Dr. Jeremiah Newell: Shoe Salesman to the Ivy League

Posted on January 31, 2017
Joy Washington

Dr. Jeremiah Newell is a 2008 graduate of the College of Education and the chief operating officer for the Mobile Area Education Foundation. data-lightbox='featured'
Dr. Jeremiah Newell is a 2008 graduate of the College of Education and the chief operating officer for the Mobile Area Education Foundation.

Dr. Jeremiah Newell, Ed.L.D., a 2008 graduate of the College of Education at the University of South Alabama and the chief operating officer for the Mobile Area Education Foundation, is the first person in his family to graduate from college. He plans to attend the College's 50th-anniversary celebration on Feb. 2, to honor those who have given so much of their time and knowledge.

As a LeFlore High School student, he was invited to participate in the Mobile County Public School System Superintendent’s Student Advisory Council in 2004, which led him to a part-time position as a program coordinator at MAEF following his high school graduation. He was also able to pursue his undergraduate and doctoral degrees at South while working at MAEF.

“I actually left my job where I was selling shoes to start working in a field that I had become passionate about, which is public education,” Newell said. “I initially wanted to major in chemical engineering, but working on the student advisory council gave me a clear vision for becoming a secondary education teacher.”

It was South’s College of Education, Newell’s tenacity, and dedication that provided him with a solid foundation, that led him to earn a doctoral degree from an Ivy League institution.

“What I learned at South has given me the opportunity to grow and earn a doctorate in education leadership from Harvard University,” he humbly stated. “This opportunity exposed me to a global vision of how the world is improving education. I was able to travel and become refined as an educator. I have never felt stuck in time. I have an open mindset and determination about improving education.”

Dr. Andrea Kent, dean of the College of Education, said she is proud of Newell and all the great things he has accomplished. She is also looking over the years to reflect on the legacy of the College, and the many students, faculty, staff and alumni who have supported it over the years.

“During the past 50 years, the College has strived to make a difference in the lives of those we serve,” she said. “The many current and former faculty of the College make it our mission to impact lives through teaching, research and service. We currently have 17,000 alumni who are our arms extended. They influence the communities where they reside. We have countless friends who, through their commitment to the College, have shaped the first 50 years of our existence in ways that will continue to impact the College.”

As South’s College of Education celebrates 50 years of teaching, research, service and innovation with the upcoming 50th anniversary reception, 50 distinguished educators, community and business partners will be honored.

Newell shares this advice for future educators:

  • Ask Questions: Be prepared to always explore new solutions and ask questions. Develop a disposition to be a change agent in the field of education.
  • Be Equity Focused: Get engaged and improve education for all students. We have to be dogmatic about equity in schools.
  • Be Innovative: Create learning environments that are cutting-edge. Currently, charter schools are trending. Some are good and some are not. Take the concept and be innovative.

Newell said his mother’s dedication and sacrifice made it possible for him to attend South and pursue his educational dream.  He is also grateful to Dr. Joel Billingsley, associate professor; Dr. André Green, professor and associate dean; and Kent.

“When I started my student teaching years ago, I will never forget how Dr. Kent helped me attain experience by extending my student teaching for the entire year,” he said. “I am a proud Jaguar. I love South.”

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