On September 16th, Alice Lloyd College held the twenty-fourth annual Alumna and Alumnus of the Year Banquet in the historic Cushing Hall. The banquet honored two alumni for their endearing service. Mrs. Mary Lois Jacobs (Class of 1960) and Mr. Cloys Thornsberry (Class of 1953) gathered with family and friends to reflect on how their lives exemplify the core values of the Purpose Road Philosophy.
Mary Lois Watson Jacobs was born on May 26, 1941, the oldest of twelve children, and was raised in the Hollybush and Pippa Passes communities. She attended Middle Hollybush Elementary School and graduated as valedictorian from Knott County High School. She earned an Associate of Arts degree from Caney Junior College (now Alice Lloyd College) in 1960 and credits Mrs. Lloyd and the school for providing her with a strong educational foundation.
In 1961, Mary Lois married her longtime sweetheart, Burnis Jacobs, also a graduate of Caney Junior College. She then attended the University of Kentucky, earning a Bachelor of Arts in 1970, with a double major in English and Library Science. Mary Lois went on to receive a Master of Arts degree from Morehead State University.
Mary Lois taught English at the old Knott County High School, and, when the county consolidated to form Knott County Central High School in 1974, she was one of the school’s first English teachers. Mary Lois served as librarian of KCCHS for twenty-four years and retired from a thirty-year career in education in 1998. She has continued to keep in touch with many of the students whose lives she impacted throughout the years.
Mary Lois is a member of the National Education Association, the American Library Association, the Kentucky Education Association (serving five years as a local officer), and the Knott County Retired Teachers Association (serving eighteen years as an officer). She has received several prestigious awards, including the Kentucky Education Association Award, Kentucky Library Association Award, Knott County Board of Education Service Award, and Knott County Retired Teachers Association Service Award.
An active community volunteer, Mary Lois has served in many capacities, including Girl Scout Leader, President of the Homemakers Club, and organizing reunions for the old Knott County High School. Mary Lois is also a faithful member of Caney Baptist Church and was an instrumental member of the church’s Building Committee.
Mary Lois’ commitment to ALC is demonstrated through her years of support and service. She has often shared the story of Alice Lloyd with others and made sure that high school students were aware of the College’s affordable educational opportunities.
Mary Lois and Burnis raised their family on Jacobs Ridge, a mile from the College. As educators, the couple was adamant about instilling the importance of a college education in their children: Allison Jacobs, Carolyn Jacobs, Mark Jacobs, and Regina Jacobs Smith. They were very proud to see them complete college, each one earning at least three degrees.
Since Burnis’ passing in 2010, Mary Lois has continued to reside on Jacobs Ridge where she is often immersed in her passions of gardening, crafting, sewing and reading. Mary Lois cherishes time spent with family and friends, especially her four children and six grandchildren.
Cloys Thornsberry was born on October 17, 1935, in Pippa Passes, Kentucky. One of twelve children, he attended Caney Elementary and Knott County High School. After taking additional classes during the summer, Cloys received permission to enroll in Caney Junior College (now Alice Lloyd College) at the age of sixteen, where he earned an Associate of Arts degree in 1953.
Continuing his education was a priority for Cloys, and he realized that the assistance a GI Bill would provide was his best option for making this possible. In 1954, he enlisted in the U.S. Army, serving two years overseas. When he returned to Pippa Passes, a lovely young lady attending Caney Junior College by the name of Thelmarie Madden caught his eye. They became a couple and were married less than a year later. They moved to Lexington so Cloys could attend the University of Kentucky, where he earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in Elementary Education.
In 1959, Cloys accepted a position as librarian at Martin High School in Floyd County. A year later, he and Thel returned to Knott County, and Cloys began a thirty-six-year career with the Knott County School System. He served as a teacher and later a librarian, while also continuing his education. Cloys earned a Master’s degree in Educational Administration, a Rank 1 Certification, and a Certification in Principalship Administration. He then worked as the principal at Beaver Elementary for four years and was transferred to Caney Elementary for one year, before assuming the principal position at Hindman Elementary, where he served more than fifteen years.
Cloys retired from his career in public education in 1997. However, it did not take long for Alice Lloyd College to convince him to serve as an adjunct professor in the Education Department, where he supervised student teachers. In 2000, Cloys became a full-time professor at ALC. He shares that one of the advantages of the position was that it allowed him to work alongside Thelmarie at a school that meant so much to both of them. To this day, Cloys remains a faithful alumnus of ALC and credits the school for many of the academic opportunities and personal blessings he has known in life.
Cloys has served his community as a member of the Knott County Lions Club for more than forty years (serving three times as president). He is active in the Knott County Retired Teachers Association and the Kentucky Retired Teachers Association. Cloys also serves as a Gideon and is a member and deacon of Caney Baptist Church.
After fifty-seven years of marriage, Thelmarie passed away in 2014. Cloys continued to teach at ALC for three more years before retiring. These days, he enjoys spending time with his three children: Patricia (Susie) Meehan, Sherry Morgan, and Paul Randall (PR) Thornsberry (who are all alumni of ALC). He also cherishes time with his seven grandchildren, two great-grandsons, and his large extended family.
Mary Lois Jacobs and Cloys Thornsberry were honored with a framed certificate of appreciation and given a commemorative rocking chair that was presented by Dr. Charles Marshall, Vice President for Academic Affairs. They also received a custom, hand-crafted mosaic, made by Linda Pigman Fifield, a Knott County native and former student of both recipients. Over one hundred years, Alice Lloyd College has instilled service as a priority for the students on and off campus, and it becomes a skill they implement in their daily lives even after they graduate. The annual Alumna and Alumnus of the Year Banquet is one of the many opportunities ALC uses to honor the countless graduates who take the legacy and apply it to every aspect of their lives.