Gilberts To Receive The Continuing The Connection Award At Homecoming


Glen and Mary Jane Gilbert will be recognized at Homecoming with the ‘Continuing The Connection’ Award. Glen graduated from UAM and Mary Jane coached basketball.
Photo courtesy of Media Services

Courtesy of
Media Service

MONTICELLO — Glen Gilbert and Mary Jane Lavender both came to Arkansas A&M College in 1968, Glen as a freshman 17 years removed from high school and Mary Jane as a newly-minted instructor of physical education with a master’s degree from Henderson State.

   Both became pioneers of a sort with Glen becoming part of the first graduating class of the University of Arkansas at Monticello in 1972 and Mary Jane as the driving force behind the creation of women’s intercollegiate athletics at the university.

   Their connection to both Arkansas A&M and UAM and the role they have played in the life and history of the institution will be recognized at Homecoming with the Continuing the Connection Award, presented annually to the individual or individuals who best keep alive the spirit of A&M and UAM.

   Glen Gilbert worked 17 years at Duracraft Boats before his involvement with A&M students while teaching Sunday School at Northside Baptist Church convinced him to give college a try.

   “I had a lot of reservations about coming to school,” says Glen, “Alton Boyd, who was a counselor at the college, encouraged me. He knew what I was feeling and he said coming to school after all those years was a little like going swimming in the spring. You know the water’s going to be cool, but once you get in, you’ll be fine.”

   Gilbert combined education with a job at the Arkansas Baptist Home for Children and graduated with a bachelor’s degree in psychology. He stayed at the Baptist Home until becoming director of community education for the Monticello School District.

   Glen and Mary Jane first met shortly after Glen started school, but it was hardly love at first sight. “We didn’t exactly hit it off right away,” remembers Mary Jane. Somewhere along the line, the couple clicked and on March 21, 1979, Mary Jane Lavender became Mary Jane Gilbert.

   By then, Mary Jane was ready to step away from coaching after building the most successful women’s collegiate basketball program in Arkansas. After battling administrators and other coaches, the UAM Cotton Blossoms basketball team began play in 1973 and quickly became the best program in Arkansas. Mary Jane coached six seasons, posted a record of 111-41 and won or shared five conference championships. She was inducted into the UAM Sports Hall of Fame in 2001.

   Both Glen and Mary Jane went back to school to receive their doctorates from the University of Mississippi in 1985. Glen retired from the Monticello School System in 1994 while Mary Jane retired from the UAM faculty in 1998. Both are still active in the life of the university, attending most athletic contests as well as other campus events.

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