Applicants for president of a Mississippi community college are not required to have a stint as a basketball coach in their curriculum vitae.

But surely it doesn’t hurt. I suspect that a listing of the leaders of these institutions would show that at least half were once roundball coaches at the high school and two-year college level.

This isn’t a knock. Coaching the game and mentoring young men and women in that fashion must have provided the 15 campus chiefs with leadership and motivating tools unavailable to other prospects.    

In two decades of covering the activities of the Mississippi Legislature, I was witness to this vast presidential corps from around the state appearing in the hallowed hallways of the State Capitol seeking aid and comfort for their institutions.

Horace Holmes, the longtime leader at Southwest Mississippi at Summit in Pike County, a college I briefly attended, was a fixture at the Capitol for at least two decades. You could call him a lobbyist, consultant or school president, but the most noble sobriquet for him was “Coach.” By then, he was a renowned coach to the 174 members of the Legislature, advising them daily on the needs of the various colleges.

Holmes had been a state championship-winning coach for the Southwest Bears in the “junior college” basketball circles. When he stepped down after 33 years as Southwest’s president, his successor was Oliver Young — a standout on one of Holmes’ basketball teams. Young also became a force in the Capitol’s maneuverings.

Another protégé of Holmes’ and Young’s in the Capitol hallways was Clyde “Bud” Ginn of the University of Southern Mississippi staff — also a former standout baller under Holmes. All of these folks had earned Ph.Ds. in higher education.

Hinds Community College president Dr. Clyde Muse has announced he will retire at the Raymond school in June of next year, according to a report in the Hinds County Gazette. That means he’ll give lawmakers something to consider on a daily basis for one more session, although, like Holmes, he likely won’t give up that role even in official retirement.

Muse has served an enduring and productive 42 years as the Hinds president. Before that, he toiled in the high school education field, including the post of superintendent of the Meridian City Schools from 1971-78, and before as basketball coach at Canton and Starkville.

Muse has performed exemplary work at Hinds, overseeing six HCC campuses whose courses range from the basics to myriad vocational-technical programs and a renowned nursing course. He has been awarded all sorts of high honors, including a Southeastern regional community college group’s Top Chief Executive Award and the inaugural Governor’s Award for Excellence in State Government.

He has been Alumnus of the Year at his alma maters of East Central CC, Delta State University and Mississippi State University. He’s also in two athletic halls of fame — he played the game, too.

Muse and Holmes and other community college leaders helped to blaze a trail of excellence for higher education in this state. It is said that a majority of the four-year degree holders from Mississippi universities got their academic starts in our community college system, which is considered among the best in America. These presidents have had to scrounge for every dollar given them under the legislative budget system, always taking a far-back backseat to their four-year counterparts. Lawmakers have talked a good game for years about adequately funding the colleges, but often have failed to do so in the financial crunch at session adjournment.

It has been only because of these college leaders’ diligence on their respective campuses and their bending of ears in the Capitol that has kept the two-year college system viable in the ongoing effort to educate Mississippi’s children and young adults.

Mac Gordon is a native of McComb. He is a retired newspaperman and legislative staffer. He can be reached at macmarygordon@gmail.com.

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