Familiar Faces Say Good-bye
By Jennifer Bacchus
News Staff Writer
Reprinted here in its entirety.
|Antonio Davis, left, and Drake Russell share a
lighthearted moment. Photo: Anita Kilgore .
Two familiar faces at Jacksonville State University graduate this year – Antonio
Davis and Mardracus “Drake” Russell. Davis is already gone from campus, having
graduated in April with a Bachelor of Science in finance. Fortunately for JSU,
Russell will be hanging around for a while longer. He will cross the stage to
get his Bachelor of Arts in liberal studies this July, but graduate school and a
graduate assistantship in the Office of Student Life will keep him tied to
JSU was not Davis’ intended destination. All throughout high school he
believed he was “Bama bound” until, at the behest of his JSU alumnus father, he
visited the campus.
“Originally JSU was not on my agenda to attend,” said Davis. “When I toured
the campus it was not what I expected.”
Russell, meanwhile, had visited the campus several times throughout high
school with the band, so when Dadeville High School’s band director recommended
JSU to him it seemed like the obvious choice.
“I can remember it was just a nice, friendly place,” said Russell. “Always
clean, everybody always seemed so happy and family-oriented. Like it’s your
Both men wanted to get involved at JSU as quickly as possible, so they joined
Freshman Forum. From there, they took similar paths through the Student
Government Association with both of them serving as senators and SGA vice
Beginning with his time as committee head of academic affairs, Davis had a
knack for working well with the other student leaders. Ultimately he was elected
as Vice President of Organizational Affairs.
Student activities called to Russell, a perfect fit because of his natural
affinity for helping others. After serving as a senator for only one year, he
was elected as Vice President of Student Activities where he served two terms.
Following that, the students of JSU elected him to two consecutive terms as
President of the SGA.
“My greatest accomplishment I would have to say is holding the highest
office, SGA President. Being the first African-American SGA President at JSU.
Two consecutive terms – that’s been a real accomplishment for me. Knowing the
students believe in you, to have enough confidence in electing you as
president,” said Russell.
While Russell was rising through the ranks of the SGA, Davis decided not to
run for another executive position, opting instead to focus on his fraternity,
Alpha Phi Alpha. The JSU chapter was reinitiated in the spring of 2005, with
Davis as one of the charter members and chapter president. Since then, he has
worked hard to ensure those who pledge his fraternity are truly worthy of
carrying the Alpha Phi Alpha name.
“I was in charge of rebuilding the chapter, trying to regroup the whole
chapter because it wasn’t the ideal chapter. It wasn’t the chapter it should
have been from a national standpoint,” said Davis. “We try to be very stringent
in our selection process because our name means a lot to us.”
During his last two years, he has worked on the Greek side of the Office of
Student Life, serving as a student worker and Chief Justice of the National
Pan-Hellenic Council. Eddie Banks-Crosson, the Greek Life advisor, watched Davis
grow through his responsibilities over the last two years.
“When I first met Antonio, he was just initiated into his fraternity. Didn’t
have a clue about what it’s about or why his group is here. I’ve helped him
realize it’s bigger than here, it’s bigger than your chapter. This is an
international deal,” said Banks-Crosson.
While he was growing through his newfound responsibilities, he was also
growing professionally. Davis chose finance because he had always felt an
affinity for numbers.
“I think it was when I was 13 or 14 I had this overwhelming desire to work
with money. I don’t know where it came from,” said Davis, who, at that age,
began helping his church with their finances. “I would rather grow money than
Through his finance classes with Gene Padgham, he learned there was more to
finance than numbers and he began to see where lessons learned in the classroom
could be applied to his life.
“I feel like Antonio matured a lot. He impressed me in terms of developing
his reasoning skills quite a bit during the period of time when he was taking a
couple of the finance classes with me,” said Padgham. “I really feel that part
of our responsibility in educating our young folks is to teach them how to think
and think for themselves – to analyze situations and come up with solutions.”
Davis has applied for graduate school to Georgia State where he is
considering a dual masters in business administration and healthcare
administration, but is looking forward to working for a while.
“I want to work full time. I haven’t had to work since I’ve been going to
school,” said Davis. “I really want to see what it means to work hard to get
something you’ve had to work for.”
Terry Casey, director of student life has seen Russell mature over the years
and gives him much of the credit for the smooth transition when the Office of
Multicultural Affairs merged with the Office of Student Life during the summer
“Drake’s support during that move was very instrumental and I strongly
believe it we hadn’t had his leadership as president that year we would still be
treading water,” said Casey.
This next year, he will come full circle. As graduate assistant for the
Office of Student Life his primary responsibility will be to work with the
“I can probably say he is the most popular student leader that I have ever
had to come through this,” said Casey. “His energy is extremely contagious and
it’s a joy to have people like that to work for you.”
Russell isn’t sure where the graduate degree he plans to get in higher
education will take him. He wants to transfer to the University of Alabama
eventually, but, beyond that, his future isn’t mapped out.
Casey, however, knows whatever Russell does with his life will involve people
and he would love to see him continue to work with college students.
“I think college students can learn a lot from him,” said Casey.
About Jennifer Bachus
Jennifer Bacchus is a staff writer at The Jacksonville
News. She can be reached at 256-435-5021 or via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org
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