John O’Haver New Chair of Chemical Engineering

Professor brings age experience, fresh vision to department

John O'Haver Photo by Harry Briscoe

John O’Haver – Photo by Harry Briscoe

Like many baby boomers, John O’Haver finds himself somewhere between the way things have been and where things are headed. Fortunately, his years of experience and vision for the future make him a perfect fit to lead the Department of Chemical Engineering at the University of Mississippi.

As chair, O’Haver replaces Clint Williford, who retired June 30 after 33 years at the university. The professor is confident that he can continue building on the foundation laid by his predecessors.

“My short-term goals are to help our two new faculty members off to a great start in teaching and research, hire a permanent instructor and an additional tenure track assistant professor, and to shepherd the program through reaccreditation in 2016,” O’Haver said. “I also am aiming for curriculum changes and revisions to ensure that our students graduate with the technical, writing, speaking and teamwork skills needed to be leaders in their profession.”

Farther down the road, O’Haver looks to further develop appropriate long-term mentoring and growth opportunities for four untenured faculty members, helping them to develop ongoing, externally-funded research programs. He also plans to encourage regular alumni giving to support scholarships for students, increase the department’s national reputation as a top undergraduate chemical engineering program, develop more long-term co-op and internship relationships and increase the number of faculty to return to a 20-to-1 student-faculty ratio.

O’Haver has a proven track record of achieving goals he sets for himself and others. A 2012 Elsie H. Hood Teacher of the Year Award recipient, he is known for his lively teaching style, and alumni cite him as a major influence on their own successes.

“For me, teaching is much more than just the content, though it is obviously very important. Teachers shaped my life; I want to be available to help others,” said the native Oklahoman, who also serves as director of the UM Center for Math and Science Education. “This award is a recognition that others think I have done my job, and done it well. That I have covered the content, but also influenced lives for the better. That has always been my desire.”

A member of the UM faculty since 1996, O’Haver accepted the position because he needed a job and the position looked like a great balance of teaching and research. Almost 20 years later, he says his students, teaching, creative challenges and colleagues remain what he loves most about working at the university.

“The most personally fulfilling part of my job is exemplified by an incident that happened a few years ago, when a student came down two flights of stairs to throw up in my trash can,” he said. “When I asked why they passed two sets of restrooms to come to my office, they said because they knew I’d take care of them. If I have the reputation of helping my students, academically, personally and professionally, that is very fulfilling.”

Anecdotes aside, O’Haver has won praises from people on and off campus.

“While having the fervor to reach out to public schools, Dr. O’Haver has been a respected researcher, a mentor of undergraduate and graduate researchers, a superior classroom teacher and an innovative administrator,” said outgoing Chancellor Dan Jones. “O’Haver is the university’s only faculty member to have twice been recognized with the Faculty Achievement Award, UM’s highest award given to a single faculty member each year who combines excellence in teaching, research and service. As a teacher-scholar, Dr. O’Haver is our university’s very best.”

“He engages in life coaching as much as teaching,” one student wrote in her nomination letter for the Hood award. Another marveled that, “Dr. O is the best teacher I have known and is undoubtedly an even better mentor.”

O’Haver had always wanted to be an educator at the university level.

“When I left teaching high school to go back to grad school, I knew that I wanted to go into academia. I just love working with students,” he said. “I love the ‘lightbulb’ moments. I like being a mentor to those who want me to be one.

“I poke fun at myself. I am very transparent. I do a lot with problem-based learning. We do a lot in teams. I try hard to make the tough concepts very clear and memorable. I try to relate them to life and then ask them to apply the concepts.”

The goal is to let students know he cares, O’Haver said.

“My undergrad days were some of the worst for me, mostly because I didn’t have anyone in my life that I could ask tough questions,” he said. “So I am available to say to students, ‘I’ve been there. I’ve walked the rough path. I’ve made these bad decisions and I can tell you what happened.'”

O’Haver earned his bachelor’s and his master’s degrees in secondary education and his doctoral degree in chemical engineering, all from the University of Oklahoma. Since joining the UM faculty, he has been a leader for outreach efforts that focus on using university-level expertise to improve science, technology, engineering and mathematics teaching in public schools, with special emphasis in the K-6 grade levels.

He was appointed associate dean for academic and student affairs for the School of Engineering. In this role, O’Haver developed new programs, including a set of writing courses for engineering students and a special class to help certain entering engineering majors shore up their fundamental academic skills.

An accomplished researcher with expertise in applied surfactants and surface chemistry, he publishes regularly in the peer-reviewed journals in his field and has directed the theses and dissertations of approximately 20 students, including a number as part of a cooperative arrangement with institutions in Thailand.

O’Haver and his wife, Kevie, have a son, Hudson, and a daughter, Maren, both 18.

Chemical Engineering Couple’s Careers Climbing

Alumni David and Janey Quigley enjoy relationship, work responsibilities

David and Janey Squigley enjoy traveling when away from work.

David and Janey Quigley enjoy traveling when away from work.

As children, David Quigley and Janey Henley became fast friends who shared similar interests and ambitions. The University of Mississippi chemical engineering alumni, who married five years ago, make a formidable pair whose individual achievements have brought each significant career success within the DuPont Corp.

David Quigley is an operations manager for the packaging and warehouse area of the Chemours Ti-Pure (formerly DuPont) Plant in DeLisle, Mississippi. Janey Quigley is a manufacturing technology engineer at the DuPont Crop Protection Plant in Mobile, Alabama.

“With only four years working as an engineer, I have been recognized as an ‘up and coming’ leader in Chemours and have been selected to attend several leadership courses,” said David, who manages approximately 50 Chemours employees and 150 contract employees in such areas as budget management, program improvement and operations evaluations. “I have also been recognized by my plant’s management for several projects which have improved quality, uptime and safety.”

Janey oversees the process for making a product called Rynaxypyr, a commercial insecticide. Her role includes ensuring the production schedule is met, implementing safety-related projects and increasing their capacity and reducing waste.

“Like David, I have received several awards and recognitions,” she said. “In my previous role as a contractor at URS in New Orleans, (before working at DuPont) I received two Client Satisfaction Awards for my work on projects for Phillips 66 refinery. At DuPont, I have received recognition for my work in waste minimization and increasing capacity.”

The Biloxi natives have known each other since fourth grade and were always good friends while growing up. They dated during high school and eventually decided to attend the university.

“David was the one who originally interested me in Ole Miss,” said Janey, who grew up in a family of University of Alabama alumni. “They were quite surprised with my decision to ultimately go to Ole Miss, but after visiting the campus and Oxford, I fell in love with the college and they definitely understood why. The campus was beautiful, the university staff was very helpful and Oxford was by far the best town to live in when compared to other college towns I considered.”

David’s family has always been Rebels fans, and he was always interested in attending UM.

“I ultimately made the decision to go to Ole Miss based the great campus and the hometown feel of Oxford,” he said. “More importantly, I really appreciated the atmosphere of the engineering school with smaller class sizes and having professors who actually taught classes, instead of TAs for instance.”

The Quigleys’ said all their chemical engineering professors were great, even if they expected much from them and ‘ruined’ many nights and weekends with all the homework and studying. Among the most memorable are Peter Sukanek and John O’Haver, who welcomed students to spend time with them beyond the classroom.

“Dr. Sukanek was always infamous for hard tests and surprise quizzes,” David said. “I feel that he really prepared us for ‘real world’ engineering, always challenging us to ask why. Dr. O’Haver was not only a great professor, but he was the moral support for making it through engineering school. We always knew we could lean on him for guidance. He cares for each of his students and wants them to succeed.”

“But we don’t want to forget Dr. (Wei-Yin) Chen, Dr. (Paul) Scovazzo or Dr. (Clint) Williford,” Janey said. “They all cared for their students and wanted to give us the best opportunities and learn to be successful engineers.”

Asked how their Ole Miss engineering education has proven beneficial to their career success thus far, both Quigleys said they felt they received strong foundations in the fundamentals of engineering.

“This pride in our education was confirmed when we won honorable mention in the AIChE National Student Design Competition, along with Jonathan Jones, when we were seniors,” David said. “I think this experience was a major contributor to preparing us for our engineering careers.”

“Also, our education at Ole Miss taught us how to work as part of a team and network with others,” Janey said. “In school, we focused a lot on giving presentations and speaking skills which has helped tremendously in interviews and when presenting a business case to peers and management.”

Jones praised the achievements of his former peers.

“Throughout our core coursework, David and Janey developed the reputation of being among the most diligent, earnest and creative among our tight-knit group,” he said. “Not to be outdone with their classroom successes, the two led the class in dancing, humbling the rest of us regularly on Friday nights and commencing a beautiful wedding reception with their one-of-a-kind first dance. It is no surprise to me that the talented pair is excelling in professional engineering in each new role they undertake.”

The Quigleys immediate ‘family’ consists of a Rob the cat and Roxie, a French bulldog.

“They are both spoiled and loved very much,” Janey said. “Our favorite leisure activities are boating, fishing and scuba diving. We especially enjoy diving and try to plan trips at least two or three times a year.”

Presently, their primary leisure activity has been homebuilding.

“We are building a home in Grand Bay, Alabama, and expect to complete it next month,” David said.

Students Enjoy Successful Summer Internships

Trio found satisfying work experiences, possible future employment during training

This mold was created by Elena Rajan while she worked at Parker Hannifin.

This mold was created by Elena Rajan while she worked at Parker Hannifin.

For many students, summer break is spent traveling on vacation, taking a class or just hanging out by the pool. Others may spend some of that time working a job at the local grocery store or movie theater. However, several University of Mississippi engineering students spent their summer preparing for their future careers.

One such student is Christopher Tutor, a senior majoring in civil engineering with an emphasis in transportation engineering. A Como native, Tutor spent his summer completing an internship with the Mississippi Department of Transportation in Batesville, where he spent time working in the materials testing laboratory.

Tutor learned of the opportunity after attending the Engineering, Manufacturing and Technology Career Fair that is hosted biannually by the School of Engineering and the UM Career Center. He interacted with representatives from MDOT at the career fair and encourages students to participate in the event, which is held once in the fall and again in the spring semester.

“I submitted my resume to MDOT staff at the Engineering Career Fair on campus and informed them that I was interested in airfield layout and design,” he said. “After consulting with some of the MDOT engineers, I was contacted by the staff of the Batesville location and offered an internship.”

The experience was very valuable and allowed Tutor to get hands-on experience in areas in which he may choose to pursue professional opportunities in the future.

“I was able to successfully test materials that are being utilized within the soils and asphalt sections of any road construction,” Tutor said. “This allowed me to comprehend why different designs are established for different roads and intersections.”

As a result, he thinks he obtained knowledge and skills that enhanced what he has been studying in the classroom and increase his effectiveness.

Mechanical engineering senior Elena Rajan also said her internship experience helped her develop additional skills that cannot be learned in the classroom. Rajan, who is from Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, recently finished her work as an intern with Parker Hannifin Corporation’s Racor Division in Holly Springs.

“My internship provided me with real industry experience and expanded my network,” she said. “I hope to work with design in the future, and this internship was one of my first step to beginning a professional career. Internships open doors for other opportunities in the future.”

Rajan encourages students seeking an internship not to give up if they do not land one right away.

She was made aware of the internship position via email communications from the university’s Career Center and its EmployUM system. Her work involved creating Inventor models, developing engineering designs using Inventor, releasing engineering change notices and innovating new mold designs for one of the production lines.

She recalled that learning a new computer-aided design program was a challenge, but one that she was able to master. One of her major accomplishments through the internship was designing molds for one of the production lines and producing SLA prototypes for the molds. According to Rajan, the company is in the process of acquiring quotes to produce the molds that she created.

Memphis native Kyle Weaver had an opportunity to intern in her own hometown. A senior chemical engineering major, Weaver was hired as an intern with Medtronic’s Spinal Division Headquarters, where she worked directly with the Environmental Health and Safety Department. Her experience included the ability to travel on behalf of the company.

“I was sent to the facility in Eatontown, New Jersey, to aid in chemical inventory and their ISO14001 impacts/aspects goals,” she said. “I also helped in FY16 planning for the EHS group and attended the first training session to receive my green belt in Lean Sigma training.”

Weaver said she was able to accomplish a great deal in the internship as well as learning more about herself and her career. She felt that the fast-paced atmosphere helped her jump in with questions and engage in research and problem-solving.

“After reviewing and updating water and electrical data and the costs associated with those utilites, I worked with an active DMAIC A3 template in order to reduce water consumption at their campus by 10 percent before FY20,” she said. “I was not completely sure about my plans post-graduation, but this internship showed me that the medical device industry is for me.”

Students such as Tutor, Rajan and Weaver have taken an important step in their undergraduate career to prepare for their future. According to the National Association of Colleges and Employers, the top skills sought after by employers include the ability to work in a team, decision-making and problem-solving, planning, organization and prioritization of work, internal and external communication and technical knowledge related to the job. Internship and work experience directly related to a career field can allow students to gain those skills and bring their academic experiences into reality.

Drumming Up Support for Engineering School

Administrators, faculty and students visit alumni to share needs, ask for backing

Dean Alex Cheng (center) chatted with UM alums (from left) John Baker and Derrick Wilson during the meet-and-greet.

Dean Alex Cheng (center) chats with UM alumni (from left) John Baker and Derrick Wilson during a meet-and-greet.

Even with fewer students on the University of Mississippi campus during the summer, engineering faculty stay busy. Amidst summer camps, freshman orientation, summer school, hosting parents and high school students on college tours, and planning meetings for the fall, Dean Alex Cheng and select faculty members manage to attend some alumni gatherings out-of-state.

“Having the dean and/or professors on the meet-and-greet road show is quite a joy,” said Kevin Gardner, development officer for the School of Engineering. “I am reminded of the special relationships our small student-to -teacher ratio fostered as I see the graduate (now professional peer) and professor interact.”

During the visits, UM graduates shared their perspectives on industry trends, research and the need for increased financial support for Ole Miss engineering, as well as renewing old acquaintances and establishing new ones.

“In recent years, we have been able to host alumni gatherings in Houston, Alexandria/Washington, D.C., Huntsville and Baton Rouge,” Gardner said. “This summer, our travels took us to Dallas and Ft. Worth, where Tamara Crawford and Derrick Wilson were our gracious ambassadors. These networking opportunities are also beneficial for our engineering administration to convey the recent progress and updates on campus and allowed us to hear what our alumni are doing in their respective fields.”

One of the lunch meetings featured a whole roomful of alumni, Cheng said.

“Among them were Mr. David Galloway, who graduated in 1943, and Ms. Lizzie Holt, who graduated last May.” he said. “Their graduation time spans more than 70 years. They seemed to have made a good connection right away. It was a happy sight.”

In August, Cheng, Wilson and Gardner toured Venture Research Inc., hosted by owner and UM electrical engineering alumnus John Baker of Plano, Texas.

“We saw a technology museum of the evolutional changes in the last 25 years compared to today’s products, solutions and the state-of-the art RFID test lab,” Cheng said. “We hope to be traveling soon and will be calling on the local alumni to suggest site selection and to assist us with reception recruitment as we strive to see as many alumni and industry representatives as we possibly can.”

Alumni are encouraged to contact the School of Engineering whenever they come to Oxford or to visit campus.

“We have lots to talk about and show you,” Cheng said.

For more information, contact Kevin Gardner at 662-915-7601 or, or Alex Cheng at 662-915-7407 or

Robert Khayat to Address New UM Students

UM chancellor emeritus is keynote speaker for annual convocation in Tad Smith Coliseum

Click for more information.

Click for more information.

OXFORD, Miss. – Robert C. Khayat, University of Mississippi chancellor emeritus, will deliver the keynote address to the institution’s largest first-year class Tuesday (Aug. 25) during the annual fall convocation.

The event begins at 7 p.m. in Tad Smith Coliseum. Incoming freshmen and transfer students received a copy of Khayat’s best-selling memoir, “The Education of a Lifetime” (Nautilus, 2013), which was selected earlier this year as the 2015 Common Reading Experience. They were instructed to read the volume before the start of classes. The former administrator has agreed to autograph books upon request following his speech.

“I think students will identify with the author’s account of his first days as a freshman on an unfamiliar campus,” said Leslie Banahan, assistant vice chancellor for student affairs and a co-chair on the Common Reading selection committee.

Chosen from among five finalists, Khayat’s book tells the story of growing up in Moss Point during the days of segregation and recounts his days in college at Ole Miss and Yale University. He also tells stories about his experiences as the university’s 15th chancellor and how UM grew under his direction.

“Every new student has pangs of homesickness and uncertainty, and I think knowing that our former chancellor had those same experiences will be reassuring to members of the class of 2019,” Banahan said. “The UM Common Reading Experience is important to our campus as we are a community of readers. Reading is at the very core of education, and sharing one book with students, faculty, staff and alumni affords us the opportunity for rich, stimulating, insightful discussions. Hopefully, students will learn how to express their opinions and respectfully listen to others’ opinions, even when they disagree.

“Chancellor Emeritus Robert Khayat played a pivotal role in changing the University of Mississippi and changing the perception others had of the university. Reading ‘The Education of a Lifetime’ will expose students to Khayat’s leadership style, the challenges he faced and overcame during his career, his disappointments and the legacy he leaves for all of us.”

Khayat encouraged the entire university to always strive for excellence and to live up to its promise as a great American university, Acting Chancellor Morris Stocks said. Through his tireless work, the Phi Beta Kappa chapter, Sally McDonnell Barksdale Honors College, Trent Lott Leadership Institute and Croft Institute for International Studies were established as irrefutable reminders of UM leadership.

“This university has once again attracted a record number of students, drawing young people from around the world to an institution that has become well known for the leaders it produces, academic excellence and an outstanding collegiate experience,” Stocks said.

“It wasn’t always so. When Robert Khayat became chancellor, the campus wasn’t the beautiful place it is today. In fact, there were many buildings in a serious state of disrepair, landscaping was an afterthought and we were not known for the scholarship that defines this university today. The national leadership we enjoy now is a story of the huge difference one person can make. We can only hope that his story will inspire every student to accomplish great things in their careers.”

Similar sentiments were expressed by Noel Wilkin, acting provost.

“Among the many fine chancellors this university has had, Robert Khayat stands as one of the absolute best,” Wilkin said. “Those who hear him share his reflections during the fall convocation are sure to leave challenged and inspired.”

For more information on the Common Reading Experience, visit

For more information on Khayat and his book, go to

UM Student Housing Day of Service Benefits L-O-U Community

Assistants-in-training visit, help local organizations in annual event

UM Student Housing Day of Service volunteer Giovanni Lavermicocca Ciccone examines a large earthworm he unearthed while weeding in the Oxford Boys and Girls Club garden. Photo by Robert Jordan/Ole Miss Communications

UM Student Housing Day of Service volunteer Giovanni Lavermicocca Ciccone examines a large earthworm he unearthed while weeding in the Oxford Boys and Girls Club garden. Photo by Robert Jordan/Ole Miss Communications

OXFORD, Miss. – Unfazed by severe thunderstorms that moved through the area much of the day, 138 University of Mississippi students visited several local organizations Friday afternoon (Aug. 7) to help beautify facilities and assist staff members with their duties.

The UM Student Housing Day of Service involved all community assistants-in-training in volunteer efforts around the Lafayette-Oxford-University community. Organizations participating in the annual event included the Oxford Police Department, Oxford Park Commission, Lake Stephens United Methodist Camp, North Mississippi Regional Center, U.S. Corps of Engineers at Sardis Lake, Veterans Administration Home, Oxford Boys and Girls Club, Yoknapatawpha Arts Council, Hermitage Gardens Assisted Living Facility, Mississippi Sustainable Agriculture Network and the United Way of Oxford-Lafayette County.

“This is our third year that we will have done a day of service as a community assistant team,” said Scott Oliver, UM assistant director of student housing-residential learning. “We started it the year that we instituted the residential curriculum because service is one of the common strategies that we believe supports engaged scholarship and responsible citizenship. We ask out our community assistants to both know the way and also to show the way.”

This is the second year that UM has partnered with Volunteer Oxford to coordinate events and activities. Ten teams, led by two student leaders each, participated in such scheduled activities as posting signs, picking up trash, planting flowers, weeding gardens, playing Bingo, dancing, stuffing envelopes and painting both fences and fingernails.

Some of the CAs said that the Day of Service is more than just a welcome departure from their summer leisure.

“This program has really shown me the importance of community service,” said Jalen Neal, a senior political science major from Shaw. “The Day of Service impacts the people in the community, and it also shows us as students just what a positive difference we can make in the world surrounding us while we’re yet in school.”

Christian Robinson, a pharmacy student in his first year of the professional program, agreed.

“Last year was amazing,” said Robinson, of Atlanta. “As we CAs went to a local nursing home, we really bonded. Seeing how much it meant to the residents for us to spend time with them was a truly great experience. I anticipate this year’s will be even better.”

Emily Schneider, a junior from Memphis, Tennessee, majoring in integrated marketing communications, said the event is another way for her to connect with the close-knit student housing community.

“We’re really like a family,” said Schneider, who moved to Memphis from her native New Jersey. “Volunteering in the community is nice because it allows me to give back to the town that has embraced and welcomed me.”

A Boys and Girls Club representative said the presence and work of UM student volunteers definitely contributes to the program’s success.

“We’re very fortunate to have UM students to voluntarily work with us,” said Amy Goodin, unit director. “Because the university and Oxford are so integrated, it really means a lot. We’re very thankful for the help.”

Watching Their Steps

UM scientist's patented technology measures changes in walk of elderly, which may help prevent falls

OXFORD, Miss. – A University of Mississippi-patented sonar technology, which can be used to measure and score the movements of the elderly, may soon become a “game changer” for those concerned about aging parents or patients.

Photo by Robert Jordan/Ole Miss Communications

Photo by Robert Jordan/Ole Miss Communications

The Collie Home Health Walk Signature SystemTM is a smart sensor created by UM research scientist James Sabatier, who began developing sonar technologies in the 1980s. Still in the pre-prototype phase, the small, wireless device can be attached to the wall of any room in a building. Once in place, Collie regularly measures and assesses walking speed, leg and torso motion and other parameters related to balance and gait. This data is used to calculate a person’s “fall-risk” score.

“Collie is the first product of its kind to bring the precision of expensive equipment used in research hospitals to the home in a single, affordable, noninvasive smart sensor,” said John Rogers, Collie Home Health’s chief operating officer. “This is important for seniors, as the National Council on Aging identified lack of preventive treatment and changes in lifestyle as the major factors contributing to falls.”

Collie’s fall-risk scores are indicators of stability, with higher scores indicating better stability and a lower risk of falling. If a person’s score dropped over a period of time, it might signal a problem, said Sabatier, Collie Home Health founder, chief executive officer and inventor.

“A fall-risk score is a standardized measurement, like blood pressure,” he said. “It gives a snapshot of a person’s stability. Over longer periods, trends in the score provide insight into changes in a person’s health.”

By responding to these changes with prescribed interventions, such as physical therapy, a cane or walker, patients may improve their walking ability or at least lessen the probability of having a debilitating or deadly fall.

For example, if someone’s parent or grandparent had a fall-risk score of 68, and over time it decreased to 42, clearly preventive intervention would be needed.

“But why wait until it’s 42?” Rogers said. “By measuring fall-risk every day, you see her score drop below 60. And even though you may not see a change in her stability with your naked eye, you know it is time to schedule that doctor’s appointment. Then, through physical therapy or the addition of a walking aid, her score jumps back up to 72 over the next few weeks.”

Sabatier is collaborating with other UM scientists and staff in perfecting Collie. John Garner, interim chair and associate professor of health, exercise science and recreation management, compares Sabatier’s research with similar data yielded by experiments in UM’s Applied Biomechanics Laboratory. The equipment includes eight cameras used to capture all body motions of test subjects in three dimensions.

“Ours is the ‘gold standard’ in motion capture,” Garner said. “So far, the Collie system replicates our standards on a much smaller scale and shows great promise for the health care industry. We’re just glad to provide our ‘toys’ to assist his efforts.”

Jeremy Webster, an engineer at the university’s National Center for Physical Acoustics and a consultant on the software aspects of the project, voiced similar positive findings.

“At this point, we can very accurately measure the strides of people,” he said. “The next requirement on the road to making Collie available to the public will be a better understanding of when these changes begin to take place. Once we have that, we can test the prototype in a small number of homes for several months. By that point, we should have a unit for consumers to purchase.”

Two UM students, Demba Komma of The Gambia and Forrest Gamble of Birmingham, Alabama, also work with Sabatier on Collie testing.

Sabatier was the first tenant of the Innovation Hub at Insight Park, a 62,000-square-foot high-tech center that provides support and infrastructure to startup companies in the knowledge business, including biomedical and pharmaceutical industries. The company is an outgrowth of his life’s work as an acoustical physicist at NCPA. With the Innovation Hub as his base, he was able to take advantage of in-house resources to develop his research into a viable business.

“It was bred into me as a graduate student that this was what I was supposed to do, but I struggled to know how to do it,” Sabatier said. “I’m a university faculty member by career, trying to become a businessman. The Innovation Hub provides all of the pieces I need.”

“Falls are traumatic and when a loved one falls, she desires the best emergency care possible,” he said. “But the best treatment is to avoid the fall by taking preventive action.”

For more information, email with “Collie Launch” in the email subject line or register for the mailing list at

Engineering Senior Led UM Team in College BattleFrog Competition

Jack Coffin spurred teammates to second place in rigorous nationally televised challenge

Christopher “Jack” Coffin

Christopher ‘Jack’ Coffin

When four University of Mississippi students placed second in the first-ever BattleFrog College Championship in Orlando, Florida, Christopher “Jack” Coffin couldn’t have been more proud.

That’s because the 22-year-old senior general engineering major from Ruckersville, Virginia, led his three teammates in the ESPN2-televised completion. BattleFrog is an obstacle race that was inspired by U.S. Navy Seals training.

Kim Duff, 24, a 2015 graduate from Greensboro, North Carolina; Josh Brenc, 19, a sophomore from Chicago; and Emily Lewis, 20, a senior from St. Louis, also represented the university. The collegiate tournament featured a 400-meter relay, which accompanied more than 20 challenging obstacles for contestants to overcome. The Ole Miss team was among 16 teams competing in a single-elimination tournament in hopes of winning a collegiate title, a $10,000 grand prize and the Trident Cup.

“I had heard about the competition through my twin sister, who is the female elite captain of the BattleFrog race team,” Coffin said. “I asked Josh through training together in Navy ROTC, and I had met Emily our freshman year and was impressed with her work ethic and enthusiasm for crossfit. Kim and I have been great friends since sophomore year, and as a strong performer on the Ole Miss women’s soccer team, I knew she still had that competitive and athletic edge. It was hectic getting the team together at the last minute, but everyone was excited to give it a shot.”

The Ole Miss contingent was not even on the original 16-team roster for the tournament, which was staged March 12-15. The University of Texas team dropped out last minute, thus opening a spot for the Ole Miss squad to enter the competition as first alternate.

“I remember when Jack told me about it I, thought it sounded super-cool,” Lewis said. “Leading up to forming the team and then being accepted to the tournament, it was all so sudden. We did not really have a clue how the competition would be structured. We only had a description of obstacles that would be featured at the race.”

“I didn’t think twice about joining the team,” Duff said. “The experience turned out to exceed my expectations. Not only did we compete well with this team we threw together in two weeks, but it was a blast.”

The tournament structure over that March weekend allowed teams to go through the course on Friday for time trials that would affect seeding for the rest of the weekend. The Saturday and Sunday events featured matchups of seeded teams until only two teams remained. Obstacles included rope climbs, monkey bar courses, wall climbs and more, all designed to test the physical limits of participants.

“Most teams didn’t know what to expect when they entered the competition,” Coffin said. “The race was a sprint, but many schools brought their triathlon teams expecting a longer course. We brought a strong team, allowing us to move through the obstacles more quickly, and Emily and Kim were some of the strongest females in the competition.”

Coffin took the reins as team captain, helping strengthen the group’s bonds and taking the necessary steps to enter them into the competition.

“It takes everyone on the team to succeed and only one person to fail,” Coffin said. “That is how these type of races work. But we didn’t have a weak link, and we worked extremely well together. We all felt honored to represent our school in such an exciting competition.”

Coffin chose to major in general engineering with an emphasis on naval science because it increased his chances of picking up a Navy scholarship.

“Eighty percent of Navy scholarships are awarded to engineers, and the emphasis on naval science allowed me to use my ROTC classes towards my major and graduate on time, without spreading myself too thin,” Coffin said. “As an ensign in the United States Navy, I will be reporting to Coronado, California, for Basic Underwater Demolition school, where I will begin training as a naval special warfare officer.”

Mighty Marni Makes Military Mark

Assistant engineering dean completed Army ROTC boot camp in July

Kendricks repelled down 64-foot wall during camp.

Kendricks repelled down 64-foot wall during camp.

Marni Kendricks, assistant dean for undergraduate academics in the University of Mississippi School of Engineering, recently represented the university’s Army ROTC Program at the U.S. Army Summer Cadet Training Leadership Symposium in Fort Knox, Kentucky.

Kendricks was among 40 people from across the nation, identified as “persons of influence” or representing “centers of influence,” to spend a few days with the cadets and cadre to learn more about how the Army is training the next generation of military officers. Participants have opportunities to endorse or recommend this program to potential future officers and leaders.

With challenges facing the military, the U.S. Army is serious about recruiting the best and brightest to lead. Military leaders are particularly interested in increasing the number of officers with engineering and technical backgrounds.

“I had the pleasure of spending a few days with provosts, deans, chancellors, athletics directors and associates from all across the U.S. representing a variety of Army ROTC universities,” Kendricks said. “We interacted with senior military officers, professors of military science and cadets in summer training. They invited the academics to participate in several activities to experience some of the Army training firsthand.”

As part of her training experience, Kendricks practiced loading a magazine and shooting enemy threats on an electronic rifle range.

“We participated in a computer-simulated attack and a virtual training activity in heavy protective gear,” she said. “I will never forget rappelling from a 64-foot tower and going through the full-scale ropes course.”

She quickly developed a great deal of trust and confidence in the professionals who were teaching those events.

“As I ended my high-adrenaline week with a few bruises and scrapes, I thought about the power of a program that could coach even a bunch of nutty professors through those challenges,” Kendricks said. “It was obvious the U.S. military has the ability and experience to transform fit, focused, young, capable 22-year-olds into great leaders to serve our country in a critical role.”

The Ole Miss unit is proud of how well Kendricks performed at Fort Knox, said Scott Caldwell, UM Army ROTC recruiting operations officer. “She represented both the engineering program and the University of Mississippi well during all of the challenging events,” he said.

UM has about 100 active Army ROTC cadets in its program and is expecting seven National Scholarship Award winners as part of the incoming freshman class. In addition to these, the unit anticipates an incoming freshman class of about 30 students who will be competing for Campus Based Scholarships or Guaranteed Reserve Forces Duty Scholarships.

Cliff Nash is an Aeronautical Industry ‘Top Gun’

UM alumnus is executive director of Tupelo Regional Airport, president of Mississippi Airports Association

Cliff Nash

Cliff Nash

University of Mississippi engineering alumnus Cliff Nash is among the “top guns” in aeronautics these days.

Previously elected president of the Mississippi Airports Association, Nash was recently named executive director of the Tupelo Regional Airport. Selected from a pool of about 100 applicants, he had served as director of Tunica Airport since 2002.

“My job is to oversee the day-to-day administration, operations and maintenance of a commercial service airport,” said Nash, who also directed the Greenville Airport from 1995 to 2002. “Another responsibility is to develop and coordinate capital improvement plans along with available funding sources and work with engineering consultants and contractors.”

Nash also interacts with airfield tenants, pilots, passengers and prospective users and companies.

“Airport management, especially at smaller airports where you wear many different hats, is tremendously exciting,” he said. “There is never a dull or routine day.”

A certified member of the American Association of Airport Executives and life member of the Air Force Association, Nash helped start air operations in Tunica, which opened its airport in 2003 with a 3,500-foot runway. It was expanded a year later to 7,000 feet and again in 2006 to 8,500 feet. The $50 million airport was the first new commercial-service, federalized airport built after 9/11.

He acknowledges his UM engineering education as having been fundamental to his career success.

“Simply put, it instilled confidence, fostered determination and provided analytical thinking,” Nash said. “Basically, given the opportunity, I believe I can be productive and a valued asset anywhere. Tempered with my riverboat and military experiences, the three have certainly shaped my capabilities, work ethics and management style.”

An Oxford native, Nash literally grew up on the Ole Miss campus. His father served as director of student housing and the family lived in Sam Hall. He vividly recalled being in first grade when James Meredith enrolled and lived in nearby Baxter Hall.

“The National Guard was camped on and around the intermural field where the old athletic dorm is now,” Nash said. “I spent a lot of time hanging around and talking with the soldiers. That experience, and with my father being in the Naval Reserves, influenced me tremendously.”

The Nashes also lived in Kincannon Hall and the Twin Towers residence halls when they were built, all three on Rebel Drive.

“Someday, I’m going to write a book about growing up on the campus and call it, ‘My Life Experiences at Ole Miss: All Downhill,'” he jokingly said. “Seriously, the campus landscape has changed dramatically since 1959. However, it has remained Ole Miss and has grown more beautiful, beloved and renowned.”

Attending UM after high school on a faculty-staff scholarship was a simple decision for Nash. He first enrolled in 1974 for two years, then left college to work on the Mississippi River for Magnolia Marine, serving on riverboats carrying bunker oil to power plants in Mississippi, Arkansas and Louisiana. In the summer of 1979, he returned to Ole Miss and changed his major from law enforcement to civil engineering.

“I worked three part-time jobs, got married, had my first son, graduated with a BE degree and was commissioned in the Air Force, all by August 1982,” Nash said.

Taking a lot of courses in a very short time, Nash didn’t get to know his professors very well. A couple of engineering faculty and staff do stand out in his memory though.

“Although I only had Dean (Karl) Brenkert for two classes, I admired him for his character and resolve,” Nash said. “The one person I owe my entire experience and degree to was Mr. Damon Wall, who was the adviser for the School of Engineering. Had it not been for his counseling and support, I would not have completed my degree in three years and been commissioned in the Air Force.”

Keeping the Tupelo airport viable is important, and Nash is the right fit, said Fred Cook, chairman of the Tupelo Airport Authority.

“He definitely knows the ins and outs of the airport business with his experience, and we think we have a great candidate for director,” Cook said. “His experience, not only with the airports, but with the communities, stood out for the committee.”

Nash earned his Master of Aeronautical Science degree from Embry-Middle Aeronautical University. He also served in the U.S. Air Force as an air traffic control officer in both fixed and mobile facilities and performed airspace management duties that included redesigning the airspace used by the Joint Readiness Training Center in Louisiana. He also served on the AAAE’s U.S. Contract Tower Policy Board.

Nash and his wife, the former Ellen Crouch of Oxford, have two sons, Tyler and Lee, both of whom are married. They also have two granddaughters. He is a certified lay speaker in the United Methodist Church.

Nash is proud to acknowledge the impact UM has had on their family.

“In my immediate family, there are eight Ole Miss alums,” he said. “This is what I think makes Ole Miss so special – being cared for like family.”