For 42 years Anita Stratton Wilborn Graham, known to her Northwest students as Mrs. Wilborn, set the standard for teaching excellence in the area of mathematics at Northwest Mississippi Community College. During that era, she educated many students who are now engineers, scientists, pharmacists, doctors, lawyers, and teachers.
Several of her former calculus students have subsequently taught calculus at Northwest. In addition, she mentored and encouraged her fellow faculty members. These students and co-workers cherish the memories, care, support, and example that Graham shared through a life of integrity and honor. In 2013, the faculty of the Mathematics Division of Northwest endowed a scholarship in Graham’s honor and is awarded to students pursuing either a mathematics or pre-engineering career pathway.
Following her death in September 2018 at the age of 82, it was learned that she continued her devotion to helping students through a generous estate gift to the Northwest Foundation for the purpose of adding to the Anita Strattorn Wiborn Graham Endowment and establishing three scholarships in honor of her former colleagues, Wayne Ferguson, current director of Mathematics Instruction, Charlotte Alexander, the first and former division director of Mathematics, and Linda Lewis Hogan Harris, former computer science instructor and chairman of computer studies.
It is significant and touching to remember that Graham taught Ferguson, Alexander and Harris when these three were Northwest students. They later became colleagues as all three became Northwest instructors. Their final and dearest relationship was that of friends.
The mathematics faculty members voted to add funds to the Graham estate gift to completely endow The Wayne Ferguson Endowment, The Charlotte Alexander Tate County Endowment, and The Linda Lewis Hogan Harris Endowment. These additional funds were taken from the Math Foundation Account established by the Mathematics Division at the onset of Northwest’s first Quality Enhancement Plan (QEP), whose focus was to enhance student learning in mathematics.
Patti Gordon, executive director of the Office of Institutional Advancement, appreciates the kind generosity of both Graham and the Mathematics faculty. “We are sincerely grateful for the actions of Mrs. Graham and these instructors. The combination of this extraordinary estate gift and the funds from the Mathematics Department totals $58,000, all of which will be placed in these permanent endowments. Of course, this means that students will receive scholarships from these endowments for as long as this college exists and that Mr. Ferguson, Ms. Alexander, and Mrs. Harris will also be honored through the lives of these students,” Gordon said.
The Wayne Ferguson Endowment
The younger son of Larry and Mary Hall Ferguson, Wayne Ferguson grew up in Senatobia, attending Senatobia City Schools through the 12th grade. He was valedictorian of his senior class and was elected to the Senatobia High School Hall of Fame. Ferguson attended Northwest for two years, majoring in mathematics, where he was named Outstanding Math Student and also elected to the college’s Hall of Fame.
He then enrolled at the University of Mississippi, graduating with a B.S. degree in mathematics, followed just over a year later with a Master’s degree in mathematics. As an undergraduate, Ferguson was inducted into Phi Kappa Phi Honor Society and he received an award for outstanding academic achievement while working on his master’s degree.
Ferguson says that he was blessed to have many exceptional instructors who inspired in him a love for learning and a lifelong fondness for the learning environment. While attending Northwest, he took many of Graham’s mathematics classes, including trigonometry, the calculus sequence, and differential equations. He also took two years of chemistry under the instruction of Jo Adams Cross. Both of these instructors increased Wayne’s desire to learn more about mathematics and the sciences. When Ferguson started teaching at Northwest in 1986, he worked with Cross and Graham, and he became even closer to them. Out of respect and fondness for these dedicated instructors, Ferguson dedicated a chair in the renovated Northwest auditorium in their honor.
Ferguson taught mathematics on the Senatobia campus from 1986-2001, the last 11 of those years serving as department chairman. In August 2001, he transferred to the Southaven campus to teach math and to serve as the coordinator of mathematics at the DeSoto Center. On August 1, 2018, Ferguson returned to the Senatobia campus as Director of Mathematics Instruction.
Ferguson’s early years teaching at Northwest included many moments of joy and inspiration. Some of the fun and entertaining times were provided by Graham, who never let her high standards decrease while she enjoyed fun times with colleagues. Many afternoons in the Physical Science Building were spent enjoying a special camaraderie.
For the past 16 years, Ferguson has enjoyed being involved in service at Church of the Holy Communion, Episcopal, in Memphis. He continues to enjoy reading, attending theatrical events, and traveling to the American Southwest. He also treasures time spent with his nephew Lee and with Lee’s family.
The scholarship will be awarded to students pursuing either the engineering, mathematics, or pharmacy pathway. Should there not be a qualified applicant in these pathways, then the scholarship should be awarded to a student pursuing any pathway in Natural Sciences.
The Charlotte Alexander Tate County Endowment
This is the second endowed scholarship established in honor of Charlotte Alexander. The first one was established in 2018, and the complete story of Alexander’s life was highlighted in the previous edition of Northwest Now(Fall 2018). She describes Graham as someone who made a profound difference in her life. “Anita was my teacher, my colleague, and my friend. I am extremely touched that she would provide this estate gift to Northwest to help students and that she would be specific in her instructions to include me along with Wayne and Linda to be honored with a scholarship endowment. To then have my mathematics colleagues provide additional funds truly leaves me overwhelmed with gratitude,” Alexander said.
Alexander was encouraged by Graham to apply for a position at Northwest in 1989. She became the first division director of Mathematics in 2010 and served in that position until her retirement in June 2018.
The scholarship will be awarded to students who are residents of Tate County and who maintain a 2.5 grade point average at Northwest.
The Linda Lewis Hogan Harris Endowment
Linda Lewis Hogan Harris grew up in Sledge, the youngest daughter of Harry and Cornelia Lewis. She attended Sledge High School, where she was an honor student, Beta Club member, and Hall of Fame recipient. Harris was a member of the band, cheerleading squad, basketball team, and track team.
After completing high school, she attended Northwest for two years and quickly fell in love with the college that would later become an integral part of her life. She remembered with sincere appreciation the many caring faculty who taught and inspired her, two of whom were Anita Wilborn Graham and Bob King. Who would have ever guessed that years later she would be working alongside them in a profession she cherished?
After graduating from Northwest, Harris completed her Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees with honors at the University of Mississippi. She taught in the Tate County Schools, Senatobia City Schools, and Desoto County Schools for nine and a half years before returning to college again to earn a degree in computer programming from State Technical Institute at Memphis.
At STIM, she graduated with a 4.0 GPA and embarked on a new career journey dealing with computer programming. Later she also completed graduate computer science coursework at the University of Memphis, Delta State University, and Mississippi State University. In 1984, Harris was offered a full-time teaching position at Northwest. She taught computer programming and software application classes at Northwest from 1984 through 2005, serving as chairman of Computer Studies for the last 15 years that she worked at Northwest.
Because of a family member’s serious illness, Harris took an early retirement and taught online computer classes from home for six additional years, ending in 2012. Harris remarked, “Retiring from Northwest was one of the most difficult decisions I’ve ever made. I loved my years teaching at Northwest, and I knew that I was truly blessed to work in one of the best community colleges in the country.” Harris has also expressed gratitude for the city of Senatobia where she has lived for more than 40 years. Senatobia has consistently supported a strong educational system and has made quality education a priority.
Harris feels extremely proud to have a scholarship named for her, which was established by her dear friend and mentor, Anita Wilborn Graham. Additional funds were added to this scholarship by the Department of Mathematics Instruction at Northwest, and Harris is sincerely grateful to the Mathematics Instruction Department Director, Wayne Ferguson, and his faculty for their support of this scholarship.
Harris’s close friendship with Graham lasted for more than 25 years, and Graham continued to teach Harris in so many important ways through that friendship. Graham’s strength, integrity, honesty, and compassion were evident to anyone who knew her and, especially, to Harris, who was also her neighbor. Harris said, “Anita always demonstrated an unwavering commitment to the people she loved. I feel very blessed to be included in the group of people loved by Anita, and I’m honored to be remembered by Anita with a gift as precious as a scholarship named for me at the college because Northwest positively impacted both Anita’s life and mine.”
Over the past 28 years, Harris has personally seen the significance of scholarships at Northwest. Harris’s first husband, who died at a young age more than 30 years ago, was honored by his co-workers at Chromcraft with a scholarship at Northwest in his name. The Thomas W. Hogan Endowed Scholarship has impacted the lives of recipients for many years that were studying Computer Science or Computer Information Systems at Northwest. Harris was honored that she was included in determining the criteria for recipients of this scholarship.
Harris is now married to Ken Harris, who also was a former student of Graham’s. Ken has retired from over 30 years of teaching. During his tenure, he positively impacted the lives of many students. Harris commented, “One of the greatest privileges of living in a small community in which we both have taught for many years is being greeted by former students who remember us and express gratitude for the differences we’ve made in their lives. What a great honor to be remembered by former students.”
Ken and Linda Harris will always remember with sincere gratitude their former teacher and dear friend, Graham. They both are thankful that Graham was a major part of their lives, and they will carry her positive life lessons in their hearts as long as they live.
The Linda Lewis Hogan Harris Endowed Scholarship will be awarded to a student in the computer science or computer information systems pathway or to a student who has chosen a math or a science-related pathway at Northwest.
Dr. Michael Heindl, president of Northwest, is deeply appreciative for all of the giving that these endowments represent. “An estate gift is such a compliment to our college. Mrs. Graham, who had already made a lasting and incredible contribution to Northwest in her classroom, was devoted to this college so much that she made careful and thoughtful plans to continue helping Northwest. None of us knew she had done this. I wish we had known so that we could have recognized her for her generosity. Then, to add to the generosity, the mathematics faculty members provided funds from the Math Foundation Account established during the implementation of the QEP. I am completely elated by these acts of giving,” Heindl said.
For more information, contact the Northwest Office of Institutional Advancement at 662.560.1103 or email Gordon at email@example.com.