Holmes names auditorium for Dr. Sam Massey

On Friday, June 10, Holmes Community College honored one of its most outstanding alumni, Dr. Samuel O. Massey, Jr., M.D., by naming the auditorium in the Science and Mathematics Building on the Goodman Campus in his honor.

Massey, 86, of Pelahatchie, created the Massey Medical Scholarship through the Mobile Medical Mission Hospital, Inc. in 1990 and touched the lives of 70 recipients by providing funding for these students to continue their education in a medical field of their choice.

Upon graduating from Pelahatchie High School at the age of 16, Dr. Massey moved to San Antonio, Texas, to enter the enlisted ranks. One month later, he became a charter member of the U.S. Air Force. He served with a B-29 bomber group in Spokane, Washington, for six months before completing a short tour of duty in the Panama Canal Zone and a longer tour at the Ramey Air Force Base (AFB) Puerto Rico during the start of the Korean War.

Upon discharge, he entered Holmes Junior College, where he obtained his degree in mathematics and science. Following graduation from Holmes in 1953, Dr. Massey received his medical degree from University of Tennessee College of Medicine in 1956. After nearly 12 years of working in a medicine and surgery practice in Picayune, he entered Tulane Medical School to specialize in otolaryngology and head and neck surgery. He received board certification in otolaryngology, cosmetic/plastic surgery and facial plastics and reconstructive surgery.

Pictured with the rendering of the plaque for the new Samuel O. Massey, Jr., M.D. Science and Mathematics Auditorium are: (From L to R) Director of Annual Giving, Jack Holmes; Holmes Board of Trustees President, Walter Alford; Holmes President, Dr. Jim Haffey; Honoree, Dr. Samuel Massey, Jr.; Holmes Development Foundation Board President, Dr. Don Phillips; and Executive Director of the Holmes Development Foundation, Dr. Lindy McCain.Upon finishing his training at Tulane, Dr. Massey opened his own practice in Oak Ridge, Tennessee, while simultaneously joining the Tennessee Air National Guard, where he was promoted to colonel and clinic commander in 1980. During this time, he completed the professional military education courses of Air Command and Staff College, Air War College, and the National Defense University. Just as Dr. Massey was on the brink of retirement, the AF offered him the positions Chief of ENT and Chief of Surgery at Eglin AFB in Valparaiso, Florida, and he accepted. After completing his four-year contract with Eglin, he returned to San Antonio to serve as Chairman of the Department of Otolaryngology for Wilford Hall Medical Center. In 1993, he was honored with The Excalibur Award as the Air Force's Outstanding Clinical Surgeon and in 1994, was chosen as the National Recipient for the Annual Humanitarian Award by the Academy of Otolaryngology.

Following his stint at Wilford Hall, Dr. Massey was selected as Commander of the Air Transportable Hospital in Cuba to work with the 45,000 Cuban and 15,000 Haitian boat people. He returned to Cuba twice more as a volunteer as professor of surgery. Dr. Massey returned to Englin AFB as a flight surgeon and over the tenure of his last 12 years of duty, held teaching positions at Tulane, University of Mississippi, University of Texas, U.S. School of Clinical Sciences Medical Schools, and Army Schools of Aerospace Medicine. He is on the editorial review board for the Aviation, Space, and Environmental Medicine Journal and served on the Space Shuttle Medical Launch and Recovery Team.

"You know you are getting old when you look around and see the president of the college and he looks like he is still in junior high school," Dr. Massey said with a smile. "I want to thank you for this award," he said. "It is certainly undeserving. There are so many people who deserve this much better than I but I want to tell you that no one is more appreciative than I am. I deeply appreciate all the time and work you went through to secure this for me. I will always treasure it."

Dr. Massey said while growing up in Pelahatchie he always dreamed of being a fighter pilot. "I was determined to be the number one fighting pilot in the world. I found out I was too young and didn't have enough education to do that. So I went into the Air Force and got out to come to Holmes to do that. I had no idea I would become a doctor," he added. "I didn't want to be a doctor. I wanted to be a fighter pilot. God had other plans for my life. When I was here I was sort of in a fog. I took my MCAT and didn't know I was taking it. It had to be multiple choice because I had one course in chemistry. I took it cold."

After passing the MCAT, he was accepted into medical schools at Ole Miss, Tulane and Memphis but had to attend Millsaps to get needed hours before going into medical school at the University of Tennessee College of Medicine. "So it had to be God-thing," he said. "Five years and three months after I came up to Holmes they handed me the MD degree and told me I was a doctor."

After being discharged from the Air Force, he went straight to Goodman. "I packed all my worldly possessions in a duffle bag, got on a Greyhound bus and debussed in downtown Goodman," Dr. Massey said. "I put that that thing on my back and walked to the campus." He immediately began leaving his mark on the college, but he said he would not be where he is without Holmes.

Dr. Massey reflected on three of his instructors while at Holmes --- Mrs. Frank Branch, G.J. Everett and John P. Mitchell.

"She (Mrs. Branch) thought I had arrived on spaceship from Mars, but she was able to take me and get me through the course," Dr. Massey said. She also taught him French.

He also appreciated Everett. "I loved the old guy," he said. "He had more brains than most of the people in this room. He was one of the sharpest psychologists around. He taught me that you have to understand people and how they react. He was a brilliant man."

He credited Mitchell for his science background. "I've given lectures from Harvard to UCLA to Canada and Central America, and I never ever had met anybody that came close to Mr. Mitchell," Dr. Massey said. "When I came to Holmes, I didn't know the difference in hydrogen and oxygen. I had never heard of them. He taught me inorganic and organic chemistry. When I left here I knew everything about both of them."

He said when he went on to Millsaps for the upper level science courses he had little trouble. "I was able to ace it because of Mr. Mitchell. You had the best ever here. I can tell you for sure if I had gone straight from high school into a senior college I would have been a so-so student if I passed at all," Dr. Massey said. "I owe my career and life to Holmes Junior College. I am eternally grateful to you for that."

Even though he never flew a mission in the Air Force, he did receive his pilot's license and was able to fly an Air Force plan through the speed of sound. "God allowed me to be a good surgeon and fly airplanes."

Holmes Community College President Dr. Jim Haffey reflected on his first memories of friends who received the Massey Medical Scholarship at Holmes Community College.

"When she got back her life was changed, and she was so excited and was gushing about everything she was able to do under your leadership," Dr. Haffey said of Candice Edwards Parish, who went on a mission trip with Dr. Massey while she was a student at Holmes. "It planted the seed for a lot of us, and a lot of us got to go do some mission work later."

Dr. Haffey also explained that he would not have met his wife, Rae Anne, if it hadn't been for Dawn Ellison Allen, who was also a Massey Scholar.

"Although I was not a Massey recipient I think in a round-about way it touched my life in the most meaningful way," Dr. Haffey said. "She (Dawn) probably would not have come to Holmes. She made a 30 on her ACT and was thinking about some other professions. When she became a Massey Scholar she came here and decided to be a pharmacist and that's where she met my wife. Luckily, even though I was three years younger than Dawn and a little bit of a pest she did set me up on a blind date with my wife. In a round-about way I can give you credit for the best thing that happened to me which was luring Dawn here and meeting Rae Anne."

Dr. Massey was awarded the Distinguished Service Award at Holmes in 2014, and Dr. Haffey was able to present the award to him. "One of the highlights of my career when I came in as president and found out they had already selected you as an honoree at Homecoming," Dr. Haffey said. "To get to visit with you that weekend and get to meet you in person was an amazing experience for me."

Holmes Community College Development Foundation President Dr. Don Phillips added that Dr. Massey was named Most Intellectual and president of the freshman class. "In a couple of weeks, he'll be going to Romania to do medical work," Dr. Phillips said. "He'll see several hundred people while he's there who would not be able to get medical attention. I'm anxious to get him involved in things that are closer to home because one of these days he's going to get tired of flying over that big body of water. I would like to add my congratulations to him and thank Holmes Community College for recognizing who I consider as one of the most outstanding students."

Dr. Massey, now retired, is a full-time medical mission volunteer, and said he will go "any place, anywhere, anytime," to help those in need. He and his wife, Jamie Boleware Massey of Jackson, reside in Brandon and have six children and 11 grandchildren.  

IN THIS PHOTO: Pictured with the rendering of the plaque for the new Samuel O. Massey, Jr., M.D. Science and Mathematics Auditorium are: (From L to R) Director of Annual Giving, Jack Holmes; Holmes Board of Trustees President, Walter Alford; Holmes President, Dr. Jim Haffey; Honoree, Dr. Samuel Massey, Jr.; Holmes Development Foundation Board President, Dr. Don Phillips; and Executive Director of the Holmes Development Foundation, Dr. Lindy McCain. 

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