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Co-Lin bids farewell to long-time leader

More than a quarter-century at the helm of the Copiah-LincolnBoard of Trustees is long enough, said retiring Chairman Dr. JamesH. Stribling.

“We’ve had a good time of it,” said Stribling, who cited healthreasons in announcing his decision earlier this month.

Stribling, 72, has been on the Co-Lin board for almost 34 yearsand has been chairman for the past 27 years. He was appointed tothe board in November 1967 and was elected chairman in July1974.

“It’s been a lot of fun. It’s been a lot of work, too,”Stribling said.

Co-Lin President Dr. Howell Garner said Stribling has been anoutstanding leader of the institution and has made greatcontributions to its success during his years on the board.

“He has been an inspiration and a consensus builder among theboard members and has provided support to the college andadministration throughout those years,” Garner said. “He will begreatly missed as board chairman and as a board member.”

One of Co-Lin’s best attributes, Stribling said, is its sense ofcommunity and family.

“We look at ourselves as a big family and everybody is part ofthat family,” Stribling said. “That has helped us overcome therough spots and breeze through the easy spots.”

Stribling said board personnel and the administration havemaintained a beautiful relationship over the years. It’s arelationship that’s seen many changes to campus, financially andphysically, during that time.

His first year on the board, Stribling said, Co-Lin’s annualbudget was $886,000. This year the budget is approaching $30million.

“The campus has changed so much, it’s hardly recognizable from30 years ago,” Stribling said.

One of Co-Lin’s buildings now bears Stribling’s name. The JamesH. Stribling Associate Degree Nursing Building was dedicated in1994 and houses the school’s ADN program, related labs, andclassrooms for other academic instruction.

More recently, Stribling helped oversee construction of theBilly B. Thames Conference Center, which was named for thelong-time Co-Lin president. Stribling said the building was veryappropriately named.

“He’s a product of vision, long-range planning and work,”Stribling said of Thames. “That’s what it takes in this businessand he has all three.”

Stribling said Co-Lin has not slowed since Garner assumed thepresidency several years ago.

“It was a real smooth transition,” Stribling said.

Stribling said he had planned to retire when Thames steppeddown. However, he has stayed on about four more years until hishealth would not allow him to continue.

“I think Co-Lin has been blessed in leadership,” Stribling saidof his time working with Thames and Garner.

Stribling’s retirement from the board will be official July 31.The board of trustees will elect a new chairman at their Aug. 2meeting.

In addition to giving up the gavel, Stribling is also layingdown the drill after more than 40 years of protecting teeth andfilling cavities. The Vicksburg native came to Brookhaven in 1957and began his dental practice shortly thereafter.

“It’s been a pleasure,” Stribling said. “We have a group ofdentists in Brookhaven who are very much interested in doing thebest they possibly can do for their patients.”

Stribling said dentistry has required constant courses incontinuing education.

“Dentistry has changed so much in the last 40 years,” he said.”If you don’t keep up, you’re going to be out of it beforelong.”

Stribling said there has been the perfection of high-speeddentistry, improvements in crowns and bridges and better use ofdental implants.

“All of it’s been for the better, and that’s great,” hesaid.

Stribling and his wife Carlene, also of Vicksburg, have beenmarried 46 years. They have two children, James Vincent Striblingand Sandee Stribling McPherson, and four grandchildren, Allison,Hunter, Cole and Madeline McPherson.

When not at Co-Lin or by the dentist’s chair, Stribling has beenactive at First Baptist Church, where he has served as Sundayschool teacher for over 40 years.

An avid sportsman, Stribling has hunted and fished all over theworld. He said the phrase, “Been there, done that,” applies tohim.

“I’ve been one of those people fortunate enough to live out adream,” said Stribilng, whose hunting trips have included many inthe United States and several to Africa.

Stribling has shot four-fifths of the “Big Five” gametargets.

Among his kills are two rhinos, two leopards, a lion and a capebuffalo. Stribling said he has not shot an elephant, the fifthcomponent, but did pass up shooting elephants six times because hedid not like the animal’s ivory tusks.

One room of the Striblings’ South Church Street home istestament to the hunter’s skill. A zebra skin rug covers part ofthe floor while a variety of preserved animals and mounted headsoccupy wall and other space in the room.

Despite the trophies, Stribling said the hunt is the excitingpart of the journey.

“Pulling the trigger is not it at all,” Stribling said. “It’sgoing and looking and seeing. I’ve had a lot of fun.”