Tuesday, May 31, 2011

TOP STORY >> At long last, a graduation ceremony

Leader staff writer

It’s rather convenient that Jack Meadows’ first name is actually Prosper, because that is exactly what education has allowed him to do throughout his Air Force career.

Meadows, an executive broker at Doug Wilkinson Realty Co. in Jacksonville, was asked to walk with this year’s graduating class from Webster University. The ceremony was held at the main campus in St. Louis on May 7.

He earned a master’s in hu-man relations from Webster College in 1976, but the program was so new that there wasn’t a graduation ceremony. Meadows received his certificate in the mail.

Walking in the ceremony was “thrilling” and he loved being “hooded” Meadows said, beaming with pride in his cubicle decorated with numerous certificates denoting achievement. He also received a standing ovation because the speaker at the end of the ceremony incorrectly said that he did not walk 35 years ago because of military commitments.

Janie Jackson, Webster University’s senior director at Little Rock Air Force Base, said graduation was fantastic and Meadows is an inspiration to many. She also said he was humble at the ceremony, insisting that it not be about him, but about the graduates.

“He’s a good example to many of us about keeping on keeping on,” she said.

While Meadows’ background makes it all the more astounding that he has accomplished so much, his attitude of loving life explains it.

“I get up in the morning, take a look in the mirror, have a good laugh and that sets me up for all day,” he says, with a frequently-used chuckle.

Penny Dietz, co-owner of the Doug Wilkinson Realty, has worked with Meadows for 26 years. She had nothing but praise for his unselfish nature.

“He’ll go above and beyond to help people,” she said. “He always puts the needs of others before his own.”

Meadows dropped out of Annie Camp Junior High School in Jonesboro after completing eighth grade because he needed to take care of his father, a World War II veteran, and three younger siblings.

Meadows — dressed in a crisp, white collared-shirt, khakis and wearing thick eyeglasses — says he would have been a sharecropper, living below poverty level with little education, if he hadn’t signed up to join the Air Force in 1954.

Meadows earned his GED three years later, and went on to graduate with honors from Non-Commissioned Officer Preparatory School at Pease Air Force Base in New Hampshire in 1960.

In 1965, he had two years of college credit from the college-level examination program and classes he had taken at Little Rock Air Force Base.

After graduating in the top 10 percent of his class from Strategic Air Command NCO Academy, he graduated with a bachelor’s degree from Louisiana Tech in 1974, after having taken some classes through the Barksdale Air Force Base education office.

Meadows’ Air Force career didn’t slow down while he was immersed in all this study. When he started taking the college-level exam, he was on assignment in the Titan II Missile Field. He was also proud to take part in two historically significant endeavors during his military career.

He was a mechanic on the crew that fueled the first non-stop flight around the world in 1957 from California and back. Refueling was accomplished over the Persian Gulf.

Meadows was also on one of three crews selected to conduct the first operation test of a silo that had been active for two years. In 1965, his crew took the missile from Arkansas to Vandenberg Air Force , Calif., to launch it.

He said his education has been instrumental in all of the Air Force positions he’s held.

Meadows was a career adviser, an instructor at the Air Force Leadership School, a senior Titan II instructor and an instructor at the NCO Academy.

Meadows was especially pleased to have retired as a first sergeant. He was honored with the Military Training Award and by being named the LRAFB Outstanding Airman of the Year in 1968.

Retirement has not quite been a time to relax and do nothing for this very active man. Meadows took his real estate licensure at the base before he retired, worked as a site director for Webster and was a social worker before plunging into the real estate game full-time.

Continuing on his path of aggressive education, Meadows earned his Graduate Realtor Institute designation from the National Association of Realtors and Certified Residential Specialist designation in 1990. In addition, he has been a member of the education and grievance committee and is a life member of the North Pulaski Board of Realtors.

In his spare time, Meadows is a self-described “news junkie” and an on-call volunteer for the Jacksonville Museum of Military History, where his Titan II uniform is on display.