Thursday, May 1, 2008
Hasselman promotes leadership at MC
By ANDY KANENGISER
Gerald Hasselman grew up a basketball star at Holly Springs High and Northwest Mississippi Community College. Now the 6-foot-five-inch professor, former coach and diehard St. Louis Cardinals fan is among the academic stars at Mississippi College.
Today, the plain-speaking Hasselman is the director of educational leadership at MC’s School of Education. The 1963 Holly Springs High graduate was recently profiled in the Winter 2008 edition of the new campus magazine “MC Education.”
He and other MC professors are aiming to see that the MC educational leadership program lives up to its lofty goals. It is simply for MC students to become “the best leaders in Mississippi.” In case anybody forgets, the mission statement is posted outside his third-floor office. Employment for MC School of Education grads, he insists, is never a problem.
“There’s always a place for a good one,” he said.
Former colleagues like University School of Education Dean Tom Burnham say Hasselman is a pretty good one, too.
“There are very few in education that I would hold in such esteem,” Burnham said. “I have the greatest admiration for Gerald. He is totally focused on what is best for children.”
Burnham, the former Mississippi superintendent of education, and Hasselman worked together at the agency in the 1990s. Hasselman was then deputy superintendent with the Mississippi Department of Education.
Hasselman, he said, “is totally focused on his students. He has a tremendous vision of where an organization needs to go and things to do to get there. Plus, he works.”
In 2008, Hasselman brings 40 years of education experience as a teacher, coach, and administrator to his MC classes on the Clinton campus. Outside the classroom, he can’t hide his passion for the Cardinals. A Cardinals license tag sits on the front of his Cherokee Jeep. And that’s not the only visible proof of his love for the Redbirds, the 2006 World Series champs.
Also trumpeting his zeal for the Cardinals is his book-filled office in Lowrey Hall with a special enclosed cabinet stuffed with Redbirds memorabilia. Some of the items go back to the days of Cardinal legends like Bob Gibson, Lou Brock and Stan Musial. As spring winds blew hard on the MC campus in Clinton late one Thursday afternoon, the no-nonsense MC professor was in a pretty good mood. After all, his Cardinals were leading the National League Central Division in early April with a 7-2 record.
A fan of Cardinals radio broadcasts growing up in North Mississippi, he is equally passionate about his education leadership classes at MC. A Baptist-affiliated university enrolling 4,600 students, MC is the largest private university in Mississippi. Founded in 1826, MC is the nation’s second oldest Baptist college.
Taking time to field an interviewer’s questions, Hasselman gets pumped when talking about frequent trips to Busch Stadium in his native St. Louis or travels to dozens of other Major League ballparks around America. His office is also loaded with photos of family travels to Egypt, Peru, Greece, Canada and around the United States. But he always brings his A-game when it comes to teaching or pointing out how one teacher can make a big difference.
That was true in his case, recalling his days at Holly Springs High in the early 1960s.
“Most of my teachers are no longer alive, but they made me well-prepared for college,” he said.
A football, basketball and baseball player at Holly Springs High, he married the “girl across the street” in Holly Springs. His wife, Patricia, a retired teacher, is also a member of the Class of 1963 at the Holly Springs school.
The Marshall County community founded in 1837 remains a big part of the chemistry of the Mississippi College educator. His 85-year-old mother, Geraldine Gholson, is a retired nurse who spent more than 60 years in the profession. She lives in Holly Springs. His sister Bea Green, who works in marketing for a nursing home, his half-brother, Harris Gholson, a State Farm agent, and his half-brother Fort Gholson, all live in Holly Springs.
From Holly Springs, Hasselman moved to Senatobia where he was an all-state basketball player at Northwest Mississippi Community College before playing at Millsaps College in Jackson. He is a Millsaps grad with a master’s in 1969 at MC and doctorate in educational leadership at Mississippi State University.
Today, he’s driven to transform professional educators into stellar administrators. He oversees MC’s specialist degree program, the post-master’s degree that is a step before the doctorate. The grad school courses can deal with such things as crisis management and budgeting. Seminars train educators with a tool-box of strategies to succeed as principals or at other tasks. MC launched its first doctoral program on the Clinton campus in January 2008. Nineteen students are now on their way towards earning a doctorate in higher education leadership.
The former STAR history teacher in Warren County schools and ex-principal at Oxford High, Hasselman knows enormous challenges are out there. New reports show one-third of the state’s teachers leave the profession after three years on the job. The challenges run the gamut from schools in inner cities to rural America. School leaders, he said, must work hard to succeed and it must start with youngsters in the early grades.
He also is a strong advocate for his alma mater. In his immediate family, seven diplomas come from MC. The Hasselmans also have created a handful of scholarships at Mississippi College. One is named in honor of his mother. It is for nursing students. Said Gerald Hasselman: “We believe in MC.”
His granddaughter in Hernando, he said, may be part of a new Hasselman generation to become a Mississippi College Choctaw.
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