Scholarship named for Kirklands

Published 12:18 am Saturday, March 24, 2012

Jimmy and Jeanice Kirkland, with alumni officers Keron Kyzar and Amy Jones.

Friends of Jimmy and Jeanice Kirkland say it’s tough to pull one over on them, but the Covington County Chapter of the University of Alabama Alumni Association managed to do that Thursday night when they named one of their endowed scholarships for the couple.

When Keron Kyzar, a district vice president of the national organization, made the announcement, Mrs. Kirkland turned to her husband and whispered, “Did you know this?”

After the presentation, she said it never clicked with her, even though many of their Auburn friends from First Baptist turned out for the presentation.

“I thought for a minute they might have gone to the wrong place,” she said. The Alumni Association met at City Hall; next door at Springdale, a fundraiser for Miracle Field was under way.

The Kirklands, both UA grads, were instrumental in getting the local chapter active when they moved to Andalusia in the 1970s. Mrs. Kirkland is a former president of the national association.

“They have been a constant, driving force for this chapter,” Kyzar said.

Kyzar said that a number of local students enrolled at UA because of Mrs. Kirkland’s influence, and “her letters of reference opened many doors for them.”

Mrs. Kirkland said as she looked out at those attending the chapter’s spring meeting, “I just see family.”

The local UA alumni chapter was developed in the 1940s by Albert Rankin, she said, who also went on to be the national association president. The chapter languished, and was revamped in the 1970s.

“So many of the people who were there when we first got going are here now,” she said, adding that their family members are now UA alumni supporting the chapter.

“I am so proud of being from this chapter,” she said. “We do as much for the scholarships as many other larger chapters.”

A retired English teacher, Mrs. Kirkland also recognized family members of current UA football standout Nico Johnson who were in attendance.

“I remember him in seventh grade English,” she said. “He was so mannerly. And he was quiet, as was Robert Horry.

“Who is the spokesperson for the team now?” she said. “That tells us that Coach Saban has a lot of trust in Nico – and in Andalusia by extension – that he will say the right things.”

Mrs. Kirkland’s father, the late Judge Eris Paul, also graduated from UA and was a member of the board of trustees. The Kirklands’ granddaughter is currently a UA student.

The scholarship brings to six the number of named scholarships awarded to UA by the local chapter. Scholarships in memory of the Kirklands’ daughter and in memory of Kathy Nall are awarded to Andalusia students; the Judge Merlon Smith scholarship goes to a Covington County student; the St. John scholarship goes to an Opp student; and the James and Jeanelle Kelsoe scholarship goes to an LBW transfer student.