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Jessie Jones Honored With NSU’s Nth Degree

Northwestern State University honored Jessie Jones Bernard of Natchitoches with the Nth Degree in celebration of her 95th birthday. The Nth Degree is a special honor presented to individuals in recognition of unselfish devotion to duty and the willingness to go the extra mile in meritorious service. 

“We have all kinds of friends at Northwestern State who accomplish outstanding things in life.  I know how deeply she loves Northwestern and how long she has been associated with the university,” said NSU President Dr. Randall J. Webb said. “The Nth degree is presented to recognize her high level of achievements and for her love and affection for her alma mater.” 

Mrs. Bernard was born March 31, 1917, and left her home in Franklinton in 1934 bound by train for Louisiana State Normal College, as Northwestern State was then known. She was the sixth of seven children born to Chesley and Emma Jones and the first person in her family to attend college. She received a band scholarship and was one of 20 students in the State Normal band where she played alto saxophone. She earned a bachelor’s degree in commerce, later recognized as a business degree, in 1938 and was president of Alpha Sigma Alpha Sorority in its early days on campus. She was assigned to live in the B dormitory, but actually slept on the screen porch of B dorm, according to her daughter, Emma Pitcher. 

As an undergraduate, she met Henry Howard Bernard Sr. who was employed to landscape the school grounds and is responsible for planting many of the mature trees on campus today. The two were married on her birthday, March 31, 1940, and had seven children, Henry Jr., Kayla, Mary, Louie, Scriven, Emma and Don.

“Mama’s dream was for all seven of her children to earn degrees and all did, six at Northwestern, as did at least six of her grandchildren,” said her son Louie Bernard. “It is especially meaningful for Dr. Randy and Brenda Webb, two people she has been so fond of, to present the award.”

Pitcher described her mother being dropped off the train to arrive at Normal and noted that she lived in Natchitoches for 78 years, interrupted during World War II when she moved home to Franklinton with two small children while her husband served in the Pacific Theatre with the U.S. Navy.

Mrs. Bernard was a homemaker before returning to the classroom when her youngest child entered school.

“While working full-time and attending school at night, she completed her Master of Education + 30 in guidance counseling,” Pitcher said, noting that her mother remained involved with Northwestern and attended many campus functions for as long as possible.

“As for as her love for Northwestern, there’s not a bigger supporter,” Pitcher said.

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