WHO ARE THE PRESTAGES?
Jewel and James Prestage were married in 1953 and thus began their joint odyssey that resulted in remarkable individual and collected accomplishments. Collectively the Prestages produced and raised five children-- Grady, Terry, Karen , Eric, and Jay. Each is today highly functioning, well-grounded professionals. The Prestages have also mentored well over 500 other professionals, collectively called Jewel and Jim’s Jewels. Their other accomplishments discussed here as individual accomplishments are also many collective accomplishments since they never wavered in their support for each other throughout their 60-year marriage which sadly ended with the death of Jewel in 2014.
A SUMMARY OF PROFESSIONAL ACHIEVEMENTS BY DR. JEWEL PRESTAGE
In 1955, Jewel accepted a teaching position at Prairie View University. However, her tenure at the institution was short-lived because Dr. Rodney Higgins, her mentor and Department Chair, offered her a position at Southern University in 1957, which she accepted. It was a good offer, and it happily let her work at the same institution as her husband, Dr. James Prestage. After Dr. Higgins passed, Jewel chaired the Political Science Department for 18 years. She was appointed Dean of the School of Public Policy and Urban Affairs in 1982, a position that she retained until she retired in 1989. She served Southern University for over 30 years, during which time she made laudatory contributions to the academic and social development of her students, the University, the community, and the nation. In 1991, Jewel came out of retirement to return to Prairie View University as a Political Science professor. She subsequently served as Dean of the Benjamin Banneker Honors College until her second retirement in 2002. During her 45 years with the academy, Jewel elevated the role of professor, administrator, scholar, community leader, and mentor at Southern and Prairie View, as well as at the University of New Orleans where she was a long-term Adjunct professor and at the University of Iowa where she was a Visiting Professor for a year. As a professor and scholar, Jewel directed a number of Taft Seminars for Political Science majors, published works on public policy and higher education, and conducted groundbreaking research on the political socialization of Black children, Black women legislators, judges, and professionals in higher education. Her book, A Portrait of Marginality (co-authored with Dr. Marianne Githens), is a classic study of women and politics. President Jimmy Carter appointed Jewel to the National Advisory Council on Women’s Educational Programs in 1980, and she proudly served as its first minority chair in 1981-82. In the 1960s and later, Jewel was one of the most respected political scientists in the U.S. She served on the Executive Council and/or as President or Vice President of national and regional political and social science associations. After her research on Blacks in Political Science revealed that only five (5) Black women held doctorates in that discipline in 1968 and Black male numbers were also less than impressive, she used her leverage to obtain a grant to assemble those with PhDs at Southern University to explore new ways of increasing Black doctorates in the discipline. The National Conference of Black Political Scientists (NCOBPS) grew out of that meeting, and it was well nurtured by Jewel during its early years. Also, in the 1960s and beyond, Jewel served as Director of the Louisiana Voter Education Project; the Center for Black Elected Officials and the Civic Education Institute. she worked with local NGOs that included churches, the YMCA, protest and student movements and women’s groups, including the Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority and The Links, Inc. However, Jewel’s most sustainable legacy remains the generations of students that she mentored. At a minimum, she influenced the development of 45 PhDs and more than 200 lawyers, judges, elected officials, administrators, commissioned military officers, engineers, and business executives. Those fortunate enough to have been taken under her wings are today known as “ Jewel and James' Jewels”.
A SUMMARY OF THE PROFESSIONAL ACHIEVEMENTS BY DR. JAMES PRESTAGE
In 1959, Dr. James J. Prestage joined the Southern University-Baton Rouge Biology faculty. Prestage brought with him an expertise in the new emerging specialty that was the University-Electron Microscopy. With the full support of his mentor at Iowa and his Chair at Southern, he obtained funding from the National Institutes of Health to establish an Electron Microscope Laboratory at Southern University-Baton Rouge and carry on the research he had started as a graduate student at Iowa. He then involved his upper level undergraduate students and several colleagues in the department. During the 1960's, computer science training was introduced as an imperative at the university level, but there were virtually no Black computer scientists in Louisiana. Dr. Prestage was called on to head a team to bring Southern University into the computer age at the request (summons) of the University’s administration. To that end, Dr. Prestage began courses in computer science in a training program that took him to more than twenty locations across the nation over a period of twenty weeks. After completion of that training, he supervised the construction of a computer center, equipped it, recruited its staff, and put it into operation. He was appointed unofficial Director of the Computer Science Initiative while still "tending" to his Electron Microscope Laboratory with his biology colleagues. Dr. Prestage was later named the Director of the Computer Science Center and Chair of the Computer Science Department. Other positions Dr. James Prestage held during his tenure at the Southern University multi-campus system included Director of the Health Research Facility, Dean of Academic Affairs, Acting President of the Southern University System, Vice President of the Southern University System and Coordinator of Consent Decree Activities and Chancellor of the Baton Rouge Campus. His tenure at Southern University lasted until 1987. In 1989, Dr. Prestage joined the staff at Dillard University where he once again was able to enjoy his true professional love-- teaching biology.