UWA to recognize nearly 700 graduates on Dec. 9

LIVINGSTON, Ala.—The University of West Alabama will honor nearly 700 graduates during fall commencement exercises Saturday, Dec. 9. The undergraduate ceremony begins at 10 a.m. in Pruitt Gymnasium on the UWA campus. The graduate ceremony will begin at 1:30 p.m., also at Pruitt Gymnasium. Presidential Receptions will be held prior to each ceremony and are open to all graduates and their guests at 8 a.m. and noon in the Bell Conference Center.

Guests must have tickets, which are available from the graduates, to attend each ceremony in Pruitt Gymnasium. Overflow seating to watch the commencement exercises will be available in Bibb Graves Auditorium. Ceremonies will also be streamed live online at www.uwa.edu/live.

The University will confer degrees in the colleges of liberal arts, natural sciences and mathematics, business, and education during the morning ceremony, and the school of graduate studies during the afternoon ceremony.

The University will recognize students graduating from the UWA Honors Program and those graduating with honors. There will also be special recognition for the faculty recipients of the Nellie McCrory Service Excellence Award, the McIlwain Bell Trustee Professor Award and the William E. Gilbert Award for Outstanding Teaching.

The University will also induct four individuals into the Society of the Golden Key, a prestigious organization established to honor University alumni, faculty, and staff who have brought distinction to their alma mater through exceptional service in their fields. The four inductees are John D. Crawford of Valdosta, Ga., Amelia Hawkins Mackey of Demopolis, Ala., James W. Brown of Montgomery, Ala., and Tim Mansour of Loganville, Ga.

Director of Choral Activities Christopher Shelt will lead the UWA Choirs in a special performance honoring graduates. Livingston United Methodist Church minister Steve Spining will give the invocation and benediction.

For more information on UWA Commencement Exercises, contact Dr. Tina N. Jones, commencement chairperson, at tnj@uwa.edu or 205-652-3833.

Demopolis Singers Present “Christmas In our Home Town”

The Demopolis Singers will present the “Christmas in our Home Town” on Thursday, Dec. 7 at First Baptist Church of Demopolis. The community is invited to attend.

Betsy Stephens named St. Nicholas for COTR 2017

Betsy Stephens was named St. Nicholas for Christmas on the River 2017 Thursday night. She is joined by her husband, Kirk, and children Bill, Molly and Ed.

When event organizer Jennifer Swims announced the name of St. Nicholas for Christmas on the River 2017 Thursday night, Betsy Stephens may well have been the only person in attendance that was surprised by the revelation. Just after the annual lighting of Public Square, Stephens stood on stage as one of the 10 nominees for the honor, confident she would soon be applauding one of her nine deserving neighbors as their name was called.

As Swims finished reading the impressive list of nominees and cited reasons for their inclusion in the festivities, she came to the announcement. “Betsy Stephens.” The name rolled off the evening emcee’s tongue with unmitigated ease and hung momentarily in the unseasonably warm, undeniably humid night air. Before Stephens could appropriately process the moment, an approving round of applause swelled up from the dozens in attendance.

“I was really, really surprised. When Jennifer told me that I was nominated, she didn’t tell me who else was nominated,” Stephens said of the moment she heard her name connected to the prestigious title. “And some years they don’t have many nominees. And I thought it was going to be one of those years and it is going to be quiet and I’m going to have to say something. Then, when I saw the list, I thought, ‘I’m good. I won’t have to say anything for sure.’”

Her surprise came as the logical culmination of a suddenly undermined temerity that she would not be named for the honor she has for decades seen go to some of the most deserving citizens. The honor seeks to recognize those who have functioned as a beacon through volunteerism and community service. The mantle, and the accompanying distinguishing garb, had now fallen to Stephens.

“I guess I was a little embarrassed because that’s not why I do anything,” Stephens, who instinctively ducks the spotlight, said. “I just think of other people as being worthy of this, the Cindy Hays. That’s who I think of when I think of St. Nick, the Jennifer Roemens. I’m honored.”

Stephens received the honor in front of a diverse crowd of onlookers that included her husband, her three children, and her mother and father. The heart to serve, evident to all who know her, is something Stephens intends to pass along to her children as she points to her mother as an influential presence in her own work.

“Just about service, I try to pass that on to them, try to make sure that they understand it,” Stephens said before sharing a value she has sought to impress upon her children. “I want to improve what you do. I don’t necessarily want to improve what you have.”

As the Christmas on the River festivities roll on, Stephens will now find herself near the middle of most of them. And as the day parade rolls through downtown Saturday, she’ll find herself in an unfamiliar position in the spotlight.

“I don’t know that I have every been on a Christmas on the River float. I don’t think I have. My children have been, but I don’t know that I’ve ever been on a float,” she said. “I’ve worked on floats and done other things with them, but I don’t think I’ve ever been on one. It’ll be fun.”

The list of nominees also included Mandy Fields, Richard Bryant, Jennifer Jordan, Kathleen Randall, David McGee, Amanda Hall, Sylvia Tate, Jennifer Thomason and Jim Stanford.

Mackey continues family COTR legacy

Sally Mackey displays a newspaper article with a photo of her aunt, Lynda Stapp, who was the first Miss Christmas on the River.

This year’s Miss Christmas on the River, Sally Mackey, has a voice and is delighted to share with everyone the excitement of Christmas on the River. She has been featured on various news stations to promote Christmas on the River 2017 and recently shared with the public her royal lineage.

Sally’s aunt, Lynda Stapp, was the very first Miss Christmas on the River crowned. “That was something Lynda was quick to remind us of,” Mackey said. She was very proud to be part of something so important to the city of Demopolis. Lynda was even in the COTR Day Parade last year.

Unfortunately, Lynda passed away last spring and left her family and friends way too soon. However, as her daughter, Annie Stapp Wells, recently reminded Sally and her mother, it is comforting knowing that her last act was one of giving and selflessness. Her organs extended the lives of two individuals in Tennessee. Last Friday, there was a fundraiser held in Lynda’s name, “Cheers to Lynda”.

Sally loved her aunt very much and wants to honor her name by spreading the word to be an organ donor. She is challenging everyone to become one. It doesn’t take much to make the choice, but it’s a choice that can do so much.

It seems this year’s Miss COTR not only has beauty and brains, but she also has a special heart.

Compton, Ratliff receive Demopolis Rotary honors

Wednesday the Demopolis Rotary Club recognized two native sons by honoring them as Paul Harris Fellows, possibly the tallest recipients in the history of the club. Hunter Compton is a local attorney, volunteer and event organizer. Theo Ratliff is a Demopolis High School, University of Wyoming and Detroit Piston basketball all-star who established the Theo Ratliff Center in Demopolis.

Clarke named 2017 COTR Special Child

11-29-2017 — Demopolis, Ala. — Christmas on the River 2017 Special Child Ronnie (R.C.) Clarke, Jr. pulls the handle to light the Love Lights Tree atop Bryan W. Whitfield Memorial Hospital. The lighting of the Love Lights Tree kicks off COTR festivities each year in Demopolis.

Alan Jackson announces Tuscaloosa Amphitheater date

With a year of sold-out shows and packed houses in the rearview mirror, newly-minted Country Music Hall of Famer Alan Jackson’s Honky Tonk Highway Tour adds more miles and rolls into 2018 with a stop at the Tuscaloosa Amphitheater in Tuscaloosa, AL on Friday, May 4. Tickets go on sale Friday, Dec. 1 at 10 a.m.

Tickets and information are available at Ticketmaster.com and the venue box office or by visiting alanjackson.com/tour, where you can find information about Alan, his tour schedule, music and more. Jackson is again teaming up with CID Entertainment to offer VIP Experiences at many of his 2018 shows. Fans can choose from four experiences with a variety of perks including a backstage tour, the opportunity to watch the show from a custom barstool by the soundboard, access to a pre-show party, a signed poster, and more!

Alan Jackson’s Honky Tonk Highway Tour will find the country icon performing hits that have gained him legions of longtime fans, songs that continue to draw new crowds as a younger generation discovers his music. Jackson’s repertoire stands the test of time; it has impacted a field of artists who cite Jackson as an influence. It’s these same songs – many written by Alan – that earned him his newfound place alongside country music’s greatest names and cemented his place in its history with membership in the Country Music Hall of Fame. Fans will hear the songs they love from the man who wrote them and made them famous, including his debut hit “Here in The Real World”…signature songs such as “Chattahoochee,” “Drive” and “Gone Country”…party anthems “It’s Five O’Clock Somewhere” and “Good Time”…and many, many more.

Jackson’s concert announcement comes on the heels of his show-ending CMA Awards performance celebrating his 2017 induction to the Country Music Hall of Fame. Alan and his band, The Strayhorns, reminded fans what they’ll enjoy on the Honky Tonk Highway Tour in 2018 as he closed out “Country Music’s Biggest Night” with back-to-back performances of “Chasin’ That Neon Rainbow” and “Don’t Rock the Jukebox,” bringing the star-filled audience to its feet as the likes of Luke Bryan, Keith Urban, Eric Church and others were seen singing along to Alan’s memories of “livin’ that honky tonk dream.”

Alan Jackson’s Tuscaloosa show will continue his tradition of “keepin’ it country” for people far and wide as he travels the Honky Tonk Highway, bringing nearly 30 years of hits to Alabama.

Recently inducted to the Country Music Hall of Fame, Alan Jackson’s membership among country music’s all-time greats is the latest in a long line of career-defining accolades that include three CMA Entertainer of the Year honors, more than 25 years of membership in the Grand Ole Opry, a 2016 Billboard ranking as one of the Top 10 Country Artists of All-Time, induction to the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame, and the Heritage Award as the most- performed country songwriter-artist of ASCAP’s first 100 years.

The man from rural Newnan, GA has sold nearly 60-million albums worldwide, ranks as one of the 10 best-selling male vocalists of all-time in all genres. He has released more than 60 singles – registering 50 Top Ten hits and 35 #1s (including 26 Billboard chart-toppers). He has earned more than 150 music industry awards – including 18 Academy of Country Music Awards, 16 Country Music Association Awards, a pair of Grammys and ASCAP’s Founders and Golden Note Awards.

Jackson is one of the most successful and respected singer-songwriters in music. He is in the elite company of Paul McCartney and John Lennon among songwriters who’ve written more than 20 songs that they’ve recorded and taken to the top of the charts. Jackson is one of the best-selling artists since the inception of SoundScan, ranking alongside the likes of Eminem and Metallica. He’s also the man behind one of Nashville’s most-popular new tourist stops, AJ’s Good Time Bar, a four-story honky-tonk in the heart of downtown (along a stretch of Broadway known as the “Honky Tonk Highway”) featuring daily live music and a rooftop view of Music City.

DMS’s Harrison represents Varsity Spirit in Disney

Molly Katherine Harrison of Demopolis Middle School is one of more than 500 elementary, junior high and high school cheerleaders and dancers from across the country that represented Varsity Spirit in the 2017 Thanksgiving Tour at the Walt Disney World® Resort in Orlando, Florida.

The individuals invited to perform in the parade are part of a select group of cheerleaders and dancers chosen as All-Americans during Varsity Spirit summer camps across the country.  All-Americans are selected via tryout based on either superior cheerleading or dance skills at camps operated by Universal Cheerleaders Association (UCA), Universal Dance Association (UDA), National Cheerleaders Association (NCA), or National Dance Alliance (NDA).  Only the top 10% of the cheerleaders and dancers from Varsity Spirit camps earn the chance to march in a holiday parade of this caliber.

Harrison will perform with the Varsity Spirit All-Americans in an one-of-a-kind pre-parade performance through Disney’s Magic Kingdom® Park on Thanksgiving Day.  Besides enjoying a sunny trip to Orlando, All-Americans will have the opportunity to meet cheerleaders and dancers from across the nation and enjoy a magical holiday season at Walt Disney World® Resort parks.

“I can’t wait to get to travel to Disney with my family and enjoy the parks and especially performing in the parade with other cheerleaders from all over the USA,” Harrison said of the opportunity.

Memphis-based Varsity Spirit has been a driving force behind cheerleading’s dynamic transformation into the high-energy, athletic activity it is today, and the leading global source for all things cheerleading and dance. A division of Varsity Brands, Varsity Spirit is a leader in uniform innovation and educational camps, clinics and competitions, impacting nearly a million athletes each year. Focused on safety, entertainment and traditional school leadership, Varsity Spirit’s 5,000 employees have been helping raise cheerleading’s influence and profile since 1974. For more information about Varsity Spirit or Varsity Brands, please visit www.varsity.com or www.varsitybrands.com.

Demopolis Rotary raises more than $2,000 and 1,800 cans of food

In spite of the chilly temperatures Wednesday morning, a dozen members of the Demopolis Rotary Club met at the Demopolis Food Bank to deliver a record-breaking number of non-perishable items donated during its annual food drive.
Hunter Compton, co-chairman of the drive, said Rotarians and their partners collected 1,868 items of food and $2,000.16 during November.
“This should be the most canned goods AND money that we have raised in any one year to date,” he said.
The donations came from a Westside Elementary School competition among classes; DHS JROTC cadets helping Rotarians to encourage DHS football fans and shoppers at Vowell’s Fresh Market to donate, and generous contributions from St. Leo’s Catholic Church, First United Methodist Church, Bible Chapel, Parr’s Chevron, Malone’s Texaco, Langley Shell and Foster Farms.
Compton also thanked Batter Up for donating four wing parties for the winning classrooms at WES.
Through the first four years of Thanksgiving food collections, the Rotary Club has raised 7,368 canned goods and $6,500 to benefit the Food Bank.

King crowned Miss UWA for 2018

Khadijah King (center) of Westbury, New York, was named Miss UWA 2018 during the Miss UWA scholarship pageant on Thursday, Nov. 9. Pictured after the crowning are, left to right, first runner up and lifestyle/fitness winner Bailey Anderson of Hurley, Miss.; Miss Alabama 2017 Jessica Procter; King; Miss UWA 2017 Summer Abston; and second runner up Kennedi Sanders of Columbus, Miss.
Individual stage photos of participants and winners are available upon request.

LIVINGSTON, Ala.—Khadijah King of Westbury, New York, is the new Miss University of West Alabama and will represent the University in the 2018 Miss Alabama Pageant, a Miss America preliminary held in Birmingham in June.

Miss UWA 2017 Summer Abston crowned King, joined by special guests University President Ken Tucker and SGA President Jonathan Knox. Miss Alabama 2017 Jessica Procter served as emcee for the evening.

Six ladies vying for the title competed in five categories, including private interview, an onstage question, lifestyle and fitness, talent, and evening wear.

A graduate student pursuing a master’s degree in student affairs for higher education, Miss UWA 2018 Khadijah King has chosen a platform that empowers females. “Damsel in Success” gives girls and women of all ages the tools to market their talents, skills and passions to create opportunities and succeed in any environment.

“When I heard my name called, my first thought was that ‘Damsel in Success’ is going to take flight,” King said. “My platform is focused on closing the pay gap for females, and this will be an opportunity to reach a plethora of women.”

King calls it a top honor to represent UWA for the year at various events and ultimately at the Miss Alabama pageant, and she hopes beyond.

“Being crowned Miss University of West Alabama is so surreal,” King explained. “You practice and practice to make sure everything is perfect, but you never know what the judges want to see. I am honored that they saw character and talent in me.”

King also won the talent portion of the evening with a jazz vocal performance of “Sway” by Michael Buble.

Bailey Anderson was named first runner up, and she also won the lifestyle and fitness portion of the evening. Anderson is a freshman from Hurley, Miss., majoring in nursing. Her talent was a vocal performance of “This Girl is on Fire” by Alicia Keys. Her platform, “Think Before You Speak” raises awareness for bullying and encourages positive peer-to-peer relationships.

Kennedi Sanders was named second runner up. She is a senior psychology major from Columbus, Miss. Her talent was a jazz dance to “Fearless” by Jasmine Murray.

The Miss America Organization is the nation’s leading advocate for women’s education and the largest provider of scholarship assistance to young women in the United States, awarding millions of dollars annually. It is also dedicated to empowering young women to further their personal, professional and educational goals and instill a spirit of community service through a variety of unique, local and nationwide, community-based programs, including the annual Miss America Serves event sponsored by Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals.

Last year, the Miss America Organization and its state and local organizations made available more than $45 million in cash and scholarship assistance. The Miss America Organization is the world’s largest scholarship assistance provider for young women.

For more on Miss UWA 2018 Khadijah King’s journey, follow Miss UWA on Facebook at www.facebook.com/MissUWA.

To learn more about the Miss UWA scholarship pageant, contact Danielle Miller at dmiller@uwa.edu.