Coach Joe’s academic legacy

Photo by David Nichols
Photo by David Nichols

One of the great things about Mississippi College is the quest for academic excellence. That desire for the students of MC to do well in the class room has always been a strong desire of the athletic department to see their student athletes excel on and off the field. During his nine year career at MC, Coach Norman Joseph helped push his football players to succeed in the class room with the help of Dr. Steven Price and Dr. Kerri Jordan of the Writing Center on campus.

“We wanted our guys to do well,” said Joseph, “I made a promise to the parents that I would help their guys out and make sure they did well. And I was going to see that promise through.” Joseph said that the professors from all departments were always more than willing to help out when he called and he really appreciated that.

Austin Gray, a senior Accounting major who played free safety, said, “As a student and student athlete, he was the main reason why I came to MC. I wanted to play for a man of God with good values. I couldn’t have asked to play for a better man. He was always consistent and always positive.”

For many students and especially many student athletes, it can be hard to organize their time well and to fit good study time into their busy schedules. Joseph worked with the athletes to help them organize their time and block out study times. Joseph said he usually worked with the student athletes on a case by case basis.

One day Dr. Kerri Jordan and Dr. Steven Price came to him with an idea to help his players do better in their classes. The Writing Center was open mainly during football practice times, so Dr. Jordan and Dr. Price suggested the Writing Center be open on Tuesday and Thursday nights in the fall to help out the student athletes. “It was a joy working with them,” said Joseph. “They took the time and were intentional about helping the athletes out. The amount of success after they attended the Writing Center was phenomenal.”

Coach Joseph always made time available for professors to come by his office and would introduce the professors and tutors to the athletes. “He always made a pitch to promote the writing center, which was nice to hear. He was always supportive,” said Price. “It’s a good sign of our athletic department that the coaches are so involved and investing their time not just in their own sport but in the broader campus,” said Price.

Dr. Kerri Jordan remembers Coach Joseph being a strong advocate for his student’s success and was always ready to work with professors to help his athletes. “He was conscientious about keeping track of players’ progress, and he was always responsive when professors reported players who were struggling in their classes, encouraging students and helping them strategize ways to improve their situations,” said Jordan.

Dr. Jordan worked with Joseph years ago to implement tutoring programs for the athletes. “Especially helpful was his willingness to let players replace their mandatory study hall with tutoring appointments. That program was still in place during Coach Joseph’s final season at MC,” said Jordan.

The athletes were so thankful for Jordan’s help and that of the Writing Center that they gave her one of the winning balls from one of the football games in 2007. Coach Joseph and all the players signed the ball. Dr. Price said “I suspect we’re the only writing center in the country given a winning game ball.” Jordan said “I understood it as a “thank you” for sharing Coach Joseph’s interest in the academic success of his players. Unfortunately, athletes are sometimes academically stigmatized on college campuses, and Coach Joseph seemed grateful that our Writing Center tutors and I valued his players and recognized their potential to be successful, even outstanding, students. The game ball is one of the most meaningful awards I’ve received.”

“Coach Joseph was one of my all-time favorite colleagues,” said Jordan. “I was always encouraged by how dedicated he was to his players and their academic success. He deeply valued every student as a person, and he recognized potential in students that could have been easily overlooked.”

Jordan also said “The entire athletics department shares a strong, positive relationship with the Writing Center and the Writing Program in general. The Writing Center works with many athletes who were referred by their coaches or athletics department staff. We’re also lucky to have student athletes among our talented group of writing tutors.”

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