Looking Back, Moving Forward
"My Favorite Moment"
Contributed by SJRCC faculty and staff
The funniest thing I ever saw at this campus years and years ago was a snake issue. There was a good-sized snake in the grass near the administration building parking lot. The snake drew a crowd from the administration building. Everyone was standing around to watch "the end" of the snake.
The security chief at the time decided he was going to shoot the snake. After six missed shots, he decided to stop. Then a brave maintenance supervisor decided he would kill the snake with the weed eater he had in his hand. He hit the snake with the weed eater, and the snake flew up in the air over everyone's head and landed right between Dr. McLendon's legs. It was a moment we will never forget.
- Kaye Walker, Administrative Assistant - Nursing
One of my favorite moments at SJRCC was the night I was able to hand my daughter, Amy, her diplomas during the graduation ceremony. I did not know until it was announced that evening that she received the very first A.S. degree in electronics technology ever awarded to a female attending SJRCC - in addition to the A.A. degree! She is now working as an engineer after finishing her university studies in engineering. I am so proud of her and of our fine educational institution.
- Dr. Shirley Kennedy, Vice President for Academic Affairs
There were a lot of special moments during my tenure at FloArts. Many were in the studio where day after day, class after class, I would work with the young art students to hone their skills and sharpen their perceptions to greater personal expression. And then of course, there were those exceptional beings who made the experience all the more special with their desire, dedication and drive that resulted in wonderful, meaningful works of art.
I had other elations with many of the gallery exhibitions. It was my pleasure to curate, arrange and install - from the best and most accomplished talent I could find in Florida, to serendipitous opportunities to show some of the most renowned artists like Edward Hopper, Diane Arbus, Pablo Picasso, Robert Rauschenberg and especially Henri Matisse.
With this last artist, I found roses and a bottle of champagne on my desk with a note that said, "Bringing Matisse to Palatka, David, you truly created art history."
I was flattered and certainly thrilled with the show itself, and I guess with many other moments, this one would have to be rated as special.
- David Ouellette, retired FloArts Gallery Director and Fine Arts Instructor
While we were looking for housing to move my family, retired director of financial aid, Cliff McGriff, invited me to stay at his home for "...as long as it takes..." to get my family moved. I was the recipient of Cliff's hospitality for my entire first month here! Having known Cliff for about 20 years, I was not totally surprised by his generosity, but his offer was unexpected, and I remain ever so grateful.
Dr. Shirley Kennedy also invited my daughter, Suzanne, and me to spend a night at her house in the very early process of my obtaining a job here at SJRCC. She had just met us and loaned us the keys to her house knowing she would not even be there!
These two early experiences helped confirm that it was the right decision to join SJRCC and to try in my own way, to contribute to the positivity of its personality.
- Wayne Bodiford, Director of Financial Aid/Veterans Affairs
My memorable moment was sitting through an accreditation survey with Ms. Sheila Newberry and other HIM faculty members in order to impress the surveyors and convince them that the SJRCC HIM program was worthy of their accreditation designation. Having worked in health care for many years, I've sat through many national surveys at the hospital level, but never did I expect to have the honor of being in on the ground floor of a historical moment for SJRCC.
It was exciting and nerve-wracking - all at the same time because so much rested on that afternoon. Ms. Newberry's program came through with flying colors, and the program received accreditation.
I'd like to think it was because fellow faculty and I did such a great job interviewing with the accreditation surveyors, but who are we kidding ... it was truly all thanks to Sheila's knowledge, insight, direction and leadership of the program that won SJRCC the accreditation. Way to go Sheila!!
- SJRCC Adjunct Instructor Terry Wilson, CPMSM, CPCS, and Flagler Hospital Medical Staff Services Director
One of my favorite moments occurred on the night of the FloArts production of "Big River," a musical based on Mark Twain's story of Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn.
I was waiting outside before the show began when I noticed an elderly gentleman struggling to get out of his car. I ran down to help him, guessing that he would not make it up the stairs alone. He graciously accepted the help, and once we had slowly climbed the stairs, he stopped to rest and said, "I'm here to see Tom and Huck."
He took a few more steps toward the door, stopped again and in a disheartened voice said, "I thought the world had forgotten about them."
I walked him to his seat and was reminded of how diverse the friends, faculty and students of St. Johns River Community College are, and how we contribute to their lives in so many different ways.
- Susan Kessler, Director of Public Relations and Publications
One of my favorite moments at SJRCC involves the joy and happiness my granddaughter Amira has experienced while attending the Florida School of the Arts performances as well as those at the Thrasher-Horne Center for the Arts. Several of these included delightful interaction with the characters after the performance. I will never forget the delight in her eyes, as well as many other young eyes, while watching and then interacting with actors in "You're a Good Man, Charlie Brown," "Cinderella," "Thumbelina," and other fine performances.
She will certainly never forget the dance performancesâ€”particularly "Arachnophobia" (with skilled dancers literally climbing the walls of THCA as the dance began). How thrilling! Although she is only 10 years old now, SJRCC has given her a love of the arts that she will carry with her and nurture throughout her life.
- Dr. Shirley Kennedy, Vice President for Academic Affairs
This is a TRUE McLendon story...
I had been Dean of FloArts for about a year...and had just begun "to feel my oats"...way back in 1985. I was "riding high"â€¦and thought I had sufficiently proven myself in the position of Dean for about a year...long enough, I thought, to go and ask Dr. McLendon...for a "new" piece of equipment.
As usual... I was most welcomed into his inner office. At that time, Dr. McLendon's office had a sofa that was directly opposite his desk. Guests sat in his office and looked upon the President seated behind his desk! Now...I was in my late 30s...old enough to feel pretty confident in myself going to the President's office...but whenever I sat down in that sofa...I immediately "sunk deep into the cushions" and began to feel like I was 8 years old again...sitting in the principal's office at St. Cecilia's Elementary School in Brooklyn!
I proceeded to babble on about the "desperate" need that FloArts had for a specific piece of equipment...a combination TV and video playerâ€¦suitable for playing a recruitment video to prospective students who visited FloArts and also portable enough so that a faculty member could borrow it for use in the classroom... without having to requisition the library for a cart and a TV and a video player.
"Is it a reputable manufacturer?" he asked. I immediately FROZE up! "How could I be so stupid that I could not remember the manufacturer's name?" I thought to myself. It never occurred to me that I never even KNEW the manufacturer's name!!!
I stumbled...I hesitatedâ€¦I stammered!!!! Before I had a chance to answer... he immediately said to me... "It's not made in Japan, is it?" "No sir," I quickly answered... "It's made in New Jersey! It's an RCA! It's made in New Jersey!!!"... I triumphantly said!
He looked at me with that look that Hattie McDaniel made famous in "Gone With the Wind" when she was asked by Rhett Butler if she had her red petticoat onâ€¦and I could tell that he was weighing the pros and cons of being manufactured in "the North" as opposed to the deficiencies of being made in the "Orient!"
After what seemed like an incredible amount of time... he said... "OK...tell Gene Kirkland I said OKâ€¦and do it quickâ€¦with the end-of-the-year money!" I thanked him profusely as I exited his officeâ€¦walking backward it seems, and bowing my head low as I did. I was almost out of the office entirely...certainly out of his "inner office" and not able to be seen by him... when I heard him shout from the bowels of the office suite...
"And Tony?... Make sure it is a COLOR television!"
I ran all the way back to FloArts!
-Tony Walsh, Executive Director for Thrasher-Horne Center for the Arts
I have two favorite moments. One is when a student will speak about or make a work of art that shows that they have absorbed and understood some of the important traditional concepts of Western Art.
My other favorite moment is when I leave the Florida School of the Arts entranceway at the end of the day - the water in the fountain is running, and the sun is setting bright orange behind the lace-like dark silhouette of trees.
- Michael Burban, FloArts Gallery Director and Fine Arts Instructor
Since I have been at the College for a very long time, I have many memorable moments. However, the night that I was able to present my only daughter with her diploma on stage had to be the best moment of my life. She later went on to get her BSN at UNF, and now she is a high-risk OB nurse in Greenville, North Carolina.
- Linda Black, Orange Park Campus Instructor
I have an SJRCC story to share that was a learning and life experience for me. In 1982 I was first employed with SJRCC in the Records Department and then transferred to Admissions where I worked under O'Neal Williams, one of SJRCC's best. He was great to work for, and he always gave me great advice. We had many conversations about life experiences and personal goals, and he knew one of mine was to own my own business.
During the summer of 1983, I was very busy being a bridesmaid for my friends, who, all decided to get married that same summer. I expressed to O'Neal the financial burden of having to buy a dress that I would wear only one time. O'Neal asked why I could not rent the dress like the guys rent the tuxedos. I informed him I had no choice but to buy it. I didn't know of any bridal shop that would rent bridesmaid dresses. O'Neal mentioned that might be a good business for me, so off I went and opened Special Occasions, a formal wear rental and sales store.
Once I got started renting and selling formals, I began renting Halloween costumes once a year, and then I decided to put the costumes to use and do singing telegrams. I also offered full wedding services and learned to be a caterer, florist, and wedding director. It was a great experience for me, and I later sold Special Occasions, which is still in business today in the Palatka Mall.
I learned and gained lots of experience in being an entrepreneur. After I sold Special Occasions I went on to operate my own bookkeeping business and then a temporary employment business, Westaff.
My life seems to have been involved with SJRCC in one way or another. I served on SJRCC's Board of Directors until from 1998 to 2003, when I began employment once again with SJRCC. I'm very happy to have made a full circle back to St Johns; however, at times I regret that I didn't stay employed with SJRCC. I could have retired early. But, I would probably have wondered, "What if?"
Now I can say I've been there and done that and now know I couldn't be happier being employed with St. Johns and getting to do a job I love. That's my story.
- Anna Stilwell, Payroll Department
One memorable moment has to do with one of my first classes - a sociology class with Mr. Caillouet. He used a book called "Top of the World" as part of his lesson plan from the beginning of his teaching career at SJRCC.
Our class was the last to use the book because it was going out of print. It was a sad day for Mr. Caillouet, because he didn't know how he would teach without it. There were a couple of girls in the class that were always trying to get extra points and always had something to say in class. They were really good kids; they just liked to pick on him. Well, the last day of class came, and this was when Beanie Babies were really popular, and the girls brought him a Beanie called Nanook. Nanook was a Husky from the book. I think he was truly touched by it.
- Paula Harris, Publications Assistant
My most memorable moment came when on February 26, 2008, I was featured on the front page of the Palatka Daily News in a story about the College turning 50. No big deal, really, to most, but I work in Records, and our department had decided Friday, February 22 that we would all go on a diet and fitness program with Susanne Lineberger being our fitness coach.
Well, we got in line for cake and decided that we weren't going to say anything to Susanne for sure about eating those small, little pieces of cake. AND THEN THE PAPER CAME OUT ON TUESDAY MORNING WITH MY PICTURE ON THE FRONT holding a cake plate in my hand!
Well Susanne found out when she saw the paper, and today the picture from the paper (blown up) is posted on the bulletin board with the title "GUILTY CAKE EATERS" at the top written by Susanne. I have only been with the College since July 2007, and what a memory this has been!
- Alicia Smart, Records Clerk III
Back in the mid 1980s, the Orange Park Campus was moved from the Gano Avenue location to the current location on College Drive. This location had formerly been a minimum security prison. In fact, the prison buildings were still standing.
After classes one afternoon, a group of faculty and students went out to the area between campus and what is now College Drive for a pick-up football game. After playing for a while, hot and tired, we decided to take a break under one of the oak trees that are still standing between the campus and the road.
While sitting under one of the trees, we looked up and saw what must have been a dozen liquor bottles tied up in branches of the tree, presumably put there by friends of the prisoners. Some of the bottles still had liquid in them. Dr. Malone, the provost at the time, had to send Gus from maintenance to cut them down.
- Dr. Wayne Watters, Orange Park Instructor
One of my favorite moments was moving into the new buildings in Orange Park. This meant I did not have to run around every morning in the winter lighting the gas heaters in the portables!
- Millie Masters, Financial Aid Coordinator/VA Certifying Official - St. Augustine Campus
One of the things that stands out to me when reflecting on the College is the wonderfully trained and committed faculty we have been able to employ at FloArts. The students have been fortunate to have been taught by such excellent, dedicated faculty. We have lost a couple, Marcellus Brown and Pat Connor, to illness. Both Marcellus and Pat were taken in their prime and had many great years to teach had they lived. I think of them often and feel sad that they are no longer with us.
- Annette Barrineau, Vice President for Administrative Affairs
I was in Phi Theta Kappa while attending SJRCC, and we had several events off-campus that were a lot of fun. One event was held at a fellow officer's house in Florahome. She had a large piece of property with a barn. The theme for PTK that year was "Water," so many of our events were centered around this theme.
Our first assignment for the evening was to build a raft out of anything we could find in the barn. We teamed up in groups of four or five. I had two of my children with me, so along with one or two others, we made up one group and built a raft.
The criteria for the raft was that it had to hold everyone and float (she had a pool that we could test it in). After the raft building, we watched the movie "The Perfect Storm" with George Clooney. I wish I had some pictures to show you, but it was a lot of fun, and my children, Amanda and Bobby, really got into it and enjoyed it.
We did a lot of things while I was in PTK. One year we went to Marineland and it just happened to be Amanda's 18th birthday. She got to feed the dolphins, which was really cool. We went to Melanie Brown's house afterward (she was the co-advisor) and had a cookout. They also had a birthday cake for Amanda, which was really sweet.
My trip to Denver for the Phi Theta Kappa International Convention was one of the highlights of my college life. It was my first trip on an airplane and I loved it! Denver was a beautiful city, and it even snowed a little while we were there in March.
I was able to go to Molly Brown's house - remember the unsinkable Molly Brown? She was a Titanic survivor, and I have always been intrigued by the Titanic because it sunk on April 15, 1912 - exactly 50 years before my birth.
- Paula Harris, Publications Assistant
My memories here at St. Johns are when I started in August 1973. Meeting new classmates from surrounding counties (no campuses in St. Augustine or Orange Park), some of us still keep in touch, and we meet yearly for a reunion. In 1973, the black students got together and started the Black Student Union. Spring Frolics was a big event -lots of fun. The guys would catch the girls and throw them in the pond.
There was a radio station run by the students located were Coach Rick's office is now. I was one of the DJs. There was a cafeteria that served full-course and short-order meals. Also, there was the newspaper called the "Viking Horn" that was published by the students.
I enjoyed the time I attended here. Now I am back as an employee.
- Gwendolyn Alexander, Administrative Assistant to the Dean of Admissions and Records
The Counseling Department had planned a surprise retirement lunch party for Counselor Dr. Jan Joy. Dr. Joy thought it was just the two of us going out for a farewell lunch. She was a little nervous about us both leaving the office at the same time because one of us always stayed to cover the office and see students while the other was away, and we never shared lunch together. When we walked into CafÃ© Cortesses, she spotted Dr. Jordan. She gripped my arm and said, "I don't believe this, of all people of all places... we better go inside." Then she started focusing on the other people sitting at the table and realized it was a SURPRISE!
- Shelley Sutter, M.A., Counselor
Perhaps my favorite SJRCC moment was when I learned about the true story of Suzy Wong. As many of you know, Suzy Wong is buried outside the Security Office here at the Palatka Campus. You can view her headstone there.
I learned about Suzy Wong from a gentleman who recently retired from SJRCC with a good sense of humor. As a young professor, I was quite taken by the story of Ms. Wong who immigrated to the United States from her native China. Suzy had relatives in Palatka, made friends easily and was soon adopted by the SJRCC family. Suzy eventually received gainful employment at SJRCC, learned the ropes and was quick to become the school's mascot.
I was saddened to learn of Suzy's passing. It was Suzy Wong who was an inspiration to all those who ever received a traffic violation or was in the building after hours. There was talk of establishing a scholarship fund in honor of Suzy Wong to assist those students who felt abandoned by their owners. Students and staff for years have waxed eloquently ever since about how Suzy was never snippy or "barked out loud," so to say. There was much to say about Suzy's passing that the very tombstone you see today was established in her honor.
I have always wanted to learn more about Suzy Wong. Tears come to my eyes and those of my students when I tell them the story. The funny thing is that now when I pass her tombstone, I don't have to watch where I step because I know now that Suzy has gone to that great "kennel" in the sky. Probably the Security Staff were those who knew her best. Suzy never let them down. She showed up for work every day. Suzy never said much but was a "man's best friend," so to say, to all those who knew her. Friendly, affable and loyal. In fact, in many ways you could say that she was a model employee. If I'm not mistaken, the employee handbook was modeled after the legacy of Suzy Wong.
So, when asked to recall my favorite moment of those who contributed to the greatest good of the College, I can only invoke the memory of Suzy Wong.
- Ed Kelly, FloArts Acting Instructor