Development Direction

Two women philanthropists smiling.

Endowments Support Extension Employees

Story by Leah Barbour • Photos by Kevin Hudson

Contributing to awards that benefit the organization that gave them their livelihoods was an easy choice for Jean Reeves and Betty Tucker. They are sponsoring two employee awards, with significant monetary prizes, for the Mississippi State University Extension Service.

Reeves contributed $50,000 in 2016 to endow two awards: the Charles and Jane Aiken Outstanding Extension Communication Award and the Duane H. Tucker Outstanding Extension Leadership Award. She gave additional funds for the awards to be distributed that year.

In 2017, Betty Tucker joined Reeves and contributed funds to recognize three Extension employees: Extension professor Larry Alexander and agent Sherrie Smith of Lee County each received leadership awards that honor Tucker’s late husband, and agent Natasha Haynes of Rankin County earned the communication award recognizing Reeves’s mentor.

Reeves’s Extension career began in the late 1960s and ended with her retirement in 1990. To help pay for graduate school, she applied to become an Extension secretary. Dr. Charles Aiken, a leader in Extension program and staff development, interviewed and hired her immediately.

Reeves says Aiken helped her reach her fullest potential, and she rose in Extension’s ranks and retired as a faculty member in Extension program and staff development.

“We gave our lives to Extension,” Reeves explains. “The thing I learned from Duane was, do the very best you can, regardless of the circumstances, and it doesn’t matter who gets the credit. If it’s for the good of Extension, that’s all that matters.”

“As my career path within Extension changed through the years, my title was changed more than a baby’s diapers,” Reeves remembers. “Dr. Aiken was an inspiration to me and to everyone in Extension.”

Betty Tucker’s late husband, Dr. Duane Tucker, worked with Extension from 1960 to 1990. The last 9 years of his Extension career, Tucker, then the Extension associate director, worked alongside Reeves.

Betty Tucker emphasizes how the organization made her life better.

“Extension gave us a great life, and, even today, I just can’t thank the people and organization enough,” she says. “It meant so much to my husband, to my family, and to me. Extension has helped so many people, so many 4-H’ers, and so many agents. It’s a win-win for everybody.”

Tucker, who plans to establish an additional endowment in 2018, and Reeves are encouraging others to consider giving gifts.

“These generous gifts will benefit Extension employees for years to come, and I look forward to sharing these opportunities with other Extension supporters,” says Will Staggers, MSU Foundation assistant director of development for Extension. “We are helping Extension employees extend knowledge and change lives.”

Staggers is available at 662-325-2837 or

MSU Extension Service
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