Recognized for their accomplishments were J.P. Compretta of Bay St. Louis, Dr. Benny J. Hornsby of Hattiesburg, J. Larry Ladner of Kiln, Dr. Pamela Johnson Rowsey of Durham, N.C., and Judge Jon Mark Weathers of Hattiesburg.
“Your example provides us the opportunity to show our students that with the right approach dreams do come true,” PRCC President Dr. Adam Breerwood said.
The five honorees left Pearl River to further their educations at several different institutions and followed different paths to accomplish their goals.
“They were all built on the same foundation,” Breerwood said.
Compretta spent one year at PRCC, graduating in 1965.
“It was one of the best years of my life,” he said. “It set the foundation for me. It’s hard to express how honored I am to receive this award.”
An attorney, he served in the state House of Representatives from 1976-83 and from 1988-2011. Although semi-retired, he maintains a private law practice.
Hornsby’s high school grades were too low to get into Pearl River, so he enlisted in the Navy. During 36 years of service, he enrolled in colleges and universities every time he had shore duty and earned degrees from most of them.
“All those years I was in the military, it was my goal to teach at Pearl River Community College,” he said. “It turned out real well.”
Retiring with the rank of captain, Hornsby earned an associate’s degree in automotive technology from PRCC and was chair of the social sciences department at PRCC’s Forrest County Center. He still teachs English and sociology part-time.
Ladner, known as Mississippi’s Ambassador for Basketball, graduated from Pearl River in 1958 and earned a bachelor’s degree at Louisiana College. Pearl River prepared him well.
“My first two years of college were more difficult than my last two years,” he said.
He coached high school basketball for 11 years in Picayune and was an assistant professor at the University of Southern Mississippi for 20 years.
“It’s an honor to be associated with Pearl River Community College,” he said. “I’m thrilled to be selected to the PRCC Lifetime Achievement Hall of Fame.”
Johnson came to Pearl River from Picayune as a 16-year-old reared by an aunt after the deaths of her parents.
“This is where I first learned to play the game of Spades and the first place where I skipped class to play that game,” she said.
She holds a PhD from the University of Michigan and is chair of the Adult Health Department in the School of Nursing at the University of North Carolina Greensboro. She has researched the factors that contribute to blacks having a higher incidence of chronic illness than whites and holds her dream job of mentoring nursing instructors - a path that began at Pearl River.
“It was here that I had the opportunity to dream and dream big,” she said. “It’s where my quest for science began.”
Weathers wasn’t sure he could reach his goal of becoming a trial lawyer when he enrolled at Pearl River on the advice of a high school teacher who said he wasn’t ready for a university. But, he learned academic discipline and, as student government president, got his first taste of public service.
“When I left the River, I knew how to study and I had the confidence to know I could reach my goal,” he said.
Weathers served two stints as district attorney in Forrest and Perry counties, represented USM and was in a private law practice before being elected to the circuit court bench in 2015.
“To be recognized as successful in your career in this manner is an honor and humbling,” he said.
Photographs and biographies of the honorees will hang in the Dr. William Lewis Honors Institute to inspire students of today and the future to set lofty goals. Videotaped interviews with each will also be available.