PCC recognizes University alumna

by Deanna Reyes
Staff Writer

Honored as one of the Most Distinguished Alumni of Pasadena City College’s 75th anniversary, Professor Emeritus Betty R. Jackson, also a University of La Verne alumna, truly deserves her spot in the limelight.

In order to receive this award, the recipient must have achieved prominence in his or her career and/or made a significant contribution to the world, nation or community. In Jackson’s case it was missionary work as a nurse in various countries.

Jackson’s life has been quite remarkable; her struggles led to great accomplishments worth of much recognition.

Born and raised in Ohio, Jackson said she remembers being intrigued by nursing. In high school, she took prerequisite courses in nursing, and after graduation went for an entrance interview for a job in a hospital. Even though she had completed all the necessary courses and came well prepared, Jackson said she was denied the job.

“The director of nursing told me that she was sorry, but that I couldn’t get the job because they didn’t have separate housing for minorities,” recalls Jackson.

She did not let this downfall get the best of her. She eventually secured a job as a nurse’s aide, and eventually became a psychiatric technician. Jackson worked as a psychiatric technician for seven years, and was able to earn more money and play a significant role in the care of clients.

In 1961, Jackson and her family ventured to sunny California, where she was employed at Huntington Memorial Hospital in Pasadena, Calif.

Her supervisor encouraged her to go back to school, and taking his advice, Jackson received her Registered Nurse and associate degrees from PCC. Soon thereafter, she moved up the career ladder and became a staff nurse and a mentor to students.

Jackson went on to earn her vocational nursing credential from the University of California, Los Angeles, and her bachelor’s degree through the University of Redlands. It was not until 1982 that Jackson completed her master’s degree in Health Care Management through ULV’s satellite program.

In 1987, Jackson became immersed in nursing through her membership in the United Methodist Church, which has missions located throughout the world. She traveled to a number of countries which included Japan, China, Russia, Kenya, Northern Ireland, Africa, Argentina and Mexico.

“I traveled before, but always came home with a void from not really doing anything and not knowing anyone,” said Jackson, “but missionary work was my first experience of really feeling useful and understanding other parts of the world; that’s what kept me motivated.”

Jackson felt the experience she was most effected by were her travels to African countries.

“Those of African descent have no genealogy which we can follow, and most of us wonder where we came from and who our ancestors are,” said Jackson.

Jackson is a woman who is not afraid of a little dirt. She helped with the laborious task of building a sewer in Africa, and also traveled on a war ship in Liberia.

Jackson feels nurses are good candidates for overseas and mission work because they are trained to not become distracted by what they cannot do for a person, but focus on what they can do.

Despite the common stereotypes of underdeveloped countries or “suffering” economies, Jackson said people of these cultures have an extreme sensitivity and camaraderie toward each other that does not depend on one’s social standing or status.

“I think we talk about impoverished societies and ‘uncivilized’ societies, and sometimes I wonder who really is the ‘civilized’ society,” she said.

On a recent trip to Indonesia, Jackson witnessed first hand the effects of what many would call a “struggling” economy.

Despite their difficulties, Jackson said she has never met a group of people who were so generous and hospitable. She wonders if our society could possibly be that warm and generous if in Indonesia’s position.

Today, Jackson shares her knowledge and experience by teaching as a part-time professor at PCC. She finds fulfillment in her children, grandchildren and four great-grandchildren.

Jackson has amazingly been to every continent in the world except for Australia, and hopes to travel there sometime this year.

“That would be an accomplishment beyond my wildest dreams,” she said.

Jackson is pondering the idea of serving on the Mercy Ship, which is a fleet of ships that travel to ports in order to set up mini-hospitals.

If she could offer one piece of advice to our society, she would encourage young people to follow their dream and not become discouraged.

Receiving her Distinguished Alumni award, Jackson remains in good company. Baseball great Jackie Robinson and actor Nick Nolte are also recipients. She will be honored by PCC with a ceremony on May 12 at the Pasadena Center Exhibition Hall.

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Journalism operations manager at the University of La Verne. Production manager and business manager of the Campus Times.

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