ELLISVILLE – At the 92nd Annual Spring Commencement ceremonies at Jones College, Mississippi’s 42nd state auditor, Shad White, challenged graduates to “own” their destinies, work hard and set a course toward achieving their goals. The University of Mississippi graduate earned his Bachelor of Arts degree in economics and political science and is a Truman Scholar and a Rhodes Scholar. Additionally, White earned his Juris Doctorate degree from Harvard Law School and has taught as an adjunct professor at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte. He shared with the nearly 700 Jones College graduates and guests at the two ceremonies that with all of his education, White was confident he would be successful in his pursuit of making positive, public policy working on the East Coast.
However, he realized his success was dependent upon something else. While explaining the difference between independence and ownership, White shared, “No one will sacrifice for you or work harder to find success than yourself.” While being independent has its benefits, White explained, “If you have taken ownership of your own life, you won’t want to sleep through the alarm clock because you know that would stand in the way of your goal.”
While watching his dad work hard all day as an oilfield pumper in Sandersville, as well as being the current mayor and former alderman of Sandersville, White learned through his dad that it was also his responsibility to give back to his community. However, the Northeast Jones High School graduate said he discovered not all service was created equal.
“I watched my friends embark on careers with a similar goal of (myself), making a difference in public service. Many of them, within a short amount of time started to realize that their ability to make change depended not just on their willingness to work hard, but also on whether their boss had enough political power to make change happen,” said White.
The auditor's “light bulb” moment forced him to change his thinking. Instead of working in Washington, D.C., he returned to Mississippi to take ownership of his life. His admiration of former Congressman Alan Nunnelee inspired him to volunteer for his campaign. After sweeping floors, White was given bigger responsibilities that eventually caught the interest of current Governor, Phil Bryant and earned his appointment as state auditor in 2018.
“We both had a passion for policy that helps working people. He had served as state auditor and we both had a passion for law enforcement and stopping corruption,” White said. “I realized that I needed to set a goal and make sacrifices to achieve that goal, even if I would be making a little less money than I would otherwise, working much longer hours, sleeping less, (and) tending some random landlord’s tomato garden; then I got lucky and met Governor Bryant. There’s truth in that old adage that the harder you work, the luckier you get.”
Non-traditional Jones College graduate Carolyn Holifield identifies with that old adage. The 71-year-old and Bell South service representative retired after 35 years but still felt called to “do something.” She plans on returning to Jones in the fall because she wants more than her associate in arts degree in general studies.
“I appreciate education so much. It is important for everything. An education changes the way people look at you, even though it doesn’t change your self-worth. I realized I want to do more. I may come back for a degree in paralegal, culinary arts or real estate,” said Holifield
One Greene County graduate and the Student Government Association president, Jared Woullard, is also known for taking ownership of his future. He pursued greatness throughout his two years at Jones College as freshman class president before earning the confidence of his peers to be SGA president. Woullard also served as a Bobcat Brigade student ambassador, and he was a member of the Presidential Student Advisory Task Force, the Charles Pickering Honors Institute, Jones Concert Choir, a Tullos Scholar, Phi Theta Kappa International Honor Society’s All-Mississippi Academic Team, and he was elected Mr. JCJC. As a result of his hard work, college administrators allowed the engineering major to begin a new tradition. At future commencement ceremonies, the SGA president will have the honor of carrying the College Mace as part of the procession of administrators and special guests.
“I was so excited! This was such an honor and I’m humbled to be the first one to start this new tradition,” an overwhelmed Woullard exclaimed. “I just can’t believe this happened!”
While taking ownership of your life is a recipe for finding a fulfilling career, according to White, he cautioned graduates to also focus on relationships.
“My relationship with God, my relationship with my wife, and my eight-week-old baby give me a sense of power and purpose that I need, too. So do the things that will make your career a success, but also know that your life outside of work requires just as much dedication as your life inside it.”
White concluded by announcing his desire that the new Jones College graduates who received either, an Associate in Arts degree, Associate in Applied Science degree, a technical certificate or a career certificate will stay in Mississippi as they pursue their callings in life.