Believe in Family
In 1929, just six months before the stock market crash, Jeannetta Claville (Simmons) was born. Her family did not have much to offer her: Jeannetta's father was blind and her mother was a seamstress. However, Jeannetta was a smart child who was satisfied so long as she had music in her life. In fact, at the early age of nine, she had already learned and started to play the piano in her local church.
Jeannetta attended Mulberry High School, and during her senior year, she participated in a work-study program with the Bank of Mulberry. She graduated a year early in 1946, the valedictorian of her class, and started working at the bank full-time.
At that time, the Bank of Mulberry was owned by L. N. Pipkin. A well-known philanthropist and champion of Florida Southern, Pipkin paid for Jeannetta's Florida Southern education while she continued working at the bank.
At Florida Southern, Jeannetta was a member of the orchestra and continued to shine in her academics. Jeannetta graduated in 1950 the salutatorian of her class. That same year, Jeannetta married Steve Claville. They shared a love for music and even played together at a local church. Jeannetta and Steve had one child, Gary.
Jeannetta passed away in 2013, after working in the banking industry for most of her life. Her love for music lasted her entire life as she was the pianist for multiple churches and even wrote the theme song for the city of Kissimmee, Florida. To honor his mother and family, Gary established an endowed music scholarship in Jeannetta's name through the donation of real estate. According to Gary, "she was a remarkable woman, and never bragged about any of her accomplishments."
Gary hopes to follow Pipkin's example so that future music-loving students may receive the same opportunity for a college education as Jeannetta. "Florida Southern has always been in my life, so I'm just trying to pay it forward," said Gary.
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