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Message from the Executive Director

posted Apr 19 2017 2:08 PM

Dear MJCHF Supporters,

We continue to see excitement occurring on a daily basis at the Mannie Jackson Center for the Humanities (MJCH®). Since December of 2015, the center has hosted more than 5,000 visitors at our many events.

Our MJCH partners including Lewis and Clark Community College, Southern Illinois University Edwardsville (SIUE), Office of the Madison County Regional Superintendent, and Madison County Housing Authority are continuing to engage our youth at all ages.

Read more about the many exciting programs we have underway:

  1. Conversation Towards a Brighter Future

    MJCHF, Madison County Regional Superintendent and student leaders hosted second Conversation Toward a Brighter Future Summit on January 9, 2018 with more than 130 high school and middle school participants. Conversation Toward a Brighter Future is a two-year project that encourages high school and middle school students to engage in dialogue and decision-making regarding issues that impact their school districts and communities. Each school is awarded a $5,000 fellowship grant to implement their projects. This program supports the center’s overall mission of promoting mutual understanding and respect among people of different cultures, races, and religions. Our country is becoming more diverse, yet increasingly polarized, and our schools are a micro-representation.  More than ever, our youth are positioned to lead in planning and directing generations to come.

    Click Here to learn more about the Conversation Toward a Brighter Future Program
  2. Alma Irene Aitch STEM Center

    On December 6, the Edwardsville community experienced a historic day with the naming of our STEM Center after the late Alma Irene Aitch, former educator and social rights champion. Ms. Aitch dedicated her life to others, and believed that every person should have the opportunity to demonstrate their intellectual ability, live in a democratic and free society, and have equal access to public education.

    Alma Irene Aitch’s teaching career began in 1923 as a teaching aide in Jefferson City, Missouri. Her journey then carried her to Lincoln Grammar School, Edwardsville, Illinois, from 1924 to 1951, as African American teachers were not hired or considered during the schools desegregation period, thus many world class educators, such as Ms. Aitch, were left unemployed.

    Dr. Sharon Locke, associate professor and director of the SIUE STEM Center and leader of our STEM Meets Humanities Initiative and Ms. Candice Johnson, coordinator for the STEM Meets Humanities will develop curriculum and lead programming in Madison County schools.

    Programming will consist of the Digital Humanities Club, the Math Games League, Urban Gardening, Robotics and Water Education.

    For more information, click the link below:

  3. The 3rd Annual Speaker Series and Fundraiser, Featuring Naomi Tutu, Humanitarian and Human Rights Activist and Daughter of South Africa Archbishop Desmond Tutu Will be Held on March 28, 2018

    The Speaker Series and fundraiser is scheduled for Wednesday, March 28, 2018.  This highly anticipated annual event will be held at Southern Illinois University Edwardsville Meridian Ballroom with a cocktail reception beginning at 5:30 p.m.  Nationally recognized channel 4 news anchor Steve Savard will serve as the Master of Ceremony.

    Naomi Tutu has dedicated her life’s work to social justice on a global scale and she plans to share her powerful story of growing up in South Africa, and the influence her father has had on her life, and will discuss the importance of education, social justice, globalization, personal development, respect, and diversity.  Naomi Tutu’s work and experience serve as a cultural voice for how the humanities can reduce conflict, foster inclusion, and create conditions for Respect, Understanding, Dignity, and Forgiveness.

    Tickets are $200 and available at Personal checks are welcomed. Thank you for your continued support of the MJCHF. 

  4. MJCHF Receives Foundation Grants and Donation from Local Business Leader

    A. The National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) has awarded Southern Illinois University Edwardsville and the Mannie Jackson Center for the Humanities a two-year $100,000 Humanities Matching Access Grant.  The National Endowment for the Humanities supports research and learning in history, literature, philosophy, and other areas of the humanities by funding selected, peer-reviewed proposals from around the nation.

    The MJCHF will work with the SIUE IRIS Center and the Madison County Regional Superintendent on this important initiative.  The project will be an extension of the MJCHF Conversation Toward a Brighter Future initiative and will continue support of Madison County schools by increasing access to technology and engaging in the humanities.

    Dr. Jessica DeSpain, PhD, and Kristine Hildebrandt, co-directors of SIUE’s IRIS Center, will lead this project in collaboration with the Regional Superintendent’s Office and Madison County school district leaders to develop the curriculum for this project. The Interdisciplinary Research and Informatics Scholarship (IRIS) Center at Southern Illinois University Edwardsville is invested in connecting to, working with, and helping to document, the people, places, practices and histories of the region as well as a broader international community. This project’s digital storytelling studios will provide students the opportunity to investigate and examine generational differences while mastering valuable digital skills, thus empowering them to lead the conversation and reach audiences far beyond those found within the confines of the traditional classroom. 

    Digital storytelling brings together a variety of activities surrounding a central theme, including blogging, web design, podcasts, oral histories, video production and digital visualization. In the after-school studios, students will work with primary documents and archives, learn about digital ethics, and practice web development and other digitally embedded skills. They will also participate in field trips to interview people at universities, workplaces and retirement facilities.

    B. The MJCHF received the National Recreation Foundation Trustee Grant in the amount of $100,000.  A special thanks goes out to Board Member Elsie Thompson McCabe for her assistance in securing the NRF Trustee Grant.  The grant will be used to develop the next generation of change-agents who will learn to transform their communities through effective physical activity, problem solving, team building, and enhanced access to STEM education.

    The National Recreation Foundation Trustee Grant will provide needed funds for low-income youth to participate in activities and programs that they would not engage in otherwise. All resources are directed toward improving the academic performance and social-emotional wellness of area youth.

    C. J.F. Electric, Inc. recently donated $50,000 to the Mannie Jackson Center for the Humanities in support of Madison County youth.

    J.F. Electric traces its roots to The Fowler Company, which was started in 1925 in St. Louis, Mo. and relocated to Centralia, Ill. during the great depression. In 1969, James C. Fowler purchased the electrical division and relocated to Edwardsville, Ill., which was the beginning of J.F. Electric. In 2005, J.F. Electric moved into their new headquarters located at 100 Lakefront Parkway in Edwardsville, Ill. The Fowler business, including Greg Fowler, President and CEO; Jonathan Fowler, son and Vice President; Mandy Fowler, daughter and Marketing Coordinator; and Jim Fowler, Greg’s father and Chairman of the Board have grown J.F. Electric to be one of the Top 100 Privately Owned Businesses in the St. Louis Metro East Area. For the past 49 years, the family-owned electrical contractor has continued to create connections and deliver value to the Edwardsville community.

    “My family and I are committed to this community, and are grateful for the opportunity to continue investing in initiatives that support our youth.  I grew up in Edwardsville, and three of my children attended the Edwardsville School District under Dr. Hightower’s leadership.  I have witnessed his commitment to our youth, and support the programs occurring at the Mannie Jackson Center for the Humanities,” said Greg Fowler.

    “On behalf of the Mannie Jackson Center for the Humanities Board of Directors, I want to sincerely thank the Fowler family for their continuous support of our youth, and their commitment to making the Edwardsville community a better place for its citizens, and especially our young people,” said Dr. Ed Hightower, Executive Director of the Mannie Jackson Center for the Humanities.

    The Mannie Jackson Center for the Humanities is sponsoring two major programs that are positively impacting Madison County youth.  Conversation Toward a Brighter Future includes all Madison County high schools and middle schools and focuses on respect, dignity, understanding, and forgiveness.  Students identify issues facing their schools and communities and develop positive solutions.  Each school is provided a $5,000 scholarship for their two-year project.

    Recently the Mannie Jackson Center for the Humanities opened the Alma Irene Aitch STEM Center in collaboration with Southern Illinois University Edwardsville, Regional Superintendent of Education, and Lewis and Clark Community College.  Dr. Sharon Locke, associate professor and director of the SIUE STEM Center will lead this STEM Meets Humanities Initiative, where programming will connect the human and technical dimensions of the humanities and science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM).

    To learn more about the Mannie Jackson Center for the Humanities and its programs or how you can participate or contribute to their cause, visit





Facility Rental

With three conference rooms ranging in size from 60 to 140 people and full service catering available, the MJCH is a great venue for your event, gathering or program. Fill out the form and we will reach out to you.



1210 North Main Street, Edwardsville, IL