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Carmichael Hall

Jeanice Kirkland

M.S., Troy State University, 1976.

B.S.E., The University of Alabama, 1964. Elementary Education.

Jeanice Kirkland earned her degree in elementary education from The University of Alabama in 1964 and received her Master’s in Education from Troy University in 1975. In 1991, Kirkland was the recipient of the Outstanding Contribution to Education Award given by the College of Education. Among many other significant leadership positions and honors, Kirkland was named one of the 31 most outstanding women at The University of Alabama as part of a centennial celebration of women being admitted to the University. She retired in 2009 after a long career in teaching with Tuscaloosa, Montgomery and Andalusia public schools. Kirkland served as the national president of the University of Alabama Alumni Association, where she became only the second woman in history to be chosen as president. Her efforts brought one of the largest increases in scholarship funding for students in University history. Kirkland is also active in many other local and university service organizations. Kirkland possesses an endearing and inspirational desire to provide guidance and encouragement, whenever possible, to those in need.

Jeanice, or “Necie” as she was known to family, grew up in Elba, AL, where her father was a longtime Circuit Court Judge and her mother taught Home Economics at Elba High School. Growing up in a small town played a large part in forming her values as a sister, wife, mother, grandmother, educator, and friend. Her love of the Lord and family came first, but her love for the University of Alabama fell in a close second. Jeanice graduated from the University in 1964 with a major in Elementary Education and minor in Vocal Performance. She then earned her Master’s in Education from Troy University in 1975. In 1991, Jeanice was the recipient of the Outstanding Contribution to Education Award given by the UA College of Education. She served as the Covington County Alumni Association president, National Alumni Association Vice President (1986-88), was the second female elected as the National Alumni Association President (1991-92), and in 1998 received the National Alumni Association’s Distinguished Alumna Award. Her father also received this award in 1989, thus becoming the first father-daughter duo to achieve this honor. Other University honors included being in the inaugural class of The XXXI, inaugural class of the School of Education Hall of Fame, member of Omicron Delta Kappa, Delta Delta Delta sorority sister, member of the search committee that brought Chancellor Robert Witt to the University, and was a current member of the President’s Cabinet at the University.

Her lifelong love affair with music began at an early age as she began playing the organ at First Baptist Church of Elba as a teenager. She later was the organist and pianist at First Baptist Church of Andalusia for 41 years. Jeanice taught private music lessons in Andalusia, teaching virtually every instrument. Any visit to the Kirkland household included the sound of Jeanice practicing her pieces for the upcoming Sunday service. No member of First Baptist Andalusia will be able to forget the way Jeanice commanded the sanctuary as she approached the organ and piano each Sunday with a regal grace only she could seem to possess. Her grandchildren fondly remember hours spent sitting with Necie on her piano bench, marveling at her talent and hoping to someday play as beautifully as she. Her aptitude for the piano and organ was rivaled only by her soprano’s voice. Her family will greatly miss the way she could electrify the room with “Boogie Woogie” and then, at the drop of a hat, sing the most wonderful rendition of “O Holy Night” they had ever heard.

As an educator, Jeanice was unmatched. Countless stories exist of her special talent to reach every student and find in them the ability to not only achieve, but excel. She truly believed in each child’s potential to succeed as learners and demonstrated that belief in her everyday interactions with her students, each complete with a smile, a word of encouragement, and a suggestion of a book that was “a must read.” Jeanice educated students in the Tuscaloosa, Montgomery, and Andalusia public schools. Most recently, she added the Metro Nashville Schools to her resume, as she taught a lesson to her granddaughter Kirkland’s 5th grade class. Her final moments in the classroom were completely and wholly representative of her great talent as she stood in front of the class and, for the first time that year, every student fell silent and sat in wonder. However, that was not to be her last act of teaching. Jeanice never missed a “teaching moment,” and that tradition carries on even now. Webster’s Dictionary defines the Latin phrase dei gratia as “by the grace of God.” Jeanice’s life exuded these very words. She believed fully that she was sustained –and thereby sustained others—only by the love of God, dei gratia. Through the passing of her daughter, Susan, she remained faithful—dei gratia. Her family was so very blessed to be her most treasured students—dei gratia. Even now, we are thankful to be here together in celebration of a life magnificently lived—dei gratia. Jeanice would want each of us to conduct ourselves with honor, integrity, and truth; and so, as we go, we shall—dei gratia.