St. Johns River State College started a corrections-based scholarship in the name of two beloved former school security officers last week.
The McRae-Sermon Scholarship, a Florida Corrections Officer Academy scholarship, honors Earnest McRae and Horace Sermon, who spent 13 and seven years, respectively as security officers at the school.
After working in corrections in Boston, McRae served at the Martin Correctional Institution and the Okeechobee Correctional Institution in Florida. McRae returned to Palatka and became an SJR State security officer in 2007.
McRae, who died four months ago, was known for his affection for SJR State athletics and his work ethic. Head baseball coach Ross Jones said McRae loved SJR State Viking baseball, had a great laugh and hated to see the team lose.
“Ernie will be sorely missed by everyone,” Jones said.
Sermon began as a police officer in New York but started his corrections training in Starke. He later arrived at the college to complete his training when the corrections program became available.
Sermon retired as an assistant warden at Broward Correctional Institution in Fort Lauderdale after a 25-year corrections career. He retired from SJR State in late 2019 due to medical reasons.
Both graduated from Central Academy High School in 1963. In a press release, safety and security administrative assistant Melodi Weaver said McRae asked Sermon to help out at the school part time and both were always prepared.
SJR State Joe Pickens said the two security guards shared a bond.
Pickens said the two are unsung heroes who took their jobs seriously. McRae and Sermon never asked for any publicity, so Pickens and other college officials thought it would be a good idea to honor them, he said.
“They cared about the college, the community and the students and would do anything for them,” Pickens said. “I saw them on weekends a lot, so I had more time to spend with them and get to know their families. They are part of the college family.”
James Griffith, SJR State director of campus safety, said Sermon was a dedicated employee with a big heart. Sermon was known for arriving early and staying late when there were shifts needing to be covered, Griffith said.
“He knew how to work with people,” Griffith said. “As imposing as he was physically, he could still relate to anyone with his genuine kindness showing through.”
College spokeswoman Susan Kessler said the scholarship covers the cost of the training program for one person per class. The class begins in July, she said.
In a press release, the college said graduates from Jenkins Middle School will be given priority with the scholarship. The school is the site of what used to be Central Academy.
For questions about the McRae-Sermon Scholarship, call the SJR State Foundation Office at 312-4100.
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