Dr. Val Towner sat quietly at his table in The Pinnacle – at the college he leads – and was surprised when they called his name and all eyes in the building fell on him.
On Tuesday, October 22, 2019, Coahoma Community College President Dr. Valmadge T. Towner was named the 2019 Citizen of the Year at the Clarksdale/Coahoma County Chamber of Commerce 74th Annual Meeting. The event took place in The Pinnacle on the campus of Coahoma Community College.
“I am truly excited for the college,” said Towner. “No honor can come to me without honoring the college. The selection is for our board of trustees, faculty, staff and students.
“I was completely and pleasantly surprised,” he added. “A lot of things made sense after I finally figured out what was going on.”
Towner’s wife and CCC First Lady Natasha Towner was in on the secret.
“It dawned upon me when Charles Langford said the seminary that I had attended,” said Towner. “I’m not sure who all knew at my table. I did learn that Natasha knew and I should have known that something was going when the Langford’s had lunch with her one day in Oxford.”
The Citizen of The Year Award honors an outstanding member of the community whose accomplishments exemplify and support the values and mission of civic/economic growth within the Clarksdale community and Coahoma County.
Towner serves as the fifth president of Coahoma Community College and the ninth superintendent of Coahoma Early College High School. He has served as President and Superintendent since July 2013.
Towner is no stranger to leadership roles and has served in numerous administrative and educational positions. Earlier in his career, he served as a college mathematics instructor, head college baseball coach and as an assistant college football coach. In the K-12 educational realm, he was employed by Quitman County Schools as a principal and superintendent of education. Most recently, before returning to Coahoma Community College, he served as director of pupil services for Desoto County Schools.
Towner said that receiving the local honor is totally humbling and a reflection of those he works with on a daily basis.
“I try to view the selection/award as an accolade that again goes back to the college,” said Towner. “I am able to serve in manner that I serve as a result of the college providing the opportunity. I am happy for me and thankful to the committee. It is motivation to try to serve our community at a greater level.”
Towner graduated from Coahoma Community College with an associate degree in Computer Science. He also graduated from Alcorn State University with a Bachelor of Science Degree in Mathematics, a Master of Education Degree in Mathematics and a Master of Education Degree in Administration. Additionally, he received a Master of Divinity from Princeton Theological Seminary in Princeton, New Jersey, and Doctor of Philosophy in Educational Leadership conferred from the University of Mississippi.
He unapologetically expresses that Coahoma Community College would not be what it is today without the hard work of the faculty, staff and students. Towner believes with continued dedication that CCC will grow to new heights.
He also points to his decision to attend CCC as on that truly changed his life.
“I selected Coahoma for a number of reasons: my parents once worked at the college, my sister and several aunts/uncles attended the college, and Dr. M.C. Martin assured me while in high school that I would have a full scholarship,” he explained. “I enjoyed each as a student at Coahoma. I revere and love the place.”
Towner said he was contemplating early retirement when he heard CCC President, Dr. Vivian Presley was retiring. He knew this was a calling.
And that calling has led to tremendous strides at the college.
“We have been able to stabilize the enrollment and we have developed partnerships in sectors that previously were unprecedented,” said Towner. “We have revitalized our foundation board. We have launched a good number of academic and career/technical education programs.
“We have laid solid foundation for our athletic teams to compete,” he added. “We have a comprehensive branding identity and campus beautification in place.”
And Towner’s work does not stop there.
“We have far more dreams and goals than we can afford,” said the President. “Most immediately, we are prepared to totally renovate Curry Hall, rebuild Martin Center for life-long learning, add a 200-bed dormitory, a new cafeteria and a new Student Athletic Family Enhancement complex.
“We want to significantly increase our online program participation level and we have several new career/technical education programs that will begin,” he added. “We are also exploring how we can partner with our community in an effort to maximize use of the higher education center.”
And that last statement is a key point in Towner’s vision.
“Coahoma must figure out how more people in our community can become involved with the college,” said Towner. “We have a huge number of amazing people in our community – we have to figure out how we make use of the knowledge and skills of more people in our community so that the college can have a higher probability of making more contributions for everyone.”
And Towner challenged the community to look at how they can use the college, too.
“Coahoma has a mission of providing an array of educational services to citizens in our services area via academic, CTE or workforce related programs” he explained. “Community colleges are extremely diverse when it comes to meeting the educational and workforce training needs of people. We pretty much have an open enrollment that is inclusive of anyone who has a high school diploma or GED. We are also adept in helping students obtain their GED.”
And with Towner, it is all about serving a community and college with people serving around him.
“I inherited a wonderful group of leaders and teammates,” said Towner. “We have also hired a good number of quality people.
“Our people are passionate about Coahoma and they want to see the college perform well,” he said. “The people I work with — trustees, faculty, staff and students — make my job as President rewarding.”