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College instructor honored with state award

By Scott Harvey

Paris – A longtime instructor from Northeast Texas receives one of the highest honors in teaching excellence in the state.

Paris Junior College English Instructor and alumna Joan Mathis has been named a 2010-2011 Minnie Stevens Piper Professor. Mathis is one of ten outstanding professors selected from public and private two- and four-year colleges and universities in Texas.

A native of Lamar County, Mathis was valedictorian of six students at North Powderly Colored School, since consolidated into North Lamar ISD.

"My father Berlin worked with Sen. A.M. Aikin to desegregate Paris Junior College and he told me it would be done when I was ready to go, and it was," Ms. Mathis said.

PJC enrolled its first black student in 1954, and Mathis graduated from PJC in 1958, when the ceremony was held in the Ray Karrer Theatre with approximately 36 students.

"In 1975 I took a job at PJC, where I've taught developmental English, English Composition, and American Literature," she said. "In 1985, I was asked to coordinate the writing center.

Mathis has served as president of the PJC Faculty Association, on two Southern Association of Colleges and Schools committees, and several times as creative writing judge for the University Interscholastic League. She currently serves as Secretary on the PJC Alumni & Friends Association Board. She has also served on the board of the Habitat for Humanity, the Paris Education Foundation Board, volunteered with The Boys and Girls Club, and been two-time president of Church Women United and serves on the Racial Diversity Task Force. She is on the Board of Directors of the Lamar County Chamber of Commerce.

Of her calling, Mathis said, "I believe that one of the greatest ways to affect people's lives is to educate the mind, because an educated mind opens the mind for freedom - freedom for thought, freedom to make wise decisions. I truly enjoy making a positive difference in students' lives."

The Minnie Stevens Piper Foundation is located in San Antonio, and the awards program to reward superior teaching at the college level was begun in 1958.

Ms. Mathis is only the second instructor from PJC to win the honor and the first since 1980, when Dr. Harley Davis, chairman of the Industries and Technologies Division, was selected.

As part of the award, Ms. Mathis received a certificate, a $5,000 honorarium and a gold pin commemorating the event, which PJC President Dr. Anglin will present at the college's May 13 graduation ceremony.

Hear Scott Harvey's full interview with Ms. Mathis, who was a guest on Friday's The Lead, at www.ketr.org./podcasts.