Lees-McRae College held its opening Convocation ceremony on Thursday August 22 with speeches by Student Government Association President, Heather Peterman, and keynote speaker, Manuel Jessup ’76, as well as remarks by Lees-McRae College President, Dr. Barry M. Buxton.
Heather Peterman, a senior Athletic Training major, addressed the crowd of her peers. “[The Student Government Association’s] goals for this year include student happiness, student engagement and students respecting each other. When alumni return to campus in October [for Homecoming] I want them to be overwhelmed by our enthusiasm and love for Lees-McRae… this year is the year we are going to talk about forever.”
Peterman’s speech was followed by Jamison Carrigan, president of Order of the Tower, a prestigious presidential society, leading his fellow Order of the Tower members in reciting the hallmarks of a Lees-McRae education. The hallmarks are aimed to show students what their education at Lees-McRae will prepare them to do after graduation. Those hallmarks include communicating effectively, developing a strong career plan, exercising leadership and embracing technology, just to name a few.
Then Carrigan welcomed Athletic Director, Craig McPhail, to the stage to introduce this year’s keynote speaker, Manuel Jessup ’76.
“Today is extremely special as we welcome back one of our own, Manuel Jessup,” said McPhail. “It just so happens he’s one of the most dominant basketball players to ever wear the Green and Gold, evidenced by his induction into the Lees-McRae Athletic Hall of Fame in 2012. Manuel, I spent time following up with your colleagues and they praise you with the following attributes: strategic leader, innovative, high energy, results-driven, visionary thinker, team player. I’m certain you learned some of those skills on this very campus.”
During his time in green and gold, Jessup averaged nearly 16 points per game while shooting at a 48.8 percent clip from the floor. Jessup enjoyed perhaps his best season with the Bobcats during the 1975-76 campaign, averaging 16.7 points and 7.8 rebounds per game while posting a field goal percentage of 51.7 percent.
After a celebrated basketball career, Jessup, a Winston-Salem, N.C. native, successfully transitioned into a business career. Prior to his appointment with Tanger Properties, Jessup, a graduate of University of South Carolina, completed his graduate work at Wake Forest University Babcock School of Business.
Jessup then took the stage to share his address, “Holding On To Your Vision.”
Jessup said, “I want to encourage you to hold on to your vision for life. You have one, even if you’re not sure all the pieces yet. A person without a vision is a person without a future. A person without a future will always return to their past. If you don’t have a vision, you don’t have focus. You will not have drive and you will not achieve your goals in life. We all need to have something that keeps us moving in the right direction.”
One of Jessup’s final pieces of advice to the Lees-McRae College students: Figure out how to get paid to do something you’re very passionate about.
Jessup has over 32 years of human resources experience with 14 years at the executive level. His experience extends over four industries including manufacturing, wholesale, retail and banking. He served as the Vice President of Human Resources for Sara Lee Branded Apparel from 1997 through 2006. While at Sara Lee Branded Apparel, Mr. Jessup held numerous leadership roles in human resources with responsibility for domestic and international operations in Asia and Latin America.
In 2006, Mr. Jessup moved to Fort Myers, Fla. to work with Chico’s FAS, Inc. as Senior Vice President of Human Resources and, in 2007, he was promoted to Executive Vice President and Chief Human Resources Officer. In 2010, Jessup worked with Fine Mark National Bank & Trust as the Executive Vice President of Human Resources. Most recently, he was appointed Senior Vice President of Human Resources for Tanger Properties.
Jessup is also an ordained minister and, for the last seven years, has had pastoral responsibility for churches in North Carolina and Virginia.
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