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25 May 2007
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 Jacksonville.

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 home.”

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 presidents.

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 track money.”

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 of 2005.

“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 Freshman Forum.

“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

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