Rosemary Robinson Jackson’s first love was education, and she shared that love in a teaching career spanning more than four decades.
A graduate of Chicago Public Schools, the longtime educator was also a respected businesswoman, who as vice-chairman and chief administrative officer helped propel the educational and spiritual mission of Central City Productions, the company she operated with her husband of 52 years, Don Jackson.
In December, their company unveiled plans for a $32 million National Museum of Gospel Music on the site of Chicago’s historic Pilgrim Baptist Church, considered the national birthplace of gospel music. The interior was destroyed by a fire in 2006, though the limestone shell still stands.
Mrs. Jackson died of cancer Wednesday at Northwestern Memorial Hospital. She was 71.
“She was a devoted educator of our youth, and we’re developing an educational scholarship in her name with her sorority, Delta Sigma Theta,” said her husband, seeding it with an initial $100,000.
“She was so devoted to uplifting our youth, that after she got her doctorate, she came back to Englewood to teach,” he said.
“And while in administration at Kennedy King College, she insisted on getting back into the classroom to be with the students, who were her passion,” he said. “And still, she would come to our office before or after classes to do what she had to do in the vital role she played in our company.”
Born Dec. 22, 1946, Ms. Jackson was raised in the North Lawndale neighborhood on Chicago’s West Side, and attended Marshall High School. As a freshman, she fell for a senior about to graduate.
“I told her she was too young,” her husband recounts, laughing.
“But I told her if she couldn’t find anyone to take her to prom senior year, I’d take her. Three years later, I’m a junior at Northwestern, and I get this call. I said, ‘Who is this?’ She said, ‘Remember what you said?’ I knew she could definitely have found a prom date. I took her, and of course, I fell for her.”
His wife received her bachelor’s in education from DePaul University; two master’s degrees, from DePaul and the National College of Education; and a doctorate from Loyola University.
Her dissertation, “The Social Construction of Linguistic Reality: A Case Study Exploring the Relationships among Poverty, Race, and Remediation in an Urban Community College,” was formulated from her life’s work, helping young students in Chicago explore their educational possibilities, her husband said.
Her first teaching job was as an English teacher at her alma mater, Marshall, then Hyde Park High School, DePaul University, and Kennedy-King, where she was vice president of educational media and distance learning 2007 to 2010.
While teaching at DePaul, she tutored members of its championship basketball teams of the 1980’s, her husband said. The likes of Mark Aguirre, Tyrone Corbin and Rod Strickland frequently came to their home for meals and tutoring.
At Central City, best known for producing the 32-year-old Stellar Awards for gospel music, Mrs. Jackson managed the finances, was often the public face, and was research director and associate producer of two nationally-syndicated TV programs, the Black College Quiz and Hispanic College Quiz.
“She was a devoted wife. She always kept a loving smile. She mentored so many young African-American women coming up, and was just an influence on so many,” said her husband.
The couple launched the Married Couples Club at their church of 40 years, Christ Universal Temple, because, her husband said, “She wanted to encourage couples to stay together and find ways to make it work.”
“We would not be where we are today without her insight, her intuition and the people that she would draw to us,” he said. “I miss my wife. But I’m rejoicing, because she’s in a better place.”
Mrs. Jackson was committed to public service through her sorority for over 50 years; and was a member of the National Council of Teachers of English, National Association for Developmental Education, Association for the Study of African American Life and History, and Phi Beta Kappa.
An avid sports fan, she loved tennis, basketball, baseball, and football, the arts, and dancing, from bopping and stepping, to line dancing, her husband said. She also loved gospel music, and top names in the industry will be singing her favorite songs at her service. Mrs. Jackson had battled cancer for five years. She was admitted to Northwestern on Jan. 26.
Besides her husband, survivors include her daughter, Rhonda Jackson; her son, Baba Dainja; her mother, Rosalie Gray; three grandchildren; two sisters and a brother.
Services will be at 11 a.m. Friday, Feb. 16, at Christ Universal Temple, 11901 S. Ashland Ave.