Saturday, September 25, 2021

Bonnie Brown: Q&A with Karen Fuller Green

Karen Fuller Green

Karen Green knows all the students in Potts Camp and surrounding areas, and likely their parents too with all the coaching experience she’s had. Karen is known as a terrific coach and role model. Plus, she has a great story to share.  

Brown:  Where did you grow up?  Describe your hometown and what was special about it.  

Green:    I was born in Oxford, but shortly after my birth, my parents moved to Sardis, Mississippi, which is where I started school.  We didn’t stay there long as we moved back to the Oxford area to a community in the country called Riverside.   Then we moved to Potts Camp, Mississippi, when I was 15 years old.  Living in the country, there wasn’t much to do except doing our chores and playing in the yard.  One of the special moments I remember is getting to go into the city of Oxford on Saturdays, sitting on the Square with my grandmother watching the people go by.   

Brown:  Please talk about your childhood, parents, siblings, crazy aunts, and uncles.    

Green:  My parents were David (Wink) and Dorothy (Dot) Fuller.  My Dad’s parents were Morgan and Lou Ella Fuller, from Riverside.   And my Mom’s parents were Bert and Thelma Rhea, from Poughkeepsie, New York.  We lived across the road from my Dad’s parents.  We didn’t get to see/visit with my Mom’s parents very much.  My parents met in the military when they were both stationed in Wichita Falls, Texas.  I have a brother, David, who is the oldest.  And my sister, Sandy, who is the middle child.  I am the baby of the family.    

Karen (far right) with sister Sandy Smith and brother David Fuller

Brown:  Where did you go to school?

Green:  I attended Sardis, Mississippi – 1st grade, Philadelphia Elementary (Etta, MS) – 2nd – 8th, Lafayette High School 9th, and Potts Camp High 10th – 12th.  I graduated from Potts Camp High School in May 1969.    I graduated from Mississippi State College for Women (now known as Mississippi University for Women) in May 1973.  I played on the Basketball Team while at MSCW. My sophomore year (1971-1972) we won the National Championship in the only college girls division at that time, before the NCAA added women).  This picture hangs in the Mississippi Sports Hall of Fame in Jackson, Mississippi. We were the first girls’ team in Mississippi to win a National Championship. I’m #24.

1971-72 First Girls’ Team to win National Championship

I attended graduate school at the University of Mississippi 1974-1975, where I was Assistant Lady Rebel basketball and volleyball coach.  Women’s sports were in the Physical Education Department at that time. I was the graduate assistant coach for the Lady Rebel Basketball and Volleyball Teams.  It was the first year for Ole Miss to have a team. That basketball team is recognized as such with a picture in The Pavilion.  Pam Davidson was the Head Coach, and I was her only assistant that year.

Karen (far right) with the first-year Lady Rebel Varsity Basketball Team in 1974

Brown:  When you were five years old and asked what you wanted to be when you grew up, how did you respond?

Green: I don’t remember the age, but early on all I wanted to do was join the military services, because both my parents were in the army air corps.  But I remember that I wanted to join the navy because they had prettier uniforms.

Brown:  Who influenced you in your early life?  

Green: My first coach was Jim Arrington at Lafayette High School. He was my coach for only one year, the first year that Lafayette opened. He instilled in me a love for basketball, which I played in high school and college. Then my family moved to Potts Camp.  But during that one year, he changed what I wanted to do in life. I changed from wanting to join the service to wanting to play and coach basketball and other sports!

Brown:  What was your very first job, perhaps as a teenager?   What were your responsibilities and what was your pay?

Green: My very first jobs (high school) were working in our local cafe and then in our local Dairy Bar in Potts Camp. I was a waitress, as well as being the short-order cook, plus making milkshakes and other items.  In college (during the summers), I worked at a factory in Holly Springs called ITT, we made hub caps and wheel covers. I was on the assembly line that painted them. In college, I worked at Hardee’s.

Brown:  Talk about your high school experience.

Green: Academically, it was pretty uneventful. I, like many other students, was not very interested in studying very much. I was just an average student. I hated taking standardized tests, so therefore I didn’t do well on tests like the ACT, NTE, or the GRE.  On the other hand, I loved playing sports. At Lafayette, I was on the junior high basketball team, but on the high school track team. Then at Potts Camp, they only had basketball. So, I put all my energy into it.

Brown:  What was college life like for you?

Green: I absolutely loved college life. I guess most kids like college life because they get away from their parents for the first time. I finally got admitted to MSCW (Mississippi University for Women), which was the only college in Mississippi that had a women’s basketball team. Of course, I majored in Physical Education. I played on the basketball and volleyball teams.  Then I played on a team for independents (I did not join a sorority) in the Physical Education Intramural Program. Needless to say, I love all sports!

Brown:  Tell us how/when your Ole Miss “story” began?   Who hired you?  How long did you work at Ole Miss?

Green:  I was a graduate student at Ole Miss in 1974-1975, in the Physical Education Department.  I only went to graduate school for one year.

In November of 1979, Dr. Andrew Stefani, Chair of the Chemistry Department hired me to be the Operations Control Manager over the chemistry stockroom. Then a few years later, I was promoted to be the Operations Coordinator, when Earl Grey retired.   I left Ole Miss in October of 1992 to go back into teaching.   I was at Ole Miss for 13 years.

Brown:  What position did you hold?  What were your job responsibilities?  

Green:  My positions were called Operations Control Manager and Operations Coordinator.  My job responsibilities were to assist the chairman of the department with duties such as graduate student records, budget, inventory, building maintenance, curriculum, class scheduling, advising undergraduates and graduate students, and standardized testing.   

Brown:  What was your “best” and “worst” days at work and why?

Green:  I had lots of “best” days really too hard to pick, but my worst day was the day I left.   I really enjoyed my job and I had made lots of good friends.  It was a really sad day for me.

Brown:  I know you went on to work in the school system at Potts Camp.  Tell us about that.  

Green:  During my tenure at Potts Camp High School, I taught the following classes at some point:  Physical Education, Driver Education, Health Education, General Science, Consumer Science, Physical Science, Biology, Advanced Biology, Botany, Zoology, and Anatomy and Physiology.   While at Potts Camp, I, also was a coach and Athletic Director.   I taught for 20 years and was a coach/athletic director for 19 of those years.   I c0ached the following sports at some point during those 19 years:   Cross County (Boys and Girls), Track and Field (Boys and Girls), Baseball, Softball, Basketball.  I coached in both Junior High and High School.

After I retired from teaching/coaching at Potts Camp, I was hired to be Marshall County’s Athletic Director for the entire county! I was over all athletics in the following schools in Marshall County:  Byhalia Junior and High School, H.W. Byers, Galena Junior High, and Potts Camp Junior and High School. I was in this position for 4 years and retired from there in December 2016.

Brown:  What advice would you give to your 20-year-old self?

Green:  The best advice I would give my 20-year-old self, is to stay in graduate school and get those advanced degrees. Having an advanced degree gives you more options to choose from.  One of my dreams growing up was to coach in college, which you can’t do without an advanced degree.  Another piece of advice is to make wise choices.  

Brown:  How did you and your husband Jerry meet? 

 Green: I am married to Jerry Green.  One of my friends introduced us.  He is her cousin and he had moved here from Kentucky and was living with his grandfather.   Jerry is retired from painting and working in construction.  As a retirement hobby, he raises produce.  He loves selling his produce at the local farmer’s markets. 

Jerry and Karen
Karen and Jerry Green wedding in December 1974

Brown:  Tell us about your children and grandchildren.  

Green:  We have two wonderful sons.  Michael (44) is married to Leah Winburn Green and they have three children: Wesley, Morgan, and Ava.  Matthew (38) is married to Ashley Petit Green and between them, they have 5 children: Logan, Maddie, Jackson, Lucas, and Rhett.  My children and grandchildren are my life.  My main retirement hobby is following my grandchildren around, watching them in their activities.

Karen’s grandchildren.  Front row:  Ava Green, Lucas Green, Rhett Wolfe, and Jackson Green.
Back row:  Morgan Green, Wesley Green, Logan Finley, and Maddie Finley.

Brown:  What are some skills that you think everyone should learn?

Green:  Wow, that’s a really good question.  I believe God gave each of us our own talents/skills.  If we all had the same skills and/or levels of the same skills, this world would be pretty dull.  So, I think God knew what He was doing when He gave each of us different skills.  

Brown:  What’s the best part of your day and why is it the best part of your day?

Green: I’m an early riser most days, so I guess the morning is the best part of my day. I try to get my household chores done early, so as my energy level goes down, I can go and sit in my recliner and watch my favorite TV shows. But on the days that one of my Grands has an activity, I love going to watch them play and that would be my favorite part of the day.

Brown:  What do you consider your greatest accomplishment?

Green:  I believe my boys are my greatest accomplishments!!! They are both strong, responsible, well-mannered Christian men. They are both married to strong Christian women and raising their children in Christian homes.  We are both so very proud of both of them.

In my career of teaching/coaching, my greatest accomplishment would be my cross country/track & field record.

Between both girls and boys, they achieved the following titles:

21 District titles, 10 Regional titles, 8 North-Halves, 8 State Runner-up titles, and 10 State Championships.

I was honored to be chosen as the “1997-1998 Potts Camp High School Teacher of the Year.”

I also received the “2002 NIAAA South Regional Girls Track and Field Coach of the Year”, which includes an eight-state region.

I was also chosen as the “2010 MHSAA Athletic Director of the Year.”

Brown:  What became your new routine after you retired from work?  Do you have hobbies?

Green:  The only hobby that I have—if you can call it a hobby—is following my grandchildren.  When I was teaching and coaching, I couldn’t get away to watch them as much as I would have liked.  

I love watching TV, reading, and playing games on my phone. And every once in a while, I will help Jerry with some farm chores.

Even though I’m retired, I still do some volunteer work for the Mississippi High School Activities Association (MHSAA).  I am an officer in the Mississippi Athletic Administrators Association (MAAA).  I’m the state’s Coordinator for Leadership Training and Certification.  We have a conference every year, usually in January for Athletic Directors, Principles, and Superintendents but it was canceled this year because of COVID.  

Brown:  What “old person” things do you do?

Green:  The only thing that I consider an “old person” thing would be sitting in my recliner and watching TV, which I do a lot.  

Brown:  Tell us something about yourself that people might not know.

Green:  Jerry and I love to go on cruises (can’t wait until this COVID is gone so we can go again) and travel.  We didn’t get to go much when we were working, our schedules were never on the same timeline.  So, since retirement, we have been trying to make up for lost time.  

Brown:  What takes up too much of your time?

Green:  Playing games on my cell phone.

Brown:  What’s the title of the current chapter of your life?

Green:    Relaxation

Brown:  If you could make one rule that everyone had to follow, what rule would you make?

Green:  That everyone had to love one another, no more wars, crimes, and hatred.

Brown:  To quote Katherine Meadowcroft, cultural activist and writer, “What one leaves behind is the quality of one’s life, the summation of the choices and actions one makes in this life, our spiritual and moral values.”  What is your legacy?

Green:  What I want my “legacy” to be is that I lived by the rules and had good character.  When I retired my students/athletes gave me a plaque with the phrase/quote that I use to tell them all the time:   

“Don’t Be A Character . . . Be of Good Character!”


Bonnie Brown is a retired staff member of the University of Mississippi. She most recently served as Mentoring Coordinator for the Ole Miss Women’s Council for Philanthropy. For questions or comments, email her at bbrown@olemiss.edu.

84,459FansLike
20,500FollowersFollow
14,100FollowersFollow