One word resonated when Meridian Community College hosted it Highest Flying Eagles Hall of Fame event on Monday: Thankful.
Six alumni, Dr. Cedric Bradley, Dusty Culpepper, Dr. Richie McAlister, Debbie Galyean Mathis, Michael Thompson and Soraya Welden, were spotlighted for their professional achievements in this annual ceremony.
Bradley is the vice president at the Jefferson Davis campus of Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College. Culpepper is director of physician outreach at Anderson Regional Health System. McAlister is associate vice president for workforce education at MCC. Mathis is the chief operating officer for the East Mississippi Business Development Corp. and a business owner. As MCC administrators, Thompson is dean of academic affairs, and Welden is vice president for operations.
“MCC definitely holds a special place in my heart,” Bradley said. He credits the two years he spent at MCC contributing to the success of his career. Specifically mentioning two former MCCers, the late George Mangrum, a history instructor, the late Billy C. Beal, associate vice president for learning resources, Bradley noted that all his MCC instructors had “a profound positive impact on my life.”
Culpepper not only earned his degree from MCC but also worked at the college as a recruiter. “It’s true. MCC was four of the best years of my life,” he said, jokingly. He too, gained from being at the College. Recognizing Scott Berry, one of his former baseball coaches at MCC, Culpepper said, “I learned so much about integrity and hard work from Coach Berry.” He added, “I appreciate the confidence the instructors gave me.”
Also referring to her athletic experience at MCC, Mathis recalled when she joined the college’s basketball team and how she and her teammates, who were once rivals on the high school basketball courts, formed friendships and worked together as a collegiate team. “We learned so much. I’m proud to say I’m an MCC graduate.”
Now in his 37th year in working for MCC, McAlister credited former colleagues for their work in making MCC a world changer. “Helping students better themselves – their families, their lively hoods - that’s what it’s all about. That’s why I get up and come to work on Monday mornings,” he said.
McAlister added, “I am so humbled to be with this esteemed group of MCCers here that I respect.”
Thompson, in addition to thanking his family for their support and sharing with the audience that his dad also attended MCC as a student, thanked his MCC family. “We probably spend more time with you than our own family,” he said jokingly. At 24, Thompson joined the College as an instructor and worked as a colleague with some of his former MCC teachers. “And that’s a little intimidating,” he said, “but they also taught me how to be a professional and I appreciate everything they did for me the second time.”
“I’m thankful to be here to serve our students,” Thompson added. “The success of our students means more than anything else to us.”
Looking to the audience, Welden said she was grateful for the support from colleagues. “You don’t get to work somewhere for 27 years and get promoted and get opportunities you get by yourself. There are people who support and encourage you and give advice,” she said remembering MCCers.
She added, “This is the best group of people you can work with anywhere.”
Another MCC staffer, Ginger Crawford, evening services director, was honored as the newest member of the Talon Club. MCCers are selected for this recognition for giving 30 plus years of service to the College.