Former EMCC president memorialized in Science wing

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SCOOBA – Clois Cheatham was a fixture at East Mississippi Community College through portions of four decades. Now, a permanent fixture recognizing Cheatham’s impact will be seen by EMCC students for decades to come.

          Cheatham, who passed away in 2011, retired as EMCC’s president in 1987. Monday night, a plaque bearing his likeness and contributions to the school was unveiled in a ceremony in the lobby of the Science wing of Oktibbeha Hall on the Scooba campus.

          “It’s an honor to be able to recognize someone who meant so much to this school and this community,” EMCC President Dr. Scott Alsobrooks said. “Still today, we are reaping the benefits from Mr. Cheatham’s vision and dedication to the school.

Cheatham’s sons, Brad and Chris, were among those who attended Monday’s ceremony in addition to nearly a dozen family members, EMCC’s current administration and board of trustees. The family was also presented with a resolution honoring Cheatham’s contributions to the school.

          Long before he was named the president of what was then East Mississippi Junior College, Cheatham contributed to the academic and athletic success of the school in a variety of roles.

          As a student, Cheatham was voted Mr. EMJC, was Sophomore Class President, and was a member of legendary coach Keyes T. Currie’s basketball team in 1953-54.

          Cheatham returned to EMJC in 1962 as a chemistry instructor and quickly ascended through the school’s administrative ranks. He was the chairman of the science department and served as head coach after he was instrumental in resurrecting the women’s basketball program at the school.

          “I think one could definitely say that dad was passionate about EMCC,” son Brad Cheatham said. “He loved the school and devoted most of his life to it. We sincerely appreciate that he is being recognized and are grateful to all of those who played a part in making it happen.”

          After being named EMJC President in 1976, Cheatham oversaw a number of improvement projects including the renovation of two men’s residence halls, the addition of a wing in a women’s residence hall and the construction of the Keyes T. Currie Coliseum – the school’s multi-purpose building and basketball gymnasium still in use today.

Under the direction of Cheatham – a lifelong educator with degrees from four in-state institutions – EMJC became the state’s first public junior college to require students to complete a core curriculum. That commitment to academic excellence was rewarded when EMJC won the David M. Halbrook Award for academic achievement among student-athletes in the 1983-84 and 1985-86 school years.

Current EMCC Board of Trustee member Jimmie Moore was the business manager for the school while Cheatham was the president. Moore said he admired Cheatham’s passion and no-nonsense approach.

“I really enjoyed working with Mr. Cheatham. He possessed the least common of all the senses – common sense,” Moore said. “He truly cared about students and about EMCC.”

Cheatham was a 1950 graduate of Prince Chapel High School near Preston who served in the United States Army during the Korean War before enrolling at EMJC. He worked as a chemist for the Union Carbide Nuclear Company and the Food and Drug Administration before embarking on an educational career which began in the Jackson and Kemper County public school systems.

A 2010 inductee into the EMCC Sports Hall of Fame, Cheatham passed away March 25, 2011, at the age of 79. He was also survived by his wife of 59 years, Roma Stokes Cheatham, and son Greg Cheatham who were unable to attend Monday’s ceremony.


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