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2/15/2017 - Jackson, Miss.

Jackson State University Interim President Rod Paige to deliver keynote address

Higher education in Mississippi is the focus of the 30th annual HEADWAE program, which will honor outstanding students and faculty members from 34 Mississippi public and private universities and colleges on Tuesday, February 21, 2017.

Mississippi Economic Council President and CEO Blake Wilson chairs the event. Dr. Rod Paige, Interim President of Jackson State University, will deliver the keynote address at the luncheon.

Higher Education Appreciation Day-Working for Academic Excellence (HEADWAE) was established by legislative resolution to honor individual academic achievement and the overall contribution of the state's public and private institutions of higher learning.

The honorees will begin the day with a visit to the State Capitol where they will be welcomed by Governor Phil Bryant at 10:00 a.m., recognized by the Senate and House of Representatives and given a tour of the Capitol. The awards luncheon will begin at 11:45 a.m. at the Marriott Hotel, 200 East Amite Street in Jackson.

Blake Wilson serves as President & CEO of the Mississippi Economic Council and is only the third executive of the State Chamber of Commerce in more than 60 years. He came to MEC in 1998 from the Florida Chamber of Commerce where he served as Executive Vice President directing membership, marketing, government affairs and grassroots legislative activities.

The key focus of MEC under Blake's leadership has been to shrink the miles that separate Mississippi and utilize the interconnections among Mississippians to make progress in education, economic development and business climate and image. Blake lives in Brandon with his wife, Ann, a public school teacher. They have three grown children.

Dr. Rod Paige began serving as Interim President of Jackson State University in November and is a former U.S. Secretary of Education. The son of a school principal and librarian, he served in George W. Bush's administration from 2001 to 2005. As the nation's top educator and a member of the presidential cabinet, he championed student achievement and spearheaded the implementation of the historic No Child Left Behind Act, with the goal of reinvigorating America's education system.

Prior to serving as U.S. Secretary of Education, Dr. Paige served as Dean of the College of Education at Texas Southern University, where he established the University's Center for Excellence in Urban Education. In Houston, he served first as a school board trustee and then as superintendent of the Houston Independent School District, then the nation's seventh-largest district. In 1999, Paige was named one of the top two educators in the country by the Council of the Great City Schools. Two years later, Paige was named the National Superintendent of the Year by the American Association of School Administrators.

Following his tenure as Secretary of Education, Dr. Paige served as Public Policy Fellow at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars and continues to serve on numerous boards. In 2006, he authored The War Against Hope and, in 2010, published The Black-White Achievement Gap: Why Closing it is the Greatest Civil Rights Issue of Our Time. Dr. Paige and his wife, Stephanie Nellons-Paige, have a son and a daughter.

Corporate sponsors for the HEADWAE program include: Atmos Energy, Jackson; AT&T, Jackson; BancorpSouth, Tupelo; Chevron Products, Pascagoula; ERGON, Flowood; Georgia-Pacific (KOCH Companies), Baton Rouge, LA; Ingalls Shipbuilding, Pascagoula; Mississippi Power Company, Gulfport; Sanderson Farms, Laurel; Trustmark Bank, Jackson; and Valley Services, Inc., Flowood.

View a list of the 2016-17 HEADWAE honorees.


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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