JCJC Honor Alumni 2016: Aaron Heidelberg Jr. and Martha Tisdale

Written By: Teresa McCreery
Email Address: teresa.mccreery@jcjc.edu
Date Submitted: 2016-11-01 19:45:57

ELLISVILLE- Two former educators shared the spotlight at Jones County Junior College’s Homecoming weekend festivities as 2016 Honor Alumni: JCJC 1971 graduate, Aaron Heidelberg Jr. of Ellisville and JCJC 1963 graduate, Martha Rogers Tisdale, a native of Collins who currently lives in Hattiesburg. The two were recognized during a special banquet prior to Homecoming festivities on Saturday, October 15.  They were also recognized during half-time of the JCJC football game against Pearl River. At the JCJC Honor Alumni Banquet, JCJC President, Dr. Jesse Smith reflected on the vast number of lives the two graduates have touched over their lifetimes.
“They spent their lives influencing, investing in and inspiring thousands of students, co-workers, family members and friends. These alumni distinguished themselves in their professions and in service to their communities,” said Dr. Smith.
Heidelberg arrived on the JCJC campus as a 13-year old working on campus.  The 1969 Roosevelt High School graduate explained to the audience, when he turned 18, he also “graduated” to power tools, after spending a lot of time raking leaves. However, while he was working on campus, basketball coach A.B. Howard invited him to be on the JCJC basketball team.
“That’s why I decided to stay at JCJC and do my best in sports.  I am truly grateful for the start that I had at JCJC and what was instilled in me, the opportunities given to me as an individual to carry me on through society today. The people I had contact with, like J.B. Young, the president of JCJC at the time, made a profound difference in my life,” said Heidelberg, who also joined the JCJC track team.
He continued his education at USM and William Carey College, earning his bachelors and master’s degrees in biology, chemistry and secondary administration. In 1973, Heidelberg began his teaching career in the Jones County School District and would spend 29-years serving and teaching Jones County students, retiring in 2002. Heidelberg said another influential coach and neighbor Walter Clark, mentored him as a young child and helped him become successful in life.
“I have to give accolades to anyone who took time to work with young people while I was coming up in the streets of Ellisville, like Coach Walter Clark. He took us under his wing; served as a Boy Scout leader, taught us things….I kind of modeled myself after him. I’m certainly indebted to Coach Clark,” said Heidelberg.
While educating students at West Jones and in South Jones school districts, Heidelberg took on the challenge of public service. He made history by being the first African American elected official in Ellisville in 1973.  He is currently serving his fourth term as Alderman of Ward 3. Additionally, Heidelberg has served as deacon at Springhill Baptist Church of Ellisville and is now serving as Pastor of the First Enterprise Baptist Church in Enterprise.  Serving as a pastor and an alderman would have been more difficult, Heidelberg said without the advice from Ellisville Mayor, Tim Waldrup.
“I had a problem trying to pastor and deal with individuals because my skin wasn’t tough enough.  After sitting on the board awhile, and having to endure the insults of Mr. Waldrup,” he said joking, “my skin became very tough! He taught me how to not take things personally and to just do my best. I am truly grateful for him,” Heidelberg shared. 
Mayor Waldrup praised Heidelberg for doing a wonderful job serving so many people in Jones County.
“No one has ever used their education and skills obtained in the classroom and as a principal in such a positive way as Aaron.  He has used his skills as an administrator to ‘make things happen’ and to help make life in Ellisville better and more enjoyable.  He has brought a lot of happiness to many people.”
Coach Clark echoed those sentiments. “Aaron was a model student and athlete.  He played football and basketball and excelled at everything he did.”
The Heidelberg’s have three children, Anthony, Marlon and Keona, who also graduated from Jones.  His daughter relished in the moment of seeing her dad being honored for a lifetime of service.
“It was an awesome experience to see my dad honored for his 36-years of influencing youth in the community. I am forever grateful to have my dad, who has always made me number-one in his life,” said Keona.
Heidelberg and his wife Linda of 46-years, have three children, Anthony (Terri), Marlon (Carmen), and Keona (James), and five grandchildren. 
After graduating from JCJC in 1963, Honor Alumna Martha Tisdale continued her education in music at the Mississippi University for Women and the University of Southern Mississippi, earning her bachelors and master’s degrees and continuing to give private piano lessons. Her teaching career touched thousands of students at the Hattiesburg Public School District, JCJC, and the University of Southern Mississippi until she retired from teaching in 2004. Her musical talents enhanced church services for more than 50-years as the organist at First Baptist Church in Ellisville, Main Street Baptist Church in Hattiesburg and the First Baptist Church of Louisville. Her 33-years of teaching combined with 50-plus years of performing have inspired many, like JCJC piano instructor, Dr. Theresa Sanchez.
“Mrs. Tisdale has been one of my role models for many years and is one of the most highly respected members of the Mississippi Music Teachers Association.  She’s always been a constant and elegant presence, hard-working, supportive of her colleagues and she is loved by all,” said Sanchez.
As the wife of JCJC President, Dr. Terrell Tisdale, some new traditions were created at the college.  The annual Christmas Tea for faculty, staff and friends of the college was initiated by Tisdale in 1970. She served as hostess of the event in the President’s campus home and the tradition continues today.
One of her friends, piano teacher Evelyn Gunn shared, “She has a beautiful talent of taking the smallest task and doing it in such a way, it is done right; it is the most important task to be completed. She just goes all the way with it.  She is a humble person and never wants to take credit.”
Tisdale thanked her family, who “believed in a good education.” She explained, the cost and transportation of three siblings in college simultaneously, was possible for her parents only because of JCJC’s free bus transportation system and an affordable tuition.
“I rode the bus from Collins to Jones for two years and made many lasting friendships throughout our bus rides.  One of my JCJC friends, Charlotte Mitchell, has remained a very close friend for more than 50-years and I appreciate her friendship,” said Tisdale.
While at JCJC, Tisdale said she caught a glimpse of her husband Terrell, who was the Dean of Students at the time.  She explained she didn’t think he knew she existed because he was an administrator and she was a “lowly” student.
“I am sure he never knew I existed.  Who could have ever thought that eight years later we would be married and he would become the third JCJC President, nine months after our marriage,” said Tisdale, who celebrates their 47th wedding anniversary this year.
Their son, J.T. grew up on campus and Mrs. Tisdale said she was very happy to have a plenty of babysitters available and experiences on campus to help him be successful.  Martha said she is very grateful she was able to spend most of her life at Jones.
“It was such an honor and a privilege to spend our entire career here at Jones.  We owe a great deal of gratitude to the late J.B. Young (JCJC President) and his wife Patty who gave Terrell the opportunity to begin his career at Jones and to the late Mr. Ogletree for his encouragement when Terrell was selected president.”
Her son, J.T. said he realized it was his mother, Martha who was the “glue” at home and was glad she was being recognized for her efforts.
He explained, “(My dad’s) tenure (as president) would’ve been much less effective and much shorter if mom had not kept it all together.  She made the non-work part easy for him and he never had to worry about that stuff,” said J. T.  “The recognition of the person who held it all together, who always put others before herself, and was gracious and loving even at times when she might not have felt like it, is amazing.  I’m very proud to call her mom.”
After thanking the many people in her life who made contributions into shaping her, Tisdale explained being selected as a JCJC Honor Alumna, is a great honor she is proud to share with so many.
“I am grateful, humbled and blessed to have been chosen for this recognition by a college that I love dearly.  This is indeed an honor I will cherish for the rest of my life.  The educational journey for Terrell and Martha Tisdale began and ended at JCJC and we have been blessed beyond measure.”
J.T., his wife Heather and their three children, Reese, Grayson and Maggie, along with her many cousins, friends and siblings applauded Martha for her commitment to serving her family, her students and her community in various ways with excellence. Besides her church service, Tisdale was an active member in several professional music associations, and she served her community as an Eagle Scout Sponsor for the Pine Burr Area Boy Scouts of America as well as being a former member of the Woman’s Club of Hattiesburg.   


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