Former colleagues remember murder victim's passion for education

Zach McClendon, 25, was found dead in LaFayette County, Mississippi Wednesday morning.
Zach McClendon, 25, was found dead in LaFayette County, Mississippi Wednesday morning.

GULFPORT, MS (WLOX) - Students, faculty, and staff at Mississippi Gulf Coast Community college are remembering a former friend and colleague who was murdered. Zach McClendon was shot to death in Oxford. Authorities believe him to be the victim of an apparent robbery. Three men have been arrested in his killing.

The Gulfport High grad was pursuing a masters degree at the University of Mississippi. Before going to Oxford, he worked at Mississippi Gulf Coast Community college. His former colleagues shared their memories of a wonderful young man.

For a year, McClendon was a familiar face at the Jefferson Davis campus in Gulfport. Those who knew him said he loved his job as a recruiter because he was able to talk to people about how education is the way to a better future.

Vice President of Student Services and Enrollment Management Susan Scaggs said, "I think he really believed in the importance of education and the difference an education can make in a person's life. Understanding the road out of poverty runs by the schoolhouse door and helping as many people as possible get on that road in a positive way was a real gift that he had."

McClendon touched many lives and always had words of encouragement.

"He has that passion. That fire in his belly," said Scaggs. "He helped share that with both traditional students,  kids coming straight out of high school as well as that non-traditional student. That adult who is thinking about 'Can I really go back and change my life?' He just really spoke to that and said, 'Yes, you can do it.'"

This week, the 25-year-old was found murdered in Lafayette County.

"There's just been a shock, a grief, a very deep sadness for our students as well as our faculty and staff and administrators who shared a year of their life with such a special person," Scaggs said. "I will never forget his smile. Once you got a look at Zach's infectious smile, you will never forget it."

Authorities arrested Joseph Lyons, Steven Wilbanks and Derrick Boone. Each is charged with capital murder.

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