Special to The Clinton Courier
Dr. Susan Fortenberry of Clinton was selected to receive the prestigious Order of the Golden Arrow at Mississippi College’s Homecoming.
University officials say that Fortenberry (2003), a board-certified pediatric dentist, has distinguished herself as a longtime supporter of Mississippi College.
The Order of the Golden Arrow honors individuals, alumni or friends of the University who have made outstanding personal or professional achievements in their professions, businesses or careers. It recognizes exceptional performance or leadership beyond the ordinary.
Donna Sharp, MC Alumni Board of Directors president, said Fortenberry’s community service meets the criteria many times over.
“Susan serves on the steering committee of Little Feet, a ministry to benefit children,” Sharp said. “She uses her abilities on the mission field, including dental clinics in Haiti and But God Ministries. She also teaches Sunday school and Mission Friends.”
Fortenberry’s concern for others is recognized by those who know her best. Tiffany Brooks, a fellow MC graduate from Clinton and friend since seventh grade, praised her professionalism and compassion.
“Susan is one of the most hard-working and determined people I know,” Brooks said. “Her heart of service for others is evident in her occupation as well as her everyday life. She has a heart for missions, both around the world and here in Mississippi. I am so thankful our paths crossed all those years ago, and even more thankful she is still my close friend today.”
“I couldn’t think of a better recipient for the Order of the Golden Arrow Award.”
Another MC classmate, Casey Tuminello, said, in addition to her friend’s determination and drive, Fortenberry has a magnetic personality that is fun to be around.
“Susan impressed me as I watched her navigate enjoying the social aspect of college while prioritizing her studies with such balance,” Tuminello said. “Susan approaches friendships as she approached her studies in college, and as she now approaches her professional life: with complete dedication and intentionality.
“I look up to her in every area of life, and it has been such a privilege to have a front row seat as she has met every goal she set for herself, professionally and personally. She sets new goals and pushes herself daily to be the best person that she can be, and even as she has become such an accomplished adult, she is still my fun friend who has continued to take me by surprise and keep me on my toes daily for the past twenty-four years.”
Fortenberry grew up going to gymnastics class, running and even eating Sunday lunches on MC’s Clinton campus. She had planned to leave her hometown and attend a state university, but, near the end of her senior year of high school, she felt the Lord leading her to attend MC.
“I’m so glad I did,” she said.
She majored in biology, with minors in math and English, and found a knowledgeable faculty willing to share their time to help her succeed in life.
“I had so many teachers that truly cared about me and helped guide me in my studies and prepare me for the future,” she said. “Dr. Dean Parks, Dr. [John] and Mrs. [Charlotte] McMath, and Dr. Stan Baldwin were just a few of the many wonderful teachers I was blessed to have.”
“I have so many sweet memories! I developed some great friendships I still maintain today and am so thankful for them,” continued Fortenberry. “I participated in the London Semester program and loved being able to experience another part of the world and still be under the wing of MC.”
She credits the education she received from Mississippi College for helping launch her career in dentistry. She said the science courses were difficult, which taught her how to study more effectively and prepared her for postgraduate work.
After obtaining her bachelor’s degree in biology from MC, Fortenberry attended the University of Mississippi School of Dentistry and graduated with honors in 2007. She completed her post-doctoral residency training in pediatric and special needs dentistry at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, then returned to join her father, Dr. Lee Cope, at his practice in Jackson.
She met her husband, Brian, principal at Clinton High School, while both were at MC, and the couple has four children: Grayson, Ellen Claire, Emily and Caleb. A lifelong member of First Baptist Church in Jackson, Fortenberry teaches youth Sunday school and children’s missions.
She has always loved being involved in missions, from Mission First in inner-city Jackson to international trips with her family and staff to Kenya, Ghana, Honduras, Haiti and Ecuador. She is involved with the Mississippi Dental Association, serves on the Friends of Mississippi Dentistry board, and is an affiliate faculty at the University of Mississippi School of Dentistry. She has served the last several years on MC’s Alumni Board.
“We live just a few blocks away from MC, so we are always around the school and keep up with what’s happening,” she said.
While she said she feels “quite undeserving” of the Order of the Golden Arrow award, Fortenberry plans to attend the luncheon with her family to receive the award.
“I look forward to a fun day on campus and seeing new and old MC friends,” she said. “I always encourage my teenage patients to consider attending MC. It provides such a great Christian atmosphere while still offering an outstanding education.”
“MC helped shape me academically in preparing me for my postgraduation studies, spirituality as I grew closer to the Lord during this time in my life, and personally as I met my future husband while at MC.”