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System Diversity

2/20/2017 - Jackson, Miss.

Community Service Award named in memory of Trustee Karen Cummins

The Mississippi Board of Trustees of the State Institutions of Higher Learning recently held its Diversity celebration by recognizing campus and community leaders for the impact they have made in advancing diversity and encouraging understanding and respect. The late Trustee Karen Cummins received the Community Service Award for her courage, compassion, and willingness to serve her fellow man, which earned the respect and admiration of all who knew her. Dr. Cassie Sade Turnipseed, Assistant Professor of History in the Department of Social Sciences at Mississippi Valley State University, was named the 2017 Diversity Educator of the Year.

The Board of Trustees voted unanimously to name the Community Service Award in memory of Trustee Cummins in recognition that Trustee Cummins' life epitomized what the award is all about, helping to improve Mississippi's communities with a welcoming and inclusive spirit.

"The Board of Trustees is honored to memorialize Trustee Cummins and recognize her service to the Board, the university system and our students, as well as her commitment to diversity and inclusion, by naming the Community Service award after her," said Trustee Shane Hooper, Chair of the Board of Trustees' Diversity Committee. "This is an appropriate tribute to someone who lived her life with an unwavering belief that all students, regardless of background, socioeconomic status or race, should have every opportunity to succeed. We were honored to have known Karen and to have served with her on the Board."

Trustee Karen Cummins was appointed to the Board of Trustees of State Institutions of Higher Learning in 2012 by Governor Phil Bryant and served with commitment and dedication until her recent death.

"Karen understood the importance our universities play in changing lives, particularly for first-generation students," said Trustee Hooper. "She understood the importance of our work as educators and leaders in creating opportunities for students. She was dedicated to the work and to making a difference with this work. She inspired each one of us and all who met her."

A native of the Mississippi Delta, Trustee Cummins was born in Indianola and reared in Inverness. She received an associates degree in business from Mississippi Delta Community College and a bachelor's degree in education from Delta State University. She joined Atmos Energy in 1979 as a local office clerk and rose to Vice President of Operations for the Northern Region, serving on administrative, marketing and operations teams along the way.

In addition, she devoted countless hours to community service, working with numerous community organizations, including the DeSoto County Economic Development Council, the Community Advisory Board for Baptist Memorial Hospital, DeSoto County Business Women, March of Dimes, Southaven Chamber of Commerce, Southaven Main Street Association and the North Mississippi Home Builders Association. Mrs. Cummins volunteered with the House of Grace domestic violence shelter in DeSoto County and the Jesse Brent Memorial Boat Racing Association to benefit the Mississippi Firefighters Burn Unit. Mrs. Cummins resided in Oakland with her husband, Billy.

A Mississippi Valley State University faculty member since 2013, Dr. Turnipseed has dedicated her time and talents to research that shines a light on the sweat equity contributions of the Cotton Pickers of the American South. Her initiative, branded "Sweat Equity Investment in the Cotton Kingdom Symposium," brings Mississippi Delta high school students from all walks of life together with college students, faculty and staff. She is leading a new community-driven movement to erect a monument and establish a national park in tribute to enslaved workers, sharecroppers, tenant farmers and day laborers of the cotton fields in the American South.

In recommending her for the award, Dr. Richard Mushi, Chair of the Department of Social Sciences at Mississippi Valley State University, wrote, "Dr. Turnipseed's initiated partnership with the local museums in the Mississippi Delta has enlightened her history students with understanding of their diverse histories and other cultures from around the world. The proposed Norwegian Blues Festival Tour for students is yet another diversity awareness initiative that promises to benefit local high school and MVSU students alike. By creating highly specialized projects with scholastic diversity, Dr. Turnipseed has effectively incorporated best practices that enhance the scholarship, teaching and cultural exchange opportunities for students, faculty and staff."

At Mississippi Valley State University, Dr. Turnipseed serves as Chair of the Social Sciences Recruitment Committee and the MVSU Historic Site Committee. She is also a member of the MVSU Awards Committee, the Honor Students Commencement Committee, while teaching more than 140 students per semester.

"Dr. Turnipseed has made countless contributions through her work both in the classroom and throughout the Delta region," said Trustee Hooper. "She is a leader and mentor who gives generously of her time to bring the Delta to the world and the world to the Delta. Her tireless efforts have fostered a better understanding and appreciation of different cultures."

Dr. Turnipseed is a founding member and Executive Director of Khafre, Inc. a non-profit Mississippi-based organization and is the proprietor of the only African Art and Cultural Center in the Mississippi Delta, da'House of Khafre, located in downtown Indianola. She has received numerous honors and awards for her work, including NAACP, Certificate of Accomplishment, Moorhead; BOSS Lady: Breaking the Glass Ceiling Award, Grammy Museum, Cleveland; Historic Preservation Award, AKA Sorority, Mound Bayou; Community Service Tribute: Black History Spotlight, New Hope Missionary Baptist Church, Indianola; Youth Outreach and Cultural Learning Award, NAACP Freedom fund banquet; U.S. Congressional Honor for commitment to preserving the rich history and heritage of the Mississippi Delta, by Congressman Bennie G. Thompson.

Dr. Turnipseed earned a bachelor of arts degree in radio/television broadcast communications from San Francisco State University in San Francisco; a master of science degree in telecommunications management from Golden State University in San Francisco; a master of business administration degree in international business management from Golden State University in San Francisco; and a Ph.D. in public history from Middle Tennessee State University in Murfreesboro, Tenn. She is a member of numerous professional organizations and has authored several books and publications.

The Board honored faculty from each of Mississippi's public universities for advancing diversity at their institutions. These honorees include:

    Dr. Steve Adzanu
    Associate Professor of Advanced Technologies and Pre-Engineering
    Alcorn State University
    Dr. George Beals
    Assistant Professor of Counselor Education and Coordinator/Assessment Director of Counselor Education
    Delta State University
    Dr. Robert Damm
    Professor of Music and Director of Music Education Parnterships
    Mississippi State University
    Mr. Harvin Hudson
    Agriculture and Natural Resources Extension Agent
    Mississippi State University Division of Agriculture, Forestry and Veterinary Medicine
    Mrs. Kimone Simmons
    Coordinator of Student Engagement, Office of Student Life
    Mississippi University for Women
    2017 Diversity Educator of the Year
    Dr. Cassie Sade Turnipseed
    Associate Professor of History, Department of Social Sciences
    Mississippi Valley State University
    Dr. Willa Johnson
    Associate Professor of Sociology, Department of Sociology and Anthropology
    The University of Mississippi
    Dr. Hamed Benghuzzi
    Professor of Clinical Health Sciences, School of Health Related Professions
    The University of Mississippi Medical Center
    Dr. Dr. Mohamed Elasri
    Associate Dean and Professor of Microbiology, Department of Biological Sciences
    The University of Southern Mississippi

View photos of honorees, with identification of individuals in photos. Photos of honorees may be downloaded from the following links:


The Mississippi Board of Trustees of State Institutions of Higher Learning governs the public universities in Mississippi, including Alcorn State University; Delta State University; Jackson State University; Mississippi State University including the Mississippi State University Division of Agriculture, Forestry and Veterinary Medicine; Mississippi University for Women; Mississippi Valley State University; the University of Mississippi including the University of Mississippi Medical Center; and the University of Southern Mississippi.

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