Northwest has named Barry Bouchillon the college’s 2021 Alumnus of the Year.
Bouchillon was enrolled in the college from the fall of 1967 through the spring of 1969. He is one of six siblings who attended the school, with a number of nieces and nephews later going on to attend. His wife of 51 years, Donna Eddie Bouchillon, not only graduated from the college, but was also a Rangerette and earned the title of Miss Northwest. Additionally, the couple’s three sons, Rob, Clay and Reed, have all attended Northwest at some point in their educational careers.
Rob Bouchillon’s wife Shannon also graduated from Northwest with a nursing degree, while the couple’s daughter, Mary Carson, recently completed an associate’s degree at the college as well.
Bouchillon and his siblings also established a scholarship in their parents’ names, The A.W. and LaNelle Bouchillon Endowed Scholarship, of which the first recipient was their grandson Reed. Bouchillon recalls how much his mother enjoyed reading letters from students who had received the scholarship. He also notes that he has supported the DeSoto County Business Women’s scholarship since its inception.
First introduced to Northwest in the fall of 1961 by way of his older brother Peck, manager of the football team, Bouchillon has fun memories of sleeping over in the dorm with his brother and the team.
“The guys on the team were like my brothers,” he said. “They treated me very nicely because I was a small kid.”
As a student himself, Barry studied business. He initially chose to study pre-engineering simply because the friend he went to register for classes with was entering that field. The math classes required in the program, however, quickly put him off the idea.
He received a half scholarship to play baritone in the band under Band Director Glenn Triplett. The band was small, almost outnumbered by the Rangerettes, but they had talent and enthusiasm. Though he no longer plays music, his experience in band has left him with an ear and an appreciation for music. Mostly to be with friends, Bouchillon also dabbled in the college’s Theatre program, acting in “My Fair Lady” among other productions.
In those days, Bouchillon said there were four students to a room in his dorm and no closets, with students storing all of their belongings in trunks. Though the living arrangements might not sound appealing, he looks back on the experience with fondness.
“It was kind of like going to camp,” he said. “It was enjoyable in that way.”
In the summer of 1969, he joined the National Guard in a six-year commitment, and headed off to basic training. He was part of the 108th Armored Cavalry, to which former Northwest President Dr. David Haraway also belonged. That fall, Bouchillon got married. He and his new wife moved to Batesville the following year, where she had accepted a teaching job. Determined to earn his degree, he commuted to Oxford for classes at the University of Mississippi, earning a bachelor’s degree in public administration in 1972.
With a father who was the director of planning for DeSoto County, he toyed with the idea of enrolling in graduate school to focus on city planning. He passed the entrance exam, but ultimately decided that was not the path for him. He went job hunting, and accepted his first position out of college with Westinghouse Credit Corporation, where he stayed for only a short time. Next, he took a job with International Harvester Motor Trucks in Memphis, and remained with that company for five years.
After his departure, he was given an opportunity to become a State Farm agent in Southaven; an opportunity that he could not have known at the time would lead to a happy 43-year career. Bouchillon grew up in Hernando, but has lived in Southaven since the early ‘70s. He has put much into building his business over the years in his local community.
“I like helping people,” he said. “The Lord gives us different gifts, and that’s my gift. I’m not the greatest salesperson by any means, but I can bring empathy and sympathy and the desire to do whatever I can to serve the customer.”
In the years since leaving Northwest, Bouchillon has attended Fine Arts events and twice served on the college’s Foundation Board of Directors. As a friend of late Northwest instructor and accomplished artist Lane Tutor, he also made a point to support Tutor’s endeavors. When asked what he believes sets Northwest apart, he was quick to point to the friendly atmosphere and individual interest in each student.
In his personal life, Bouchillon is a passionate family man. He calls spending quality time with his family his “hobby,” from trips to outings to family get togethers. Along with their three sons, the couple has six grandchildren. He and his wife have long attended church, and currently attend Compel Church in Southaven.He and his family also enjoy attending Ole Miss athletic events.
As a family, the Bouchillons have always supported the arts, including the DeSoto Family Theatre, Orpheum Theatre, Memphis Ballet and the Memphis Symphony Orchestra. As a State Farm agent, he has continually supported local schools and non-profits.
Bouchillon has been a member of the Southaven Rotary Club since 1977 and a member of the Southaven Chamber of Commerce since 1978. He has been a member and past president of the executive board for the DeSoto County Economic Development Council, a board member for Leadership Mississippi and is currently serving on the board for the Historic DeSoto Foundation, which runs the DeSoto County Museum.