By Any Other Name

The C.M. Tad Smith Coliseum, commonly known as “Tad Pad,” is coming to an end. Soon it will be replaced by a larger, improved basketball arena with a new name. Eventually, the building that looks like a blue flying saucer will be razed and the site repurposed. As they say, that’s progress.

Of course, building renovations, new constructions and the subsequent renaming of said facilities is nothing new at Ole Miss. I can remember when Crosby Hall was known as New Dorm, a moniker it held for more than two decades before finally getting a “real” name. During that time, several campus legends speculated on names that were suggested – and discarded – for the campus’ largest women’s residence hall.

Before its renovation and dedication as Brevard Hall, the building that houses the School of Engineering’s administrative offices was known for years as Old Chemistry or Old Chem. Before the Department of Journalism, now the Meek School of Journalism and New Media, found residency in Farley Hall, the “J School” and The Daily Mississippian were housed in Brady Hall, a small, renovated house with a popular porch swing on University Avenue. That building was torn down to make way for the Thad Cochran Research Center.

For two years after I began working here, my wife and I lived in one of several antique houses on what was then Faculty Row. Those houses were all moved off campus and later sold to establish a subdivision off Molly Barr Road. On the land where they once stood are the Residential College and the Luckday Residential College.

The main theater in the Gertrude C. Ford Center for the Performing Arts became the Sam and Mary Haskell Theatre. A student lounge in Bondurant Hall became the (Barry) Hannah-(Richard) Ford Room for Writers. The downstairs microform room in the J.D. Williams Library was renovated and named Ainsworth Commons.

Buildings and rooms aren’t the only things that get named (and renamed) on campus. What has been known as Confederate Drive soon will be called Chapel Lane. The Black Student Union Choir that I once sang in as a student years ago has evolved into the University of Mississippi Gospel Choir. The Black Studies program of the 1970s has become the African-American Studies Program. The old Y Building, which housed programs for international students and religious life, is known as the Croft Institute for International Studies.

Names and titles are always subject to change, but functions and operations often remain the same. This is particularly true when it comes to behaviors and social norms. Identity must be based on who we are, not just the names to which we respond or react. Hopefully, when we reach that level of understanding, we can divest ourselves of the emotional attachments and associations we often make to names and labels, respecting and honoring ALL.

Now that will be TRUE progress.

UM Engineers Without Borders Works In Africa

Contrary to what news reports have said, there are better things happening in Africa than an epidemic ebola outbreak, starvation and mass genocide at the hands of anti-government guerillas. One of those good news events is the ongoing work of the University of Mississippi chapter of Engineers Without Borders.

For going on six years now, EWB-UM has been working diligently to improve educational opportunities and living conditions for those living in Hedome Village in Togo, West Africa. Four separate trips taken at the beginning of fall and spring semesters have yielded the successful design, construction and completion of a new, more modern school facility in the remote area. Most recently, a team of students and faculty returned to begin preliminary work on a drinking water treatment system.

The cross-cultural connections being formed between Togo and Ole Miss have proven equally beneficial to both communities. West Africans and North Americans are discovering that while there are huge differences in language, customs and environments, the humane and emotional similarities that unite them are even larger.

As a University Communications specialist who regularly writes news releases and edits publications for UM’s School of Engineering, I have chronicled EWB activities from its formation in 2009 to the present. Obviously, the names and faces of students have changed with each commencement, but the dedication of the faculty and staff to supervising and assisting these eager young volunteers in their quest to change the world one country at a time remains constant.

I am truly inspired whenever I interview EWB team members about the work they are doing. It challenges me to accept the frequent opportunities I find to make the community where I live and work a better place as well.

To read stories about Ole Miss Engineers Without Borders, visit and search either the Ole Miss News Desk  or the UM School of Engineering website.

Medicinal Plants Topic for August Science Café

Director of National Center for Natural Products Research is inaugural fall speaker

The August Science Cafe will take place on August

The August Science Cafe is set for Aug. 19.

OXFORD, Miss. – The use of medicinal plants in disease treatment is the topic for a monthly public science forum organized by the UM Department of Physics and Astronomy.

The fall semester’s first meeting of the Oxford Science Café is set for 6 p.m. Aug. 19 at Lusa Pastry Cafe, 2305 West Jackson Ave. Larry Walker, director of the National Center for Natural Products Research at UM, will discuss “Plants as Medicines: New Insights for Old Remedies.” Admission is free.

“Medicinal plants have been staples in most human societies for all of recorded civilization,” Walker said. “Plants and plant-derived preparations shaped the medical pharmacopeias of Indian, Chinese, Arabic, native Americans and many other ancient cultures.”

Walker’s 30-minute presentation will review how 19th and 20th century experimental pharmacology has evolved in the 21st century.

“Pharmacology was largely based on observations of the effects, often toxicity, of plant-derived alkaloids,” he said. “Our constructs of the sympathetic nervous system, neuromuscular transmission, pain pathways and cardiac contractile mechanisms, among many others, were developed in this way. In the post-genome era, a number of exciting developments, new therapeutics are being developed based on plant-derived products.

“Understanding these elegant and complex pathways and their modulation by natural products holds rich promise for the future.”

Walker earned his bachelor’s degree from Oglethorpe University, a degree in pharmacy from Mercer University and a doctorate from Vanderbilt University. His other UM appointments include research professor in the Research Institute of Pharmaceutical Sciences and professor of pharmacology. He is also associate director for basic sciences at the Oxford campus of the UM Medical Center Cancer Institute.

Walker’s research interests include renal and cardiovascular pharmacology, drug discovery techniques for natural products and evaluation of the safety and efficacy of medicinal plants.

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

Wongs Create Chemical Engineering Scholarship

Alumnus and widow's donation to be matched by ExxonMobil

The family of a University of Mississippi chemical engineering alumnus is helping future students attend his alma mater through a generous development gift.

The Lorna and Phillip J. Wong Chemical Engineering Scholarship Endowment was established with the couple’s $6,500 gift, which is to be matched 3:1 by ExxonMobil for a total of $26,000. Students applying for the annual award must be enrolled full-time, majoring in chemical engineering and have a 3.0 or higher grade-point average.

“The graduates of chemical engineering reflect highly on the department, our educational mission and all those who make it work,” said Clint Williford, chair and professor of chemical engineering. “Jack did so through his professional and personal life. And now that generosity of spirit will continue to uplift many young people into the future.”

Unprecedented growth in enrollment and quality of students challenged the department to offer the same personal, quality experience that benefited Wong.

“This generous gift will directly ease the financial burden of a good student, lessening hard choices among work, grades and student loans,” Willford said. “Speaking for the faculty, past and present, we all appreciate the good refection of a life well-lived that still continues to pass it on.”

Phillip Jack “PJ” Wong, 57, of Waller, Texas (formerly of Nederland, Texas), died June 22. A native of Cleveland, Mississippi, he graduated salutatorian from Cleveland High School and attended Ole Miss, where he received a bachelor’s degree in chemical engineering.

Wong accepted a job with Mobil Oil Co. and moved to Beaumont, Texas, in 1979. He gave his commitment to the company and traveled through several stations, including Saudi Arabia and France in fulfillment of his duties as an engineer. He retired from ExxonMobil in 2014, after 35 years of service.

The Wongs built their dream retirement home in Magnolia, Texas, where they enjoyed the peace and quiet of a country setting in the last few weeks of his earthly life. They took several vacations, including trips to Boston, Maine, Vermont and other places in the United States, as well as abroad in France, Germany, Ireland, Italy and many other countries.

Besides his wife, Wong is survived by two brothers, Richard Jack Wong and his wife, Shirley, of Dallas and Jack Hing Wong Jr. and his wife, Lenee, of Beaumont; a sister, Patricia Jack Wong Wolf and her husband, Otto, of Cleveland, Mississippi; nephews, Trey Wong and his wife, Hillary; Trevor Wong; Trent Wong; and Troy Wong, all of Beaumont; and Matthew Wong of Dallas; and many lifelong friends.

Geological Engineering Student Wins National Scholarship

Corey Schaal interning at Geotechnology Inc. in Memphis



University of Mississippi senior Corey Schaal of Paris, Tennessee, is the recipient of a national scholarship from the Underground Construction Association of the Society for Mining, Metallurgy and Exploration.

The scholarship was established to encourage undergraduate and graduate students to pursue careers in the fields of tunneling, underground construction and associated disciplines. He was officially notified in March that he was a scholarship recipient and traveled to Los Angeles in June to accept the award.

Schaal was urged to apply for the award by Joel Kuszmaul, associate dean for academic and student affairs and associate professor of geology and geological engineering.

“I have known Corey since he was a freshman,” Kuszmaul said. “I was happy to recommend him for this scholarship. Corey has always been an excellent student and is worthy of this major scholarship with national recognition.”

Schaal chose to enroll at Ole Miss as a result of a campus visit and the opportunities available through the geological engineering program.

“I really appreciated the personal treatment offered by every faculty member during my campus visit,” he said. “The Department of Geology and Geological Engineering sent a lot literature that really caught my attention. Combine all of that with a generous scholarship offer and enrolling at Ole Miss was a no-brainer.”

During summer 2013, Schaal completed an internship with Geotechnology Inc. in Memphis, where he was able to put his classroom knowledge to good use.

“I worked in the soils lab and as a construction materials testing technician, but I spent most of the summer working on the back of a drill rig as a field engineer,” he said. “I want to pursue a career as a geotechnical engineer, and I was able to apply information I learned in the classroom to develop important skills through this internship.”

Schaal was asked to return to Geotechnology for a second internship position this summer. He is conducting analysis work and collaborating with the engineering department.

A Provost Scholar, Schaal has maintained a 3.94 GPA while being involved in several campus and community activities. He holds leadership roles in Beta Upsilon Chi fraternity and is a member of Tau Beta Pi, Phi Kappa Phi, Order of Omega and Alpha Lambda Delta honor societies. He is also involved with the Association of Environmental and Engineering Geologists and the American Society of Civil Engineers.

Because of his outstanding record, Schaal was named Outstanding Geology/Geological Engineering student during his freshman and junior years. He also received a competitively-awarded Distinguished Senior Scholarship sponsored by the Office of the Chancellor and the Office of Financial Aid.

Schaal is slated to graduate in May 2015. His plans are to marry and move to Knoxville, Tennessee, to pursue graduate studies in geotechnical engineering.

Saying Goodbye to Summer at Ole Miss

With the beginning of Fall semester 2014 less than a month away, the time has come to slowly begin saying goodbye to the joys of summer at Ole Miss.

Farewell abundant parking places near buildings where we work at any given time of day. It’s been great knowing that if I occasionally want to sleep in, there’s still likely to be at least one available spot when I arrive on campus. But I realize it won’t be much longer until University Police officers have more opportunities to write tickets for the various violations that come with increased traffic.

So long hot, humid temperatures. With unseasonal cold fronts already passing through the region, the climate has begun to chill. Thankfully, it’s also been just the right amount of sunshine and rain for those long walks around our award-winning grounds.

Adios to lighter work loads. Most of the faculty, staff and students I serve have been absent the past two months. I know all that will change come mid-August.

Hotty Toddy!


University to Host STEM Summit July 18-19

Meeting focuses on impact of forensic science on 21st century workforce

Students learn about forensic

The second annual STEM Summit will take place July 18-19.

OXFORD, Miss. – Representatives from governmental agencies, including the FBI and DEA, grades K-12 and higher education are scheduled to participate in a national conference this weekend at the University of Mississippi.

The second annual Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics Summit meets July 18-19. The two-day event is being sponsored by UM’s forensic chemistry program, Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry, Department of BioMolecular Sciences, the Mississippi State Crime Laboratory and the Committee for Action Program Services-Analytical Training Laboratory.

“The focus of this summit is to continue the effort to create a consortium of colleges, universities, corporations and government agencies,” said Murell Godfrey, UM director of forensic chemistry and associate professor of chemistry and biochemistry. “Our purpose is to address how forensic science will have an impact on the U.S. and the 21st century workforce.”

Scheduled UM speakers Friday include Godfrey; Tucker Carrington, director of the Mississippi Innocence Project and professor of law; and Maurice Eftink, UM associate provost and vice chancellor for academic affairs. Other presenters are Darrell Davis, former director of the DEA South Central Laboratory and CEO/president of CAPS-ATL, and Sam Howell, director of the Mississippi State Crime Laboratory.

Friday events include tours of the university’s marijuana field and medicinal plant gardens, the city of Oxford and an agency panel discussion featuring representatives from the Army Crime Laboratory, Mississippi State Crime Laboratory, Tennessee Bureau of Investigation, DEA, FBI and Aegis Analytical Laboratory.

Saturday’s session includes presentations by Christopher McCurdy, UM professor of medicinal chemistry and pharmacology, and representatives from the UM STEM research panel, Bay Waveland Middle School, Oxford-Lafayette County schools and the Mississippi School for Mathematics and Science.

Registration is $100 for out-of-towners and $50 for Oxford residents. For more information, contact Murrell Godfrey at 662-915-5143 or visit

UM, City of Oxford Renew Fire Contract

Arrangement mutually beneficial for campus, local communities

The Oxford Fire Department conducts rescue drills at several of the Ole Miss dorms, including Deaton Dormitory, before the students return for fall semester.

The Oxford Fire Department conducts rescue drills at several of the Ole Miss dorms, including Deaton Dormitory, before the students return for fall semester.

OXFORD, Miss. – Maintaining the longstanding arrangement that yields substantial savings and an improved fire rating, the University of Mississippi has renewed its quadrennial fire protection contract with the city of Oxford.

Effective July 1, the university and the municipality continue the mutually beneficial agreement, which began in the 1980s. The city will continue to lease land from the university for both its existing and new fire stations, while the university will be serviced in the event of fire on campus. The university pays the city $550,000 annually for the protection, along with debt payment assistance on the new station near the University-Oxford Airport.

“We are happy to continue the strong relationship with the city of Oxford for fire protection for our campus,” Chancellor Dan Jones said. “No university community has a stronger mutually beneficial relationship between the university and the city than ours. I am grateful to the mayor and other city leaders for this relationship and for the men and women who put their lives on the line every day to keep the rest of us out of harm’s way.”

On behalf of the board of aldermen, Mayor Pat Patterson said the city of Oxford is pleased to be able to continue to provide fire protection for the university and the students, faculty and staff on campus.

“Chancellor Jones and his team continue to be solid partners and friends with the Oxford-Lafayette community, and we look forward to many more decades of that friendship,” Patterson said.

The Mississippi Insurance Rating Bureau has given the city’s fire department a 4.0 fire rating. The ranking is used to determine local property insurance rates.

Both entities benefit from the decades-old partnership, said Douglass Sullivan-Gonzalez, dean of the Sally McDonnell Barksdale Honors College at UM and a Lafayette County volunteer firefighter.

“Once again, the university and the city of Oxford teach the nation how we can work in each other’s interest and create a safer community with a top-notch fire department,” Sullivan-Gonzalez said. “My thanks to Mayor Pat Patterson for his constant optimism and his belief in what we can do together.”

Oxford Fire Chief Cary Sallis agreed.

“The university leases us land for our stations and we share costs for new equipment, which is the biggest benefit to the city,” Sallis said. “It’s definitely a ‘win-win’ situation.”

ChE Alumnus Recalls Good Ole (Miss) Days

C. J. Fayard reflects upon tenure as student, military service and successful career



George Bailey’s not the only man who can claim “It’s been a wonderful life!”

Like the fictional lead character in Frank Capra’s popular Christmas movie, C. J. Fayard (ChE 52) has lived to fulfill the dreams he had as a young man growing up in Bay St. Louis.

“I attended and was valedictorian of St Stanislaus College, a college prep for boys dating back to 1854, and was taught by Sacred Heart brothers,” Fayard said. “After I graduated in 1948, I was awarded a minor scholarship to Loyola University in New Orleans.”

After learning Loyola did not have a chemical engineering department, Fayard looked northward.

“I decided to go to Ole Miss to study chemical engineering,” he said. “My decision was based on my older brother’s advice, as he graduated with a C.E. degree.”

Fayard came to Ole Miss in 1948, excelling as a student and earning many honors, including membership in Phi Eta Sigma engineering society and the Arnold Air Society.

“I thought Ole Miss would be my best choice,” Fayard said. “My favorite subjects were heat transfer, which was taught by Frank Anderson, and calculus.”

After being commissioned as a second lieutenant in the U.S. Air Force, Fayard was called to active duty during the Korean conflict. After being indoctrinated at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, he was assigned to the 4925th Test Group, a top-secret entity dealing with atomic weapons.

“My major projects included testing the B-2 trailer, which was used to load H-bombs,” Fayard said. “We also conducted escape maneuvers of aircraft carrying atomic weapons.”

Upon completing his two-year tour of duty, Fayard, by then a first lieutenant, retired from the military. He was employed with Copolymer Corp. in Baton Rouge for a year before being hired by Shell Chemical in Norco, Louisiana.

“After two years, I transferred to Shell Chemical in Houston, Texas,” Fayard said. “I was hired in the computer programming department and later went into training. Some courses I taught were ‘Presentation and Communication Skills,’ ‘Creative Problem Solving’ and ‘Time Management.’”

Fayard was later assigned to Gesimar, Lousiana, to lead the startup of an oxygen plant.

After 33 years with Shell, Fayard retired but he didn’t stop working.

“I formed CJF Seminars,” he said. “I designed many techniques taught by Dr. Anderson into my seminars. I had great respect for him and he was a great influence on my success. I had workshops in all the courses previously mentioned, plus new ones. I traveled all over and was even invited to teach on a 12-day cruise.”

After enountering some health issues, Fayard retired from teaching. He and Shirley, his wife of 52 years, enjoy spending time with their four married children and 12 grandchildren.

“Without question, my years at Ole Miss were some of the best years of my life,” Fayard said. “It’s been quite a ride.”

CE Doctoral Student’s Paper Voted ‘Best’ at Geophysics Conference

Leti Wodajo invited to present this fall in Greece

Leti Wodajo

Leti Wodajo

A University of Mississippi civil engineering doctoral student’s research into the early detection of dam and levee problems has launched him onto the national and global stage.

Leti Wodajo of Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, has been conducting research in applications of geophysics and geotechnical engineering since becoming a master’s student at Ole Miss. His academic prowess and scholarly presentation yielded him an invitation to present a paper at the Symposium on the Application of Geophysics and Environmental Engineering Problems meeting in April in Boston.

“We submit our abstract, and session committees will review it and notify us if it is accepted for presentation,” Wodajo said. “Over 200 technical papers were presented, including oral and poster presentations. It was a great opportunity to know what is being done in the world of geophysics and its application. It also gave me a great chance to talk to and to learn from distinguished professors in the field and professionals in the industry.”

A few weeks later, Wodajo received an email informing him that his paper, titled “Enhancement of SRT and ERT Interpretations Using Time-Lapse Measurements and Cross-plot Analysis,” was voted on the evaluation ballots as one of the best delivered at the conference. As a result, the organization has invited Wodajo to attend the Near Surface Geoscience Division of the European Association of Geoscientists and Engineers meeting, set for Sept. 14-18 in Athens, Greece, to deliver his paper.

Wodajo has accepted the invitation and begun preparing to attend.

“I was really excited by the news,” Wodajo said. “My hope is it will be a great learning experience and that I will receive insightful comments to help improve my work.”

For the past several years SAGEEP have been exchanging the “Best Of” papers with the NSG/EAGE Division in Europe. SAGEEP is covering Wodajo’s delegate badge and gala ticket. Airfare, hotel accommodations and meals are his responsibility.

It is an honor and a worthwhile investment in his future success as a scientist, UM engineering faculty members said.

“This is a great platform for us to present our work and also to learn from the European geophysical society,” said Chung Rak Song, associate professor of civil engineering and Wodajo’s academic co-adviser.

Craig Hickey, interim associate director of applied research at the National Center for Physical Acoustics at UM and Wodajo’s research co-adviser, concurs.

“Only four papers out of the 160 oral presentations were selected to attend the Greece meeting,” Hickey said. “So it is a great recognition to the collaborative work we do at the National Center of Physical Acoustics and the civil engineering department and also a validation to what we are contributing.”

Wodajo earned his bachelor’s degree in civil engineering from Jimma University in Ethiopia and a master’s degree in civil engineering from UM. His brother, Bikila Wodajo, received his doctoral degree from UM before him.

“That is how I first heard about the university and their civil engineering program,” Wodajo said. “He encouraged me to apply and got me in touch with Dr. Song and Dr. Hickey. I was able to communicate with them and find out the different types of research they do. I was also offered a generous scholarship covering the whole length of my study, which made my decision easy.”

Previous honors and awards include memberships in Phi Kappa Phi, the American Society of Civil Engineers, the Environmental and Engineering Geophysical Society and Mississippi Academy of Science.

After graduation in 2015, Wodajo’s long-term plan is to return to Ethiopia and assume a faculty position, continue doing research and also teach while being involved in the industry as a consultant.

“But in the short term, I would like to be able to stay for a while and do a post-doc and work on different projects,” he said. “This will help me further the work I am doing now and gain experience on the overall aspect of running a research program, starting from proposal preparation to project management and fund allocation.”