Time to Be Santa’s Little Helpers

Campus community urged to support 18th annual Books and Bears Drive

Pre-schoolers from Willie Price Day Care Center dropped their donations to the annual Books and Bears program at the Provost Office in the Lyceum. (Staff photo by Nathan Latil, Imaging Services)

Pre-schoolers from Willie Price Day Care Center deliver their donations to the annual Books and Bears program at the Provost Office in the Lyceum. Photo by Nathan Latil/Ole Miss Communications

As the holiday season quickly approaches, bringing all its shopping and preparations, University of Mississippi faculty, staff and students are once again asked to become “Santa’s little helpers.”

The 18th annual Books and Bears program begins soon across campus. Sponsored by the UM Black Faculty and Staff Organization, the event is an opportunity to assist Facilities Management Department employees and their children by purchasing and donating books and toys to be given away Dec. 18 on campus.

Items may be dropped off on the third floor of the Robert C. Khayat Law Center, the Graduate School, second floor of Vardaman Hall, first floor of Ventress Hall, the Office of the Provost in the Lyceum, the Ticket Office in the Ole Miss Student Union, Room 308 of Howery Hall, Room 305 of Hume Hall, Farley Hall, the Yerby Center, the Career Center in Martindale Hall, Powers Hall, the Learning Resources Center in the Lucky Day Residential College, Room C-135 of Bondurant Hall and Room 310 of Bishop Hall.

Smiles abounded last year in the Gertrude Castellow Ford Ballroom at the Inn at Ole Miss as BFSO members distributed more than 1,000 gifts through the program. The items were donated by UM faculty, staff, students and alumni over a three-week period. The number of presents given hit a new record.

Reception at the event was enthusiastic.

“Without this event, lots of kids wouldn’t have very much on Christmas Day,” said Pauline Beard of Oxford, a general maintenance worker. “Every little bit helps and a little goes a long way.”

Donations are appreciated by BFSO officials.

“The thoughtfulness and outpouring of support from the UM family has been nothing short of amazing each year,” said Donald Cole, associate provost and assistant to the chancellor for multicultural affairs. “By helping others, we have truly captured the spirit of the holidays.”

New teddy bears, children’s books and toys have been collected for children of custodial and grounds workers since 1997.

Yi Liu Moving Up in Software Design

UM doctoral graduate is becoming a legend in her field

Yi Liu

Yi Liu

Fourteen years ago, Yi Liu began her doctoral program in the Department of Computer and Information Science at the University of Mississippi. Her research was in software engineering, particularly component-oriented programming.

After four years, she graduated and began working as an assistant professor at the South Dakota State University. Promoted to associate professor, she continues to conduct research and teach in software engineering.

Recently, Liu returned to UM as one of two Ph.D. alumni seminar speakers. Her topic was “EASTWeb Framework: A Plug-In Framework for Constructing Geospatial Health Applications.” While on campus, she met with several faculty members about shared interests and possible collaboration, and with a group of doctoral and master’s students.

“Dr. (H. Conrad) Cunningham was my dissertation advisor when I was pursuing my Ph.D. degree,” said Liu, who earned her master’s degree from Nanjing University, one of the top six institutions in the People’s Republic of China. “I took Software Engineering II, Component Software and Software Architecture from him. I also worked on research projects including the dissertation research under his supervision. The courses and the research built the foundations for my career after graduation.”

Before following her husband, who was already at UM as a doctoral student in chemistry, Liu taught a couple of years at Soochow University in her hometown of Suzhou, China.

Liu is fondly remembered by her Ole Miss computer science professors.

“In my 26 years on the faculty, she is the graduate student with whom I have most enjoyed working and who has benefited from my research program the most,” said Conrad Cunningham, chair emeritus and professor of computer and information science. “She is also a good friend. Of the Ph.D. graduates who have joined a CS faculty after graduation, she has probably been the most successful in terms of both teaching and research.”

Dawn Wilkins, chair and professor of computer and information science, served as one of Liu’s doctoral committee members.

“Dr. Liu is one of the most inventive doctoral students I have ever encountered,” Wilkins said. “Her ability to build upon the foundations of basic software design is impressive.”

Liu shares reciprocal memories of her professors.

“I took several graduate classes from Dr. Wilkins, including Machine Learning, Advanced Algorithms,” she said. “I liked her teaching style and enjoyed all of the classes I took from her.”

Honors and awards Liu received while at Ole Miss include the SAP Scholarship, summer graduate research assistantship, Academic Achievement Award in Ph.D. Program in Engineering Science and Graduate School Dissertation Fellowship.

“I have been a member of the computer science honor society Upsilon Pi Epsilon since 2002 and served as epsilon (secretary) for the UM Chapter,” Liu said. “The experience of being a member and officer of UPE helped me a lot to start a new UPE chapter and serve as the faculty adviser at South Dakota State University nine years later.”

Liu’s active research grants include the Epidemiological Applications of Spatial Technologies Framework, an open-source, client-based software developed to automate the retrieval, processing and storage of satellite remote sensing data for public health research and applications. She is a co-principal investigator in the development of an integrated system for the epidemiological application of earth observation technologies, including the EPIDEMIA system, Framework for developing Web-Atlas applications and semantic-based image retrieving system.

Liu has also created a crash-mapping automation tool software application, a remote sensing and precision agriculture application, intelligent software components, a new component-oriented software engineering course and BoxScript, a component-oriented language.

A prolific author, she has co-written six journal articles, a book chapter and 22 conference papers. Liu has served on the technical program committee for a workshop and two conferences and been a reviewer for conference papers and journals.

“The computer science program at UM may not have been big, but it had a decent teacher-graduate student ratio so that the graduate students were under good supervision,” Liu said. “I was working on the research topics I was interested in and enjoyed my study and research at the program.”

Passing on Her Passion

Dawn Blackledge makes her mark in industry; giving back to her alma mater

Dawn Blackledge

Dawn Blackledge

Thirty-three years ago, K. Dawn Blackledge was just another new University of Mississippi graduate looking for employment. Today, the geology and geological engineering alumna is the founder-CEO of the Blackledge Group and a major donor to her alma mater.

Blackledge has given $110,000 gift to Ole Miss, including $60,000 to endow a School of Engineering scholarship to help students in the geological engineering program offset tuition costs and promote participation in the Society of Women Engineers. An additional $50,000 donation to the Triplett Alumni Center is earmarked to sponsor a suite in the Inn at Ole Miss.

“I feel strongly that science and engineering should continue to flourish at Ole Miss, and I want to help deserving students pursue their passion of becoming an engineer,” said the Laurel native who resides in Jacksonville, Florida. “The GE program offers graduates so many opportunities and so many choices of industries for career opportunities.”

After earning her “dirty boots” in the Gulf Coast petroleum industry, Blackledge relocated to Jacksonville, where she entered public service with the city’s new Department of Environmental Resources. After 10 years of private and public experience, Blackledge founded Aerostar Environmental Services Inc., a full-service environmental engineering and remediation firm, in 1992. Under her leadership, the company grew to a business of more than 80 employees with 12 offices throughout eight states. She sold the company in 2012.

The Blackledge Group provides technical expertise to public and private clients in the areas of water resources, environmental compliance, energy and sustainability.

“I strongly believe that entrepreneurship provides the best opportunity to influence business philosophies and promote positive changes in policies and practices as the world continues to move at a lightning pace,” Blackledge said. “Also, women are still underrepresented in engineering. I feel it’s important to demonstrate that the engineering field can provide women with the opportunity to not only achieve their dreams but also the opportunity to create their own dreams.”

Blackledge said she grew up with a love for the university, where she was active in the Delta Delta Delta sorority.

“My best memories are the friends I made while at Ole Miss,” she said. “I lived in the Tri Delt house and had a blast attending football games and swaps, playing intramural sports and hanging out in the Grove.”

Blackledge joins the School of Engineering Advisory Board in 2016. Her generosity is noted and appreciated by faculty in the Department of Geology and Geological Engineering.

“Dawn has been an exemplary alumnus, one who has excelled professionally and invested back into the program both financially and with her time,” said Gregg Davidson, chair and professor of geology and geological engineering. “The Blackledge Scholarship is one of the more coveted awards we make each year, and we are privileged to have her serving as a departmental representative on the school’s engineering advisory board.”

Blackledge is a well-respected environmental professional and business owner. She was appointed by the governor of Florida to the State of Florida Board of Professional Geologists in 2000 and served as board chairman during her second term, ending in 2007.

The UM grad also serves on the board of directors for the Society of American Military Engineers Jacksonville Post. She is an appointed member of the University of North Florida’s Dean Advisory Board, a graduate of Leadership Jacksonville, a founding associate of the First Coast Manufacturers Association and mentor to new women-owned businesses.

Blackledge is a certified construction quality manager for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the U.S. Navy. At the state level, she is an expert at storm water permitting and has taught classes throughout the state.

A longtime runner, she is working on one her “bucket list” items. “When I was at Ole Miss, I ran from one end of the town to the other,” she said. “My new goal is to run at least one 10-K in every state. So far, I’ve run in 10 states.”

Blackledge said she will always continue to support Ole Miss engineering.

“I was so impressed with the changes on the campus that I wanted to be a part of the university’s continuing growth,” she said. “I am very proud of my alma mater and feel blessed to be a part of the Ole Miss tradition of ‘giving back.’ I hope many students will be able to be blessed as I have been blessed.”

From Music to Mechanical Engineer

Ole Miss drummer and entrepreneur lands job at BMW

Joseph Reed

Joseph Reed

A University of Mississippi drummer with the Pride of the South Marching Band has proven he’s both musically and mechanically-inclined by starting his own business and landing his first job as a student engineer.

Oxford native Joseph Reed, 21, is a senior studying mechanical engineering with a minor in music. Reed developed a love for music in high school as a member of the band’s percussion section for four years. For two of those years, he was percussion leader and in charge of teaching pieces to other drummers.

Reed said the strict order of rules within the band taught him honor, integrity and responsibility, and he became a perfectionist. That trait also helped Reed during his senior year of high school, when he took a wood and mechanics class and became interested in manufacturing and engineering.

“Through band, I learned how to discipline myself as a percussionist and as a person,” Reed said. “People I know today still say I show those characteristics.”

When building anything, Reed said there has to be a base or solid foundation to support the item as a whole. There is also a specific order one must follow to completion. Reed chose mechanical engineering with a minor in music as his foundation, and he became a member of UM’s Pride of The South Marching Band.

While playing with the band, Reed also decided to start his own business buying, manufacturing and selling new drums. Although business started slow, he managed to build a large clientele in Oxford for his small company, Reed’s Drum Products.

Thaddeus Moss, Reed’s friend and fraternity brother, helped to establish Reed’s Drum Products by finding a company in Memphis that would give them drum parts for a small price. Reed soon became well-known on the Ole Miss campus for his work.

“Reed is one of the hardest workers I know,” Moss said. “It was only right for me to lend him a helping hand. There was no doubt that his business would grow as fast as it did. I am actually one of his customers.”

Reed has also marched with Nashville’s Music City Drum & Bugle Corps and Ohio’s prestigious Bluecoats Drums and Bugle Corps. As the front ensemble section leader, he led the Bluecoats to a third place victory this summer out of 24 competing drum corps in the show “Kinetic Noise.” The Bluecoats competed in 34 shows this summer, including three performed in NFL stadiums and two that were broadcast live in hundreds of movie theaters.

Reed’s other love is mechanical engineering. He worked hard to maintain a 3.5 GPA and was offered a student job at the BMW manufacturing plant in Greenville, South Carolina.

“I thank God for all of my accomplishments,” Reed said. “There is no way but up from here on.”

Though he would have to return to college between the plant’s fall, spring and summer rotations, Reed took the job as a co-op student engineer. He works in the new model department of the BMW Paint Shop, where he prepares paint for new BMW models that will be produced at the South Carolina plant for 2016 and 2017.

If Reed learns to speak German before he graduates, he will be offered a fourth rotation at BMW’s head plant in Germany.

Cunningham Concludes Tenure as CIS Department Chair

Longtime professor passing baton, returning to teaching and research

Conrad Cunningham

Conrad Cunningham

Even before the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, 2001 was a time of trouble within the University of Mississippi’s Department of Computer and Information Science. At least that’s the way H. Conrad Cunningham remembers it.

“I became chair in what I describe as a triple crisis,” Cunningham said. “First, we had to move the department operations from Weir to Kinard for 18 months in order for Weir to be renovated. Second, we had to do our ABET/CAC self-study for the 2002 visit. And third, we lost two of our seven tenure-track faculty that summer.”

Rising to the occasion, the computer and information science professor-turned-chair pulled together the five remaining tenure-track faculty and one instructor to successfully extract themselves from this crisis over the next three years. He credits Kai-Fong Lee, then-dean of engineering, with providing advice that helped marshal the resources needed to rebuild the CIS department.

“I am never satisfied with the status quo,” Cunningham said. “As a faculty member and department chair, I have sought to help my department mature and increase its abilities to educate students, be productive researchers and stimulate the region to reach its potential.”

Cunningham has succeeded in doing just that. He served as department chair from Commencement in May 2001 until June 30, 2015, or more than 14 years.

“The best I can determine, I served in the role more than twice as long as any previous CIS department chair from the founding of the department in the mid-1970s,” he said. “My immediate predecessor, Dr. Robert P. Cook, served for nearly seven years, which is the second longest as far as he can determine.”

But Cunningham’s 26-year tenure is marked by achievement, not just longevity.

“During my period as chair, we increased our Ph.D. program and our funded research program,” he said. “We weathered the nationwide collapse in undergraduate enrollment after the Internet boom years before 2001 and increased the enrollment to the highest levels in probably 30 years.”

Cunningham hired all the current associate and assistant professors, added an eighth tenure-track line, a second instructor and received approval to hire a third instructor for fall 2017.

“I stepped aside from the chair role early this summer to refocus my efforts on my teaching, research and writing before I retire from the faculty in a few years,” Cunningham said. “I am currently working with several Ph.D. and M.S. students.”

​ As far as he knows, Cunningham is the first faculty member hired as a beginning assistant professor in CIS to reach the rank of professor. Dawn Wilkins, his successor, is the first female hired as an assistant professor to reach full professor rank.​

Cunningham joined the Ole Miss faculty in August 1989 after completing his master’s and doctoral degrees at Washington University in St. Louis. Raised on a farm near Success, Arkansas, he graduated from Corning High School and from Arkansas State University with a bachelor’s degree in mathematics.

Having previously worked as a professional staff member for Washington University and for General Dynamics Corp., Cunningham and his wife, Diana, decided Ole Miss and Oxford were a delightful place to live and work.

“When I came here as an assistant professor, I was fortunate to be able to choose among opportunities at three similar institutions,” he said. “I was attracted to the culture and size of the Ole Miss computer science department – a faculty dedicated to teaching, a department small enough for the faculty to know the students well and opportunities to grow a research program with Ph.D. and M.S. students.”

A registered dietitian, Diana Cunningham has worked 26 years for the North Mississippi Regional Center. For the past five years, she has served as director of nutrition services.

Cunningham has earned the respect of engineering administrators, colleagues, alumni and students.

“Dr. Cunningham is largely responsible for my decision to accept employment at the University of Mississippi,” Wilkins said. “His dedication to the department, its faculty and its students is remarkable, and I am proud to call him not only my colleague but a trusted friend.”

“As my adviser, Dr. Cunningham not only guided me through my dissertation research with wisdom and patience and gave me considerable encouragement, but also impressed me with his dedication to the work and wonderful personality,” said Yi Liu, a 2005 doctoral graduate who is an associate professor of electrical engineering and computer science at South Dakota State University. “He is my role model.”

The Cunninghams enjoy travel but have not had much time to for it in recent years. He also enjoys reading and activities at First Baptist Church in Oxford. A few months ago, the couple began walking regularly to improve and maintain their health.

While retirement is still a few years away, Cunningham said he is already making plans for his post-UM future.

“We likely will remain in Oxford,” he said. “We plan to devote more time to church activities, travel, visiting family and reading. I also plan to remain professionally active, devoting some time to consulting, research, writing, mentoring students and perhaps teaching.”

Engineers Without Borders Launches Ignite Campaign for Togo Project

Donations needed to fund January trip


Members of the School of Engineering

A team of students and faculty from the University of Mississippi chapter of Engineers Without Borders plans to travel to the West African nation of Togo in January 2016 to start its Phase II project, providing clean water to a hospital in Akoumape Village, and you can help!

To contribute, visit the Ignite Ole Miss site at https://ignite.olemiss.edu/olemiss4togo.

Togo is a distressed country with a population of approximately 6.7 million people. About half the population lives below the international poverty line. Since 2012, the Ole Miss EWB team has made four trips to Togo and constructed a school building that helps dozens of children in the Hedome Village obtain an education.

The next step of the team’s commitment is to provide water to a children’s hospital, which is being built by another nonprofit organization. The hospital is almost complete but has no source of clean water. The job of EWB-Ole Miss is to drill a well, build two water towers and install a distribution pipe and a public tap stand.

To begin planning and execution of these projects, the EWB-Ole Miss team is going to Togo in January, anticipating a deep-water well installation in the summer of 2016.

To minimize the cost to students, individual fundraising efforts were conducted in the past. For the coming trip, students have initiated a crowdfunding project in hopes of raising money from a larger support base. Your donation of any amount will not only assist an act of humanity, but also enable students to gain an invaluable educational experience.

General Relativity Centennial Topic for Next Science Cafe

UM physicist Katherine Dooley presents history of Einstein and his famous theory at Nov. 17 session

Katherine Dooley

Katherine Dooley

OXFORD, Miss. – The centennial of Albert Einstein’s general theory of relativity is the topic for a monthly public science forum organized by the UM Department of Physics and Astronomy.

The fall semester’s fourth meeting of the Oxford Science Café is set for 6 p.m. Tuesday (Nov. 17) at Lusa Bakery Bistro and Bar, 1120 N. Lamar Blvd. Katherine Dooley, UM assistant professor of physics and astronomy, will discuss “Curved Space-Time: Celebrating the 100th Anniversary of General Relativity.” Admission is free.

“November 1915 was a revolutionary month in the history of science,” Dooley said. “Einstein published a series of four papers, week upon week, culminating with his presentation of the field equations of general relativity.”

Dooley’s 45-minute presentation will include discussions of how Einstein’s theory has survived tests of its validity.

“He told us that what we thought we knew about gravity from our everyday experience is not the whole story,” she said. “Gravity is the result of massive objects warping space and time. After 100 years, his theory has survived a series of continuous tests of its validity.”

In cosmology, the quality of scientists’ observations of very distant regions of the universe has improved dramatically in recent years.

“I will tell some of the early story of Einstein’s rise to becoming a pop star and show examples of some of the bizarre consequences of his theory,” Dooley said.

Dooley earned her bachelor’s degree from Vassar College and a doctorate from the University of Florida. Before joining the UM faculty, she was a postdoctoral researcher at the California Institute of Technology and Max Planck Institute for Gravitational Physics, also known as the Albert Einstein Institute, in Hannover, Germany.

Awards Dooley has received include the 2010 Tom Scott Award for distinction in research at Florida and a Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory student fellowship from Cal Tech. Having worked directly with both the original and Advanced LIGO projects, Dooley spent four years at the LIGO Livingston site, first installing new hardware to upgrade the initial LIGO detectors and then commissioning the interferometer. She also holds membership in the American Physical Society.

Dooley’s research interest is experimental gravitational-wave physics.

Predicted by Einstein in his general theory of relativity, gravitational waves are extremely small ripples in space-time created by the movements of massive objects such as colliding black holes or exploding stars. A network of gravitational-wave detectors is being built around the world to make the first direct detection of gravitational waves, a momentous event thatastrophysicists predict will occur within the next few years.

For more information about Oxford Science Cafe programs, go to http://www.phy.olemiss.edu/oxfordsciencecafe. For more information about the Department of Physics and Astronomy, visit http://www.olemiss.edu/depts/physics_and_astronomy or call 662-915-5311.

International Conference at UM Focuses on Global Conflict Management

49th annual meeting of Peace Science Society unites preeminent group for discussion, research

OXFORD, Miss. – A prestigious annual event that encourages the development of peace analysis and conflict management around the globe is meeting at the University of Mississippi’s the Inn at Ole Miss this weekend.

David Carter of Princeton University answers questions after speaking at the 49th Annual North American meeting of the Peace Science Society (International). Photo by Kevin Bain/Ole Miss Communications

David Carter of Princeton University answers questions after speaking at the 49th Annual North American meeting of the Peace Science Society (International). Photo by Kevin Bain/Ole Miss Communications

The 49th Peace Science Society International Conference, which began Thursday (Nov. 12) and ends Saturday (Nov. 14), focuses on how social science theory relates to international relations. Presenters included scholars and experts from a wide variety of fields.

Representing UM as participants are Jeff Carter, assistant professor of political science; Benjamin Jones, assistant professor of international relations; and Susan Allen, associate professor of political science.

“The Peace Science Society Annual Conference is one of the largest conferences featuring rigorous academic research on peace, violence and conflict around the world,” said Carter, one of the event’s organizers and presenters. “The University of Mississippi is honored to host the conference for the first time in this region.”

Carter presented findings from his paper “You Must Choose, but Choose Wisely: Interstate Conflict and Endogenous Leader Selection.” His talk focused on whether leaders’ personalities influence their decisions on responses to conflict situations.

“We ask questions like, ‘Can the domestic population influence the likelihood of international conflict based upon the leaders’ personal choices?'” he said.

Jones’ presentation, titled “Sequencing Peace: Civil War Termination as a Path-Dependent Process,” included original research on when and how countries plan their recovery after a civil war has ended. Allen chaired a group of presenters Friday morning in Ballroom B.

Besides providing speakers for the conference, the political science department also saw the event as an opportunity to get students involved.

“It was a great opportunity to see how an academic conference is run, but more importantly, I was able to meet so many young professionals doing amazing new research in my field,” said Nate Andrew, a doctoral student from Mapleton, Utah.

The conference is sponsored by the university’s Office of the Provost, College of Liberal Arts and Department of Political Science.

For more about the Peace Science Society (International), visit http://sites.psu.edu/pssi/.

Open the Envelope: Live United Way

Annual campus campaign goal is $150,000

united-wayAll University of Mississippi employees should receive a mailing from the campus United Way campaign committee this month. It looks different this year, and we hope that everyone will open it and accept the challenge to donate a portion of your salary to help the worthy cause.

The sooner each of us makes a pledge, the quicker we will reach the $150,000 goal for this year.

“The members of the UM United Way Campaign Committee invite all administration, faculty and staff to participate in this year’s fundraising efforts,” said Thelma Curry, captain of UPD support operations and campus committee co-chairperson. “Contributions may be made through payroll deductions each payroll period or by check.”

Fair Share givers contribute one hour’s wages each month to the United Way. Emerging Leadership givers donate $250 to $499. Leadership givers contribute at least $500.

Employees have until the end of the semester to make a pledge but are urged not to procrastinate.

“As the holidays approach, the number of calls for philanthropy typically increases,” said Lucile McCook, lecturer in biology and campus committee co-chairperson. “In this critical economic climate, we want to make sure that our campus United Way campaign is not inadvertently omitted lest we fall short of reaching our goal.”

So go ahead; make someone’s day. Open the envelope and live the United Way.

Michael Cravens is the Congressman’s Confidant

Computer science alumnus serves as chief of staff to Rep. Gregg Harper

Michael Cravens

Michael Cravens

Ask Michael Cravens what has been the most fulfilling thing in his life so far and he immediately cites his faith. He’ll quickly add that serving as chief of staff to U.S. Rep. Gregg Harper (R.-Miss.) runs a very close second.

“Congressman Harper has a heart for serving others unlike anyone else I have ever met in my life,” said the Louisville native, who earned his bachelor’s degree in computer science from the University of Mississippi 31 years ago. “He sets an example of service to his congressional team and all of us strive to emulate that in the way that we serve his constituents and the citizens of Mississippi. It’s simply an honor to serve on his team.”

Cravens is responsible for managing the day-to-day activities of the congressman’s Washington and Mississippi offices. He also provides counsel to him on an array of issues.

“It’s also a great privilege to work with Congressman Harper’s incredibly dedicated and talented congressional team,” he said. “Often, I am approached by young staffers from states across the country who, after having met Congressman Harper, ask me to consider them to work for his office if a position were to ever come available. His dedication to his family (including having raised a son with special needs) and his desire to serve his constituents with honor, is so inspiring.”

Cravens’ migration to Capitol Hill began in Louisville, where he still has a house near downtown.

“I grew up in the country, and living so close to Starkville, I had naturally grown up a Mississippi State fan,” Cravens said. “However, I was fortunate to receive academic and leadership scholarships from Ole Miss, without which it would have been extremely difficult for me to have attended college, if at all.”

Cravens had also seen the university’s Pride of the South marching band perform at a game and became interested in joining. He auditioned and was fortunate to receive a band scholarship as well.

“It was a privilege to play trumpet in the Ole Miss marching and concert bands for my five years there,” he said. “My experiences with the Ole Miss band, with Dr. Luther Snavely as band director in those days, are certainly among my most cherished memories from college.”

When it comes to Ole Miss engineering, Cravens has fond memories of certain professors and their classes.

“I would have to say that Dr. Pam Lawhead and Dr. Tobin McGinnis were two of my very favorite professors,” he said. “They both had a gift for relating our coursework in very practical ways to the real world. Dr. Lawhead and Dr. Maginnis were not only tremendous teachers, but they were also great encouragers and counselors.”

While at Ole Miss, Cravens held memberships and offices in Kappa Kappa Psi national honorary marching band fraternity; Alpha Phi Omega national honorary Boy Scout fraternity; the Association of Computing Machinery and the Public Relations Student Society of America. He was also inducted into the campus’s Omicron Delta Kappa chapter, a national leadership honor society.

Following his graduation from the university, Cravens’ first job was as a software design engineer for Texas Instruments in Dallas.

“I had the fascinating opportunity to write software for DOD projects at TI, and my computer and engineering classes, as well as my experiences at Ole Miss, all greatly prepared me for this first job out of college,” he said.

When Cravens is not busy working in Harper’s offices, he enjoys traveling, spending time with his family, playing piano and trumpet, and dabbling in genealogy.

“Because I originally majored in music and planned to be a band director, music has always played an important role in my life,” Cravens said. “For the last 19 years, as a volunteer I have organized and produced a benefit concert in my hometown, called ‘Carl Jackson’s Home for Christmas.'”

A fellow Louisville native and multi-Grammy winner, Jackson, who performed all over the world with Glen Campbell in the 1970s and ’80s, brings a number of award-winning Nashville performers home each year for two sold-out performances of country, bluegrass and Christmas music.

“This is a benefit for the old Strand Theater in Louisville,” Cravens said. “This year’s concert is slated for Saturday, Dec. 12th, 4 p.m. and 7 p.m.”

Though Cravens’ parents are deceased, all of his extended family – including brothers, sister, aunts, uncles, cousins and stepmother – reside in Louisville. His stepfather is a resident of a Mississippi veterans’ home.

Cravens is quick to acknowledge that the coursework, campus activities, organizational memberships and personal growth during his college years all helped prepare him for his career and ultimately for the job that he has now.

“I daily apply skills that I learned at Ole Miss to my job in Washington,” Cravens said. “I’m truly thankful for my experiences with the university and Ole Miss engineering.”