LBWCC technology director turns off spotlight after 42 years

Published 9:15 am Thursday, April 6, 2023

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Jerry Wishum has always worked behind the scenes at LBW Community College, but he plans to turn the spotlight off on one part of his career, announcing he will retire from a position he has held for 42 years.

Although he stepped down from his technological duties, Wishum will remain working part-time in the Martha and Solon Dixon Center for Performing Arts.

“After 42 years of working both computers and the Dixon Center, I decided it was time to cut back and retire from the computer side. I ended my full-time employment with LBW on February 28, and celebrated my 70th birthday in March,” he said.

President Dr. Brock Kelley thanked Wishum for his time and service.

“Jerry has dedicated his career to LBW and we are extremely proud of him and wish him nothing but the best in his retirement. He is and always will be part of the Saints family. We will continue to seek his guidance and expertise in theatrical technology. I can’t thank Jerry enough for his commitment to LBW and the community,” Kelley said.

Wishum’s time at LBW began in 1980 when he took a computer course. The college hired him as a programmer in March 1981.

“In the spring of 1982, I walked over to the almost finished Dixon Center to see the new computerized lighting board and was hooked. No one had learned about the new lighting board and other systems yet. Jerry Padgett, music director at the time, asked me to work on ‘The Fantasticks,’ which was the first production in May. In 1983, LBW produced its first big musical, ‘The Sound of Music,’ which starred now-Andalusia Mayor Earl Johnson.”

Following that production, he had accepted a programming job in Birmingham but received word LBW president Dr. William McWhorter had created a job for him locally.

“At Jerry’s request, Dr. McWhorter wanted me to be a computer operator. By day, I worked with computers, and at night and weekends, I worked on Dixon Center shows. The Dixon Center hosted The Alabama Ballet, The Alabama Symphony, and the Alabama Shakespeare Festival, all in its first year. Each year, LBW would produce a play and musical, and the Covington Arts Council would bring in four touring shows,” Wishum said.

He added that each event the Arts Council booked was a learning opportunity for him and allowed him to witness several performances in 40 years. Wishum stated he has missed fewer than three events.

“I asked as many questions as possible. Some of these shows were straight from Broadway, and many have been a part since the beginning. Andalusia Ballet has held ‘The Nutcracker’ and other dance performances. Junior Miss is now the Distinguished Young Woman program. Saints on Stage replaced the Red Garter Revue. The college has held its Miss LBW Pageant and Family and Friends Night. Many others have been performing at the theatre more than 20 years. The college has stopped producing regular productions, but local community theater groups such as ReAct Theatre continued to produce annual shows, along with the Covington Arts Council. The Covington County Schools produced their first musical in the Dixon Center in 2020. I helped design and coordinate these productions making best use of the Dixon Center’s lights and sound.”

Wishum has served under many titles on campus. When LBW merged with MacArthur in 2005, he began serving as the network administrator for Andalusia and was named the Dixon Center’s technical director.

“We have embraced personal computers, cell phones, the Internet, wireless networks, virtual servers, and cloud-based systems. I have been the computer operator, computer programmer, director of computer services and computer coordinator,” he said.

Throughout his tenure, the Dixon Center has been through many upgrades and changes thanks in part to donations from the Dixon Foundation. Because of these advancements, Wishum said the facility is now ‘one of the most technically advanced theatres in Alabama.’

“LBW has continuously refreshed the sound, lighting, and stage equipment. We are on our third set of curtains, second stage floor, fifth sound mixer, sixth lighting consoles, second wireless intercom system, and fourth set of wireless microphones. With the latest donation, we were able to completely replace the incandescent stage lights with LED’s and replaced a number of analog systems with digital ones.”

While he is cutting his time on campus back, he looks forward to continuing his contributions at the Dixon Center on a part-time basis. “I plan to continue working there in some capacity until I retire again in 10 years or so.”

Wishum has already worked out retirement plans for when he is not at the Dixon Center.

“I have started playing more tennis, which is the only thing I’ve done longer than theater or computers. I also hope to take long distant train trips with my wife of 33 years, Wynora. We have one son, Mason, who also works in the computer field. I’ve recently started shooting video and streaming events for the college and hope to continue doing that. I might even write a play to be performed at the Dixon Center for Performing Arts,” he said.