UM Professor Emerita, local volunteer Jo Ann O’Quin honored as Citizen of the Year

Published 12:23 pm Thursday, May 12, 2022

Jo Ann O’Quin, University of Mississippi’s Professor Emerita of Social Work and co-founder of Memory Makers, was honored as the Oxford-Lafayette County Chamber of Commerce’s 2022 Citizen of the Year for her volunteer work and advocacy for the elderly.

O’Quin was recognized at the Oxford-Lafayette County Chamber of Commerce’s Annual Meeting and Luncheon recently in the presence of family, friends and colleagues including her sons Taylor and Jake McGraw.

Nominated candidates for Citizen of the Year were judged on the basis of their positive contributions to the Lafayette County-Oxford-University community, contributions above and beyond their appointed positions/professions and their perception as a role model for good citizenship and volunteerism.

O’Quin was unaware that she would be recognized at the luncheon. She was expecting to hear one of her sons speak at the event, only to find out she was named Citizen of the Year.

“It was a total surprise,” she said. “Really what I do is work with some of the most courageous and admirable people I’ve ever met that are caregivers for aging relatives, specifically with those with memory loss, Alzheimer’s and dementia.”

While working as a professor at Ole Miss and raising a family, O’Quin organized the Alzheimer’s and Related Disorders Caregiver Support Group, and, since 1985, has facilitated the monthly meetings for this group. The support group provides resources and support to family members who are caring for a loved one with Alzheimer’s and other related dementias. 

In 2000, she founded the Caring for Aging Relatives Effectively Education and Support Group and continues to facilitate that group to this day. She also co-founded Memory Makers, a non-profit Alzheimer’s day respite program in 2011. Memory Makers provides the opportunity for caregivers to receive a respite from care while their loved one participates in activities that engage them both creatively and physically.  

“[O’Quin’s] commitment to volunteerism in the community is unparalleled, and her efforts make a lasting change that benefits hundreds of families each year,” said Quentin Brewer, Chairman of the Board. “She is a mentor, a friend, and a relentless advocate for the aging and elderly.”

While the community recognized O’Quin’s prolific career as a professional and a volunteer, she credits the community for helping her just as much as she helped them.

“It’s been truly an honor for the last 37-plus years to work with these families,” O’Quin said. “They have given me more than I’ve given them. It’s just a true blessing. I’m passionate about helping older adults and I can’t say enough how much all this has been a true honor for me.”