St. Petersburg College today announced that it will name its campuses in the Midtown area of St. Petersburg in honor of two community leaders who spent their careers working for educational opportunities throughout the city and the state.
Construction will begin soon on the new Douglas L. Jamerson, Jr. Midtown Center, at 22nd Street and 13th Avenue S. The 45,000-square-foot facility will include classrooms, labs and community space.
The current St. Petersburg College facility at 1048 22nd St S will be renamed the Cecil B. Keene, Sr. Student Achievement Center.
The names were approved by the Board of Trustees Tuesday morning.
Luke Williams, assistant chief of the St. Petersburg Police Department, served on the committee that made the naming recommendations.
“It is only fitting to have these two individuals honored who are from Midtown, who worked for Midtown,” he said. “I knew them both personally. Being a person who grew up in Midtown, I know how important the college and education were to both of them, seeing them and their interactions and engaged actions throughout the community. The community has been made better because of their voices.”
Kevin Gordon, provost of the St. Petersburg College Downtown and Midtown campuses, called both men community icons.
“Each made significant contributions to education, St. Petersburg College and the community,” he said. “This is the perfect way to continue their legacy and uphold the vision they held for Midtown.”
Douglas L. Jamerson, Jr.
Mr. Jamerson grew up in the Midtown area of St. Petersburg. He was the first black graduate of Bishop Barry (now St. Petersburg Catholic) High School. He graduated from then St. Petersburg Junior College, the St. Petersburg College Police Academy and earned a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice from the University of South Florida.
As a state legislator representing his native St. Petersburg for 11 years, Mr. Jamerson championed education reforms. He later served as state Secretary of Labor and as state Education Commissioner.
He won a national award for his efforts to help heal tensions in his hometown following racial unrest in 1996. Though he lived in Tallahassee when he died in 2001 at age 53, Mr. Jamerson was still advocating for schools and communities in Pinellas County.
Myrtle Williams, retired associate provost at St. Petersburg College, said that when she thinks about Doug Jamerson, she thinks of his service to the community.
“What a role model he was for our young men, our African-American men and all men,” she said. “He worked tirelessly for his community.”
An elementary school in North Pinellas bears Mr. Jamerson’s name. Luke Williams said it is appropriate that his name now will appear on a college facility.
“Not only did he want to make sure our younger students had access to education, but he wanted to see that through to all stages in education.”
Board of Trustees chairman Deveron Gibbons said, “Doug Jamerson gave every bit of his heart and soul to the community. He was a real teacher. He took every teachable moment and made it a good moment for everyone else.”
Cecil B. Keene, Sr.
He advocated for those who needed help and encouragement to reach their potential and inspired those who thought an education was beyond their reach.
Mr. Keene began his education career in segregated Pinellas County schools, serving as dean of students at Gibbs Junior College from 1958 to 1965, then principal of Pinellas High until 1968 and of Gibbs High until 1971, the year Pinellas County schools integrated.
From 1971 to 1992, he worked as a counselor and special projects coordinator at then St. Petersburg Junior College, focusing on efforts to help expand opportunities for students.
Gov. Bob Martinez appointed Mr. Keene to the Board of Regents of the Florida University System in 1987, where he served until 1993. From 2001 until shortly before his death in 2008 at 84, Mr. Keene was a member of the St. Petersburg College Board of Trustees.
Bernice Keene, Mr. Keene’s wife, said, “There are no words to express how thrilled and honored I am that this honor will be bestowed on my husband, Cecil Keene. It leaves me speechless.
“Education was his passion, not only for his children but for all young people with whom he came in contact,” she said. “He used to call his children’s playmates in from the street to ask them if they had read this book or that book. My entire family is grateful to the college for this remembrance.”
Luke Williams said he was one of those young people who used to play in Mr. Keene’s yard. “Mr. Keene understood that education was a means to an end for all of the children in the neighborhood and beyond,” he said.
Gibbons said he admired Mr. Keene’s dedication. “He was as committed to St. Petersburg College and junior colleges as any individual I’ve ever met.”
Myrtle Williams said Mr. Keene became her mentor at St. Petersburg College. “He really taught me what the value of community college was,” she said. “He instilled in me the desire to stay community focused and to work for all students, particularly our minority students who needed so much. “
The recommendation to name college facilities is made by a committee appointed by the college president. The committee considers contributions to the college and the community.
The committee that recommended these names was:
· Robert Fine, Vice Chair, Board of Trustees
· Tonjua Williams, Senior Vice President
· Kevin Gordon, Provost
· Sharon Williams, Faculty
· Luke Williams, St. Petersburg Police Department
· Candice Billingsley, Student Government Association Representative – Midtown
· Dwayne McCray, Student Government Association Representative – Midtown
· Ulysses Burden, Student Government Association Representative – Midtown
· Deborah Boyle, Chief of Staff