Mississippi College

Mary Jean Padgett Retiring as Mississippi College Nursing Dean

June 3, 2014

Mary Jean Padgett, an award-winner as the leader at the Mississippi College School of Nursing for two decades, plans to retire next year.

“The past twenty years in this role have been some of the most fulfilling times of my life,” Padgett said. “I have worked with some wonderful faculty, staff and students in my role as dean.”

First named nursing dean on an interim basis in 1995, Padgett says her retirement will become effective in May 2015. With camera in hand, she’s looking forward to traveling to historic sites from Virginia to Pennsylvania. Other road trips will take her along the Mississippi River – from Minnesota to south Louisiana, and travels out west to the Grand Canyon.

The dean’s job at Cockcroft Hall hasn’t always been smooth sailing. “The challenges that I have had have only made me grow and become stronger,” the Clinton resident said. “I have had opportunities to show Christian caring in so many ways while at Mississippi College.”

One of the first 17 graduates of MC’s School of Nursing in 1973, Padgett returned to her alma mater in Clinton as a professor in 1982 after two years as associate nursing dean at William Carey College’s New Orleans campus. Five years later, Padgett left Mississippi College to advance her education at the University of Texas. In 1993, she received her doctorate in nursing with a focus on educational administration from UT-Austin in 1993.

The doctorate led to her promotion as an associate professor at MC in 1994, and one year later, Padgett was named acting dean.

During her career, Padgett has stayed closely connected to national nursing leadership circles and won several special honors along the way.

The “Mississippi Business Journal” named Padgett one of the state’s 50 outstanding business women in 2008. The Mississippi Association of Student Nurses saluted her as the state’s nursing dean of the year. The MC School of Nursing named the Morton native its outstanding graduate of 1993.

Padgett is among several MC graduates who have meant so much to the School of Nursing, colleagues say.

“She has lead our program to grow and become well-known for its academic excellence,” nursing professor Deborah Bolian said. “Dean Padgett is a strong Christian woman and provides leadership from that perspective.”

In many ways, the School of Nursing dean, she said, is one of the MC grads who “define the meaning of Christian caring. Mary Jean has been a shining example.”

The daughter of a Mississippi and Louisiana pastor, Padgett attended high school in New Orleans and received her associate of arts degree from Copiah Lincoln Community College in 1969. It made sense for Mary Jean to become a Mississippi College Choctaw. Her father graduated from MC in 1943 and brother earned his degree at the Baptist-affiliated school in 1952.

After her graduation from MC’s School of Nursing in 1973, Mary Jean spent three years working in a physician’s office and assisted as a scrub nurse in surgery and delivery. She received her master’s in nursing 1978 from the University of Alabama-Birmingham and began her teaching career at the University of Southern Mississippi that same year.

Her extensive community service has stretched from First Baptist Church Clinton, to the Mississippi and American Diabetes Association, the American Heart Association and American Cancer Society. She’s served since 2005 on the Governor’s Task Force on Nursing Faculty Retention.

It’s been a vibrant career for this well-respected professional, and leaving Mississippi College next year will be hard to do.

“I will always reflect on my 32 years at Mississippi College with love and joy,” Padgett said. “I will always be proud to share that I was a Choctaw, both as a student, faculty member and administrator.”

Photo: Mary Jean Padgett

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