Retired DA principal continues to feel love from the community

Jackie Cornelius with her daughter, Amber Amerson

Jackie Cornelius with her daughter, Amber Amerson

Although Jackie Cornelius officially retired as principal of Douglas Anderson School of the Arts with great fanfare in April, she was still feeling the love from the city and her former school in May.

On May 9, the Jacksonville City Council adopted Resolution 2017-338-A, honoring and commending Cornelius, a San Marco resident, for her 47 years of “dedicated service and leadership to Duval County Public Schools upon the occasion of her retirement.”

Cornelius began her tenure in Duval County first as an English teacher and Dean of Students at what is now Westside High School before moving on to Douglas Anderson, where she spent 29 years of her career, first as its arts director and vice principal, and then as principal. During her term as principal, she spearheaded two major expansion projects on campus, each costing $13 million.

Under her leadership and guidance, DA received numerous national recognitions and awards and is considered one of the finest academic high schools as well as art schools in the country. “Douglas Anderson’s success is credited to Jackie Cornelius’ diligent and tireless determination to create an environment for the students to grow, engage, and excel,” stated the resolution.

Although she has retired from her role as DA’s principal, she will continue to be a fixture on the school campus in her new role as executive director of the Douglas Anderson School of the Arts Foundation. 

Cornelius has also been pegged by Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry to become a member of its Art in Public Places Committee, replacing David L. Engdahl as a Cultural Council representative. Resolution 2017-366, introduced at City Council May 9 and sponsored by City Council President Lori Boyer at the request of Curry, seeks her appointment, which should be confirmed by the Council at a future meeting in June.

To honor Cornelius and the invaluable role she has played both at Douglas Anderson and within the city’s arts community, Nina Waters, president of the Community Foundation of Northeast Florida announced the creation of the Jackie Cornelius Artist-in-Residence Program at DA on May 13. The program has been fully funded for its first year to the tune of $250,000. Water’s announcement came by way of a letter read by San Jose Philanthropist Lawrence DuBow during a retirement party for Cornelius at the Granada riverfront home of Gary McCalla.

“The program will provide endowed funds for a three-month residency for one artist or one-month residencies for three artists so they may share their creative gifts with the students of DA,” said Waters in the letter. “The program will be a dedicated endeavor for the DA Endowment, which has been housed at the Community Foundation of Northeast Florida since 1989. We are honored that the DuBow Family Foundation and the Douglas Anderson School of the Arts Foundation Advisory Board have fully funded the endeavor for the 2017-2018 school year,” Waters said.

The DuBow Family Foundation donated $50,000 toward the artist-in-residence program with the DA Foundation Advisory Council kicking in the balance.

“Your contribution to DA can never be repaid,” said DuBow to Cornelius after the announcement. “We believe this is a fitting tribute to the culture you have created, where excellence and talent are celebrated and nourished.”

At the party, Cornelius seemed awestruck by the Community Foundation’s gesture, saying that her first goal as executive director had been to seek funding for the Artist-in-Residence program and that she was thrilled to discover it already had funding for the next school year.

In a phone call prior to the party, Cornelius said she was “honored” to be considered for city’s Cultural Council position. “I am very humbled and very touched by this gesture of our city leaders,” she said. “I am thrilled with the possibility of being on the Art in Public Places Committee. It should be a great learning experience for me. I was taught to always give back, and I was brought up to believe that the more you empower others, the more you give through your career and personal life. I will certainly be working to be deserving of this distinguished honor in my future public service,” she said.

“Public art is important for the city because it speaks to the essence of who we are as human beings. It speaks where words fail about our essence as human beings and in ways we are unable to express in words,” she said.


By Marcia Hodgson
Resident Community News

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