Keeping the legacy alive

Published 3:49 pm Thursday, June 27, 2024

Graduates of Prentiss Normal and Industrial Institute returned to the historic campus June 14 and 15 for an All-Class Reunion and the biannual meeting of the PNII National Alumni Association. Just under 300 people traveled to Prentiss to take part in the two-day celebration at the historical landmark.

The 2024 reunion theme was “Keeping the Legacy Alive.”

The weekend started with alumni of various classes, from 1945-1979, introducing themselves and sharing highlights of their lives and travels.

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Friday night featured a program by the Class of 1974 and the success of the basketball team that year. The team was the first PNII team to win the SIC Basketball Tournament. At the time, they ranked fifth among Mississippi’s 20 junior colleges. 

Class of 1974 graduates Ralph and Josephine Mixon served as program guides for the evening. The Mixons met and married at PNII, just like their classmates James and Janice Armstrong, two local alumni who lead historic preservation and maintenance efforts on the campus today.

A Memorial Service was held Saturday morning honoring the legacy of those who have passed, followed by the Dedication of Brick Pavers.

The oldest graduate, Celess Smith Barnes McEwen was honored. McEwen, 97, was a graduate of the Class of 1945. Mrs. McEwen came to PNII when it was a high school, since the African American school in her hometown of Mendenhall did not offer an education beyond seventh grade.

She demonstrated strong oratorical skills and was one of the talented students who was asked to accompany Professor J.E. Johnson, when he traveled to places promoting the school. After graduation, she remained on campus in the teacher training program, which she completed in 1947.

Mrs. McEwen has always remained connected to Prentiss Institute, participating in the All-School Reunions and returning as a guest speaker on other occasions. Whenever she tells her life story, she always talks about the impact Prentiss Institute and Professor and Mrs. Johnson had on her life.

Attendees then enjoyed brunch and fellowship, while also exploring a variety of vendor offerings and Prentiss Institute artwork by Gary Bass, followed by a keynote speech by Dr. Stacy Donaldson.

The Saturday evening banquet was catered by Williams Good Old Days Buffet. The reunion ended with the singing of the PNII Alma Mater, “The Gray and Blue,” written by Catherine Showers, Class of 1933.

“They have some of the best pepper jelly and the homemade CheezIts I’ve ever had,” said District 2 Supervisor Ricky Barrett.

There is a cash drop box in the stand, but the stand also accepts Venmo and Cash App.

“When we get our stuff and drive away the kids are standing at the glass door waving,” said Greens Creek resident Tammy Fagan. “We love having the stand here,” she said.

This is the third week the stand has been open.

So far, the bread, goat milk soap and candied jalapeños are the most raved items.

The stand located on Greens Creek Road about half a mile from Greens Creek Baptist Church.

“We are so excited for everyone to come by and visit!”