Sybil Canon, associate vice president of Development and Special Projects recently announced her retirement from Northwest Mississippi Community College, according to college officials. Under Canon’s leadership, the Northwest Foundation has accrued more than $10 million in the endowment for student scholarships and, in addition, has awarded more than $5 million in scholarships since 1996. She has been at Northwest for 22 years.
“Sybil was one of the first leaders at the college to reach out to me upon being named Northwest’s new president. It became clear to me quickly of her love and dedication to our institution as evidenced by the way she focused her unyielding attention on serving students in need. The legacy she leaves—one of deep care and compassion for our students—will continue on forever. I count Sybil Canon as a friend, a colleague, and a stalwart to the mission of transforming students’ lives. She will be missed greatly,” said Dr. Michael Heindl, president of Northwest.
A native of Iuka, Canon came to Northwest in 1996 from the Memphis Union Mission where she was director of Development from 1994-1996. She spent 16 years as director of Development and Public Relations at the Baddour Center in Senatobia from 1978-1994. Prior to her work in development and fundraising, Canon taught high school English at North Forrest High School and Blair High School in Hattiesburg.
Canon’s transition into fundraising was an interesting one. “Members of the Baddour family visited a Methodist church in Hattiesburg to tell about the establishment of The Baddour Center in Senatobia. I had been invited to sing and to speak at the church at that meeting. Following that meeting, a conversation began and I was offered a position at The Baddour Center. In fact, I was among the first three people hired to develop this ministry,” Canon said.
Canon graduated with highest honors from Iuka High School. She earned her Associate of Arts, graduating magna cum laude from Wood Junior College in Mathison and earned her Bachelor of Arts in English from Mississippi University for Women, where she graduated cum laude. She continued her studies in English at Mississippi State University, and earned a Master of Arts in Higher Education and Student Personnel with advanced graduate studies in English from the University of Mississippi, where she was a member of Phi Kappa Phi.
One of the things Canon is most proud of is the source of permanent scholarship funding that is in place for all students on all Northwest campuses. “Our scholarship endowments are ‘held sacred,’ which means that the principal is not touched. The earnings from the investment of the principal will provide scholarships for as long as this college exists,” Canon said.
One of the Foundation’s fundraising efforts that constituted a pioneer effort in fundraising was a partnership with The University of Mississippi, which was called “The 2 + 2 Scholarship Initiative.”
“We had help from an outstanding advisory committee made up of Northwest and Ole Miss alums, and staff from Ole Miss. Dr. Gloria Kellum, former vice chancellor for University Relations; Dr. Bonnie Buntin, former dean of University of Mississippi-DeSoto, and I would make calls together to ask both Ole Miss and Northwest alums to help Northwest and Ole Miss students attending the DeSoto campus. We raised well over a million dollars and continue to add to it through the BancorpSouth/Northcentral EPA 2 + 2 Scholarship Golf Tournament, founded by Mike and Debra Herrington. It was a pioneer effort in that a four-year university and a two-year college worked together to raise the funds and then shared the proceeds. As far as I know, it had never been done and has not been done since,” Canon said.
“Sybil Canon is a wonderful friend and an amazing fundraiser. Hundreds of students are attending the DeSoto Center on 2+2 scholarships through a joint effort of the Northwest Foundation and the University of Mississippi Foundation. To my knowledge, this was the first cooperative scholarship fundraising effort of a community college and a university in the South. Sybil is a consummate professional and a wonderful person who has provided excellent leadership for Northwest and, therefore, opportunities for students now and into the future,” Kellum said.
Canon is driven to help others because of the example her own mother set for her. “My mother was a profound influence on my life in sharing and helping others. She became a single parent to six children after my father was killed in a work-related accident. In spite of our having meager circumstances, she shared what little we had to those who were dealing with death and illness and to those who just needed a helping hand. In addition, there were so many in our small town of Iuka who reached out to our family and helped us. My faith, my mother, and those experiences impressed upon me at a young age to help others, and very kind and generous donors have provided me the avenue as an adult to reach out to those who need a helping hand,” Canon said.
“The overwhelming feeling I have about Northwest is gratitude–gratitude to an administration, faculty and staff for the excellent college that we have, gratitude to the Board of Trustees and the Foundation Board of Directors for their leadership and support, gratitude to the hundreds of alumni and supporters who have given so generously, gratitude to the dedicated, intelligent, and hard-working ladies who have worked with me in the Foundation Office, gratitude to my family for understanding the hours needed to do this job, and, especially, gratitude to a loving God who placed me here to fulfill His mission for my life,” Canon added.
Canon and her husband Al are members of First Baptist Church in Southaven, where Al serves as minister of Music and Sybil teaches the Hope Sunday School Class. They have a blended family that includes three daughters and five grandchildren. Their family is Jennifer Roberts Jenkins (Jared) and granddaughter Noelle of Fairfield, Connecticut; Emily Roberts Wilson (Jeff) and granddaughter Mattie and grandson William of Raleigh, North Carolina and Amber Canon Gilluly (Greg) and grandson Jake and granddaughter Isla, of Savannah, Georgia.
Pictured:At the November meeting of the Northwest Mississippi Community College Foundation Board, Northwest President Dr. Michael Heindl (left) thanked Sybil Canon, associate vice president of Development and Special Projects (center) for her 22 years of service to the college. Canon will retire at the end of December, and Patti Gordon, who currently serves as director of Alumni Affairs and Development Operations, will assume the position of executive director of Institutional Advancement, which will encompass both Foundation and Alumni activities. (Photo by Julie Bauer)