Oughton named Mars Hill’s alumna of the yearPublished 8:17pm Wednesday, October 9, 2013
When Washington author Jerrie Preston Oughton was contacted by her alma mater, regarding an upcoming alumna of the year banquet, she misunderstood why she had been included on the guest list.
“I thought they meant I nominated somebody,” she said. “And I was going around in circles and thought, ‘Who did I nominate?’”
Oughton graduated in 1957 from Mars Hill University when the Baptist-affiliated school was known as Mars Hill College.
Since graduating, she has become an author of children’s books and adult fiction. Oughton’s first book, “How the Stars Fell Into the Sky,” is in its 26th printing and available in paperback.
She attended homecoming festivities last weekend and was honored at the football game along with three other alumni. The group included a man who had taken dozens of mission trips, a singer and a basketball player.
“Boy, did we have a fun trip,” she said. “And that little Baptist college I attended a half century ago has become a huge university.”
The school housed all four of the guests in a cottage at the center of the campus. Oughton said there was nothing like being in the heart of the campus at homecoming.
“Gosh, it was so fun,” she said. “In the mornings, there were drummers going through the campus waking everybody up. It was just a neat thing.”
After being honored during the football game, the honorees attended a banquet where each gave a speech.
Oughton was pleased she got to honor her favorite professor in her acceptance speech.
“His name was Ramon DeShazo, and they called him Papa D. He said, ‘You say you love me now. But the real test will be 50 years from now if you’re still sending me a Christmas card.’ And I did,” Oughton said.
In his honor, Oughton asked everyone to get out their index cards and write down their thoughts of the day, which was how DeShazo began each of his classes.
Since those in attendance did not have index cards, Oughton quoted Proverbs 7:3.
“I guess you’ll have to ‘write them upon the table of thine heart,’” she said.
Her thought of the day was that it was not important what people took away from you, but what you did with what was left.
Oughton tried to take her seat after ending her speech, but officials grabbed her and stopped her. She was not sure why she was being stopped, but made the most of the situation.
“I said, ‘Oh please don’t take my award away. I had nothing to do with that panty raid they had.’ And everybody just roared,” she said.
Oughton made light of the award, calling it no big deal.
“It sort of encourages the children there now to see what they can do after graduation,” she said. “I guess it sort of speaks to what you’ve done with your life after graduation.”
For more than a quarter of a century, Oughton has visited schools, universities, churches and civic organizations, sharing inspiration and creativity, helping young and old alike to find hope that they, also, can follow their dreams.
Nearly 200,000 listeners and readers have received Oughton’s message that they matter and can overcome obstacles.
Houghton Mifflin published two of her picture books and three young-adult novels in printed format, with four of them published in e-book format. She has self-published four e-books, two adult novels and two young-adult novels. The e-books, including e-books published by Houghton Mifflin, are available through Amazon.com, Barnes & Noble and other Internet e-book bookstores.