The North Louisiana Historical Association has awarded two recent graduates of Centenary College, according to a press release issued by the school. Centenary College of Louisiana, the selective, residential, and national liberal arts college, located in Shreveport, Louisiana is the oldest chartered liberal arts college west of the Mississippi River. It’s widely accepted as a principal figure in all things related to northern Louisianan history.
The Centenary College students whose research is being honored are class of 2020 graduates, Jessi Jordan and King Gray. Both alumni submitted research to the W. Darrell Overdyke Undergraduate Competition, an annual awards contest that recognizes outstanding research papers from both graduates and undergraduates writing papers that explore the historical legacy of North Louisiana. In addition to the acclaim and recognition, the winning papers are published as official articles in the journal, North Louisiana History.
Jessi Jordan, who earned a Bachelors of the Arts in history and minored in French at Centenary College, submitted her paper, “Jan Garber and His Orchestra: An ‘Idol’s Story of Adaptation in Popular Music,” winning first place in the competition’s undergraduate division. The subject of the acclaimed research paper is Jan Garber, a nationally-renowned bandleader and celebrated “idol” of the swing era’s airwaves who lived a majority of his life in Shreveport.
Focusing her research on a combination of her passion for history and love for music, Jordan utilized a large collection of primary documents in the Jan Garber papers found at Louisiana State University-Shreveport’s Noel Memorial Library. The paper argued that the key to Garber’s sustainability as a musical artist, the ability to attain over four decades of exponential success was his willingness to adapt his musical style to the changing, revolving world around him.
Winning second place in the Overdyke Undergraduate Competition was King Gray, who recently earned a B.A. in history with a minor in political science and who is now teaching sixth grade in the Aldine Independent School District of Aldine, Texas. Gray’s paper had focused on social dynamics and the individual experiences of Centenary College’s foreign students in the 1950’s in his paper, “Friends from Across the Pacific: The Experiences of Japanese Students at Centenary College in the 1950s.”
Serving as the advisor for both students’ research projects was Dr. Samuel Shepherd, professor emeritus of history at Centenary. He remarked on the experience, “Jessi and King wrote these research papers in our history senior seminar, fall semester 2019. Both distinguished themselves with their enthusiastic, relentless, resourceful quests to gain the information necessary to tell special, little-known stories about North Louisiana. It was a joy to assist them and watch them bring their stories together.”
The W. Darrell Overdyke Undergraduate Competition is named in honor of former Centenary College history professor W. Darrell Overdyke, who was known for his specialization on antebellum homes and the American South’s “Know Nothing” political party. Overdyke was also a founding member of the North Louisiana Historical Association (NLHA) in 1952 with its self-proclaimed mission of “encourag[ing[ an appreciation and understanding of the history of North Louisiana.”
The Association’s academic journal in which the awarded research papers are published, North Louisiana History is published twice annually in Shreveport, Louisiana, and its origin parallels the history of the NLHA with it being organized in 1952. Beginning first as a bulletin, then as a newsletter, the acclaimed and oft-cited collection of articles was then published as an official academic journal in the fall of 1969 with issues still being released today. Today, the journal accepts articles focusing on any part of Northern Louisiana, including Alexandria.
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