Former Tusculum College colleagues, family members and friends gathered Saturday morning to pay tribute to the memory of Jean Hixon, a long-time staff member of the college, by dedicating a tree in her name on campus.
Hixon, who was a native of Parrottsville, served as a staff member in the college’s academic program for working adults, now called the Graduate and Professional Studies (GPS) program, from its inception in 1984 until her death in 2007. She began working for the college as a division accountant and was executive administrator and assistant registrar of the program at the time of her passing.
As a tribute to the impact that Hixon had in their lives both professionally and personally, staff members of the GPS program in Greeneville coordinated an effort to plant the tree. The tree, an Autumn Brilliance Serviceberry, was placed in the flower garden outside from what was Hixon’s office in Virginia Hall.
That impact was the focus of comments by those who spoke in a brief ceremony to dedicate the tree. Jamie Hamer, assistant director of enrollment and advising, Southeast, and coordinator of marketing for GPS, researched scriptures from the Bible to describe Hixon’s wisdom and her understanding and compassion, including passages from Proverbs. When asked how he and his fellow GPS staff members think of Hixon, Hamer said their reply would be family.
Jeff Lokey, assistant professor management who worked with Hixon in the adult program, spoke of her dedication and hard work that was accompanied by a concern and love for people. He recalled that when his son was small, his son would not leave his side when he brought him to work except to go visit Hixon. As the years went by, Lokey said that Hixon would ask often about how his son was doing.
Lokey also recalled the period when the private company that operated the program in its early days for the college was planning to end its relationship with Tusculum. He and Hixon were appointed to represent their respective parts of the staff in negotiations over compensation. As they headed to the negotiations, Lokey said he wondered how well the kind and gentle Hixon would do as a negotiator. In the end, he recalled that she negotiated for better pay and benefits for her group than he did for his.
Dr. Donal Sexton, professor emeritus of history, said that Hixon always went out of her way to greet people, and she was the reason that he found it pleasant to stop by and see how things were going in the GPS program.
Mary Sheffield of Morristown, a 2007 graduate of the GPS program, said, “I am living my dream because of Jean Hixon.” Sheffield read an acrostic poem she had written about Hixon and the impact she had in her life.
When she began the process of returning to school after beginning her family, Sheffield said she discovered that credit from an American history course she had previously taken was not transferring and called about it. She spoke to Hixon and found a person who was kind, wanted to help and listened to her describe her fears about returning to school. Sheffield kept in regular contact with Hixon and said the GPS staff member was always ready to listen and offer words of encouragement.
As the ceremony concluded, Hixon’s sister and brother-in-law, Ann and James Hall, untied a ribbon from the tree.