Jim Shirley of Yazoo City, physics and engineering instructor, and Lane Spell of Lexington, a sophomore mechanical engineering student, have been named Holmes Community College's honorees for the Legislature's HEADWAE (Higher Education Appreciation Day Working for Academic Excellence) program for 2017. Shirley and Spell are both on the institution's Goodman Campus
Shirley, who has worked at Holmes a total of 21 years, holds a bachelor's degree in engineering physics from Delta State University and a master's degree in mathematics and physics from the University of Mississippi. He has also completed additional studies at Louisiana State University and Mississippi State University. Shirley began his teaching career teaching high school science classes in Greenwood before moving on to teach at East Holmes Academy. While teaching at East Holmes, Mr. Frank Branch, the president of Holmes at that time, reached out to Shirley and asked him to come and teach at the college. After about six to seven years of teaching in Goodman, Mr. Branch sent Shirley to Yazoo City to teach practical mathematics and chemistry there.
While there, Shirley was able to assist Mississippi Chemical Company, L.P., with ongoing issues they had been experiencing. Mississippi Chemical was so impressed with his critical thinking skills that they offered him a job in human resources at the plant and he ended up working there for 30 years. Upon retirement, Shirley was beckoned back to Holmes when they asked if he would please come back and teach for just a few months while they worked to fill the physics instructor position. Those three to four months turned into 12 years, and Shirley remains a campus-favorite among students today on Holmes' Goodman Campus. He is also an adviser for the Holmes Plus Program, which is a scholars program he founded for students who show an aptitude in science and mathematics.
Shirley was a Lamplighters Conference Honoree, a Holmes Board of Trustees Special Recognition Award recipient, a National Science Foundation Grant recipient, and a member of Mississippi Association of Physicists and Rotary Club. He has also worked as an industrial engineering consultant. Shirley and his wife Amy have four children, eight grandchildren and six great-grandchildren.
Spell, son of William and Angela Spell, is a mechanical engineering student on the Goodman Campus. He was valedictorian at Central Holmes Christian School, and has remained on the President's List throughout his time at Holmes. He is a member of the Holmes Plus scholars program, co-captain for the Bulldog cheerleaders, an Ambassador, treasurer of Student Government Association, a regional officer for Phi Theta Kappa honor society, and a volunteer tutor. Spell was also voted Freshman Favorite and was a 2016 Homecoming Escort.
Outside of Holmes, Spell is both an Eagle Scout and owner of Spell Concessions. He opened his concession stand business in 2014, and is hired to provide concessions at various sporting events around Holmes County. Upon graduation from Holmes, Spell will continue his studies in mechanical engineering at Mississippi State University and go to work as a project engineer in the oil and chemical industry. After retirement, he plans to open a real estate company.
HEADWAE was established in 1988 by the Mississippi Legislature to recognize outstanding students and faculty in Mississippi's colleges and universities.