Fordes chosen as JCJC honor alumni


A pair of Mississippi State University professors who got their start at Jones County Junior College have been named JCJC’s 2012 Honor Alumni.

John and Connie (McMullan) Forde attended Jones and now chair their respective departments at MSU. John Forde has been the head of the department of communications since 2004, while Connie Forde was selected to chair the department of instructional systems and workforce development in 2011.

The Fordes were recognized for their achievements during the annual Alumni Luncheon Saturday, Oct. 6. The luncheon was held in conjunction with Homecoming festivities.

Both Fordes have strong ties to the Jones collegiate family. Anne Forde Strickland, John Forde’s mother, taught in the related studies area at the college. She is married to Dr. Randolph Strickland, longtime JCJC academic dean and vice president. Dr. Strickland’s first wife, the late Dr. Carol Strickland, was a business instructor at JCJC and taught Connie Forde.

“Being selected as one of the honor alumni is a tremendous honor,” said John Forde. “It is especially fulfilling to be chosen with my wonderful wife, Connie, my bride of almost 27 years. We both were provided with great opportunities to begin our college careers at JCJC.”

A graduate of Taylorsville High School, Connie Forde earned her associate’s degree in secretarial science with an emphasis in secretarial and communications skills in 1975.

“When I entered JCJC as a freshman, my desire was to complete a two-year AA degree and enter the workforce,” she explained. “With the dedicated faculty and the leadership opportunities provided through involvement in Phi Beta Lambda, student government, and most importantly working for Dr. Carol Strickland as a student worker for the (Southern Association of Colleges and Schools) self-study, my vision for the future suddenly became much larger.”

After Jones, Connie Forde earned her undergraduate and master’s degrees in business education at the University of Southern Mississippi. She later received her doctorate in higher education from the University of Mississippi.

During and after college, Connie Forde worked as a legal secretary and a high school business instructor. In 1979, she came to JCJC as a financial aid counselor, a position she held for three years. After a one-year stint as an administrative assistant with the Board of Trustees of State Institutions of High Learning in Jackson, Connie Forde returned to JCJC as a business instructor under the supervision of her mentor, Dr. Carol Strickland.

“I know that largely because of (my) opportunities at JCJC, I have had the privilege of a rewarding career as a business educator,” Connie Forde said. “I was fortunate to work at JCJC for seven years… teaching alongside several of the excellent business teachers who taught me.”

In 1987, Connie Forde joined the faculty at MSU.

“I have had the honor of teaching in (MSU’s) business teacher education program and am now serving as department head. I am deeply indebted to the faculty and administration of JCJC and thank you for these opportunities and for this very special honor as Alumnus of the Year.”

Connie Forde is a member of the National Business Education Association, the Southern Business Education Association, the Mississippi Business Education Association, Pi Omega Pi honor society for business teacher education, Delta Pi Epsilon, the Mississippi Educational Computing Association and Phi Delta Kappa.

John Forde’s journey to Jones was a little unusual when compared to that of the typical JCJC student. Although his mother was from Smith County, he spent most of his childhood in Omak, Wash.

“Keep in mind, I never visited JCJC until I was a student,” the 1981 graduate said. “I would not typically recommend attending a college where you have never visited and don’t know anyone, but I really wanted to play baseball and basketball. JCJC gave me that opportunity. After a week or two of being unsure, I began to love it, and that love has continued.”

As a student at Jones, John Forde was very active in athletics and campus organizations. He played basketball for Coach Ford Turner and baseball for the late Coach Elmer Higginbotham.

“Coach Hig was a major reason I moved back to Mississippi after calling him on the phone before moving and asking him about the possibility of playing baseball and basketball. He was very encouraging,” John Forde said. “I also appreciate that Coach Turner offered me an out-of-state scholarship that allowed me to move back to Mississippi and attend Mississippi’s finest community college.”

Although John Forde was very involved in student activities at Jones, Homecoming 1980 holds a special place in his memory.

“Because of focused campaign managers, including my cousin Liz Johnson (Hinton), I was elected Homecoming King with Sarah Jane McCarty as the Queen,” he recalled. “I was pretty sure we both had won when Sarah Jane gave me a bear hug and a scream after my basketball practice and her band practice. Keeping me clean in a white tux all day was Mrs. (Cynthia) Sullivan’s task that she accomplished, even with strawberry shortcake for dessert.”

John Forde went on to receive his bachelor’s degree in communications with an emphasis in public relations at MSU, his master’s degree in public relations and marketing at USM and his doctorate in communication with a minor in educational administration at USM.

Although the Fordes did not attend JCJC at the same time, it is their connection to the college that brought them together.

“Of course, the best thing about JCJC was meeting Connie, although I did not know her well,” John Forde said. “We actually started dating about five years later when my mother and I started visiting at First Baptist Church in Laurel. I hope Connie is glad she invited me to that singles party!”

From 1985-87, he was the director of public relations at William Carey College. In 1987, John Forde joined the faculty at MSU as an instructor working his way into his present position.

John Forde is a member of the Public Relations Association of Mississippi, the Public Relations Society of America, Mississippi Communication Association, the MSU Society of Scholars in the Arts and Sciences, Southern States Communication Association, the Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication, the Southern Public Relations Association, the National Communication Association, National Academic Advising Association, Phi Kappa Phi Honorary Society and the Mississippi Press Association Journalism Education Committee.

The works of both Fordes have been published extensively in scholarly journals.

“I have many great memories from JCJC, really too many to name,” John Forde said. Some of my best friends are still the ones I met at JCJC. I’ve also enjoyed working with many fantastic transfer students we’ve had the pleasure of teaching at Mississippi State in the last 25 years. Some of the absolute best majors ever from our MSU Department of Communication were Jones students first.

“The (JCJC) campus is beautiful and Connie and I have enjoyed watching Jones grow. It is a wonderful place that should be treasured. We are very thankful for this fabulous honor that we will never forget!”

Rebecca Patrick | Jones County Junior College

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