For thousands of Hinds students who walked across the graduation stage in Cain-Cochran Hall, retired speech instructor Jerry Peyton Agent reflected the best of the Hinds faculty — dedicated, caring and well-prepared. Amid the pomp and circumstance, what the students, and their families, wanted most was a strong voice that pronounced each graduate’s name correctly. For years, she painstakingly telephoned each student whose name might have an unusual pronunciation and practiced those names before stepping to the podium. She set the bar high for any commencement announcer who followed her.
Her zeal for communication began as a student at Hinds in Drama Club. “I knew from day one that community colleges were pretty special,” she said. “My favorite thing was taking students who thought they could not take a speech class and getting them through it.”
Highly regarded by her peers, Agent was a 33-year member of the Mississippi Communication Association, serving as president. She was also a longtime member of the Southern States Communication Association.
On campus, Agent was immersed in a variety of efforts to enrich the student experience and to bring the college closer to the community.
Agent received almost every award bestowed upon a faculty member during her 32 years at the college – the Mississippi Legislature’s HEADWAE recognition, the Outstanding and Distinguished Instructor of the Year honor; the Life Star Award, the Phi Theta Kappa Faculty Award and the 3E Award, the college’s highest honor, which she shared with her sister, Dr. Mary Etta Naftel, a Hinds business and office technology instructor. After her retirement, she was named Professor Emeritus of Speech. She and her sister established a scholarship in 2014, The Jerry Agent and Mary Etta Naftel Academic Endowed Scholarship.