Jack McCain Jr. of Natchitoches will be keynote speaker at the Morgan Extra Mile Scholarship program at Northwestern State University March 20. The Morgan Scholarship program honors members of Pi Kappa Phi Fraternity and Sigma Sigma Sigma Sorority who distinguish themselves through academic success, chapter leadership, campus involvement and part-time employment.
McCain, 88, was the first Archon, or president, of the Beta Omicron Chapter of Pi Kappa Phi when it was chartered at Northwestern State in 1956. The chapter was originally a local fraternity, Phi Kappa Nu, organized at Louisiana State Normal College, as NSU was then known, in 1929. Phi Kappa Nu members decided to seek the benefits and structure of joining a national fraternity and on Sept. 21, 1956, the Beta Omicron Chapter was installed as the 63rd chapter of Pi Kappa Phi Fraternity with 24 members. The fraternity was disbanded at NSU in 1981 and rechartered in 2000.
Born in Texarkana, McCain lived in Shreveport and Alexandria as a youngster before moving to Natchitoches in 10th grade. He graduated from Natchitoches High School and enrolled at NSU where he was in ROTC. When he was named president of the new Pi Kappa Phi chapter, he agreed to remain for an extra semester and graduated from NSU in January 1957. He immediately reported to Fort Bliss for military service. After serving on active duty in El Paso, Texas, he served in the Reserves for eight years. He was first employed in Shreveport with a pipeline company, then worked for Proctor and Gamble. In 1966, McCain and his father, Jack McCain Sr., opened an auto supply store in Natchitoches, where he worked, along with his son Jack McCain III, until the business was sold and he retired two years ago.
As a local businessman and a family man, McCain served his community in many ways. He was elected to the city council for six terms, serving from 1988-2012. He was named Man of the Year by the Natchitoches Area Chamber of Commerce in 1983 and served that organization as president the following year. He was president of the Kiwanis Club and served on the 911 Commission, the Airport Advisory Board and the Natchitoches Council on Aging Board. He was named a Natchitoches Treasure in 2019 and last year was listed among NSU’s 100 for 100, celebrating NSU’s Greek Centennial.
Along with his service and accolades, there was also tragedy. In 1982 and 1983, he lost two sons within months of each other. In their memory, the McCain family established the John and Jason McCain Scholarship, presented annually to a St. Mary’s student who attends Northwestern. In 2014, McCain survived a plane crash that took the life of a friend. In 2017, he lost his wife of 58 years, Mary Beth McCain.
Throughout his life, McCain has lived the values of Pi Kappa Phi through service to the community. From the fraternity, he developed leadership and people skills that “contributed to who I am today.” He is proud of Pi Kappa Phi’s prominence at NSU and their dedication in the fraternity’s philanthropy, The Ability Experience, which raises funds and creates awareness of people with disabilities.
“It makes me proud to see Pi Kapp thriving, particularly with their involvement in community service, high grade point averages and their new house,” he said. “The fraternity has a strong presence on campus and it erases any doubts I would have had if we hadn’t gone national and stayed local.”
In retirement, McCain finds ways to stay physically and mentally active. Service continues to be a priority and he hopes the students who will be receiving Morgan Scholarships recognize the importance of getting involved with their churches and communities. His message will highlight his advice to “study hard, work hard, get involved, accept personal responsibility and don’t accept mediocrity.”
David Morgan, a 1973 NSU graduate and alumnus of NSU’s Beta Omicron Chapter, established the “Extra Mile” Scholarship in 2008. The scholarship has since grown and is awarded at the national level as well as in the local chapter. The Sherry Fargerson Morgan “Extra Mile” Scholarship for Sigma Sigma Sigma was announced in 2017 and mirrors the criteria for Pi Kappa Phi by honoring students who are outstanding and high achieving members of the chapter. Morgan First Generation Scholarships are also awarded to students who are the first in their immediate families to attend college. Qualifying members participate in an application process that is reviewed by chapter alumni before selections are made.