Dr. Jessie MuldrewLibby Award Recipient 2016


 “We’ve got to continue trying to make a difference for the younger generations.”
Dr. Jessie Muldrew

About six decades ago, a young Jessie McFadden walked the campus paths of Arkansas Agricultural, Mechanical & Normal College (AM&N) not knowing she’d accomplish so much. She would relocate to Michigan, celebrate 58 years of marriage to Charles Muldrew, have three children and five grandchildren; earn an associate’s degree from Mott Community College, a bachelor’s degree from Michigan State University, a master’s degree from Eastern Michigan University, and then return to Michigan State University to earn a doctor of philosophy degree (Ph.D.); retire from a 27-year career in the Flint School System, serve on many boards, own an iPhone, text, operate PowerPoint presentations; and earn many awards and accolades from her peers, fellow educators, and community members.  

Dr. Jessie Muldrew was recently recognized for these accomplishments at the 11th Annual Flint Women and Girls Day where the 76-year-old received the 9th Libby Award. “This award is not at all about me,” says Muldrew with sincere humility. “It’s about all the people who took me under their wings through the years and helped me move forward.”

According to Muldrew, there is a lengthy list of folks who contributed to her growth and success in big, as well as little ways. “People all throughout my life have inspired, encouraged, motivated, and served as role models to me,” says Muldrew. In addition, she admits that receiving the award has inspired her to keep going. “It has given me incentive to not scale back my efforts,” she says. “Those of us named as Libby Award recipients cannot let the Libby legacy fall to the wayside. We’ve got to continue trying to make a difference for the younger generations.”

Those traits are exactly the same ones Muldrew selflessly gives to others – and has been for decades.

The Libby Award, presented every two years, is named after philanthropist Olivia P. “Libby” Maynard. Created in 2000, the prestigious award honors outstanding achievements and contributions made by women and girls in Genesee County.

Muldrew immediately mentions one of her own mentors, and former Libby Award recipient, Dr. Evelyn Golden, who visited and mentored her as a young intern teacher at Cook Elementary on Welch Boulevard. “She conveyed to me how impressed she was with my unit on health. It meant so much to me,” says Muldrew. “She wrote me handwritten notes. I later learned that was her trademark.”   

Besides a long list of people who have inspired her, Muldrew herself has poured her energy into her passions – impacting society, building people up and not tearing them down, instilling the desire to learn, promoting career awareness, and helping others to discover how to emerge as a leader.

Muldrew sets the bar high for herself as a leader. Most importantly, she never hesitates to get involved and always tries to make a difference for the sake of others.

As a 40+ year member of the National Sorority of Phi Delta Kappa, Inc., Muldrew served in national, state and local positions throughout eight states, and still actively mentors young girls in grades 9-12. She holds dear a program known as Xinos, which she rebuilt and redeveloped to advocate scholarship funds and help young learners get on a career path and advance their education. Muldrew now mentors a 25-year-old woman, Cynthia, who reached out to her for guidance. “I’m helping to fill in some of the gaps,” says Muldrew about Cynthia, who relies heavily on her grandparents for support. “I’m adopting her as my ‘little sister.’ I’m an advocate for her. I’m happy to help her discover resources and financial help so she can get her education.” She tells Cynthia that everyone has road blocks, but the important thing is to have someone share the journey with you.

Another one of her contributions to the Flint area is the establishment of the Hall of Living Legends, an organization which showcases women in leadership roles. Her work in the Debutante Program at Flint’s oldest African-American church, Quinn Chapel African Methodist Episcopal Church, has enhanced many young lives, as well. She also served as the director of Christian education there, and is a member of several other committees.

Muldrew carries passion for advocating for those who don’t always know where or how to find community resources. Appointed as a board member on the Genesee County Department of Health and Human Services for 15 years and Flint Human Relations Commission for eight, she remains involved.

“During the water crisis, I made it a priority to help the disadvantaged know where to get water, services and filters,” she says. “We worked hard to implement the 2-1-1 program, designed to get resources to those in the most need.”

To get a clearer picture of the kind of influential woman Muldrew is, it helps to know that she never hesitates to help others – whether strangers or family members. Her son, Ken Muldrew, knows this better than anyone.

“I lost my wife two years after her breast cancer diagnosis,” says Ken, who watched his then 10- and 14-year old daughters suffer the loss of their mother. “It was definitely a trying time for me. I suddenly had the task of raising daughters by myself. My mom was instrumental in helping to be the mother figure they desperately needed.” His mother was continuously involved in her granddaughters’ education and activities. “They practically lived in her home,” Ken continues. “She helped them study and get on the honor roll. Her guidance helped my daughters move forward with confidence, motivation, and the desire to want to help other people.” He says even now, at ages 26 and 21, his girls benefit from the written words of inspiration their grandmother sends to them.

A lifetime of receiving awards and accolades are nice; but for Muldrew, there is something more important, more fundamental. As the tenth of eleven children, she believes her early family life gifted her with a strong moral foundation. “I learned to share,” she laughs. “I learned how to get along with all kinds of people, how to survive.” Her upbringing taught her the value of hard work. “I survived school on fellowships and scholarships,” she says. “That is why today, I’m always promoting and encouraging young people to strive to achieve high academics and pursue scholarship opportunities.”

The meaning of the Libby Award is certainly exemplified through Muldrew, from her humble beginnings through years of hard work to gain her education, raise her own children and two granddaughters, contribute to many organizations, help young girls to succeed, and live her life in a charitable manner – and she still has the desire to make a difference. It is clear that Dr. Jessie Muldrew accomplishes what she sets out to do, and then some.

Photography by Eric Dutro


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