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An Educator from the Start

Disciple Profile: Rod Jemison

Last February, Bellarmine College Preparatory announced Roderick (Rod) Jemison as their new principal starting in July of 2023.


Tell me a little bit about what attracted you to education.

My undergraduate experience at Morehouse College definitely inspired a strong appetite to become an educator. Mentored and coached by the Morehouse intelligentsia, my freshman English teacher made learning fun, exciting, and most of all, an exceptional experience. His ability to challenge, yet inspire, provide rigor, but be supportive, and always make a point, but with a big smile, allowed me to understand that education can and should be rewarding. At the end of my freshman year, it was clear I was going to become an educator.

How did attending Catholic schools impact your decision to walk this path? Does that experience continue to impact you spiritually?

From birth, my parents were committed. For our family, a Catholic education was a must! They believed my foundation as a human being rested with a strong belief in God and an exceptional education. Who I am today, any success, and the way I lead is based upon this foundation. More specifically: I have been fortunate throughout my career to be surrounded and supported by wonderful people. And while my time spent in education has been extraordinary, it will now be complete with being a leader in a Catholic, Jesuit school.

What inspires you the most as a scholar educator, and community leader?

I am inspired by the opportunity to support, motivate, coach, and mentor young people. Being in education is rewarding because there is so much energy and excitement daily when interacting with students and helping shape their lives. I am lucky to have been around great teachers and coaches, and I want to give back to show my appreciation to those who supported me.

When have you been the most challenged as an educator, administrator, and community leader?

I have been fortunate to be a member of so many great communities in Tennessee, California, and Japan. While they demanded much academically, athletically, socially, and culturally, I was able to stay true to my core belief system. In all instances, I was asked to adjust to each milieu and be successful.

In retrospect, my faith in God and my parents’ belief in a strong education, made my many career transitions, both in and out of the classroom, possible and successful. To this day, when I am challenged or struggle, the memory of their mindset quickly puts this into perspective.

Why is this ministry as an educator important to you personally?

I would not be where I am today without faith in God and the understanding that I am here to serve others. Bellarmine College Preparatory's resolution to form "men for and with others" resonates with who I am today. Staying true to this notion of service will always compel me to be my authentic and caring self.

If you could sum up your approach to education in a brief statement, or if there were a single word you would use to describe your leadership plan for Bellarmine, what would that be?

Embrace. Enhance. I relish the opportunity to embrace the Catholic, Jesuit ethos, culture, and faith of Bellarmine while also enhancing the experiences of student scholars, artists, and athletes. By participating first-hand in the larger community: with faculty, staff, parents, and alumni, I hope to better understand Bellarmine's history and capitalize on its future.

An Educator from the Start 2

Rod Graduated from Morehouse College and Tennessee State University, where he received his master’s degree in literature, his extensive, international, and varied career — from Tennessee to Essex, England, to southern California to Japan — includes school leadership roles, classroom teaching, as well as coaching sports including basketball, golf, and varsity football. He was appointed the national co-chair of the 2010 National Association of Independent Schools (NAIS) People of Color and Student Diversity Leadership Conference. He has been married to his wife Yuko for 26 years and has one daughter at the United World College’s International School of Asia at Karuizawa (UWC ISAK) in Nagano, Japan, where he was the founding head and currently serves as advisor.

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