The belief and encouragement of an Angelo State journalism professor helped 1984 ASU alumnus Norma Jennings realize her dream of becoming a published writer. Her own talent has turned her into an award-winning author.
A native of Jamaica and former international flight attendant, Jennings still found San Angelo a surprisingly exotic destination when a family job transfer brought her and her three children from New Jersey to West Texas.
“I had never heard of it,” Jennings said. “I loved watching the cowboy students arrive on the ASU campus in their boots and hats. As a Jamaican, I’d only seen this in the movies. We loved watching cowboy movies in Jamaica.”
“My aim was to be a journalism major,” she added. “I quickly realized I needed to make a living, but writing was always my passion.”
“I loved watching the cowboy students arrive on the ASU campus in their boots and hats. As a Jamaican, I’d only seen this in the movies.”
That need to make a more immediate living won out, and Jennings earned a Bachelor of Business Administration at ASU. She then went on to graduate from the Management Development Program at Harvard Graduate School and began a successful career in the business world. Today she is the corporate director of Baptist Health South Florida, specializing in the design and administration of base and variable pay programs for over 16,000 employees. In her career, Jennings has also managed the areas of recruitment, employee relations, compensation, employee benefits, information technology, and labor and immigration laws.
But one of her ASU journalism professors, Dr. Harrison Youngren, never let her forget her desire to be a writer.
“Though I chose business as my degree because it was more practical,” Jennings said, “he wrote to me even after graduation, encouraging me to continue writing. One day, I received a letter from his wife telling me he had died. I decided to write and make him proud.”
Jennings has since published two novels, the second of which, “Passenger from Greece,” published in 2015, recently earned her a 50 Great Writers You Should Be Reading Book Award. The winners of the award were chosen by a public vote from the hundreds of authors who have appeared and discussed their books on The Authors Show Radio.
“Passenger from Greece” delves into the rising tide of drug trafficking in the Caribbean. It was also a finalist in the Best USA Book Awards and has generated interest from movie producers. Jennings’ first novel, “Daughter of the Caribbean,” published in 2012, was based in great part on her own life, including growing up on her Jamaican grandmother’s sprawling estate of Twickenham.
Now working on her third novel, Jennings credits her ASU experience for her dual success as both a corporate executive and award-winning novelist. She is also grateful for the lessons she learned in American culture, history and business.
“ASU provided the opportunities for me to successfully climb the corporate ladder and to write great fictional novels,” she said. “I would advise any student considering attending ASU to enjoy the environment and learn all that you can.”