Memorial scholarship builds bright future for aspiring architects

In 1984, Sheila Rene Jackson made a name for herself by becoming the first female African-American graduate of the Mississippi State University School of Architecture. Today, Sheila’s accomplishments continue to be recognized through an endowed scholarship fund in her memory, which will benefit future generations of students who share her passion for success.

The Sheila Rene Jackson Memorial Endowed Scholarship within the College of Architecture, Art and Design, was established through a generous gift from Sheila’s siblings. The perpetual gift will enable more aspiring architects to pursue their goals while experiencing all that Mississippi State has to offer.

“Completing her degree in architecture was no easy feat for Sheila,” said Sheila’s sister, Betsy Jackson. “I remember many all-nighters she spent working in the architecture building to meet project deadlines, and her worries about how to pay for supplies and materials for those projects.

“We wanted her legacy at MSU to always be remembered and what better way than through a scholarship to benefit future students pursuing their dreams to also become architects.”

After graduating from MSU, Sheila led a progressive career as an architectural designer for several organizations including the city of Atlanta and the Georgia Tech Research Institute. Additionally, Sheila was a seasoned cook and poet, and regularly volunteered her time at the local women’s shelter.

“My sister believed in helping others,” said Betsy. “My siblings and I wanted to do something that would not only honor Sheila’s legacy at MSU, but would also do what meant the most to her—help others.”

Beginning next year, the scholarship will be awarded to a fifth-year student in good standing within the MSU School of Architecture. Preference will be given to female African-American students and students demonstrating financial need.

“The School of Architecture is honored to be the recipient of this generous memorial scholarship, and to be associated with Sheila Rene Jackson’s name,” said Michael Berk, director of the School of Architecture who holds the F.L. Crane Endowed Professorship in Architecture. “She was a pioneer in helping to break gender and racial barriers in the architectural profession, and remains an incredible role model for us all.”

As Mississippi State continues to push the limits and reach new levels in educational success, private support from devoted alumni and friends is essential.

“Sheila had so many classmates who supported and encouraged her throughout her studies and many who remained friends throughout her life,” Betsy said. “I invite her classmates, friends and other family members to support the scholarship fund to help make a substantial impact in the lives of future students.”

For more information on contributing to the Sheila Rene Jackson Memorial Endowed Scholarship, contact Perry “P.K.” Thomas, the college’s director of development, at 662.325.2542 or Individuals may also visit and discover how to establish a legacy at MSU.

Story by Addie Mayfield