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The journey of the First Lady of Jones

As most people on campus know, Jennifer Smith is the wife of Dr. Jesse Smith, who is the President of Jones College. However, some may not know that she has been a part of the Jones family since 1994. 

Upon graduating from Northeast Jones High School, Smith was fully immersed in college life at Jones from 1986 through 1988, earning an Associate of Arts Degree. Smith’s love for the Jones family started as a freshman when she worked in Student Services as a work-study student and was involved in the JC Cheer program and resident life. 

Smith earned her bachelor’s (1990) and master’s degrees (1991) from the University of Southern Mississippi. She also earned 30 additional graduate hours from Mississippi College. Smith was a high school counselor before taking the job as the JCJC Dean of Women and the cheerleader coach in 1994. Being a former cheerleader and dorm student, she could easily connect to students adapting to college life. She stayed busy between cheerleading and the dorms, but this was only the beginning of Smith’s journey at Jones College.

For Smith, attending Jones was a family tradition. Her mother and sister both attended Jones. Her sister also cheered at Jones, which helped Smith solidify her love for the Jones family. Smith met her husband while he was at Jones. They met when Smith was a senior in high school, and Jesse was already a Jones student and a football player for the Bobcats. They began dating while they were both students at Jones.

Both of their children attended Jones College. Their son, Conner Smith, is pursuing a major in Mechanical Engineering. Currently a sophomore at Jones, he is involved in the School of Arts, Music, and Performance through his roles with Jones On Stage, the Concert Choir and Theater. Conner is preparing to attend Mississippi State in the fall. Their daughter, Mary Kate Smith, is also an alumna, where she was a standout student-athlete in soccer. After graduating from Jones early, she went to Ole Miss and received a degree in Marketing. She then continued her education by earning a Master’s of Business Administration at Mississippi State. She now works in Franklin, Tennessee. 

“Jones has been a big part of our lives, coming from way back,” Smith said. “My kids have pretty much lived their entire lives on campus before Jesse was announced as President. The kids lived in the dorms when they were born, since I worked on campus as Dean of Women. They loved it.” After the Smiths moved into the President’s Home, Smith spent several years working full-time while coordinating the many college events at their home.

Smith said that being Dean of Women and the cheerleading coach helped prepare her to be the President’s wife. She said being the President’s wife is very busy but also very rewarding. Smith and her husband spend time supporting the college sports teams, student groups, performing groups, or attending the many events and meetings to represent JC. Much travel is required to represent the college. Smith enjoys the many events at the President’s Home, where she has hosted fundraising dinners, awards ceremonies, student recruiting events, scholarship banquets, open house events, family gatherings and certainly the many friends of Mary Kate and Conner who frequent their home. This year, the Smiths have hosted championship dinners for the Women’s Basketball team, the Women’s Soccer team, Cheer Team, and the Men and Women’s tennis teams.

Smith now works for Jones County Schools as a Transition Specialist. Her job is to help guide and prepare students upon leaving high school, helping them decide what to do next.

She said that she really enjoys her role being the President’s wife.

“I really enjoy my role. I love being around students. I love seeing students be successful, and that’s what Jones is all about,” Smith said. “God put us in this position for a reason because Jesse and I both are very competitive. We both love sports and the arts. I feel like my role is very small on campus, but I feel like it is a fun role that I enjoy. I believe that some of my previous jobs helped prepare me for this role.” 

Smith said she thinks the reason Jones is such an outstanding college is because they have great faculty and staff.

“We have people here who take pride in what they do, and they love their students. They are truly dedicated to the college,” Smith said. “Therefore, coaches and faculty are able to recruit students that are the best because they have high expectations for the students. I think that we do recruit students that have talent and that are very smart. However, I think that the number one thing that our students have is grit. I think they have perseverance and a passion. You see that in our sports and the arts. Whatever our students do, I feel like they give it everything they have.”

Teresa Welch, who has works as President Smith’s secretary, said,  “Ms. Jennifer is selfless, caring, compassionate, and kind. She gives her all to others, expecting nothing in return.”

by Olivia Norwood

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