Couple has history of service to JSU

Gena and Odell Christopher at JSU.

Trent Penny

Jacksonville State University employees Gena and Odell Christopher are retiring to spend more time with family members and to pursue other interests. Combined, they have more than 50 years of service to JSU.

“I started teaching English and was an adjunct teacher for a while,” Gena said. “I began teaching English full time in 1989.”

Odell started working at JSU as a carpenter in the early 1990s and eventually became the supervisor of skilled workers in the Capital Planning and Facilities Plant. He was named JSU Employee of the Month for February 2018.

“It’s going to be sad to leave,” Odell said. “I have a fantastic crew and will miss my guys and our camaraderie.”

Contributions to education

In addition to teaching English classes, in 2014 Gena founded the Center for Excellence in Teaching and Learning that supports JSU faculty. She initiated programs to provide teacher workshops, training, and grants. She worked to orient teachers and plan their Faculty Annual Awards program.

During her career she also initiated and directed a writing clinic for students and directed “Camp Write” for grades three through five in affiliation with JSU’s National Writing Project. She and faculty members Steve Whitton and Randy Davis started the JSU Writers Bowl. They, history professor, Hardy Jackson, and librarian, Linda Cain, began the “On the Brink” program which ran for 16 years to bring in Southern writers of note at an annual conference.

Gena wrote a course of study for technical writers, book reviews for publication, and a piece about Truman Capote for a local magazine.

She is an active member of the Sigma Chapter of Delta Kappa Gamma, a teacher’s organization, and is involved in the Circle of Faith Sunday School Class.

“I don’t consider myself as much a writer as a reader,” she said. “I am a teacher of writers.”

Contributions to JSU’s campus

Odell built houses in Jacksonville for almost 20 years before he began working at JSU. After beginning his job there, throughout the years he has built small cabinets, farm tables, and playhouses for his all-female cast of grandchildren. The Christophers have four adult children and nine granddaughters.

In addition to enjoying his job and his hobby of carpentry, he likes to fish.

“I hope to still do a little remodeling,” Odell said, “and I hope to do a bunch of fishing.” The Christophers are active in First Baptist Church.


Robert Felgar, head of the English Department, said he is sorry to see Gena leave JSU.

“She has been, unquestionably, one of the most enthusiastic employees we have ever had. She has helped employees and students any way she could. She is always upbeat and helpful.”

Miller Parnell, longtime building inspector at JSU, wishes Odell the best of luck in his retirement.

“He has been a valuable asset to the university,” Parnell said. “He was always ready and willing to help.”

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