015 semester and was formally dedicated that October. You can see photos of the dedication here. All three photos are of the north façade. As you will see, it is one of only two red brick buildings on campus; the rest are a blonde brick.
Next up is the Science Building which is just south of the Moss Center. The science building, unlike Moss, carries the original blonde brick theme of the campus. It is home to a variety of classrooms and labs, as well as the departments of Biology, Chemistry, and Physics. A large lecture hall in the building is named the Frank Dodson Science Auditorium in honor of a former JSCC provost. The first photo is the north, main entrance side of the building. The second photo also shows the north side of the building, along with the courtyard it shares with the Moss Center (on the left of the photo) and the Jim and Janet Ayers Center for Health Sciences (in the center of the photo).
The next set of photos are of the Jim and Janet Ayers Center for Health Sciences. The Ayers Center is the newest building on campus which opened in March 2017 and dedicated in a ceremony on September 12, 2017 (you can see photos of the dedication ceremony here). There are seven health-related programs at JSCC (in addition to nursing), and the Ayers Center is the home to all of them. The building has a variety of classrooms, department offices, and labs. The building has some 46,000 square feet of space and cost about $14.1 million to build. It opened in 2017 and was designed by the Memphis-based architectural firm Fleming Architects.
Jim Ayers grew up in the West Tennessee Community of Parsons. He entered business and had a successful run in healthcare and real estate. Along with a partner, he bought the Farmers State Bank in 1984. They would go on to build the bank, renamed FirstBank into the largest independent bank in Tennessee. He started the Ayers Foundation in 1999 which has made substantial donations across the state including the Ayers Children’s Hospital in Jackson and the Ayers Institute at Vanderbilt University. He is an alumnus of the University of Memphis (then Memphis State University). He is also a member of the JSCC Board of Trustees. The Ayer’s Foundation is a big supporter of students in the region, funding scholarships for about 1,400 college students annually, about 200 of those attend JSCC.
The fist photo below is the front entrance of the building taken from the courtyard as seen above with the Moss Center on the left and the Science Building on the right. The second, third, and fourth photos were taken just inside the front door. I like the way the furniture and the terrazzo floor carry the college's official colors (you can just see the green and gold flecks in the terrazzo). The fifth and sixth photos are also on the first floor giving you an idea of the look of the main body of the building. The seventh and eighth photos are of a sitting area on the second floor just above the main entrance. I think the lights are pretty cool. Finally, a look westward from the front door. In this photo, the Science Building is on the immediate left and the Moss Center is on the immediate right. Beyond the Science Building on the left is the Walter L. Nelms Classroom Building. In the center is the Gymnasium Building, and on the right is the Student Center.
The next six photos are of the Walter L. Nelms Classroom Building, which I believe was the first academic structure completed on the campus. The first three photos of this set are of the entrance on the east end of the building (both entrances are on the north side of the building). When the building opened, the end of the structure was the spot of the doorway seen in these photos. There was a courtyard behind the doors and columns seen here. I was unable to learn when the addition came about but in speaking with a faculty member there it seems it could have been in the 1980's. You can clearly see the addition if you look at the structure from above using the satellite view on Google or Bing maps. The last three photos are of the west end entrance. Walter Nelms was the second president of JSCC, serving in that capacity from 1976 to 1997. Although a twenty-one stint as president is a very long time, Nelms’ association with JSCC goes back even further. So far back, as it happens, as to pre-date the institution’s opening to students. He was hired by JSCC’s first president Francis E. Wright to be Academic Dean in June 1967, a couple of months before students showed up on campus. At the time, he and the other administration officials began their work in a house nearby while waiting for campus to open.
The next two photos are of the library. It doesn’t carry a name at this point. The first photo shows the east side entrance and the second the west façade entrance.
The first two photos below are of the F.E. Wright Administration Building. Named for JSCC’s first president Francis Wright, the building houses most of the administrative offices for the college. Francis Wright came to JSCC from Union University which is also located in Jackson (actually, it was located in a different part of Jackson than it is now, but that is a story for a later post). He had been at Union since at least 1954 at which time he was Academic Dean. He became president of Union in October 1963 (he had been acting president there from June of that year). He officially resigned his position at Union on February 17, 1967, to take the presidency at JSCC. It is not unusual for a college president to move from institution to another, but it is not common for the second institution to be across town. Although I imagine it does happen from time to time, I can only think of one case off the top of my head where that has happened – Wim Wiewel was president of Portland State University for nine years from 2008 to 2017 and left to go to the local Lewis and Clark College where he remains president to this day. The last photo is a gazebo which sits adjacent to the Wright Building.
Finally, we have photos of the Athletics and Music Building and the Gymnasium.
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