East Mississippi Community College sophomore Emilee Wilcox, at left, and Speech instructor Sandy Grych, at right, were named William Winter Scholars during the 29th Annual Natchez Literary and Cinema Celebration.

February 23, 2018

East Mississippi Community College Speech instructor Sandy Grych and EMCC student Emilee Wilcox were named William Winter Scholars Feb. 23 at the 29th Annual Natchez Literary and Cinema Celebration.

Each year, dozens of Humanities Division instructors and students from colleges and universities in Mississippi are recognized for their outstanding work during the annual event at the Natchez campus of Copiah-Lincoln Community College.

The award winners were recognized during opening ceremonies for the event presided over by former Mississippi Gov. William F. Winter, after whom the scholarship is named.

“I can’t think of a more fitting recipient of this award than Sandy,” EMCC Associate Dean of Instruction Gina Thompson said. “Her work is exemplary and she is passionate about providing her students the best education possible.”

Grych, a Mathiston resident who is in her 20th year at EMCC, is a native of Krakow, Wis. She earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in Telecommunications from Oral Roberts University in Tulsa, Okla., a Master of Arts in Journalism from the University of Mississippi, and 18 graduate hours in Communications from Mississippi State University.

She worked as a business manager for the Pulaski News and was employed with the Pulaski Community School District in Wisconsin for seven years. After graduating from Ole Miss, Grych took a job at what was then Wood Junior College, which has since closed. She worked there for 17 years before accepting the position at EMCC.

Grych said teaching Speech is rewarding in that it provides students a valuable skill that will remain with them the rest of their lives.

“I have taught thousands of students over a period of about 30 years and one thing they can’t learn from a textbook is how to overcome stage fright,” Grych said. “A lot of people suffer from it in varying degrees but the more you do it, the more relaxed you feel.

“I tell my students they don’t want to be considered professionally handicapped by an inability to speak publicly. I am not saying everyone is going to be the best public speaker but if you are a reasonably intelligent person you should be able to at least do a decent job of it.”

Wilcox was nominated for the award by EMCC Art instructor Scott Baine and Humanities instructor Jan Mullen, who taught Wilcox for three semesters in Honors English Comp I and II, and World Literature.

“Emilee is the epitome of an Honors student,” Mullen said. “She is inquisitive, interested in the material and goes above and beyond in every assignment. She is a great thinker and loves learning.”

A lifelong Caledonia resident, Wilcox will graduate from EMCC this spring and plans to major in Speech Pathology at the Mississippi University for Women. She hopes to eventually work in a hospital with stroke patients.

At a point where she was unsure what career path she wanted to take, Wilcox began shadowing people in different professions to get a feel for her options.

“One of my mom’s really good friends is a speech pathologist,” Wilcox said. “I followed her at her job and realized this was something I am really interested in doing. You get to help people out, which is something I really love.”

“Southern Gothic” is the theme for this year’s Natchez Literary Celebration. The two-day celebration that concludes Feb. 24 includes lectures on the topic by professors, academic experts, authors and artists. Other featured events are an evening of blues, a “Ghost Tour” of the Glenfield Plantation, a benefit lunch at the Dunleith Plantation and a cocktail buffet at The Elms.

Mullen called Wilcox “a great writer” and said that ability was one of the reasons her former student was chosen for the award, which celebrates literature and the arts. Wilcox said she has always loved writing and recalls while in fourth grade winning an award for the best student essay among her peers in the Lowndes County School District.

“I am definitely right-brained and love coming up with things to write about on my own,” Wilcox said. “I have never struggled with writing, even when I was young.”