JSU announces Top 40 Under Forty alpha cohort, honors young alumni

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(JACKSON, Miss.) – Jackson State University introduces its “Top 40 Under Forty” campaign, honoring 40 of the institution’s young alumni making strides in their respective fields and demonstrating a strong commitment to JSU’s ideals and legacy. 

The initiative signifies an era of celebrating JSU alumni under the age of 40 from diverse backgrounds and disciplines who are genuine catalysts for global change, with the motive of enhancing the alumni experience while fostering a forward-thinking and successful environment for some of its youngest graduates. 

“Part of our mission is to engage our alumni to get them active with the university. We are convinced that celebrating our alumni can foster a stronger sense of connection and appreciation for the university. This, in turn, empowers us to accomplish more together,” said David Howard, director of the Office of Alumni and Constituency Relations

In 2023, JSU’s Office of Alumni and Constituency Relations announced the alpha cohort for their personal and professional expertise, achievements, dedication to charitable and community initiatives, and lifelong commitment to JSU. 

Under the guise of Jackson State University, the alumni relations office planned, designed, and promoted a recognition program to achieve the following goals: 

  • Enhancing visibility and recognition of JSU’s exceptional young alumni on local, regional, and national levels;
  • Increasing and elevating the visibility of JSU as an institution locally and nationally; 
  • Developing and building connectivity of JSU’s younger alumni base; 
  • and cultivating partnerships with local and national businesses and corporations. 

JSU alum and alpha cohort honoree Thaddeus Reed is a philanthropist, entrepreneur, and owner of Reed Enterprise. Reed considers himself tiger-born and tiger-bred, “born and raised” on JSU’s campus by his late mother, JSU professor Jacquelyn C. Franklin, Ph.D. 

Now, he and his wife have awarded over $50,000 in scholarships and donations and established an endowment scholarship in honor of his mother, which is currently $100,000. This year, Reed’s family is dedicated to exceeding that number in donations and scholarships to the university. 

“One of the things my late mother always taught me was that once you get into a position to give back to the university and the community, take advantage of that because there’s always somebody out there who needs that seed once you’re sowing in order to accomplish some of their aspirations in life,” said Reed, director of sales at Union Pacific Railroad. 

Another fellow alumnus and product of the JSU legacy is Jessica Kennedy Vickers, a manager of Marketing, Analytics, and Insights for The Walt Disney Company. She is a third-generation graduate of ‘TheeILove’ and daughter of Jerry and Joyce Kennedy. Her father was announced as JSU athletic’s largest individual donor during the 2023 football season. 

Vickers says that her father instilled within her and her siblings an unquestionable sense of pride for their alma mater, making this honor a full-circle moment. 

“Being recognized as a member of the alpha cohort of 40 Under Forty is almost like a culmination of the legacy that my family has created at Jackson State. I’m super honored to be recognized, and I’m so excited to be part of a trailblazing group,” said Vickers. “I can’t wait to see how this grows for the beta cohort and beyond, and I’m thrilled to see us recognizing people who, to some, may still be younger in our careers but can show that we’re able to fundraise just like those alumni from previous generations.” 

On Friday, April 5, the alpha cohort will be inducted at the 40 Under Forty Awards Ceremony and Reception. Live entertainment will be provided by the Unfazed Band and Kerry Thomas. JSU alum and pastor Jason Gibson will serve as guest speaker. 

The event is officially sold out. Donate to the JSU Top 40 Under Forty initiative here


Thee Legacy Continues Video featuring Thaddeus Reed

Andscape.com Feature on Jessica Kennedy Vickers and Charles Vickers Jr.

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JSU announces Top 40 Under Forty alpha cohort, honors young alumni

By Jackson Advocate News Service
April 4, 2024