The Jackson Awards were first given in 2006 to honor individuals in our community who exemplify the truest qualities of a leader. The awards are named after President Andrew Jackson, our city's namesake, and presented to individuals who have served as leaders in one of the following areas: The Arts, Community Service, Education, Healthcare, Leadership, Volunteer Service, and Youth. The award recipients will be honored at The Foundation's annual Charity Gala on Saturday, November 12.
Sherry Freeman has been a patron of the arts community in Jackson for 29 years. She is the Executive Director of The Jackson Symphony, a local nonprofit dedicated to enriching and inspiring the community through the power of live orchestral music. Sherry is passionate about the impact of the arts on the stability of the community and works to expose people from all backgrounds to the arts.
In addition to advocating for the arts, Sherry is a member of the Downtown Rotary Club, the Red Society for the American Heart Association, and a founding member of Jackson Fundraising Professionals. She volunteered for the Miss Tennessee pageant as Judges Chairman for six years and previously served on the March of Dimes Board, and the Kirkland Cancer Center Advisory Board.
Before pursuing her career in the arts, Sherry was a teacher in public education for 25 years and taught at Lambuth University for six years. She was named Teacher of the Year at LaVergne Elementary School and Lincoln Elementary School. To recognize her contributions to the community, Sherry was named one of the 2021 Influential Women by the City of Jackson.
Sherry is married to Kent, owner of J. Kent Freeman Floral Design and Gift Co. They have two children, Patterson (Kaitlin) Freeman and Frances (Troy) McCullough and four grandchildren – Bo, Baker, Reid, and Madeline.
Shelley Hayes is the Director of Corporate Wellness at West Tennessee Healthcare and plays an active role in a variety of community and civic organizations in Jackson. She is the President of the Old Hickory Rotary Club, a member of the Leadership Jackson Alumni Association, and serves on The Foundation’s Enterprise Society Committee for the Hospice Home Campaign.
Shelley is passionate about the service projects of the Rotary Club and created the Rotary Heart and Sole project in 2019. This project provides new socks and shoes to children in the Jackson-Madison County School System and coordinates volunteers from across the community to distribute them to the students. Since 2019, Rotary Heart and Sole has served 4,027 students from schools throughout Jackson and Madison County.
In addition to her work with the Rotary Club, Shelley enjoys volunteering with the Salvation Army and RIFA and is a member of the Employee Engagement Committee at West Tennessee Healthcare, Business and Professional Women of Jackson, and Alpha Sigma Lambda. For her service to the community, she has received several awards, including the 2020 Multiplying Good Jefferson Award, the City of Jackson’s Hub City Hero Award for November 2021, and five Rotary Club and District awards.
Shelley enjoys spending time outside with her family on their farm and traveling. Shelley and her husband, Nick, have three children - Joel, Adelynn, and Alivia. They are members of Englewood Baptist Church.
Dr. Marlon King has been working in education for 27 years and is committed to improving public schools. He has a wide-range of experience from being a teacher, principal, superintendent, and executive director in multiple school systems in Tennessee. He is focused on promoting literacy programs, recruiting and training school leaders, gathering community support and engagement, and managing fiscal services.
Dr. King became the superintendent of the Jackson-Madison County School System in 2020. During his time at JMCSS, he has been an advocate for students, teachers, and community partners of the school system. Previously, he has led Haywood County and Fayette County school systems, working to improve teacher compensation and surpass the state’s graduation rate goal. Dr. King was named “Superintendent to Watch” by the American Associate of School Administrators.
In addition to his role in education, Dr. King serves as aboard member for the Boys and Girls Club of Jackson, United Way of West Tennessee, the University of Memphis Leadership Advisory Council, and the Tennessee Organization of School Superintendents. He is a member of the Downtown Jackson Rotary Club and volunteers at RIFA of Jackson.
Dr. King enjoys reading a variety of genres, running, and weight lifting. He is married to Latisha, a middle school teacher at Arlington Community Schools, and their son, Hudson, is a freshman at JCM Early College High.
Kim Tedford has been the Director of the Jackson-Madison County Regional Health Department since 2015 and believes in their mission to protect and improve the health of the community. After graduating from Union University with her nursing degree, she began her career as a nurse at Jackson-Madison County General Hospital in 1985, continuing a career in healthcare for 30 years.
Kim has been a leader in healthcare for the region during the COVID-19 pandemic. Despite the strain put on healthcare workers because of the pandemic, Kim has worked alongside various healthcare organizations, businesses, and leaders to keep the community safe. Her leadership and dedication helped Jackson navigate this difficult time.
Kim has received several awards for her contributions to Jackson during the past two and half years, including the West Tennessee Today’s2020 Person of the Year, the Jackson Sun’s Newsmaker of 2020, the Jackson Chamber’s 2021 Best Leadership during a Pandemic, and the Jackson Rotary Club’s 2021 Woman of the Year.
Kim is married to Matt, a Clinical Manager in the Emergency Department at Jackson-Madison County General Hospital. They have three children, Ben, Hunter, and Abby; a daughter-in-law, Brittany; and a soon to be son-in-law, Drew. Kim enjoys football, outdoors, traveling, and spending time with family, especially her grandsons, Hayes and Walker.
Ben Ferguson is a passionate leader that is dedicated to educating our youth for success while creating a thriving ecosystem for businesses and entrepreneurs in West Tennessee. He is the co-founder and CEO of theCO, a regional innovation hub focused on building a culture of opportunity. He along with two other co-founders started theCO as a pipeline to attract and retain the next generation of community leaders, focusing on entrepreneur support, STEM education, and community place making.
Ben is also the President of Personnel Placements, LLC., a staffing and recruiting firm that has helped almost 200,000 West Tennesseans find work. In addition to his professional leadership, Ben is involved with various community organizations. He is the Chairman of the Southwest Local Workforce Board and a member of the State Workforce Development Board.
Ben has previously served as Chairman of the board for Jackson Area Chamber of Commerce and Hands Up Preschool. He has been a member of several additional boards and committees, including the American Red Cross Jackson Area Chapter, Kirkland Cancer Center Advisory Board, Governor’s Rural Task Force, JMCSS Strategic Planning Committee, Pathways Tennessee Committee, and Society of Human Resource Management of West Tennessee.
Ben currently serves as President of the Board of Servant Directors at Northside Church. Ben, his wife Holly, and their daughters Elena, Holland, and Piper are proud to call Jackson home.
Elaine Christian has been a Jackson resident for 43 years and has volunteered her service to a variety of organizations. While working in the local accounting industry, she became a Certified Public Accountant (CPA) and graduated from the U.S. Chamber Institute for Organizational Management. Elaine has held senior management positions with chambers of commerce and workforce development organizations in Tennessee.
Since 2021, Elaine has served as the Chair of the Jackson-Madison County Bicentennial Commission. She spent 22 months planning a year-long, community-wide celebration to honor the 200th birthday of the City of Jackson and Madison County. She coordinated over 150 events, working with over 600 volunteers. Elaine created several legacy projects for the Bicentennial Celebration, including a historical book, Milestones: Celebrating 200 Year of Achievement, historic art drawings for the Madison County Courthouse and the Jackson City Hall, the burial of the 50-year time capsule, and the building of Bicentennial Park.
Elaine is currently a board member of the Jackson-Madison County Library Foundation and has previously been a member of the Boy Scouts of America West Tennessee Region, Jackson-Madison County Library Board of Trustees, Jackson Symphony Association, U.S. Chamber of Commerce Education and Employment/Transportation and Infrastructure Boards, and the University of Tennessee at Martin School of Business Advisory Committee.
In honor of her service, Elaine has received various awards, including the Boy Scouts of America: Silver Beaver Award 1997, the Sterling Award recognizing Most Influential Women in West Tennessee 2017, Jackson-Madison County Library Foundation Volunteer Award 2018, Jefferson Award for Community Service 2019, American Heart Association: West Tennessee Woman of Impact Award2021, and City of Jackson Women’s History Month Influential Women Award 2021.
Elaine is an avid traveler and enjoys spending time with her family, hiking, reading, art history, and golf. She has two sons, Trey(Carolina) Cleek and Matthew (Lauren) Cleek, and four grandsons - Miles, Miller, Mitchel, and Maxwell.
Grayson Hart realized his passion for the performing arts during his early childhood, experiencing his first on stage performance at only5 years old. As he transitioned into middle school, he continued to pursue theatre at the Ned R. McWherter West Tennessee Cultural Arts Center and directed his first full length production as a sophomore in high school.
Despite the setbacks for in-person performing arts as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, Grayson’s love for directing flourished. He taught theatre classes virtually to students across the United States and worked on virtual theatre productions over Zoom.
During his last two years in high school, Grayson created a nonprofit, student-led theatre company called Lights Up! Theatre Co. It incorporates families and students and encourages them to work together to develop productions. Over 300 students and family members have been involved in Lights Up! productions on-stage, backstage, building sets, creating costumes, and teaching theatre to peers.
Grayson has received several awards recognizing his contributions to the performing arts. He won the Bravo Award from the Orpheum Theatre in Memphis, and he was honored as the Hub City Hero in March 2022 by Mayor Scott Conger. Grayson recently graduated high school and lives in Jackson. He currently works as the Children and Teen Theatre Coordinator at The Ned.
The Jackson Awards were first given in 2006 to honor individuals in our community who exemplify the truest qualities of a leader. The awards are named after President Andrew Jackson, our city's namesake, and presented to individuals who have served as leaders in one of the following areas: The Arts, Community Service, Education, Healthcare, Leadership, Volunteer Service, and Youth.