By Chris Kieffer/NEMS Daily Journal
TUPELO – Northern District Public Service Commissioner Brandon Presley quickly learned a lesson when he joined the Itawamba Community College Board of Trustees.
“I had a crazy notion,” Presley said Saturday night during the David C. Cole Celebrity Roast at the BancorpSouth Conference Center. “I thought the trustees ran the college. I learned very quickly the president ran us.”
One of five roasters at the event honoring ICC’s retiring president, Presley joked that Cole put a nursing clinic outside the board room to repair the shoulders of those whose arms were twisted during meetings.
The event raised about $100,000 for the Itawamba Community College Foundation, which will use the money for student scholarships and other needs of the college. Fifty-eight tables were sold for various amounts between $1,000 and $10,000 each, and about 550 people were in attendance.
“It is because of the love and admiration for Dr. Cole,” said foundation director Jim Ingram. “A roast for Dr. Cole was an easy sell.”
Other roasters included State Rep. Steve Holland, The Peoples Bank of Ripley President and CEO Bobby Martin, Three Rivers Planning and Development District Executive Director Randy Kelley and Chief Judge for the Northern District U.S. Court Michael Mills.
Former Lt. Gov. Amy Tuck was the master of ceremonies, and Hinds Community College President Clyde Muse, attorney Tom Childs and ICC President-elect Mike Eaton also made remarks, as did Cole.
“We wanted to do something to give people an opportunity to salute Dr. Cole for the unbelievable job he’s done,” Eaton said. “In the Dr. Cole way, he said we can do this, but let’s raise money for the college. By doing a roast, it lends itself to a very fun evening and hopefully a night people will remember.”
Knowing Cole was a great ride, Martin said during his remarks.
“It was also a very expensive ride for me and my family,” he said.
Cole helped the education of so many people in the state, Martin said, and no one has an idea about that, except the people Cole called on to give money to the college.
Holland noted that Cole could “dress down” anyone in the way of his progressive spirit and that the president could also be a “NASCAR-type” driver.
Kelley saluted Cole’s wisdom, innovation, initiative and integrity. He also said he struggled to find G-rated stories he could tell about Cole, who led the community college for 20 years and will officially retire at the end of this month.
“I feel like I’m going to get a little down payment on all the stuff I’ve done to people for the last 45 years,” Cole said before the event began.
“I would have thought 500 people would have better things to do on a Saturday night in north Mississippi. It is very humbling this many people wanted to come out for a good cause.”