Jackson Has Never Spent An Idle Moment
Vennie Lee Jackson has never been accustomed to sitting around the house.
The second of 12 children, Ms. Jackson, 93, was born and raised in Bullard. She attended Butler College, earned her bachelor's degree from Texas College and a master's degree in English from East Texas State University -- Commerce.
She taught English at Whitehouse Independent School District for 36 years, first to high school students before integration and to middle school students after integration, she said.
After retiring in 1987, she started looking for places to volunteer to get out of the house, she said. She started giving her time to East Texas Medical Center in 1988.
Ms. Jackson still spends much of her time volunteering at ETMC's Intensive Care Unit waiting room, where she answers the phones, gives out directions and other information to people who need it and offers some consoling words for those who are upset.
"I like meeting people," she said of why she spends so much time volunteering.
She said it gets her out of the house and keeps her active but one of the things she has enjoyed most about it is being involved with people.
Ms. Jackson has volunteered for AARP, operating its booth at the mall, for PATH (People Attempting to Help), and the East Texas Baptist Association. She has worked with the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), has been a member of the College Hill Baptist Church for more than 50 years and has taught in the Congress of Christian Education, she said.
Ms. Jackson said she was surprised to learn that she was one of the nine women to be recognized as Women in Tyler: Women Who Give.
"What I do, it's just part of me," she said. "I wasn't doing it for any recognition of any kind."
Women in Tyler Day is an annual event that recognizes women who give of their time, talents and gifts to the community. The luncheon raises money for the Women's Fund, which provides money to programs that benefit women and children.
This year's recipients included:
-- During decades of community service, she has volunteered with many nonprofit organizations including PATH, Humane Society, American Cancer Society, Hospice of East Texas, East Texas Crisis Center and as president of Junior League of Tyler.
-- She is founder and owner of Travel Masters and has donated numerous vacation packages as either auction items or drawing prizes to raise money for nonprofit groups and has served on civic and economic development boards.
-- Mrs. Lujan and her husband Michael Lujan founded Mentoring Minds, a company that makes education materials that develop critical thinking skills in children. She has served on boards and is a founding member of the Children Are a Gift Foundation.
-- She has spent her life helping seniors. She was recently appointed to the East Texas Council of Governments management team as the director of aging programs and she is former director of the state's Adult Protective Services Program.
Mechele Agbayani Mills
-- As president and chief executive officer of Better Business Bureau of East Texas, she promotes fair and ethical business practices.
-- She has spent most of her 80 years as a pianist. She earned a master's degree in music and spent 40 years sharing her passion for music with students.
Dr. Svetislava Vukelja
-- She is an oncologist. As a child she escaped with her mother from a prison camp in Yugoslavia and they eventually made their way to the United States. She is also an author, artist and philanthropist.
-- Ms. Jones, who was honored posthumously, died last year at age 70. She spent decades as the theater teacher at Robert E. Lee High School, turning the program into one of the best in the region. After retiring, she directed productions at Tyler Civic Theatre.
If you know of a professional woman or business service in the Tyler area you think should be highlighted in this column, contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org