SCOOBA, Miss. – East Mississippi Community College’s 2013 Alumnus of the Year and Distinguished Service Award recipients were honored Saturday during the school’s annual Homecoming luncheon.
EMCC President Dr. Rick Young told a large group of alums and their families that their legacy is helping spread the two-year school’s reputation nationwide.
EMCC presented the Alumnus of the Year Award to James “Cubby” Harris of Starkville and the Distinguished Service Award to Chip Wells, originally of Columbus, during the luncheon and again during halftime of the Lions’ Homecoming clash with Coahoma Community College.
Cubby Harris is EMCC’s 2013 Alumnus of the Year due to his faithful commitment to his alma mater. The 1977 grad and 2009 inductee to EMCC’s Sports Hall of Fame is a former football captain and still holds the record for the longest interception return for a touchdown (108 yards) in Mississippi junior college history. He went on to play football at Arkansas State before returning home.
Back in Starkville, Harris worked for a friend as a painter for several years before starting his own company, James “Cubby” Harris Painting Company. His company has worked on the clubhouse at Old Waverly Golf Club in West Point and done extensive work around Columbus, Starkville and Mississippi State University.
But Harris could easily qualify for the Distinguished Service Award due to his 20-plus years of coaching youth league sports in Starkville, where he often pays for underprivileged children to participate on his sponsored teams. He says sports offer structure and discipline and, more simply, keep kids off the streets and away from trouble.
“I keep in touch with lots of kids from Starkville and I try to send as many of them as I can to Scooba. I just want them to know they have choices after they leave high school. EMCC offers great opportunities whether you play football or join the band or want the best academics,” said Harris.
While the regimented schedule of playing football didn’t give Harris much free time at the Scooba campus, he remembers his junior college days fondly and considers it an honor to be selected as Alumnus of the Year.
Harris and his wife, Jackie, have been married for 29 years and have three children.
Chip Wells is EMCC’s 2013 Distinguished Service Award winner based on his service in the U.S. Army and the Mississippi Army National Guard. He served multiple tours in Iraq and Afghanistan and worked on the oil spill cleanup in the Gulf of Mexico since completing his first degree at EMCC’s Scooba campus in 1991. The Columbus native, who now lives in Jackson and works at Nissan, returned to EMCC’s Golden Triangle campus in 2003 to earn another degree in Management and Supervision Technology.
Wells has been recognized repeatedly for his service to his country overseas. The first lieutenant expects to make captain soon and has been awarded the Meritorious Service Medal and several Army Commendation Medals. He currently serves with the 112th Military Police unit of the Mississippi Army National Guard.
The devotion Wells has shown EMCC could have earned him Alumnus of the Year honors. He donates funds whenever possible, participates in alumni events and credits his EMCC instructors, specifically Ben Murphy, his Management and Supervision instructor, with placing him on his career path. Just this year he graduated from Mississippi College with a bachelor’s degree in business administration and is currently working toward a degree in homeland security.
After playing for two state championship baseball teams at Lee High School in Columbus, Wells didn’t play for EMCC’s baseball team, but he did continue his winning tradition playing on an intramural flag football team that won the Scooba campus championship.
During his second stint with EMCC, Wells tasted victory again as part of a first-place DECA competition team at the state conference in Jackson.
“My quest for knowledge began with my instructors at EMCC. They were instrumental in getting my quest for education going. I want to see EMCC become one of the top junior colleges in the state and that’s why I do whatever I can,” said Wells.
Wells has two children. His son, Tyler, lives in Alaska and his daughter, Ferrah, attends New Hope Elementary School in Lowndes County.