“So much can happen in ten years and yet, the yearning to come home remains strong,” McGrath said after finishing up her first two weeks at the library. “I know that this opportunity is one that my husband and I could not have orchestrated if we had tried.”
During her senior year at Mansfield High School, where she graduated as valedictorian, McGrath, who earned her degree in education in 2005, decided to follow in her parents’ footsteps and attend NSU. Her mother, Jerrie Ammons Choate (1974), was a part of the first women’s basketball team, while her father, Dennis Choate (1975) is a 1990 inductee into the Graduate “N” Club Hall of Fame for his time spent pitching for the Demon baseball team. Her brother Denney Choate (2009) and sister-in-law Cary Bruno Choate (2009, 2012) were also a part of Demon athletics. While her side of the family covers NSU sports, her husband Mike McGrath (2004) and sister-in-law Mandy McGrath (2010) were both members of the Spirit of Northwestern Demon Marching band.
“NSU is our family’s school, no doubt. My entire immediate family and a large portion of my extended family are all Demons,” she said. “I think the Demon pride in my family began with my paternal grandmother and her days spent working in the Iberville cafeteria. Purple and orange run deep.”
So deep, that in 2011 the family established an endowed scholarship at NSU. The Jerrie and Dennis Choate Endowed Scholarship is a two-year award that benefits a DeSoto Parish student pursuing a degree in education.
McGrath’s greatest memories during her time at Northwestern State come from her involvement with the Baptist Collegiate Ministry. She jumped in with both feet her first semester and immediately auditioned for Inner Peace, the BCM’s singing group that raised money for summer missions. She was soon fully involved in all that the BCM had to offer NSU students: Bible studies, intramural sports, praise band, mission trips and lifelong friends. BCM is also where she met her husband of 10 years, Mike McGrath.
“It’s funny, I can look back and see how my time spent at the BCM shaped my future,” she said. “BCM Directors Bill and Phyllis Collins made such an impact on my family. Bro. Bill married us, he led Mike to his first ministry position, and they have encouraged and supported us all along the way.”
McGrath was also a member of Northwestern’s honor society, Phi Kappa Phi, and graduated summa cum laude with a B.A. in elementary education. After graduating, she and her husband moved to Fort Worth, Texas, for him to complete his seminary degree. She was unable to find a teaching position, so decided grad school was the only option. McGrath admits that being a librarian was something she just fell into.
“I researched numerous graduate degree programs and landed on library science.”
She began her library career at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, while working on her M.L.S. at Texas Women’s University. After completing her degree, she and her husband moved to Arkansas where she worked as the Young Adult Librarian and eventually the Head of Adult Services at the Saline County Library. After their oldest daughter was born, the McGraths had the opportunity to move to Louisiana where Jessica was able to continue working with the public at both the DeSoto Parish and Red River Parish libraries. Their return to Arkansas was prompted by her husband’s desire to begin work as a hospital chaplain. Jessica joined the State Library staff in Arkansas as a reference librarian but quickly moved to the newly created outreach position. Although she enjoyed working at the State Library, her heart was in the public library. When the Director’s position opened up in Natchitoches, it was the chance of a lifetime.
The McGraths, along with their two daughters Addison and Norah, are glad to call Natchitoches home.
“Natchitoches provides the slower pace in life that our family enjoys,” she said. “Northwestern adds the cultural flair that bigger cities offer. It’s the best of both worlds.”