Non Traditional:The story of Vernon Moody

Story by Mike Taylor, Communications Chair with additional reporting by Ashley Smith, News Editor

Vernon Moody, who is scheduled to graduate in December with a degree in recreation and natural resource management, might never have come to Henderson if he hadn’t nearly fallen through an attic floor 6 years ago.

The 52-year-old minister of Mt. Mariah Baptist Church, a rural church seven miles from Henderson, had been working for Suddenlink Cable for nearly 17 years and had been slowed down on the job by knee surgery when he reported to an Arkadelphia residence to install what cable guys call a “fish wall.”

“It was 96 degrees, and I was crawling through a small attic space with a flashlight in my mouth, looking for a wall to drop a line down,” Moody said.

He was wearing long sleeves and heavy gloves because of all the blown insulation sitting loose in the attic, and he felt a rotten rafter give way as he shuffled forward.

“I had two choices,” he recalled of the moment. “I could fall through this lady’s ceiling or I could catch myself by sticking out my bad leg.”

He chose not to fall through the ceiling, and heard a loud “pop” from his knee.

The damage required a second surgery. He knew he was too young to retire, and his “mind and heart” said he was done with the cable business. His church was too small and too poor to provide him with full-time income as pastor. Moody’s wife told him it was time for him to “go get a college degree.”

She knew what she was talking about: Ruby Moody had recently graduated from Henderson with a psychology degree in 2011. Moody’s son, Vernon Moody Jr., or Tootie, had graduated from Henderson with a degree in recreation and natural resource management in 2012.

“I tried to convince him because my mom wasn’t able to get an education, not even a high school diploma,” Ruby said. “I’m proud of my family, and I’m proud to know he’s about to graduate.”

After some initial resistance, Moody finally gave in. “I decided if I was going to this, I was going to find a job doing something that I loved,” he said.

Moody, a lifelong hunter and fisherman, decided to seek a new career in natural resource management.

He had been drawn to the outdoors from his early childhood in Louisiana, where his extended family had what Moody calls “a rough lifestyle.” He and his two brothers were always rambling through the woods and climbing trees from the time they could walk, despite admonishments from his mother.

“If she told to stay away from someplace, that was the first place we went,” he said.

When Moody was seven, his single mother moved him and his siblings to Arkadelphia, to get them out what she considered a bad environment. She took a job as a cook at the old hospital on Pine Street and at the Arkadelphia Country Club. Moody’s Louisiana accent was so thick that his Arkadelphia teacher considered it a speech impediment.

“They ‘cured’ me to the extent that in later years, I could no longer understand my cousins in Louisiana,” Moody said. “I’d have to tell them to slow down and speak English.” Moody now excels in public speaking, not only from the pulpit, but in his classes at Henderson.

“His outspokenness and articulate speech is hard not to notice,” Mahogany Scott, senior human services major and fellow student of Moody’s, said. “Just like his willingness to help anyone and everyone.”

Going back to school at this age seemed like the best choice for Moody, as he took school seriously and enjoyed it more.

“When I was the traditional student age I wasn’t applying myself,” Moody said. “It hurts to see students not applying themselves. As a nontraditional student, I value every class, every semester, every hour and every professor.”

As his final semester drew toward a close in November, he had the opportunity to interview for his “dream job” as a game warden with the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission.

“I used to be the hunter they were explaining the rule to,” Moody said. “Now I’m ready to explain the rules to others.”

Regardless of the outcome of the interview, Moody is now grateful for the attic accident that changed his life. He says of his Henderson experience, “This has been a journey that I wouldn’t exchange for anything in life.”