Whether in art, sports, academics, or business, we are inspired by excellence. We celebrate those who have the commitment to achieving the highest levels of success in their respective fields. Aristotle once said, “Excellence is never an accident. It is always the result of high intention, sincere effort, and intelligent execution; it represents the wise choice of many alternatives – choice, not chance, determines your destiny.” His statement reminds us that excellence is truly a choice.
We can choose the level of commitment we are willing to give to a task. Colin Powell once noted, “If you are going to achieve excellence in big things, you develop the habit in little matters. Excellence is not an exception, it is a prevailing attitude.” We see that it is striving for excellence in the little things that has the compound effect of creating a life of excellence.
My interviewee this week, Dr. Jason L. Walton, brings that kind of passion for excellence to his new role as the sixth head of school at Jackson Preparatory School, which he assumed July 1, 2014. He succeeded Susan Lindsay, who served in the role since 2004, and retired this June after 40 years of service to the school that has founded in 1970 and is one of the leading private schools in the state.
Walton is a fourth-generation Mississippian who grew up in Greenwood and Hernando. After getting his associates degree from Northwest Mississippi Community College in Senatobia, Mississippi, he went on to earn his undergraduate and master’s degrees from the University of Mississippi and a Ph.D. from Vanderbilt University in Education Leadership and Policy Studies.
Walton’s work experience includes serving as a classroom teacher in the DeSoto county schools, associate editor for the Peabody Journal of Education and a legislative staffer. Prior to joining Jackson Prep, Walton served as chief of staff/staff liaison to the board of trustees at Lynn University in Boca Raton, Florida. Inspired by the Presidential debate held at his alma mater Ole Miss in 2008, he personally pitched, built internal institutional support for, and orchestrated the strategy that brought the third and final 2012 Presidential debate between President Barack Obama and Gov. Mitt Romney to Lynn University. This debate, held on Oct. 22, 2012, was viewed by 59.2 million households, had a $13.1 million immediate economic impact on Palm Beach County, and yielded a combined $63 million publicity value for the university, Boca Raton, and Palm Beach County.
Walton shared with me that his educational philosophy is best captured in one simple axiom… excellence without exception. He emphasized, “Excuses are the nails used to build a house of failure.” His philosophy aligns well with Jackson Prep’s mission, which is “Striving to educate and inspire students toward academic, athletic, and artistic excellence.” For future leaders, he encourages them to maintain a sense of wonder. He noted, “I encourage them to cultivate a restless curiosity about everything that fascinates them in the world and then endeavor to search out and consume all the content you can about those things.” I am excited about Walton’s return to his home state, and I know that he will make a positive impact on the students at Jackson Prep and the community in the years to come.
» Martin Willoughby is a business consultant and regular contributing columnist for the Mississippi Business Journal. He serves as Chief Operating Officer of Butler Snow Advisory Services, LLC and can be reached at martin.willoughby@ butlersnow.com.