Jacquelyn W. Stephens, Ph.D.

Jacquelyn W. Stephens, Ph.D.When it comes to Savannah State University football fans, there may be no one more dedicated than Jacquelyn W. Stephens. In 1960, she married the late Jolly Stephens, an all-college offensive guard on the Savannah State football squad. She and her husband cheered on the team at every single home game except for the years she spent out of Savannah working on her advanced degrees. In the ultimate act of devotion to her beloved Tigers, Stephens established the Jolly L. Stephens Football Scholarship Endowment in 2013.

"I wanted to [establish the scholarship] to honor [Jolly] as an all-conference player with Savannah State and to help others with their scholarship needs and to improve the football program," Stephens says.

Jacquelyn's affiliation with Savannah State began when she enrolled as a student in 1956. Jacquelyn met Jolly during Savannah State's freshman orientation week, and the couple dated for four years before getting married two months after earning their degrees in elementary education and physical education, respectively.

Jacquelyn went on to earn a master's degree in reading education from Illinois State University and a Ph.D. in reading education from the University of Oklahoma. She returned to Savannah State in 1969, serving as acting head of the Elementary Education Department before the department and all of its professors were transferred to Armstrong State College (now Armstrong State University). Jacquelyn enjoyed a long career at Armstrong, retiring in 1990 as a professor of education and gaining emerita status.

Jacquelyn's involvement with Savannah State has continued over the years. In 2014 she received the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference (MEAC) Distinguished Alumni Award during the MEAC Basketball Tournament in Norfolk, Va.

Jolly's professional career revolved around athletics. He worked as a physical education teacher with the Savannah-Chatham County Public School System for 30 years and served as a coach for the recreation department in his spare time. His little league football team won the city championship game for 10 consecutive years. Jolly also had a 40-year career as referee for a variety of sports including football, basketball and volleyball. In 2007, he was inducted into the Greater Savannah Athletic Hall of Fame.

Despite busy schedules, the Stephens always made time for Tiger football, supporting the team through both winning seasons and losing seasons. Jolly explained the rules of the game to Jacquelyn, who became a die-hard fan in her own right.

After 47 years of marriage, Jolly passed away in 2007. Jacquelyn knew that she wanted to eventually do something special to honor her late husband and the Tiger squad that was so near and dear to the couple.

The scholarship is awarded to a member of the football team with a qualifying grade point average who best exemplifies the qualities of leadership, sportsmanship and community service.

Jacquelyn thinks that Jolly would be pleased with the scholarship she's set up in his honor.

"He's smiling down from heaven," she says. "We both loved football so much and we both loved Savannah State."

By Amy Pine