The Student News Site of Hillsboro High School

The Hillsboro Globe

The Student News Site of Hillsboro High School

The Hillsboro Globe

The Student News Site of Hillsboro High School

The Hillsboro Globe

Hillsboro High School adds Jackie Turner during the naming of the gymnasium

Ms. Turner is the first female high school athletic coach to have a court or gym named after her
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On Thursday, November 16th, 2023, Hillsboro High School was proud to announce and celebrate the new naming of the school gym. The previously known Ed Hessey Gymnasium will now be known as the Ed Hessey/ Jackie Turner Gymnasium. Adding Jackie Turner’s name to the gym has been a widely accepted achievement by the HHS community, past and present.

The unveiling of the new name took place in front of the gym, where many Hillsboro alumni came together to celebrate the memory of their past coach, teacher, and overall mentor. From what the Hillsboro Globe has gathered, Ms. Jackie Turner was loved by all she touched through her kindness and strong spirit.

To explore the process of putting a new name on the gym, the Hillsboro Globe interviewed Dr. Pelham, Executive Principal of Hillsboro High School to inquire how changing the name came up, who suggested it, and how long the process was to finalize the decision.

It is important to note that it is not a decision the principal can make on his or her own. There is a committee of board members who review requests, check with the principal for suggestions, and hold hearings for general public opinions. Dr. Pelham was approached by a group of alumni from the class of 1973 a year and a half ago. They wanted to name the gym after Jackie Turner, however, the gym already had been named the Ed Hessey Gymnasium. Dr. Pelham informed the Hillsboro Globe that the alumni specifically wanted the big gym to be dedicated to Jackie Turner, even after other places were offered. Dr. Pelham was wary of changing the name of any building or place at a school because this situation he experienced at Overton High School divided the school community.

Photos of Coaches Ed Hessey and Jackie Turner at the Gymnasium Naming Ceremony, November 16, 2023. Photo Margo Jenkins (Rights Reserved-Hillsboro Globe; Margo Jenkins)

Another obstacle faced was getting the blessing of the Hessey family. Without their blessing, the renaming would not have been permitted to move forward in good faith. Hillsboro alumni were able to reach out and get in touch with the last surviving member of the Hessey family, who turned out to be Ed Hessey’s son (now in his 80s). He fully embraced the idea, shocking everyone with a letter saying how wonderful he thought the idea was. He wrote how much Ms. Turner meant to the school and how his father held her in such high regard. He was sure that his father would be honored to have Ms. Turner’s name be placed next to his. It was safe to say that Ed Hessey’s son gave his full blessing for this idea to move forward.

Through Metro Nashville Public School’s board action, the Hillsboro High School gym was officially renamed. Next, the HHS alumni would need to raise a significant amount of funds to change the name because the school, having been recently renovated, did not have funds to make this happen. The class of ’73 raised the funds to have the signage redone, sending the alumni to the next piece to have the dedication and the public unveiling.

Kenneth Priest, Laura Ward-Rodriguez, and David Stone from Hillsboro High School the Class of ’73 alumni fought hard to make their hopes and desires come true to honor Ms. Jackie Turner so more people can learn about her immense impact on past students and athletes at HHS. Learning about their process is inspiring, yet they say that it was because they were so inspired by Jackie Turner that they had the aspiration to begin this process initially.

They shared that it all started when Mr. Priest and other HHS alumni went on a tour of the school after the new renovations were complete. They saw that Ed Hessey’s name was on the gym building and Tommy Frensley’s name was on the football stadium. They couldn’t help noticing that Jackie Turner’s name was nowhere to be found. All of them thought “Where’s Ms. Turner?” They knew that Ms. Turner had all the credentials, she had the most wins of any other Hillsboro coach. Coaching volleyball, basketball, tennis, and track, Jackie Turner took more teams to state tournaments than any Hillsboro coach, male or female all of them to state tournaments.

After noting this omission, they went to Dr. Pelham and asked him how this could happen. Of course, he told the alumni that it was out of his control and about the process they had to follow. That’s exactly what the alumni did. David Stone was the one to contact Ed Hessey’s son and ask for his blessing. After gaining the blessing of Hessey’s son, “it was a slam dunk for Dr. Pelham to give the alumni the all clear” on pursuing the addition of Jackie Turner’s name to the Ed Hessey gym.

The alumni were under the impression that they needed to collect data on Ms. Turner’s coaching, so they came to the HHS library to go through yearbooks, even going to the downtown library to look through yearbooks. The committee presented the data to the Metro School Board and their response was, “You know… a person who would have a building named after him or her,  should be somebody who isn’t just a coach, we need somebody who really influences kids’ lives.” The ’73 Alumni then collected data and statements that proved she was not only a great coach, but evidence that demonstrated Ms. Turner was a “superior chemistry teacher.” The alumni automatically thought, “Oh, well that’s easy.”

My experience is a unique one. I played for her, modeled my life after her, and then coached against her. I pursued a lifetime of coaching and teaching for half a century. Every time I held a practice or played a game or match, she was the voice in my head. Jackie Turner was a supreme educator in all facets of life. She demanded punctuality, team concepts, respect, collaboration, winning with style, and losing with dignity. So many of her teachings were at that time, very subtle, but life skills that were so appreciated as I grew older. I firmly believe that these positive lessons are the strongest form of education one can learn. I can also say that there is an abundance of wheels to being an educator and a coach simultaneously. Preparing and teaching your subject of choice, grading, representing your profession, planning practice schedules, meetings, dealing with players and families, and of course, winning in both areas. Jackie Turner accomplished all of this and much more for so many years and will forever be a “Legend” in my heart.

— Jinx Cockerman, CO 1966

When their perspective shifted and they added the evidence of her as a chemistry teacher, this opened up the dedication to not just those who played as an athlete for her but to those who were taught by her, an audience that reached a significantly larger number of Hillsboro community members as she taught over 30 years.  The alumni sent out requests for feedback and got people from all over the country to write testimonials regarding Ms. Turner’s positive impact.

After all the data was collected, reflecting nothing but positivity towards Ms. Turner, the alumni went to go see David Prophet at Metro Nashville Public Schools. He is in charge of all the facilities in Metro. Everyone just wanted to make sure they were doing the right thing, and that it was going to be okay to get their plans approved. After a lot of talking and processing, they finally got the thumbs up.

It was after this approval that they started brainstorming how they would publicly show this accomplishment. They worked on a plaque and worked with a signage company that would be responsible for changing the signage.  None of this would be possible without the help of donors who helped with the signage and to get it all done. All this worked towards the day that all their hard work would finally pay off at the ceremonious unveiling of the new name of Hillsboro’s gym. A very special day for many.

The Hillsboro Globe asked about how Mr. Priest and Mrs. Rodriguez felt on the day of the celebration. They shared about how big a day it was for them and now it was about time this happened. Mrs. Rodriguez shares, “The number of people who have said to us, I am so glad that you did this.” “All these people saying for years we’ve been saying that there should be something.” “There are so many people that appreciate this. It’s gratifying to know how much she was loved.” Ad Mr. Priest stated, “It is nice to have folks to understand who she was that didn’t ever know her and understand why her name was up there [on the gym]” “She graduated from Hillsboro as the valedictorian, went to Vanderbilt, came back, taught kids and just made a difference. She made a difference.”

L-R:Mark North, MNPS Athletic Director; Russ Pulley, former Council member; Jeff Preptit, Councilman D 25; Erin O’Hara Block, MNPS School Board Member; Dr. Shuler Pelham, Executive Principal, Hillsboro High School

Everyone The Hillsboro Globe has talked to has held Ms. Jackie Turner in such high regard even those who did not know her personally are inspired by her contributions. It is easy to see how much she was adored and how much her spark has touched the hearts of people far and wide.

For those who aren’t aware of who Jackie Turner is, here is a short biography.

During Jackie Turner’s time as a student at Hillsboro High School from 1944-1948, Ms. Turner excelled in academics, athletics, and leadership. She participated as a member of the Lady Burroettes Basketball Team, and was a member of the Girls Athletic Association. She was a National Honor Society and Student Council. During her senior year, she was recognized as NIL Most Valuable Female Player, Science Medalist, and Class Valedictorian.

As a teacher, Miss Turner returned to her alma mater and served the school and the students from 1956-1987. In addition to her role teaching Chemistry/AP Chemistry, she served as a coach for women’s basketball from 1956 to 1980 as well as coaching tennis, track & field, and volleyball for a few years along the way, helping lead her students to multiple championships in multiple sports. In 1982, the Tennessean referred to her as “the Dean of Women’s basketball coaches”, if not the dean of women’s athletics in Nashville.”



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