Jackson State University interim President Rod Paige received dual recognition Thursday for his leadership – one from the Mississippi Board of Trustees of State Institutions of Higher Learning and the other from campus supporters at a farewell celebration.
During a morning board meeting after which a number of agenda items were discussed, IHL commissioner Dr. Glenn Boyce saluted Paige for his “outstanding leadership to Jackson State University.”
Boyce read an IHL resolution, noting Paige’s “deep affection for the university.” Boyce also commended Paige for providing stability to the campus during a tough fiscal period and for launching a Presidential Challenge fundraising challenge that netted more the $300,000.
When Boyce asked Paige to consider taking on the temporary role, Boyce quoted Paige as saying, “I’m only coming to serve. I’m only coming because of my deep love for Jackson State University.”
At the board meeting, Dr. Rodney Bennett, president of the University of Southern Mississippi, was among those expressing adulation and heaping praise on his counterpart. Bennett lauded Paige for fostering a cordial interaction among colleagues and for helping the body of presidents “find our own voice and our commitment to the work we do everyday.”
Later, in the afternoon on the main campus, hundreds of university personnel and other supporters convened in the lobby of the College of Science, Engineering and Technology to express their appreciation to Paige and his wife, Stephanie Nellons-Paige, who both delivered heartfelt farewell greetings.
Before expounding on his professional successes, Rod Paige spoke of his humble beginnings at his JSU alma mater and expressed his indebtedness to the nation’s fourth-largest HBCU, which he credits for catapulting him in academia and onto the national scene of government service. Although the reception was viewed as a farewell celebration, Paige said, “You haven’t quite gotten rid of us. We will be coming back for football games, basketball games and other things. Thank you very much for being a substantial blessing.”
Nellons-Paige described her experience at JSU as “pure joy” and recounted the love she and her husband received from everyone at “Thee Jackson State.” Although not a graduate of the urban institution, she said she’s embraced JSU as her alma mater, too. She urged faculty, staff and other constituents to continue taking care of JSU’s most important assets – its students.
Rod Paige will pass the baton to his successor, Dr. William Bynum Jr., who will become JSU’s 11th president on July 1.