Wyatt, Janice 6/15/00 Tape 1 of 1 OH# 271
By: Brenda Outlaw
This is an interview for the Mississippi Oral History Project. The interview is being recorded with Ms. Janice Wyatt on June 15, 2000. The interviewer is Brenda Outlaw.
BO: Help us give us your name and maybe the date, and then we will check on that.
JW: Janice Wyatt on June 15, 2000.
BO: Ms. Wyatt we appreciate you doing this interview for the Delta State Oral History Program. If we could start with your parents’ names and maybe your mother’s maiden name, and a little bit about how your family came to live in the delta.
JW: My mother’s name was Opal Elizabeth Johnson. She married my father who was Thomas Jefferson Collins. So her maiden name of course would be Johnson. My father was a foreman with the Mississippi Levy System when they were building the levies. My father was much older than my mother. They met. Well I was born in 1934. I was the fourth child. They came here because of the levy system. I am sure, but now my father was born and raised in Myersville, MS. So he had been here since the eighteen hundreds.
BO: Oh how wonderful there is a lot of history background there.
JW: A lot of it.
BO: Yes, so he stayed in the delta because of the levy system.
JW: Well after they married, he stayed that, but his folks settled the Myersville area.
BO: Do you know why they came?
JW: Farming, they came from North Carolina. They came down from North Carolina. One of my father’s grandmother married a man that had a plantation. They farmed it for years and years and years. When he died, he left it to about ten or eleven children. Then the flood of ’27 was when they lost all of it. They are still all buried on a huge Indian mound in Myersville, MS.
BO: Oh how wonderful.
JW: It dates back to the Civil War.
BO: What a lovely family history.
JW: They came across some of them. The other side, the Collins’ side, came across from Louisiana years later. So there is a lot of history out there. We have gone through all of the books and texts the library and everything.
BO: Yeah, do you know how your parent’s met?
JW: I do not. I do not.
BO: Do you know where your parents went to school?
JW: Pine Bluff High School, now mother was in Pine Bluff High School. My father was privately tutored in homes, plantation homes in Louisiana. He never went the school. He was never recorded on any public schools.
BO: Now was several of his family done that way, or was he just?
JW: All of the family was sent back to Louisiana and they were tutored in some of the big homes over there. You know how they used to the tutors?
JW: I was just trying to think. My father would be like a hundred and ten, twelve, thirteen, or twenty if he was living. He was much older. He was forty-seven when I was born.
BO: Oh yeah
JW: A lot of history, my grandfather, which is unbelievable, fought in the Civil War.
BO: Oh my that is.
JW: On his tombstone, on that mound in Myersville, has C. A. F., Confederate Arm Forces, Louisiana Division.
BO: Oh my
JW: So a lot of history there.
BO: Do you know when they are married?
BO: Okay, can you tell us your brothers and sisters? How many people were in your family?
JW: I have twin brothers, and then I have a sister. They are older than I.
BO: So you are the baby of the family?
BO: Can you tell us what your house was like while you were growing up. You live in Rolling Fork?
JW: Originally I lived in Grace, MS. My father was a farm manager. It was a wonderful life living way out in the country. It was just a wonderful life. He provided all the food and everything on the farm. There were vegetable gardens. They raised animals, cows, pigs, and you know all this type of thing. We farmed a lot of land. The house was a big frame house with fireplaces in every room. It was this type thing. It was quite old.
BO: Did you all have indoor plumbing? Do you remember?
JW: Yes, I do not remember ever having outdoor plumbing. I have been in a lot of homes that did at that time when I was very little.
BO: But you all did have electricity?
JW: Not in Grace, MS on second thought no because I can remember the lamps. I can remember them cleaning the lamps, the glass portion of the gas or kerosene. I guess they were. I can remember that vaguely.
BO: So you were very small at that point.
JW: I was actually a baby probably and up.
BO: And when did you all move to Rolling Fork?
JW: Well we moved from there to Carrie, MS. My father was a farm manager. Then from there we moved to Rolling Fork. I would guess we moved to Rolling Fork probably when I was in about the sixth grade. That is as close as I can get it. It was somewhere in there.
BO: Now where did you all go to school?
JW: Rolling Fork my entire time.
BO: The entire time.
JW: First grade to the twelfth.
BO: Can you give us any experiences in your school at that point?
JW: Excellent academic school, there were excellent teachers. Of course then all teachers had to be single. They all had to live in the home provided for them by the principle. They were excellent. I had a wonderful high school experience. I hated to get out of high school. I love the cheerleading and all these different things. I loved it all.
BO: When did you first hear about Delta State?
JW: I knew very little about it. I had come up here with my parents when my brothers who was older played ball. They basketball and all type of sports. They were very good. We would could come up and play in the Delta State gym in some finals. I had been on the campus as a child. I knew nothing about it. First heard (?) really thought anything about it, the summer I graduated. My family was really pushing me to go to Mississippi College. They didn’t dance. I knew I wasn’t going there. H. L. Nowell and Wig Rielly came by this place that I was working keeping books. I was at a telephone bulk plant, Gulf All Bulk Plant. Pure All, I think it was then. They talked to me about Delta State.
BO: Where had your brothers and sisters?
JW: Mississippi College, my brother, my sister did not go until later in her life.
BO: So you were the first to come to Delta State?
JW: Definitely, we had no connections with it what so ever.
BO: Can you tell us about your first day on campus?
JW: I can tell you about the ride up here. I was the youngest. I was very attached to my family. I cried all of the way. I can remember coming down the old driveway. All of the beautiful trees, one of my brothers, my father had died. One of my brothers and my mother brought me, and I cried all of the way.
BO: How did your mother react to that?
JW: She said that when I went in the first grade she put me on the bus from Grace, MS crying. There she was taking me to college, and put me in the dorm crying. It was beautiful. I remember thinking that Memorial Drive. You know how something stands out in your mind. That was in 1952, I was thinking how beautiful this drive was.
BO: When you came on campus, did you have a roommate?
JW: I did. I had a roommate from Ruleville, MS. You know how after a few days you do fruit basket turnovers. I got with a girl that I knew. I cried so much the first two weeks that my mother would not even call me. She would call my friend of mine from Rolling Fork to see how I was doing because I would cry so, but after two weeks I took to it just absolutely. I didn’t even want to call home or go home.
BO: Did they have sororities at that point?
JW: They definitely did not.
BO: So what did you all do for organized social activities?
JW: We had pretty good severe restrictions what we could do. You know dorm time. You had to sign in or out if you went anywhere. You could only go out one night a week. Something like that I would have to look at the handbook. It was pretty restricted. You could not, freshman, could not single date in cars. We managed to get around a lot of things. We had a lot of fun.
BO: You mentioned that Mississippi College didn’t have dances. Did Delta State?
BO: Who sponsored those dances?
JW: There was probably, even then it was probably sponsored by the student government or the Dean of Women probably with a group. I don’t know. I don’t remember that. We would have huge dances in Whitfield Gym.
BO: Did you all have live band or records?
JW: Live band, we had live bands.
BO: Do you remember any of them?
JW: Well we had the Red Tops.
BO: I can remember people talking about having the Red Tops.
JW: I followed all my last probably ten, eleventh, and twelfth in high school. So that was just a continuation you know. We had other live bands. We had some pretty good ones to come in. Some of them were known nationally. I would have to look in the yearbook to remember them. That was a big thing. They had the big dances. We loved. I loved dormitory life. I really did.
BO: So who were your best friends, and how did you? Were they ones that came with you?
JW: Predominantly the first were the ones that came with me, and I roomed with them. We were all very close. In fact we ran around with sophomores. In fact seven of us this year and . . .
BO: Can you tell us their names?
JW: We all went to Gulf Shores for a solid week and had a big reunion this year. It was the first time we have all been together for a length of time for forty-seven years.
BO: Oh what great memories. Oh my.
JW: It was Vickie Carter from over in Ruleville. Nancy and Janelle Picket, they were the Picket twins that I was cheerleader with for all the years out there. I got to be very close. These were sophomores. Liz Parker from Drew, the Pickets were from Jackson, close to Jackson. I just as well can not remember right now. Betty Jo Gillian, she is from up close to Booneville, up in the northeast. Of course Ruth Anne Cancave from Clarksdale, well Tupelo then. Mary Allan Smith was from Merigold. There were others, but that was the core group that we ran around with.
BO: What brought you all together? What was your common?
JW: Well Ruth Anne and I started as freshman together with Mary Allen. We just immediately just became friends. It was nothing that pulled us together except friendship. I guess had mutual interests. Yes
BO: Just enjoyed each other.
JW: The others I was pulled into the sophomore group because of my friendship with the twins and cheerleading with them. That is how I got to know them real well.
BO: Did you come with an interest in a certain area? Did you just?
JW: Definitely in business, all my life I knew I wanted to do something. I didn’t want to teach at that time. The most, then the most that I could aspire to do was possibly a high power personal secretary to some firm to this type thing. There was just not that many. I wasn’t into sciences. I was really into the bookkeeping, typing, shorthand, and all of that and office machines. That is what I really aspired. I said that could be a big trick to do that.
BO: What changed you from that?
JW: Well I did that. I went with that. I got a one year secretarial degree. Then I got a two-year then three-year. Then I said, yeah I am here I will just go on to four year business education degree.
BO: Okay, so your degree is in Business Education.
JW: My first degree is in Business Education. I went to Mobile, AL. Kent and I married. I moved to Mobile, AL. When I went in for my interview, they said Ms. Wyatt you will have students in your classes. I wasn’t but like twenty. They said you would have students in your classes that are older than you are in Murky High School. We could not begin to let you teach in our public schools. You are too young. You could not control the boys. So we will put you in the elementary grades. I went into an elementary grade. I worked totally with gifted children. I fell in love with it. I came back. I got the undergraduate degree and the masters in elementary.
BO: When did you meet your husband?
JW: I knew him as a freshman. I thought he was a real cute fellow, but he was going with another girl. So I just dated around, and I had a ball. Our sophomore year, he loves to tell the story that he went out. They needed a cheerleader for the last minute. Kent had been playing football and basketball. They told him that he had to decide on one or the other. Of course he took the basketball because he had a scholarship. So he was available. Of course he was real good in gymnastics. We talked him into it. It was the Picket twins, Kent, and Charles Wilkenson who is a phediadonist in Memphis now and myself. There were five of us. That is how I really got to know him. He loves to tell the story that he did that so he could get to know me better. He tells (?).
BO: That is not the wholly the truth?
JW: I don’t know.
BO: Well now at that point did you all cheer for football and basketball?
BO: You cheered for everything.
BO: So you all were quite busy for the whole year.
JW: Yes, it was a lot of fun.
BO: It must have been difficult to keep your grades up with that much outside activity.
JW: Well I was always a real good student. I never worried about grades. In fact when I got to college, I wanted the top score that came out everywhere. Then I got to college. I discovered how much life really was. I didn’t have to work real hard to get B’s. So I never had to worry about my grades. I can make easily passing good grades with out a lot of effort. So that was it. I knew I could.
BO: Could you tell us some instructor that you remember that stands out in your mind for either for good or for bad reasons?
JW: Well of course I had Katherine Keener in all the Business classes the shorthand, the typing, and all of this. She was excellent. She probably stands out as much as any. Of course when I came back I had Foster Wilkenson. He was one of the best that I have had. He was tough. He was a very hard teacher. He made you produce. He made you do it on your own. He was an excellent teacher when I came back to get my masters. I took a lot of courses under Ms. Keener because of the business. I had English under Ms. Hammed. Then they give you test. According to how you scored. If you scored high, you got Ms. Hammed.
BO: Well tell us about Ms. Hammed because I have heard tells of her before. She was quite.
JW: She was quite different. She was quite a different person. She had written books. Just quite a different person.
BO: Do you remember anything particularly amusing about your years as a student at Delta State?
JW: Looking back on it, they were not funny to us. We used to have in decorating the goal post. We would almost beg for money to buy crate paper to decorate with. We used to get so angry because they would not let us have what we needed. It was just many fun things in the dormitories. We had an experience. Back then you had. I remember Ms. Brumby lived on my floor. You had some one that lived on the floor, an adult supervisor. I can remember a lot of fun things that happened. We thought it was great fun to fill the water buckets with water and poor them down on the girls on the first floor. This type of thing.
BO: You didn’t get in trouble doing that?
JW: If you got caught. We had some girls to slip some whiskey in one night. That was a big to do. They were thrown out of school.
BO: Oh my that was very serious.
JW: Oh yeah you were thrown. They were caught. Of course they were put out. It was just a lot of comeidary. I love the friendships that do develop.
BO: About how many students that were on campus at that point?
JW: I would guess about four hundred.
BO: About how many faculty?
JW: I do not know. I could not tell you.
BO: What was the most popular form of entertainment at that point?
JW: On campus?
JW: The dances, I would guess. We just didn’t. You stayed on campus for a lot of things. We didn’t have movies on campus. There was a movie downtown. I guess we did that. There were not a lot of cars on campus because freshman could not have cars.
BO: So you walked if you went to the movie downtown?
JW: Unless someone had a car. Of course a lot of the guys had a car. You could double date in it. Of course you had to sign out. You had to be in a certain time and sign in.
BO: Was there a dress code?
JW: Definitely, you could not wear shorts except in the gym class. If you had to go to a gym class, you had to wear a raincoat over your shorts walking over there. Dress appropriate at all times. You got demerits if you did not keep your room clean. If you left a coke bottle in your room you got a mark. If you got a lot of those, you went in front of the Dean of Women Merrill Lawler. So it was much stricter. It was nothing wrong with it. At that time it was what we expected. It never bothered me.
BO: Now who gave the demerits for the messy rooms?
JW: It came out of the Dean of Women’s office. I do not know. Well you had a dorm mother. She I guess checked it, and then she turned it in to that office then. If you got so many, you are in trouble.
BO: Now at that point was there a laundry on campus, or how did you manage?
JW: There was always a laundry. It was then, yes.
BO: You didn’t have any problems with that?
JW: Not really. We still when we went home. I never did go home much. A lot of people took their stuff home. I can’t remember washing machines in the dormitories like they are now. It might have been. I don’t know.
BO: What was the most popular major on campus at that point? What was the strongest?
JW: Education by far, anything in education. Elementary and secondary is what I would guess.
BO: Was that mostly the girls that went into that field?
BO: And what were the boys?
JW: Physical Education and Business, not as strong of a business program. It was a good program. When I say not as strong, I mean not in numbers. It was very strong in academics. We had some excellent teachers. Probably those are the three. Sciences, there were some. I remember the Tibb’s boys. They were both in school. They were the boys then. They went on to become doctors. We had one. I think we had one girl who was in the sciences.
BO: Girls just didn’t go into the sciences?
JW: Just didn’t do it.
BO: Not because they were discouraged, they just didn’t?
JW: We just didn’t know that it was even open to us really. I didn’t. Maybe others did.
BO: You married Kent Wyatt in what year?
JW: ’56, we married three, four, five, six. March the third in fifty-six.
JW: It was in between quarters. That was our senior year.
BO: Then after you graduated you went immediately both of you were employed, or did you go on?
JW: Well we married. We lived with his mother and father for approximately April and May. I was working at the time part time at Kossoms in secretarial work. As many hours as I could. Then he was doing different things too working. Then we finished. We graduated together. I graduated. My diploma reads, Janice Collins. I was determined that. Dr. Farrah was here then. He was a favorite of mine. He was the Dean of Students. He was very good to me. I was crazy about him. I remember. It was beautiful quadrangle graduation and all of this. We married. We lived there. Then we went to the coast that summer, Mississippi Gulf Coast. He worked with his father at a camp down there. I did the bookkeeping in the (?) camp. The next year we went in September to Mobile, AL.
BO: What was he doing there?
JW: He taught at a military school, mathematics and coached basketball. I taught in the public schools.
BO: You came back in?
JW: 1960 to Cleveland, and I didn’t want to come home. They called. By then we had Tara. We waited till after about three years. She was about eighteen months old. They wanted to come back to his auda motto high school. I didn’t want to. I loved Mobile. Once again there was the same situation. Once I got into to something, I love it. I am always a little hesitant going in. I did not want to come home. I just loved it down there. They finally persuaded me because Kent’s mother had a nursery school. I could come home, and Tara could go to her grandmother’s nursery school. I could still teach. So we came back to Cleveland.
BO: So after you came back here you decided to get the degree in elementary education?
BO: So you taught while you got your degree?
BO: How many years did that take you?
JW: I don’t know. I needed thirty-three hours. Or some many few hours, I had a lot of education courses. I had to zero in right on the elementary education. I got my certificate. Then I went back and got the masters. I got the masters probably after I had quit teaching. I only taught in all probably eight or nine years. So I still teach. I refer myself as a teacher in front of my youngest daughter who is thirty-two one day. She said, “Well mother you never taught since I have been. I don’t remember it.” I never have with her. I said, “Elizabeth, once you are a teacher, you are always a teacher.”
BO: That is true.
JW: You are always are.
BO: Now you were here how many years before Kent moved from the high school to Delta State?
JW: We came home in 1960. I can not tell you when he came out to Delta State. We have been here forever it seems like. He taught. We worked in the public schools.
BO: How did he make the transition from the high school?
JW: Alumni Secretary, they hired the first full time. Dr. Ewing did. He stayed there about a year or two. During that time, Dr. Ewing encouraged Kent. He saw something in Kent. He encouraged Kent to go back and get his doctorate. He had gotten his masters in Mathematics at Southern while we were in Mobile. Then we came back. I went back and got the degrees. Then after I did that, Dr. Ewing really encouraged them. He made it so that he could go.
BO: How did you feel about him pursuing a higher degree?
JW: Had to, if we knew if we were going to stay in education he had to. I knew that Kent had the administrative ability. He had a quietness, determination, and strength about him that knew. His judgement was very good. So he, Dr. Ewing, I give him tremendous credit for Kent’s career.
BO: Did Kent at that point aspire to being an administrator here, or did he think probably that he would go to another school?
JW: You don’t know. You plow on and get that degree.
JW: You know you have got to have it. As soon as he got that degree, that is when I went back and got my masters because Aubrey Lucas was here when I got my masters. He handed my diploma. I drag that out a few years. The length of time that I could because I was having children, another child and working and all of that stuff.
BO: What was you doing at that time, still teaching?
JW: Yes, some of the early in going into it. Then I helped my mother-in-law at the nursery school for a couple of days a week.
BO: So when you all became or appointed to the president’s office, how did you feel about that having been a faculty member under Ms. Ewing?
JW: Felt overwhelmed. We were thirty-nine and forty years old. I was thirty-nine. I think Kent was thirty-nine or forty. I think he was forty. We were a little bit overwhelmed. I look at forty-year-olds today. I think goodness gracious. We did this at forty. I loved the school. I knew that we had such deep love for the school. We are both products of education. We are both products of Delta State. It was just about pre-overwhelmed. We knew that we have always worked as a team. We both felt that as a team backing each other not actively, but really backing we could do most anything. We really just tackled it. We just got in there. It was very difficult. We were. We had people here that had taught us. We always remembered that.
BO: Did that ever present a problem for either of you?
JW: Never. I never called them anything, except Ms. Brumby and Ms. Castle. You know I could never call them Gladys and Carol. I just stayed right there where I was. That respect was there.
BO: Now what problems did you have has president’s wife?
JW: First problem was the children. Elizabeth was six. I had always deferred to Kent on big decision. I have always in essence we lost Kent then pretty much. I could not go with him with one thing and every little thing. I had to make more of the decisions especially with the children. That put a lot of more responsibility. In retrospect it made me much more independent. Fiercely independent because I had to do it myself and make many more decisions. With Elizabeth my problem was that I had to be gone so much with Kent. Basically I am first a mother. I did not like leaving her. I had to work out something that would make me happy leaving that child at home so much. We would go on trips. The first year as a president, you are just overwhelmed with obligations and things and social things. There is just things you have to do. You have travel and everything.
BO: Now I know that you entertained a good deal. How did that work out with two fairly young children in the house?
JW: No problem with that at all. I had grown up in the Mississippi delta. I have always said this. Even before he was president, we entertained a lot. I thought of nothing of having sixty or seventy people for something. That never, I loved it. That was never, never presented a problem for me. Whether it was a small group or large group, I used to have sort of rule of thumb. If it was under forty, I did the cooking. If it got over that, my kitchen couldn’t handle it. I just did not have the facilities.
BO: Now did how did your children react to a sudden well a lot of attention?
JW: Well Delta State has been a sort of a part of their lives, all of their lives because of Mr. Wyatt, Kent’s dad. Then their father had been out their as either one could have remember much about it. I never saw it as a problem. They bulled the brunt a few times when something directly affected them. A decision, Kent had to make a tough decision, maybe somebody was let go. I remember particularly with my Elizabeth. It hit Elizabeth a lot more than it did Tara in instances. They were both pretty levelheaded little girls. They had grown up. Then knew what their role was. There was no problem with them. Other than I did not leaving Elizabeth as little as she was.
BO: What was the solution to that?
JW: We worked it around to where I would get young college students to come in and stay with her. She loved that. That was okay. First we tried using my mother. That was an imposition. That was so much. Then I would find. Sometimes I would find a married couple. They would just move in the house and take care of her while I was gone. She loved that because they were young. Then as she got older. They would we would get a senior in college, a girl mostly not couples then, and they would stay with her. She loved it.
BO: What would you consider as a president’s wife you biggest challenge?
JW: Mine, I think it is two folds. You have your duties. I always saw that as an official hostess for the university. Anything they ask me to do, I don’t think I ever refused unless I had a conflict that would support the university. Number one the biggest thing is just support the university in any way and promote it in any way you can. You got to love it. Kent and I have a deep love for this university.
BO: It shows. It really does.
JW: We wanted Delta State to be first class all of the way. That was our main thrust. No matter if it was entertaining, if it was academics, he immediately started the presidential scholars, pulling the better students. Trying, trying, and trying.
BO: When you all first accepted this position, did you all have a specific goal that you wanted to achieve maybe personally in that position?
JW: Just that first class business, we were determined that we would do all that we could do to make Delta State as first class institution that we could in every way. Not just in the athletics, not just in these other areas.
BO: What was the most difficult thing that you found during your years as a president’s wife?
JW: I think that probably some of the most difficult things were some personnel problems. Any president is going to have. There were some pretty tough times when I saw Kent. Laughingly say, we lost a year of life over that, we were agonizing over it. Always trying and doing everything you could to protect Delta State. There were a couple of times that were extremely difficult.
BO: I remember the time they were proposing to close Delta State.
JW: Extremely difficult time.
BO: I can imagine that was very stressful.
JW: Just agonizing to see Kent. I went with him the second time. He was called to testify twice. I went with him the second time in Oxford. I remember just sitting there thinking the wait of his words and what they were going to mean. If he said just one thing wrong, it would pick up. It was tough. Once again, he was totally prepared. Always his game plan is you better be prepared before you go in. He was totally. It was a very difficult time. It was a frightening time.
BO: Yes it was. Did he foresee this was coming? Was this rather a surprise when it happened?
JW: I never talked to him about it. I am not sure. I know Kent. I know how he always looks ahead and thinks ahead. He never said it. I would bet he had a feeling he knew it was coming.
BO: What would you consider the most joyous time?
JW: Christmas time, I love Christmas in the president’s home. We did a lot of entertaining. We used to have huge things with open houses. That became just sort of old. So we quit doing that. Then we had groups in. We would have students and different groups. Then it all shut down. Everybody went home, and we had personal Christmas. I remember those times the best. That was probably some of the happiest times. We really have a go in for Christmas with all the entertaining, friends of family, and all of this type thing. Those were some of the joyous times probably.
BO: Now Delta State was what size when you all entered as Presidents?
JW: Brenda, I am not positive. I am not sure. I would be hesitant to say.
BO: And it was how large when you?
JW: It was four thousand when he finished. It was a little four but not much.
BO: What did the campus look like when you all took over the facilities? How many?
JW: Buildings, you know it was so much smaller. I lived in the two dormitories that are still standing, Cleveland Hall and Ward Hall.
BO: Were they new at the time that you lived in them?
JW: No, they were originally. I think.
BO: I think they were too.
JW: Yeah, the union was being built. I think it was just completed or being completed. The education building was not. It might have been completed. No it wasn’t. I remember the old Armory being on that corner. The business, what is now the business. That was the administration and everything. The Kethley Building was of course finished. The science building was there. You know it was just small. The men’s dormitory, H. L. (?) was finished over there.
BO: That is Governor’s (?)?
JW: No, not the big new one, the other one the first one right there.
BO: It is right across from the new swimming pool?
JW: Yes, cafeteria was as it is right now. I think. We are talking about twenty-four years ago. It is hard to believe.
BO: Well you have had a lot of buildings built in that twenty-four years. You have expanded the campus.
JW: Emisably, I think they said there was like fifteen different buildings on there now. When we came in, I am not sure of that number. Always, that was a real. Kent really believes in a total picture. We are very different. I am very impulsive. He is very. He thinks everything through. As a team, it works well. He looks at all of the broad picture. Many of the night, we just rode the campus. He just looked to see what needed to be done. What would improve the campus? How this traffic pattern, and things like that. Even the grass needs cutting, or those light bulbs are not in, they ought to be. Safety and all of that was a big part of with him. He really did that.
BO: Which did you feel like was your most successful ways to promote Delta State?
JW: I always well of course entertaining. I thought Kent and I could do that. We always felt very comfortable doing that. Our philosophy if we never made it so formal, now we could do the formal entertainment. We never made it so formal, but we like to entertain to make people feel at home and very comfortable. We tried very hard to do that. That was a big way of promoting that. I felt like. I really truly felt being graduates, knowing as well as we did, and loving it. That if anybody could promote it, we could. We were products of it. I felt like that was real plus for us. I just felt if you could put us one on one with somebody, a couple, a legislator, or anybody that we could promote Delta State.
BO: So you have been connected personally with Delta State from 1952 until now?
BO: Forty-eight years
BO: You have seen it grow from, how many buildings were on campus when you came to the school?
JW: Well let me see, I am thinking. The Wright Art Building was on campus. Fielding Wright was from Rolling Fork. He was the governor. I had grew up knowing his children. Seven, I think it was very few.
BO: It was just the quadrangle at that point?
JW: The Wright Art Building was the library when I was here. That was our library.
BO: So you have seen it grow from just a few buildings to a fairly extensive campus?
JW: (?) I know there was less than ten, if ten. I can’t remember exactly. There was not many.
BO: Do you have a special memory that you would like to share with?
JW: No not really, there is just so many in twenty-four years. There is just so many memories. Of course the memory of the interesting thing. A funny story is the remembering of Kent’s inauguration of course would stand out. You know we were young. We were so enthusiastic. We were so humbled by being chosen, just the entire experience. He had gone over his speech a gillion times. He knew it. I knew. I imagine the children knew it. That thing had been refined. We worked on it. He had gone on over. We were to be picked up by security and brought over and taken down front and seated. It got to be. That was thirty minutes before hand. Well it got to be ten minutes before hand, and nobody had picked us up. It got to be five minutes. When it got down till about ten minutes, and I knew something had to happened. So I had to put the two girls in the car. We were all dressed. You know everything. I put the two girls in the car. Elizabeth, I still have her little dress from the inauguration. She looked so darling. It was a little thing. Tara and I got her, and we took off. Traffic was blocked up all the way on Fifth Avenue till where we came out there. We couldn’t get in. Of course, I am very impatient too. That really bothered me. I was pretty upset. I was trying to be calm because of the children. We finally got across Highway 8 and to one of the men, policeman. He stopped us. He wasn’t going to let us in. I said, “I am Janice Wyatt. My husband is going to be inaugurated.” Then he recognized me. He said, “Oh Ms. Wyatt.” Of course he got on, he called down to the men in front of the coliseum. They got us right on down. My main problem with I was so concerned, if Kent looked out there at those three seats. He would wonder where was Janice. I felt like I was a lot of support for him. I needed to be there. We finally got there. Some funny stories came out of that later. (?)
BO: Oh I bet. I can imagine.
JW: You know it was just one of those things, but it was not funny that day.
BO: No, I can imagine that was a little stressful.
JW: It was almost panic time.
BO: Any other memories, stories that other people might not be aware of?
JW: Well let’s see. I am sure there is gillions. I will have to give a lot of credit to Dr. Ewing for Kent’s career. He just. He saw the potential. He really, really encouraged Kent. I think Kent learned invaluable lessons from Dr. Ewing. Dr. Ewing was a consament. He was an educator. He was the best with the legislator with anybody we have ever known. Then Aubrey came. Aubrey was an entirely different personality. He was much more outgoing. He was much more of a people person. I always felt like Kent got a blend of two really different administrators, which were both wonderful.
BO: When Kent was first approached about applying for the president’s job, was he hesitant? How did he react to that? Had he thought to? Was that one of his ambitions?
JW: You know I am sure in the back of his mind, it had to been because he loved it so. We never verbalized it. We never talked about it. It was one of the most harrowing experiences you will ever go through. Going for university presidency is sometimes you think is not even worth it. It is tough. You have very tough times. People that you thought was your best friends, well not your best friends but some very close friends, turn out to be not your friends. It is a tough time. It is pretty tough. I would not go through it again. We were here. I guess seven years or so when he first started getting inklings from other universities out of the states and different places and in state some. I guess after ten years, we really. We never let his name being put up for any presidencies. We just finally made a real conscience decision. When you had all that you wanted, you just back off and settle. You are happy. You do the best you can do there. Why should we go for more headaches in a place we don’t even know or love? Why should we go for? Was there anything more prestigious? Not to us, so we just made a real conscientious decision that this was it. That this was all we ever wanted if we even knew we wanted this.
BO: So the decision to become president sort of grew, but the decision to stay president at this school was a very though out decision?
JW: Yes definitely, definitely. We just had everything that we could ever wanted we thought in career wise. So we just stayed with it. We would not let his name be put up for anything.
BO: Well that is a compliment for the school.
JW: Well I feel sure that is what Aubrey Lucas did too. These were two home bread guys that loved it. Aubrey could have gone anywhere probably. So of course they have been a main stay in our lives too. They are great friends. If you need somebody who has been through it and is in it.
BO: Yes, you all have worked well together over the years.
JW: For years
BO: The schools have worked well together. Are there any other things that you would like to tell, any stories?
JW: Not really just great friendships. Kent and I had deep friendships on campus. They were quite ones. You have to walk sort of a chalk line there too. Then we had deep lasting friendship in the community and all around. We thought we would retire and live in Jackson. We bought the condo there. When we got right down to it, we just didn’t want to leave. We had too many friends. We enjoyed too much of Delta State. We enjoyed the Performing Arts Center tremendously. We enjoy the athletic events at Delta State. We just enjoy. I missed graduation this year. That is the first graduation that I have missed since Ms. Ewing, since he came to Delta State.
BO: Many, many graduations?
BO: So you have heard many graduation’s speeches?
JW: Oh a lot.
BO: Do any stand out in your mind?
JW: Not really, I couldn’t name a one. I know a lot of them. Some of them that I knew so personally that would influence me. I never hated going to graduation because once you got there. You saw the parents. You looked at them. You knew the sacrifices and what that day meant to them. It was all worth it seeing hundreds of them walk across that. Yes it was all worth it. That kept you renewed all of the time.
BO: You need renewing, definitely.
JW: You do.
BO: We appreciate you giving us this interview.
JW: Well it has been much easier than I thought really. I think you helped being a friend.
BO: I hoped I helped. I hope you have recorded the things that you want people to remember when we are both no longer on this earth.
JW: When I don’t have to hear it, to hear my own voice.
BO: Those of us who are southern sometimes are conscientious, self-conscience about our vocal abilities.
JW: So conscience.
BO: We appreciate it and thank you very much.
JW: Thank you
END OF DOCUMENT