UM-Booneville Student Earns University’s Highest Academic Award

Christy Grissom follows winding career path to a Taylor Medal

Chancellor Jeff Vitter with Barbara ‘Christy’ Grissom. Photo by Robert Jordan/Ole Miss Communications

BOONEVILLE, Miss.­­­ – Growing up, Barbara “Christy” Grissom of Iuka never really thought much about going to college after high school. She went to work at a local restaurant and then a local furniture manufacturing plant before events beyond her control changed the course of her future.

Grissom had worked her way up to a lead position with Bauhaus USA, a furniture manufacturer in Iuka, before the company shut down the plant in 2007. It was then that she learned about a grant with the local Workforce Investment Act that was available to help employees go to college and train for new jobs.

“College was not on my radar before this happened,” Grissom said. “Growing up, I didn’t even think going to college was possible. My parents were not in a position financially to send me or my siblings to college, so it just wasn’t something I had considered.”

This life-altering change back in 2007, however, set events in motion that have led to Grissom being honored last month as a 2017 Taylor Medalist at the University of Mississippi.

Only the top 1 percent of all Ole Miss students receives this award each year. Recipients must have at least a 3.90 grade-point average to be considered.

“She’s quite simply superwoman,” said Tam Salter, bachelor of general studies adviser and instructor at the university’s Booneville regional campus. “She’s a full-time wife, mom, employee, teacher and student. Even with her many duties, she still found time to encourage her own students and her Ole Miss peers as they were working hard to earn their degrees.

“In class, she always had a helpful attitude and encouraging word for her classmates. She just made the classes better because of her life experiences and her drive.”

Grissom graduated from Iuka Christian Academy in 1987, married and started a family 10 years later. She and her husband have three boys, two of whom they adopted.

“It was intimidating going back to school, and I wondered if it was the best thing with three kids at home,” Grissom said. “I think I made the right choice.”

She started at Northeast Mississippi Community College in 2007 and graduated with associate’s degrees in both culinary arts and hospitality management.

“At that time, I had a pretty busy catering company that I was running on the weekends and evenings,” Grissom said. “We catered Caterpillar’s 25th anniversary event for 700 people, plus many weddings and other corporate events.”

Grissom credits academic adviser and mentor Tim Gilmore at Northeast with encouraging her to start teaching. He asked her about becoming certified to teach ServSafe training courses to other food service workers in north Mississippi.

“This experience helped me to realize how much I enjoyed teaching and sharing my experiences from working in the industry,” Grissom said.

In spring 2013, Gilmore became ill and officials at Northeast asked Grissom to cover his classes for the remainder of the semester.

UM-Booneville senior Christy Grissom (middle) was awarded a 2017 Taylor Medal for highest academic achievement. Grissom is congratulated by Derek Markley, (left) executive director of the university’s Tupelo and Booneville campuses and Ricky Ford, president of Northeast Mississippi Community College. Submitted photo

“After Mr. Gilmore passed away, I had to pray and consider the next step in my career,” Grissom said. “He was always so encouraging to me, and I thought that I could do the same for others by applying for his position at Northeast.”

Grissom began teaching full-time in the culinary arts and hospitality management programs at Northeast that fall and was encouraged by her supervisors to work toward completing her bachelor’s degree.

She enrolled in her prerequisite classes at Northeast before transferring into the Bachelor of General Studies program at the University of Mississippi at Booneville campus in fall 2015.

“I chose education, English and psychology classes to make up this specialized degree,” Grissom said. “They were such a good combination for me. These minors correlated with my interests, and I was able to use what I was learning and take it into my actual classroom.”

Grissom said her favorite classes included the English language classes Descriptive Grammar and History of the English Language.

“I enjoy a challenge, and these classes were challenging, but they were so interesting to me,” she said.

Grissom said that writing is a special hobby. She has written an unpublished novel and would one day like to pursue writing nonfiction.

“I think I may want to write about my experiences raising children in a family blended with biological and adopted children,” Grissom said. “And maybe write about raising a child with autism.”

Through her teaching and advising role in Northeast’s hospitality management program, she helps plan numerous catered events on the Booneville campus each year. These events also serve as hands-on training experiences for her students.

 “It’s great to see a student gain confidence during the planning process,” Grissom said. “They are usually nervous at the beginning, but by the end of the event they are excited to see it all come together.

“I enjoy helping my students use what they are learning in class and putting it into practice. I like being a part of the education that gives them the tools they need to be successful in management positions.”

Grissom will be setting an example for her children as well as her students when she is honored at the UM Commencement this weekend. She will be recognized as one of the top of her class and seated on stage in the Grove with BGS Dean Tony Ammeter.

Grissom said she hopes that by meeting her own educational goals, she will inspire her children to follow their own dreams.

“I hope that they will go to college and learn more about what they are interested in,” she said. “I want them to do what they want to, and know that they can overcome any obstacle to make that happen.”

With plans to earn a master’s degree, Grissom is researching graduate programs in higher education, human and environmental services, and English.

Booneville Campus Student Honored with Taylor Medal

Summer Sharplin continues family tradition in education field

Summer Shaplin with Chancellor Vitter Photo by Thomas Graning/Ole Miss CommunicationsUniversity of Mississippi-Booneville campus senior, Summer Shaplin of Ripley, received UM's highest academic award, the Taylor Medal during the Honors Convocation Ceremony held April 7 on the Oxford campus. UM Chancellor Jeffrey Vitter congratulates Shaplin during the annual Taylor Medalist dinner held that evening.

UM Chancellor Jeffrey Vitter congratulates Summer Sharplin, a senior on the university’s Booneville regional campus who received UM’s highest academic award, the Taylor Medal, during the April 7 Honors Convocation on the Oxford campus.

OXFORD, Miss. – Summer Sharplin, a senior majoring in elementary education at the University of Mississippi at Booneville, has been awarded the university’s highest academic award, the Taylor Medal, during the annual Honors Convocation, which was April 7 on the Oxford campus.

She is the daughter of Tony and Tammy Sharplin of Ripley. Attending the awards ceremony with Sharplin were her mother and her 84-year-old grandmother, Thelma Rutherford of New Site. Rutherford herself taught elementary school for 35 years in northeast Mississippi.

“I was so proud to have my grandmother with me,” Sharplin said. “She has been my personal teacher my entire life. I hope I become half the teacher she was.”

For many years, Sharplin has heard the good, the bad and the funny stories from one of the many professional educators in her family.

University of Mississippi-Booneville campus senior Summer Shaplin of Ripley (right) with her grandmother and mentor Thelma Rutherford of New Site during the UM Honors Convocation ceremonies held April 7 on the Oxford campus. Shaplin credits her grandmother with inspiring her to become a teacher.

Summer Sharplin of Ripley (right) visits with her grandmother and mentor Thelma Rutherford of New Site after the UM Honors Convocation. Sharplin credits her grandmother with inspiring her to become a teacher.

The family legacy of excellence in education began when her grandmother and grandfather met while serving as teachers in Marietta. They soon married and started their family while continuing to teach. Her grandfather eventually became superintendent of Tippah County Schools.

Her cousin, Mary Margaret King of New Albany, was honored as Mississippi’s “Teacher of the Year” in 2014 for her work at New Albany High School.

“My mom tells about a time that her dad was actually her history teacher and he threw an eraser at her for talking during class,” Sharplin recalled.

Even though she hadn’t until recently considered pursuing a career as a teacher herself, she became drawn to the profession.

“If anyone had asked me before, I never would have said I was considering becoming a teacher,” Sharplin said. “I really thought I would like to work in the medical profession. I shadowed a few friends who were working in various medical jobs, and I realized it just wasn’t for me.”

Sharplin did, however, enjoy music. She had an opportunity to sing the national anthem at different local and regional events, including a Memphis Redbirds baseball game. Then she began taking courses at the UM Booneville campus.

“I enrolled in the ‘Music for Children’ class at Ole Miss, and I was hooked,” Sharplin said. “It was then that I knew I had made the right choice to alter my career plans.”

Sharplin is interning as a student teacher for a sixth-grade math class at Hills Chapel School in Booneville.

“At first, I was a little leery of teaching math because I have enjoyed teaching English more,” she said. “I think my professors wanted me to challenge myself, and I am so glad that they did. I’m really enjoying it. I want to be confident in every subject area.”

Sharplin said that the students she works with each day are her favorite part of teaching.

“It is just so special to watch a student really grasp a concept we are presenting to them,” she said. “I get to be their guide and help them to comprehend the subject matter. There’s really not another feeling like this.”

Virginia Moore, an associate professor of education on the university’s Tupelo and Booneville regional campuses, noticed Sharplin’s commitment to not only her own education, but to the education of the students she worked with during her practicum experiences.

“Summer demonstrates strong leadership abilities and a strong devotion to the teaching profession,” Moore said. “After observing her work in the college setting, I believe she is an exemplary student and one who represents high personal and teaching standards we expect of an Ole Miss student in teacher education.”

Those qualities led Moore to nominate Sharplin this spring for the Taylor Medal.

Established in 1904 in memory of Marcus Elvis Taylor of Booneville, an honored 1871 UM alumnus, Taylor Medals recognize no more than 0.45 percent of all undergraduates, regardless of campus, for meritorious scholarship and deportment. Recipients must have at least a 3.90 grade-point average.

Sharplin was also inducted into the Kappa Delta Phi education honor society and the prestigious Phi Kappa Phi national academic honor society this spring.

“Summer is extremely passionate about education,” Moore said. “She is motivated and works to keep her students engaged. We are pleased that she has received this honor. She is very deserving.”

Even though she feels she has found the right career path, Sharplin plans to keep learning and hopefully obtain a graduate degree in education.

“I have some big shoes to fill,” she said.

For more information about programs offered at the University of Mississippi at Booneville, go to http://www.outreach.olemiss.edu/booneville/.