by Lois Charm
LeMoyne-Owen College (LOC) serves Memphis with a mission to “provide a transformative experience educating students.” This mission has impacted the lives of three individuals who have in turn made significant contributions to the College’s advancement.
Founded in 1862 as LeMoyne College, but later merged with Owen College in 1968, the college stands as the only Historically Black College and University (HBCU) in the city. Three individuals who have positively impacted this unique staple in Memphis are alumni Dr. Deidre Jones and Justin Key as well as Vice-President of Institutional Advancement, Dr. Anthony Neal.
All three have supported LOC by raising funds and awareness for the college.
As alumni, both Dr. Jones and Key have witnessed the first-handed advantages of a LeMoyne-Owen College education as students which has shaped their careers today.
Originally from Los Angeles, CA, Dr. Jones had not heard of LOC until reading about the college in a Black scholars program.
“I was in a Black scholars program and there was a booklet they gave us that listed all the HBCUs in the country,” she said. “I came across LeMoyne-Owen College and saw that it was in Memphis. Since I have family in Memphis and the college also had the major I was interested in, which was education, that’s how I learned about LeMoyne-Owen and decided to apply.”
After graduating, Dr. Jones pursued her next venture in Memphis- teaching, before moving back to California to pursue a career in education administration.
Dr. Deidre Jones, '05 Justin Key, '06 Dr. Anthony Neal
“I started as a classroom teacher, working for Memphis City Schools,” she said. “Once I left Memphis, I sought positions on the administrative side of education, and worked my way up to the position I’m in now, which is vice president of early childhood development for a nonprofit in San Diego.”
Key is also a resident of California and shared how his experience at LOC prepared him for his current career as an actor in Los Angeles.
“The college provided me with great opportunities to speak and perform,” he said. “I even booked my first commercial for the National Civil Rights Museum when I was in leadership of the acting society at the college. From there, I did plays, spoke, and presented. So, the college just prepped me in a way to be prepared for leadership in the career field.”
The impact LOC has made on Dr. Jones and Key is due in part to the generosity of those who have financially supported the college, and both alumni have reciprocated this support through their participation in alumni initiatives.
Key has served in several leadership roles in the LOC National Alumni Association.
“I was president for the Southern California alumni chapter for 6 years and for the last two, I’ve been the vice president.” he said.
He is also currently in executive alumni leadership in the National Alumni Association as vice-president.
“I’ve also created many campaigns to help increase alumni membership and participation as well as getting alumni and donors to give to the college,” he said.
Dr. Jones has also made a similar impact serving in alumni leadership roles.
“I served two terms as the first vice president of the National Alumni
Association,” she said. “Just recently, I completed my first term as president of the SoCal Chapter after Justin stepped down as president.”
Her efforts have also encouraged chapter members to financially support the college.
“The SoCal chapter has a lot of older members who make sizable donations to the college,” she said.
In addition, she has helped spread awareness about the college to prospective college students.
“Anytime there was a college fair or HBCU school fair (in Los Angeles), I attended as a representative of LeMoyne-Owen,” she said.
Although not an alumnus, Dr. Anthony Neal has been impacted by the college from a young age.
“I grew up in a community not far from the college and it was always a sacred place in my community,” he said. “Although I wasn't educated there, I’ve always had a passion for education and LeMoyne-Owen reinforced that passion as I would drive by the school.”
This impact influenced his decision to serve in leadership at the college.
“I was offered an opportunity to serve as the vice president of institutional advancement in December 2019,” he said. “My responsibility is to help raise money for the college. We’re in the midst of concluding a national annual fund campaign and will have a double digit increase in what we received in annual fund contributions last year.”
He shares his passion for what he does for the college.
“The college has been successful with getting alumni to give, and I feel good about what the school has accomplished thus far.”
Key, Dr. Jones and Dr. Neal share why LOC is a great choice for potential students.
For Key, it is the large amount of opportunities that come with being at a smaller-sized school.
“Because LeMoyne-Owen is a smaller institution, there are so many opportunities that present themselves to students,” he said. “Perhaps there are more opportunities here than you would get at a majority institution.”
For Dr. Jones, it’s the feeling of being a part of a second family.
“Going to an historically Black college is an experience you will not have anywhere else,” she said. “You definitely have that family feeling and professors that care about you and want to see you succeed through anything you go through.”
For Dr. Neal, it is the dedicated staff who are ready to support the needs of students.
“It has committed and dedicated professionals working here who understand the challenges associated with higher education,” he said. “So, I think any student in or outside of Memphis should give LeMoyne-Owen College serious consideration.”
Dr. Neal reflects on the important life lesson taught him in his youth.
“The school was always like a guiding light to remind me that education is a key to life.”