Mathematical Probability Theory Topic of Spring’s Final Science Cafe

UM algebra professor uses dice to demonstrate unique factorization

UM math professor Sandra Spiroff uses dice to demonstrate theories of probability.

UM mathematics professor Sandra Spiroff uses dice to demonstrate theories of probability.

OXFORD, Miss. – The theory of unique factorization, with an application to mathematical probability, is the topic for a monthly public science forum organized by the University of Mississippi Department of Physics and Astronomy.

The spring semester’s third and last meeting of the Oxford Science Cafe is set for 6 p.m. Tuesday (April 21) at Lusa Pastry Cafe, 2305 West Jackson Ave. Sandra Spiroff, UM associate professor of mathematics, will discuss “Unique factorization and a roll of the dice.” Admission is free.

“Starting from the familiar factorization of integers into prime numbers, we extend the concept of unique factorization to polynomials and beyond,” Spiroff said. “In particular, we will discuss how unique factorization, or the lack of it, probably jeopardized early attempts to prove Fermat’s Last Theorem.”

Spiroff’s 30-minute presentation will also present an interesting application to the probabilities associated with rolling a pair of dice.

“If time permits, we will run some experiments and play the casino game of craps,” she said. “The mathematical difficulty of the majority of this talk is high school algebra, and many examples will be given.”

Spiroff earned her doctorate at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, a master’s degree from Saint Louis University and a bachelor’s degree from Indiana University. Her research areas include commutative algebra, with specialization in the topics of divisor class groups and Chow groups.

Undergraduate courses she teaches are linear algebra and abstract algebra. Previously, Spiroff held the position of VIGRE postdoctoral assistant professor-lecturer at the University of Utah.

For more information about Oxford Science Cafe programs, go to For more information about the Department of Physics and Astronomy, visit or call 662-915-5311.

UM Earth Day Lecture Set for April 22

Anthropologist Paige West to discuss Papua New Guinea at Overby Center

As the world celebrates Earth Day on April 22, a respected anthropologist will share findings of her research on the people of Papua New Guinea at the University of Mississippi.

Paige West, of Columbia University, will discuss “Imagining Pacific Futures: Climate Change, Local Livelihoods and International Environmentalist Rhetorics.” The free program begins at 7 p.m. in the Overby Center auditorium.

For more about the event, visit this link.

University Researchers to Show Off Work Friday at Research Day

Annual event showcases scientific posters, lectures from Oxford campus, Medical Center

The scientific and scholarly studies of more than 100 researchers, totaling 119 lectures and posters, will be presented and displayed Friday (April 10) at the University of Mississippi.

The 2015 UM Research Day begins at 10 a.m. at the Inn at Ole Miss Ballroom. The event is free and open to the public.

“The response to Research Day has been fantastic,” said Alice Clark, vice chancellor for research and sponsored programs. “It’s truly exciting to see how many faculty members and researchers will be participating. When great minds meet and share ideas, especially if the minds are coming from a wide range of disciplines and represent a great diversity of experience and thought, that’s when the most exciting collaborations and innovations are born.”

“The University of Mississippi Medical Center and the University of Mississippi have historically established many successful collaborations,” said Richard Summers, associate vice chancellor of research at the Medical Center. “I am confident Research Day will spur on many new partnerships and help our campuses cross-pollinate ideas.”

Forty-two researchers are scheduled to make three-minute lectures during the day. Topics include hypertension, protein levels in breast milk, computational medicinal chemistry, stuttering inhibition method and device, early brain development, behavioral change, education theory, understanding culture through fiction, antifungal drug discoveries, prostate cancer resistance to radiation and food systems.

Seventy-seven research posters have been prepared for the meeting. Subjects include flood models, neuroscience, media blackout, molecular cloning, healthy eating, world religion festivals and training police to recognize terrorist and criminal behaviors.

“Research Day is an opportunity for members of the university community and beyond to learn more about the scientific and scholarly research being done at UM and UMMC,” said Teresa Carithers, associate dean of the School of Applied Sciences and chair of the Research Day Task Force. “The event will bring together participants from all academic fields and disciplines through three-minute lectures, a poster session and networking opportunities to encourage interdisciplinary collaboration.”

Other members of the task force represent the schools of Pharmacy, Health Related Professions, Graduate Studies in Health Sciences, Accountancy, Dentistry, Engineering, Education, Journalism and New Media, Law, and the Graduate School. The Office of Research and Sponsored programs, Office of Government Relations and the J.D. Williams Library are also represented on the task force.

For more information, visit

Gifted Middle School Students Probe Faux Crime Scene on UM Campus

Field trip to forensic chemistry program allowed seventh- and eighth-graders to examine evidence, present case

Oxford Middle Schoolers attend a special program presented by the Forensic Chemistry faculty.  These young students learned about analyzing a crime scene using DNA, toxicology and bullet analysis before having a mock trial.  Photo by Kevin Bain/Ole Miss Communications

Oxford Middle School students attend a special program presented by UM forensic chemistry faculty. These young students learned about analyzing a crime scene using DNA, toxicology and bullet analysis before having a mock trial. Photo by Kevin Bain/Ole Miss Communications

OXFORD, Miss. – A dead body, blood spatter, guns, bullets and DNA samples – all fake – offered gifted Oxford Middle School students a unique opportunity to test their forensic skills Wednesday (April 8) at the University of Mississippi.

About 80 seventh- and eighth-graders in the OMS Launch program visited the campus as part of a two-week unit on forensics they’re studying.

Led by Murrell Godfrey, UM forensic chemistry program director, and his students, the group spent the morning honing their detective skills while examining the “evidence” throughout select classrooms and labs in Coulter Hall. Graduate and undergraduate forensic chemistry students demonstrated the proper procedures for analyzing the staged evidence recovered from the mock crime scene.

“Our mock crime scene contained murdered dummies with fake blood for DNA and toxicology analysis,” said Godfrey, associate professor of chemistry and biochemistry. “We also had real spent bullets and pretend guns for ballistics analysis, along with fingerprints, hairs and fibers for trace analysis.”

UM students emphasized the importance of preventing contamination, as well as keeping the chain of custody intact from the time evidence is collected at the crime scene through the analysis process.

Divided into five smaller groups, the OMS students rotated through the different forensic stations. At each station, they analyzed their samples and collected data.

“Fake blood was collected and analyzed to develop a DNA profile and toxicological report,” Godfrey said. “Finger prints were lifted from the gun to determine who touched the gun.  Bullets were analyzed with a comparison microscope to determine what gun fired the bullets found at crime scene.”

The event culminated with a moot court (mock trial) where the students defended their analyses as expert witnesses.

“This has been in the planning stages since January,” said Brenteria Travis, a UM computer and information science doctoral student from Canton and co-coordinator of the event with Godfrey. A Mississippi Space Grant Consortium fellow, Travis is required to volunteer in a local K-12 school program. She has been working closely with OMS Launch teacher Pat Kincade on a weekly basis for the past two years.

“This is the second time we’ve coordinated a visit day for her students,” Travis said. “The first involved both forensic chemistry and computer science in 2013. Our goal is always to encourage these gifted young minds to go into STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) majors once they enter college.”

Kincade prepared her students for the UM field trip by creating a similar mock crime scene in her classroom. While having no advanced forensic equipment, she managed to stage a setting similar to those depicted on popular television shows and film.

“These are our most gifted students,” Kincade said. “Our challenge is to further develop their process skills, such as problem-solving, deductive reasoning and debating.”

Apparently, her smaller scale classroom scene proved a sufficient preliminary to the main event.

“They all are very attentive and inquisitive,” Travis said. “We were surprised by their depth and the types of questions they asked.”

Several OMS students said they learned a great deal through their experience.

“This was almost like real life,” said Lucy Chinichu, an eighth-grader. “Watching them take so much DNA evidence and narrow it down to one person is fascinating and something I think I might like to do as a job one day.”

Seventh-grader Mary Cook agreed.

“I think the DNA testing was very cool,” Cook said. “This looks like it would be very interesting to do on a daily basis.”

“It’s definitely more than using goggles and gloves,” said Donald Rogers, another eighth-grade student. “I learned that while shows like ‘CSI’ show only one barrier around a crime scene, there are actually two barriers. I also discovered it actually takes much longer to process evidence and solve a case in real life than it does on television.”

A UM faculty member discussed cyber security and digital forensics in Kincade’s classroom Thursday. The forensics unit began Monday (April 6) and runs through next Friday (April 17).

By allowing the students to visit the department and experiment with the equipment, UM faculty members said they hope to pique their interests in forensic chemistry and possibly recruit them to the university after high school.

“Many of my students’ parents teach at the university,” Kincade said. “I’m an Ole Miss graduate and so are our two daughters. We’re red-and-blue all the way.”

American Mathematics Institute Director is UM Dalrymple Lecturer

University of Bristol math professor Brian Conrey speaks April 9 at Overby Center

The Dalrymple Lecture in Mathematics starts at 6:30 in the Overby Center.

The Dalrymple Lecture in Mathematics is at 6:30 p.m. Thursday in the Overby Center.

OXFORD, Miss. – A prime number is an integer greater than 1 whose only positive divisors are 1 and itself. In 1859, G.F.B. Riemann proposed a way to understand how the prime numbers are distributed among the natural numbers.

Riemann’s hypothesis, still unproven after 156 years, is the focus of the 21st Dalrymple Lecture in Mathematics, set for 6:30 p.m. Thursday (April 9) at the University of Mississippi. Brian Conrey, executive director of the American Institute of Mathematics and professor of mathematics at the University of Bristol in England, is to deliver the address.

The event in the Overby Center Auditorium is free and open to the public.

“For more than 150 years, primes and zeroes remain a million-dollar mystery for mathematicians,” Conrey said. “The stature of this problem has continued to rise so that today, it is widely regarded as the most important unsolved problem in all of mathematics.”

An internationally renowned mathematician, Conrey was awarded the Levi L. Conant Prize from the American Mathematics Society for outstanding expository writing for an article he wrote on this problem in 2008.

“This year’s topic, the Riemann hypothesis, is one of the seven $1 million Millennium Prize Problems stated by Clay Mathematics Institute in 2000,” said James Reid, UM professor of mathematics. “Professor Conrey plans to discuss some of the colorful history that surrounds this question.”

Established to bring distinguished speakers to campus to discuss mathematics and mathematics research, the Dalrymple Lecture series was endowed by Mr. and Mrs. Arch Dalrymple II of Amory. Arch Dalrymple attended Cornell University, Amherst College and UM, where he earned a bachelor’s degree in 1947.

For more information on the Department of Mathematics, go to

UM Electrical Engineering Alumnus Named Gates Cambridge Scholar

Dozie Ibekwe was a junior entry into the Sally McDonnell Barksdale Honors College

UM electrical engineering alumnus Dozie Ibekwe (left) of Nigeria is a 2015 Gates Cambridge Scholarship recipient.

Electrical engineering alumnus Dozie Ibekwe (left) of Nigeria is a 2015 Gates Cambridge Scholarship recipient.

OXFORD, Miss. – A University of Mississippi electrical engineering alumnus is among this year’s recipients of the prestigious Gates Cambridge Scholarship.

Chiedozie “Dozie” Ibekwe is the second UM graduate to win the full scholarship to the University of Cambridge. Sam Watson, a 2008 graduate with bachelor’s degrees in mathematics, physics and classics, was the first UM recipient in 2009.

“I knew that I had just gotten a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity,” Ibekwe said. “I’ll study for a Master of Philosophy in public policy. After Cambridge, I will utilize my manufacturing and supply chain management expertise to advise African policymakers on crafting and executing effective industrial policies to boost manufacturing and diversify African economies.”

Ibekwe enrolled in UM’s Sally McDonnell Barksdale Honors College through its Junior Entry program and was ranked as the university’s best graduating engineering student in December 2011. He is slated to earn his Master of Professional Studies in supply chain management from Pennsylvania State University in August.

He has been employed by General Electric since graduating from UM, beginning as a lean manufacturing engineer in GE Energy’s aeroderivatives division in 2011. Since then, he has been a process improvement leader in GE Power and Water, a sourcing project manager on the Chevron Big Foot Project of GE Oil and Gas, a manufacturing operations leader for blowout preventers and a supplier quality engineer for GE Nigeria.

“My career goal is to use manufacturing, with localized supply chains, to drive development in Africa,” said Ibekwe, now lead buyer in the pressure control division of GE Oil and Gas in Houston, Texas.

Ibekwe is “a superb example of a citizen scholar,” said Douglass Sullivan-González, UM Honors College dean.

“Dozie studies, he analyzes and then he acts,” Sullivan-González said. “As an engineer or as a policy analyst, he has a gift for seeing how things can be better, and he consistently turns his own talents toward those efforts. We are immensely proud of what he has accomplished already and of what he plans to accomplish.”

At Ole Miss, Ibekwe was a summer research intern at both the Jamie L. Whitten National Center for Physical Acoustics and the University of Southern Mississippi. He won an award for best undergraduate research presentation at a state conference for the former and researched the development of a new technique in facial recognition at the latter.

“Professor Paul Goggans has been the most influential teacher in my life,” Ibekwe said. “He challenged me to be curious about the world. He always thought that I was capable of a lot more if I really applied myself.”

Ibekwe said William Shughart’s engineering economics class was the most important course in his undergraduate career.

“It got me thinking about the economics and sustainability of engineering and infrastructure projects,” he said. “Professor Shughart has been an excellent mentor, especially as I try to figure out possible solutions to Africa’s problems.”

Ibekwe also acknowledged several UM administrators who helped him achieve his goals.

“Ms. Toni Avant, the career center director, has been my go-to person for career coaching, still advising me to this day,” he said. “I had a strong support system through the Increasing Minority Access to Graduate Education program, led by Ms. Jacqueline Vinson and Ms. Stephanie Brown.”

Faculty and staff members in the School of Engineering said Ibekwe’s latest accomplishment is part of his destiny and the lasting legacy he is building.

“The selection committee of the 2012 Outstanding Senior Leadership Award knew he’d bring honor to the School of Engineering as a professional,” said Marni Kendricks, assistant dean for undergraduate academics. “Once again, Dozie’s exceeding our expectations.”

Other honors and recognitions Ibekwe received include Who’s Who Among Students in American Colleges and Universities, Tau Beta Pi, Phi Kappa Phi, Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity Distinguished Scholar Award, National Society of Black Engineers Fellow, ExxonMobil Scholar, Board of Corporate Affiliates Scholar, John G. Adler Engineering Scholarship, Outstanding Engineering Senior Award and GE African American Forum Icon Award.

“Eventually, I hope to become a Nigerian policymaker,” Ibekwe said. “In addition to addressing infrastructure challenges that hinder manufacturing, I am interested in engaging the Nigerian private sector to develop the manufacturing capabilities and human capital in Nigeria.”

His leadership experiences include the UM International Student Organization, serving as treasurer; Toastmasters International; GE Houston Club, in which he served as treasurer; Alpha Phi Alpha fraternity, where he served as director of education; GE African American Forum, serving as professional development committee co-chair; GE recruiter at the National Association of Black Accountants annual conference; and GE/Alpha Phi Alpha College-to-Corporate Program. Ibekwe has volunteered at Second Baptist Church in Oxford, the Martin Luther King Memorial dedication, Thompson Elementary School in Houston, Engineers Without Borders and the Rotary Club of West Houston.

In his spare time, Ibekwe enjoys playing soccer as a goalkeeper. He won the UM Intramural Outdoor and Indoor Soccer Championships and was a runner-up in the Oxford City League. He plays in the Houston Football Association.

The Gates Cambridge Scholarship, open to citizens of any country outside the United Kingdom, provides a full-cost scholarship to Cambridge for a post-graduate degree. Established in 2000 through a $210 million donation from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the Gates Cambridge Trust has selected more than 1,300 scholars from some 100 countries. It makes 95 awards each year, 40 to applicants from the U.S. and 55 to applicants from other countries.

For more about the scholarship, visit

UM Alumni, Students Urged to Register for Virtual Career Fair

Online event unites more than 100 employers with prospective hires

Attention, University of Mississippi students and alumni, you still have time to register for the annual SEC-ACC Virtual Career Fair, coming up Wednesday and Thursday (April 1-2).

“More than 105 firms, including Amazon, AT&T, Cox, Duke Energy, E-Trade, Enterprise, EY, Kaiser Permanente, Mitsubishi, Nestle, Toyota, Verizon and more are offering full-time, internship and co-op jobs,” said Jonathan Harrington, associate director of the UM Employer Services Career Center. “It’s a great opportunity for our students and alumni to connect with big-time companies that do not normally recruit with us.”

Participants will have opportunities to connect real-time with employers without the hassle of leaving their home or office. Employers’ chat hours will be posted in advance. A camera is not required for the text chat. Video chats will be scheduled by appointment.

To register, job-seekers simply need to upload their resumes for employers to view. Visit to do so.

As an additional incentive, a $100 gift card will be awarded to the university with the largest number of registered students and/or alumni participants. So far, 1,323 participants representing 28 colleges and universities have pre-registered. With only 18 of these being from Ole Miss, more are encouraged to pre-register.

“You could win a Nano iPod and get a job,” Harrington said. “This is an easy way to potentially get hired.”

For more information, send an email to or call 770-980-0088.

UM Communications Specialist Leads Oxford’s First COGIC Church

More than 30 years in the making, New Freedom began as a campus ministry

UM graduates Edwin and Fannie Smith now pastor the New Freedom Church of God in Christ in Oxford.

UM graduates Edwin and Fannie Smith pastor the New Freedom Church of God in Christ in Oxford.

As a young journalism student transferring to the University of Mississippi in the fall of 1977, I dreamed of one day being a professional writer and a full-time minister of the gospel. Almost 40 years later, I’ve been blessed to achieve my dream.

As a professional writer, I am a UM communications specialist. While I enjoy my “day job” and it pays the bills, serving as founder and pastor of New Freedom Church of God in Christ is my true calling and passion.

Our congregation celebrated its 10th anniversary Sunday (March 15) by officially dedicating the building we purchased two years ago in the Northern Mississippi Ecclesiastical Jurisdiction. While other ministers have led similar, but defunct, COGIC assemblies in Lafayette County, New Freedom is the denomination’s first to be established here and recognized at the state level. In that sense, my wife, Fannie, the other charter members and I are making history.

The church was officially launched as New Freedom Family Ministries in March 2005. We co-occupied a storefront at 809 College Hill Road. Our growing congregation remained there until purchasing its present location at 206 Highway 30 East in December 2012.

“My husband and I are just so thankful that the Lord has blessed us to endure and make it to this point,” Fannie Smith said. “Truly, it has taken several years of time, prayer, finances, patience and hard work in bringing this vision to reality.”

As I think about it, starting churches is somewhat a Smith family tradition. My paternal grandparents, the late Eddie Lee and Lucy Sales Smith, began the first Church of God in Christ in Holly Springs more than 80 years ago. That building was a dance hall that they transformed into a sanctuary. Christ Temple (formerly Willow Springs) COGIC is their legacy. So am I.

I also had two uncles on my father’s side of the family who started successful churches in Memphis. My wife was a founding member of the Pilgrim Rest COGIC in Oakland.

Even before we started New Freedom, Fannie and I led the University of Mississippi COGIC Fellowship from 1984 to 1994. Again, it was the denomination’s first campus ministry in the Oxford area. I also briefly pastored Kelly Chapel COGIC in Robinsonville in 1994 before accepting a faculty position at Oral Roberts University in Tulsa, Oklahoma.

When we returned to Mississippi in April 2002, it was expressly for the purpose of starting a church. All we had to work with was our vision, our willingness to sacrifice for the sake of others and our faith.

Many told us we were out of our minds. At that time, neither of us had jobs. We lived between our mothers’ family homes in Oakland and Holly Springs. It took awhile before I was rehired as a writer in UM Communications and she became a teacher in the Holly Springs Primary School. After at least one failed attempt, we decided to delay our own vision and just continue to attend and work within the church in Holly Springs.

Still, we firmly believed that at some point, we would resume and complete our God-given assignment: to successfully establish a COGIC church in Oxford. We placed an ad in the Oxford Eagle, rented a meeting room at the Days Inn once a week for three months and began having services there.

Ten years later, here we are. None of this has come easy. We’ve experienced both support and opposition. Members have come and gone. Financially, we have had both famines and feasts. Each of us has had health issues. But without doubt, I can say that if we had it to do all over again, we wouldn’t change a thing.

Our services at New Freedom include prayer and Bible band at 7 p.m. Wednesdays, Sunday school at 9:30 a.m. and morning worship at 11. Everyone is welcome to attend any and all services. For more information about the ministry, call 662-380-5019, email us at or visit our Facebook page.

At some point, I’m planning to retire from my day job at Ole Miss. Farther down the road, I’ll also probably hand off New Freedom to someone younger and better prepared to lead the congregation to its next level. But I’ll never stop serving the Lord. And I’ll always be thankful He chose my wife and me to help establish this work in Oxford.

Climbing Mountains in the Sky

Talented scholar Charlie King remembered with engineering scholarship

Charlie King

Charlie King

By the time he was 2, Charlie King had already started filling his pockets with rocks. At 25, he was honing his skills as a scholar in geological engineering and geophysics and filling his life with people, travel, music, the outdoors and the environment he loved.

The University of Mississippi graduate student lost his life after a climbing accident on Mexico’s Mount Orizaba in early 2014, but his life and spirit will continue to be interwoven with others through the Charles Dunbar King Memorial Scholarship Endowment. Created by his parents, Kerry and Terry King of Dillon, Colo., the scholarship will assist graduate or undergraduate students in geology and geological engineering.

“Charlie led a life that deserved to be remembered, and his love for Ole Miss and the School of Engineering inspired us to choose a scholarship,” Kerry King said. “Charlie had plans to work in the field for several years and then pursue a doctorate. We believe he would eventually have become a college professor.”

Adnan Aydin, professor of geology and geological engineering, was King’s undergraduate and graduate adviser, giving him “the privilege of knowing this extraordinary young person.”

“Charlie was a brilliant independent thinker, ready to embark on a great academic journey and to leave his lasting mark on the world,” Aydin said. “He was the most decent person, a perfect student, a dear friend and a young colleague.

“Charlie was fully aware of his capacity for a substantial contribution, and for him, that contribution had to be something that made a real and significant difference. He had the pure and selfless views of an ideal youth on all facets of academia and society at large. He was a compassionate and unifying person.”

The Kings, their son Matthew King and many other family members are Ole Miss alumni and appreciate the continuing support they are receiving from the UM School of Engineering since Charlie King’s death. The Oxford natives are quick to acknowledge the engineering program’s impact on his life.

“Charlie knew from a very early age what he wanted to do and never wavered,” Kerry King said. “He loved that program and it matured Charlie. He was like one of those rough rocks he collected all his life. The School of Engineering faculty helped smooth his edges, helping him to become a complete person.”

Robert Holt, a UM professor of geology and geological engineering, and his wife, Shari, became close to King.

“I chose Charlie as my teaching assistant because during his senior year he earned As in both of my courses,” Holt said. “He assisted me for several years in my course on geological subsurface site characterization. Charlie was excellent; he was so good at anticipating what we needed to prepare. He could have gone to graduate school anywhere. He had great scientific intuition and wrote very well, which set him apart. We lost one of our shining stars.”

Gregg Davidson, chair and professor of geology and geological engineering, said the department “greatly misses” the talented student who was plugged into the academic and the social life of the Ole Miss community.

“The scholarship established by his parents has been a wonderful way to keep him in our minds and not let the business of life dull our memories,” Davidson said. “We especially appreciate their wisdom in adding flow-through funds as the endowment is growing that enabled us to offer scholarships the same year the fund was established. By doing so, students who knew Charlie personally benefited from the scholarship in his memory.

“Two graduate students have been beneficiaries, Austin Patton and Zhen Guo. The scholarship for Austin was timely, because he had just months earlier lost everything he owned in an apartment fire. The Charlie King scholarship helped get him back on his feet much faster than would have been possible otherwise.

“Zhen was especially moved by the award and struggled with accepting a financial benefit from the loss of his friend. On learning of his concern, Charlie’s parents reminded Zhen of Charlie’s giving nature and assured him that it was a special privilege to be able to know that the scholarship was going to someone who knew and loved Charlie.”

Patton, an inaugural recipient and now a project engineer for an environmental remediation construction company in Houston, Texas, had every class with King from Geology 101 through graduate school, and their friendship developed over a shared enjoyment of adventure and the outdoors. Patton also benefited from King’s positive attitude and humor, saying, “Charlie was one in a million. … If you were having a bad day, he would most definitely find a way to cheer you up.

“Charlie seemed to excel in all his geology and engineering classes. It came to him naturally and was something he just ‘got.’ This was probably because he enjoyed it so much.”

Patton shared memories of an upper-level geological engineering course that he passed because of the time his friend dedicated weekly to teaching him the material.

“Charlie accomplished so much and influenced so many lives in the short time that God gave him on this earth,” he said. “Though quite a hackneyed expression, I truly believe that if the world was filled with more people like Charlie King, it would surely be a more enjoyable place. Charlie left this earth doing what he loved most. I will never forget his bright, jubilant demeanor as long as I live. A piece of Charlie will always be with his closest friends and his family members on any adventure we may seek. And rest assured we will all meet again soon, but as for now, Charlie is thoroughly enjoying himself climbing mountains in the sky.”

The reason so many fellow Ole Miss students, faculty members and others felt such fondness for Charlie King can be glimpsed through descriptions of his personality, hobbies and passions. He was an environmentalist, mountain climber, skier, cyclist, paddle boarder and musician who had goals of traveling the world. He brought back rocks from every place he visited, and his parents keep those rocks scattered throughout their home where they can be seen.

“Charlie was happy all his life,” Terry King said. “He went out of his way to help others and was very generous with his time. Not only did he enjoy tutoring other students, but he also enjoyed cooking Chinese and Indian dishes for them. Charlie was obviously serious about his academic studies, but he likewise appreciated the light moments of life.”

One such moment was recalled by Holt, who said Charlie had a “playful spirit with a rebellious streak.”

“I remember one field trip to Tishomingo State Park, we had about 100 freshmen on the trip,” the professor said. “We always take as many graduate students and faculty as we can to help corral this group. We were about to hike up along the highway on the Natchez Trace, so I used my very serious, drill sergeant tone and told the students how to conduct themselves, especially to stay off the road.

“A couple minutes later I look up and there’s this student, jumping on and off the road, over and over again. I’m ready to go yell at this disobedient freshman, and I get closer and realize it’s Charlie, just having some fun at my expense. He was always a rebel at heart.”

That humor was also countered with love and respect for others, his dad said. “Charlie was one of those rare human beings who never said an unkind word to anyone.”

King had been affectionately called “Charlie Bear” all his life, and his parents now give rocks with a Charlie Bear inscription to family and friends, particularly when they are traveling. The rocks have been placed on mountain peaks and many other places, and on the first anniversary of Charlie King’s death, a climber placed a memorial marker on Mount Orizaba.

Friends and family also joined to contribute to the scholarship fund.

“There was a great outpouring of support for the scholarship,” Terry King said. “We’re so happy the endowment continues to grow and serve as a tribute to our son. There are many students who find they are literally broke after earning college degrees, and we want this fund to help.”

Individuals and organizations can make gifts to the Charles Dunbar King Memorial Scholarship Endowment by sending a check with the fund noted in the memo line to the University of Mississippi Foundation, 406 University Ave., Oxford, MS 38655; visiting online at; or contacting Kevin Gardner, development officer for the School of Engineering, at 662-915-7601 or

Ryan Upshaw Named Outstanding Staff Member by BSU

Assistant dean has long association with university

Ryan Upshaw receives the Outstanding Faculty and Staff Award from Briana O’Neal, president of the UM Black Student Union.

Ryan Upshaw receives the Outstanding Faculty and Staff Award from Briana O’Neal, president of the UM Black Student Union.

When Ryan Upshaw helped plan the University of Mississippi’s annual Black History Month observances, he had no idea that he would be honored during the activities.

The School of Engineering’s assistant dean for student services is this year’s recipient of the Outstanding Faculty and Staff Award, presented by the Black Student Union.

“My reaction was pure shock, especially since a student I recruited was the one who presented the award,” Upshaw said. “This is the first award like this I have received as a professional. It means a great deal that the students involved in the BSU would choose to honor me in this way. There are so many faculty and staff members on our campus who could have been selected.”

As a student affairs professional, Upshaw said his goal is to help students have the best experience possible. Over the past eight years, he has worked to actively recruit, retain and graduate students as well as encourage them to be active alumni.

“I push students to perform well academically, but also to find their passions outside the classroom via campus or community involvement,” he said. “I also want to provide them with a sounding board when they are experiencing challenges.”

A UM alumnus, the Moss Point native earned his bachelor’s degree in psychology and a master’s in higher education. He hopes to pursue the new Doctor of Education in higher education soon.

“I chose to attend the university after visiting through an event called Scholars Day, hosted by the Office of Admissions, and being fortunate enough to receive a scholarship from the Luckyday Foundation,” Upshaw said. “I am thankful to have had mentors like Dr. Thomas Wallace, Mrs. Valeria Ross and Dr. Donald Cole who continue to inspire me as higher education professionals.”

Cole, assistant provost and special assistant to the chancellor for multicultural affairs, spoke highly of Upshaw.

“When the university recruited Ryan as a student here a number of years ago, I knew that it was a milestone event,” Cole said. “Ryan’s real impact on the university came when he decided to remain for employment with us. At UM, Ryan not only found an institution from which he could obtain a quality education and meaningful employment, he found a home.”

Before working with the School of Engineering, Upshaw worked for five years in the Sally McDonnell Barksdale Honors College, where he coordinated recruitment efforts and the admissions process.

Briana O’Neil, president of the UM Black Student Union, has known Upshaw for almost five years. During this period, he has been her mentor and friend.

“He is a big reason that I chose to come to Ole Miss and he has been supportive ever since,” O’Neil said. “You can always tell that he cares about the students at Ole Miss and wants to see them succeed. He is friendly and welcoming, but also gives solid advice.”

Upshaw has always been willing to give students his time, said Benjamin Lapane, president of the UM Engineering Student Body. “I think that is one of the most admirable characteristics a student adviser can have,” he said.

“I really enjoy being involved in both the university and Oxford communities,” said Upshaw, a lifetime member of the Ole Miss Alumni Association. “At the university, I serve as adviser to a number of organizations, including the Engineering Student Body, Omicron Delta Kappa senior honor society, Lambda Sigma sophomore honor society and the RebelTHON board of directors.

He also serves on the university’s scholarship committee, housing appeals committee and judicial council. Outside the university, Upshaw has been on the board of directors for the United Way of Oxford-Lafayette County since 2009 and serves as chair of its Community Investment Committee. On the Leadership Lafayette program’s steering committee since 2010, he is also on the National Advisory Council for Omicron Delta Kappa society and the Region III Advisory Board for the National Association of Student Personnel Administrators. He is a proud member of Phi Beta Sigma fraternity.

Upshaw enjoys supporting Ole Miss athletics by attending sporting events whenever possible.