(JACKSON, Miss.) – Jackson State University Women’s Council for Philanthropy celebrated four JSU administrators’ significant contributions to the institution’s legacy during Monday’s 2023 Women’s Council for Philanthropy Ladies of Legacy and Leadership Luncheon.
The ceremony held at Old Capitol Inn spotlighted the honorees, which included:
- Bettye Ward Fletcher, Ph.D., former JSU interim president/retired career academician, researcher, and administrator
- Curtina Moreland-Young, Ph.D., founding chair of the JSU Department of Public Policy and Administration
- Gwendolyn Spencer Prater, Ph.D., founding dean of the School of Social Work at JSU, state president of AARP Mississippi
- Dora Scruggs Washington, Ph.D., retired vice president of Academic Affairs and professor emeritus of Speech and Communicative Disorders at JSU
“Each of these women holds a distinct part of my heart for the contributions they have made to the university. Throughout their careers and tenure, they have been distinguished women, they have been outstanding women, and they have been women of integrity. They have led the path for so many of us to follow, and I want each one of them to know how much I appreciate them,” expressed JSU Acting President Elayne H. Anthony, Ph.D., after taking the podium.
All the honorees received $500 toward a JSU-endowed scholarship in their name, while the event brought in a total of $43,325, also earmarked for student scholarships at JSU.
Rhea Williams-Bishop, Ph.D., chair of the Women’s Council for Philanthropy, welcomed guests to the special occasion, acknowledging that it was the first in-person luncheon for the organization since the pandemic and on the heels of the devastating tornado that hit Rolling Fork, Mississippi and pummeled other parts of the Southeast.
“We rejoice today because we are still here. Resilient, hopeful and moving forward. Onward and upward. Thank you again for being with us on this auspicious occasion to celebrate service, scholarship, and legacy,” remarked Williams-Bishop.
Founded in 2007, the Women’s Council for Philanthropy was created to increase student scholarship opportunities and provide them with the added support of career mentors and support to prepare them for leadership roles in their chosen profession.
President of the Women’s Council Student Ambassadors Nya Walton and JSU Senior Class President Kayla Ben’a Hudson shared the impact of student scholarships with guests.
“Scholarships were really important to me because I was the sister of a commuter student who didn’t have all the opportunities to interact with other students on campus or attend as many events because she didn’t have the benefit of living on campus,” explained Hudson.
The meteorology student revealed that her parents did not want to cover the cost of living on-campus for the Mississippi native, so she began applying for academic scholarships, which she received.
“Attaining scholarships to attend college is important not only for ourselves but our community as a whole. Did you know that only 36.1% of Black women have college degrees,” she asked. “In order to improve our future as a people and as generations yet to come, we must increase this percentage.”
The honorees were then lauded for their significant impact on the JSU footprint through their professional careers. Some of their accomplishments are as follows:
Fletcher, a Rankin County, Mississippi native, holds a distinguished 32-year career as an academician, researcher, and university administrator. At JSU, she ascended the academic ladder from a grant-funded staff position to interim president. She became the first African American woman to lead a 4-year public university in Mississippi.
In this role, she gave administrative leadership to the launching of the School of Engineering, Science and Technology. During her tenure, Fletcher took a professional leave from academia to assume a cabinet-level appointment as executive director of one of Mississippi’s largest state agencies, the Mississippi Department of Human Services.
Moreland-Young was spotlighted for her career at JSU, established in 1978, as an assistant professor in the Department of Political Science. Among her many professional achievements, Moreland-Young helped revive the master’s program in political science and assisted in acquiring the accreditation for the Master of Public Policy and Administration degree (MPPA).
Moreland-Young, JSU constituents and community members submitted a petition for departmental status and the state’s first and only Department of Public Administration (PPAD). As the Founding Chairperson of PPAD, she successfully spearheaded the maintenance, funding, and accreditation of the JSU Mississippi Transportation Technology Center (MCT2), the only such center at an HBCU. Upon approval of a Ph. D. in Public Policy and Administration, she secured one million dollars from the USEPA.
Prater is the dean emerita of the School of Social Work and the founding dean of the former College of Public Service at JSU. Prater was the academic and administrative leader for the initial national discipline-specific accreditation of the: 1) Master of Social Work, 2) Master of Urban and Regional Planning, 3) Master of Public Health, and 4) Doctor of Public Health (Epidemiology, Behavioral Health Promotion and Education, and Health Policy and Management) degree programs.
Prater was elected first vice president of the National Association of Social Workers (NASW), chaired the National Program Committee, and served on the National Finance Committee. On the Council on Social Work Education (CSWE), social work’s national accrediting organization, she served as a member of the Commission on Accreditation. She chaired many site visit accreditation teams across the country.
Washington began her teaching career at Jackson State College in 1957 as an instructor of speech and English and director of the Dunbar Dramatic Guild in what was then known as the Language Arts Division. She produced five plays during her two years of directorship of the Guild. The Greek tragedies Antigone, Medea, and other notable American plays were among them.
Washington was also a founding member of JSU’s Department of Speech and Dramatic Art in 1963. Upon her return from an educational leave in 1973, she immediately began developing an undergraduate program in communicative disorders and later became the first director of the Speech and Hearing Center.
Luncheon entertainment was supplied by the Dowell Taylor Trio, followed by a video presentation of the honorees who expressed their appreciation for the prestigious recognition by the women’s council. JSU’s MADDRAMA organization also performed a special tribute.
Individuals can still contribute to student scholarships by donating a tax-deductible gift here. Learn more about the Women’s Council for Philanthropy here.