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Three retired WCU faculty members honored during ceremony

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Dr. Ben Burnett hugs administrative assistant Earline Herrin as he announces that the School of Education’s new addition will be named in her honor. Herrin has worked at WCU for more than 45 years.

William Carey University supporters braved chilly temperatures, and a biting wind, to turn out Monday morning for the dedication of a new addition to the School of Education.

“You know, for a couple of weeks I’ve prayed for it not to rain today -- but I left out the part about it not being 30 degrees this morning! So, it’s the dean’s fault, blame me,” said Dr. Ben Burnett, dean of the WCU School of Education.

The new recently completed addition links Fairchild Hall and Lorena Smith Roseberry Hall. It includes four classrooms, nine offices and a conference room. During the ceremony, Burnett announced the addition would be named in honor of administrative assistant Earline Herrin, who has worked at WCU for more than 45 years.

Dr. Patty Ward, a long-time co-worker, said generations of William Carey students and faculty have looked to Herrin for quiet support and tactful suggestions.

“I think I speak for everyone when I say, we did our jobs, we helped this university grow, but it was because Miss Earline was the wind beneath our wings,” Ward said. “Without her, I would have messed up the catalog so many times!”

Legacy stone

The WCU tradition of engraved legacy stones recognizes retired professors and administrators who leave a legacy of learning and leadership.

“I can think of no greater person to honor in this way than Dr. Eugene Owens. He began his career in Laurel in 1967 and, during a very historic time, was a key leader in changing the face of education in the state of Mississippi – first as a teacher, then a principal and then superintendent of education,” Burnett said.

“In 2011, Dr. Owens became our Educational Leadership chair. He revamped, revitalized and renewed a program at William Carey that had been dormant for 20 years. He started out with a cohort of seven or eight students. Now it’s our single, largest department with about 400 students. Before long, you’ll have to look very hard in Mississippi to find a school leader who doesn’t have a degree from William Carey.”

Owens retired in 2017. In addition to the legacy stone, an endowed scholarship will be established in his name.

Professor emerita

Dr. June Hornsby retired from WCU in 2018 after 26 years of distinguished service. During Monday’s ceremony, she was granted the title of Professor Emerita of William Carey University.

Hornsby career began in 1963, and she taught in elementary schools and colleges for 29 years. Appointed to faculty of William Carey in 1992, her contributions to William Carey include serving as director of student teaching and co-director of the Young Authors Celebration. She also served as president of Mississippi Professional Educators.

Model literacy classroom

“With our new addition, we got a lot of new offices, but we were also able to create a model literacy classroom for training teachers,” Burnett said.

The special classroom was named in honor of retired professor Phyllis Armstrong, for her leadership in helping WCU’s literacy programs excel from 2005-18.

“Thanks to Phyllis Armstrong, our literacy department has grown and thrived and been recognized across the state. A recent report from the National Council for Teacher Quality gave William Carey an ‘A’ in both literacy categories – Undergraduate Elementary and Undergraduate Special Education. We were the only college or university in state to get an ‘A’ in both categories,” Burnett said.

“That didn’t happen overnight. It happened as a result of Phyllis Armstrong’s hard work.”

Parting thoughts

After the ceremony, WCU President Dr. Tommy King hosted a reception for guests.

“We’re blessed to be able to provide improved facilities for the School of Education. The education of our children is an investment in the future, an investment that will pay off in tangible results as a new generation steps into leadership roles and shapes the world to meet new challenges,” King said.

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