Pharmacy Professor Co-Authors Winning Paper

Meagan Rosenthal focuses on ensuring consistent care across health care settings

Meagen Rosenthal

OXFORD, Miss. – Meagen Rosenthal, assistant professor of pharmacy administration at the University of Mississippi, is co-author of a report that won the 2016 Best Paper award from the journal Research in Social and Administrative Pharmacy.

The paper, titled “Confronting inequities: A scoping review of the literature on pharmacist practice and health-related disparities,” reviews and summarizes research on interactions between pharmacists and patients from potentially marginalized groups, including illicit drug users.

“The consequences of health-related disparities to the population have been well documented,” Rosenthal said. “Pharmacists are front-line health care providers and, as such, have multiple opportunities to interact with these patients, and ultimately positively influence patient outcomes.

“I believe that pharmacists have a vital role to play in improving the outcomes of all patients.”

The paper focuses on disparities that stem from stigmas held by both patients and pharmacists that make health care access more difficult. For instance, if a patient is an illicit drug user they may be less likely seek medical attention for fear of judgement, while some disapproving pharmacists may be less willing to give care to these patients.

Such stigmas are associated with poorer health for patients.                                       

Rosenthal began collaborating with the paper’s co-authors, who work at the University of Waterloo School of Pharmacy in Ontario, while she was earning her Ph.D. at the University of Alberta.

The paper reveals that pharmacists already take steps to provide culturally competent care, but there is room for improvement.

“Meagen’s work in the field of patient experience is incredible,” said David D. Allen, dean of the UM School of Pharmacy. “She has already contributed a great deal to the study of patient outcomes.”

Rosenthal is particularly interested in creating consistent care across health care settings to help patients engage with their own treatment. The paper identifies new ways for pharmacists and patients to communicate to help achieve this goal.

“I was incredibly excited and honored to receive this award,” Rosenthal said. “To be recognized by such a prestigious pharmacy journal, which is read by the best and brightest in this area of research, is simply incredible.”

John Bentley Named Pharmacy Administration Chair

New leader received 2016 UM Faculty Achievement Award

John Bentley

OXFORD, Miss. – John Bentley, a professor of pharmacy administration at the University of Mississippi, has been named the new chair of the Department of Pharmacy Administration in the School of Pharmacy.

Bentley received his Ph.D. in pharmacy administration from the UM pharmacy school in 1998 and began working as an assistant professor in the department upon graduating. In 2011, he received his doctorate in biostatistics from the University of Alabama at Birmingham.

Donna West-Strum, the previous chair, became one of the university’s two associate provosts for academic affairs on Jan. 1.

“John’s leadership and vision for our department combined with his drive and attention to detail has made him the ideal person to continue and grow the strong reputation of our group,” said Erin Holmes, associate professor in the pharmacy administration department.

The Department of Pharmacy Administration studies the cost, access and quality of pharmaceutical products and services. Key issues include pharmaceutical marketing, patient and provider interactions, health outcomes, and the evolving role of pharmacists in delivering quality health care.

Bentley has received numerous awards for his research and teaching, including the 2016 UM Faculty Achievement Award, the Excellence in Graduate Teaching and Mentoring Award from the university’s Graduate School, and the School of Pharmacy Student Body’s Friend of the Student Award.

As chair, Bentley will reduce some of his teaching hours and continue to conduct research.

“There is no doubt that John was the absolute right pick for this position,” said David D. Allen, UM pharmacy dean. “Pharmacy administration has a history of exceptional leadership, and John upholds that with his experience, his work ethic and his ability to listen to his colleagues.”

Bentley said he holds a set of core values he learned when he was a student, such as treating everyone with respect, valuing the perspectives of others and the importance of civil discourse.

“We work very collaboratively and try to foster a great deal of respect and mutual support amongst our faculty and graduate students,” he said. “We try to create a culture where it’s OK for people to challenge each other.

“Our department gets along very well, but that doesn’t mean that we always agree with each other. It was fostered in me as a young faculty member that disagreements are about the matter at hand and never about the person.”

The department has been so well managed that the primary goal is to build upon its success, Bentley said. The department won the 2016 Excellence in Promoting Inclusiveness in Graduate Education Award and has a rich history of faculty teaching, service and research awards.

“This is such a great group of highly motivated people that I don’t want to be in their way,” Bentley said. “They’re going to do good work, and I want to facilitate that success.”

The confidence goes both ways; the department’s faculty voiced support for Bentley’s transition to chair.

“John has been a pillar of the Department of Pharmacy Administration for many years,” said Lori Ward, assistant professor of pharmacy administration. “We know that he will continue to be a great example and lead our department to greater heights.”

Former Chancellor Khayat Chosen for 2017 Dick Enberg Award

Honor recognizes passion and support for education

Chancellor Emeritus Robert Khayat has been named this year’s recipient of the Dick Enberg Award. Photo by Robert Jordan/Ole Miss Communications

OXFORD, Miss. – Chancellor Emeritus Robert C. Khayat, leader of what has been called a “renaissance” at the University of Mississippi during his 14-year term, has been chosen as the 2017 winner of the Dick Enberg Award, presented by the College Sports Information Directors of America.

Khayat, who served as chancellor from 1995 to 2009, will receive the honor June 11 at the eighth annual CoSIDA Academic All-America Hall of Fame Ceremony in Orlando, Florida, at the organization’s annual convention, which will be part of the National Association of Collegiate Directors of Athletics convention for the fifth straight year.

The award, named for the legendary Hall of Fame broadcaster Dick Enberg, is presented annually to a person whose actions and commitment have furthered the meaning and reach of the Academic All-America Teams Program and/or student-athletes while promoting the values of education and academics. The award was created in part to recognize Enberg’s passion and support of the Academic All-America program, and more importantly, his dedication to education for more than four decades.

“Robert Khayat has been a champion for change throughout his distinguished career in higher education,” Enberg said. “The decisions he made for the future of the University of Mississippi were difficult, but time has shown that his passion, character and courage were rewarded in building a world class institution that embodies so many life-changing student opportunities.

“Chancellor Khayat is widely respected among his peers as one of the outstanding educators of our time, and I’m extremely honored that he has accepted this year’s Enberg Award. He truly has been a ‘Rebel with a cause.'”

Khayat is the 21st recipient of the Enberg Award, joining a distinguished group that includes a U.S. president, the winningest Division I coaches ever in football and men’s and women’s basketball, business and academic leaders, and a member of the U.S. Cabinet.

“For many years, I have admired Mr. Enberg not only for the charisma that he projects through a microphone or a television screen, but for his enthusiastic support of the academic mission of universities, colleges and athletics programs,” Khayat said.

“It is truly humbling to be included among the prior recipients of this recognition, and I have accepted the award on behalf of all the people who have worked hard to make Ole Miss the great university it is today.”

Khayat has been part of Ole Miss family for most of his life. As a student, he excelled in the classroom, earning both undergraduate and law degrees. He earned Academic All-America honors as an offensive tackle and kicker for Johnny Vaught’s Rebels in 1959 and was a two-time all-Southeastern Conference selection as a catcher for the Ole Miss baseball team.

He was a place-kicker for the NFL Washington Redskins for four seasons, earning a spot in the Pro Bowl during his rookie campaign in 1960.

In 1998, he was the recipient of the NFL’s Alumni Career Achievement Award, an honor also bestowed upon previous Enberg Award recipients Roger Staubach and Alan Page as well as Academic All-America Hall of Famers Byron White and Merlin Olsen. Khayat also received the National Football Foundation’s Distinguished American Award, presented annually to an individual exhibiting superior scholarship, citizenship and leadership, in 2003.

He returned to UM in 1969 as a faculty member in the School of Law and was named the university’s 15th chancellor in 1995.

The university that existed at his appointment in 1995 would not be the one Khayat left when he retired in 2009. Under his leadership, student enrollment increased by nearly 44 percent, and the university’s operating budget grew from less than $500 million to nearly $1.5 billion annually.

During Khayat’s tenure as chancellor, major new programs were founded, including the Sally McDonnell Barksdale Honors College, Croft Institute for International Studies, Lott Leadership Institute, Winter Institute for Racial Reconciliation and the Overby Center for Southern Journalism and Politics.

He also helped attract millions in private support and transformed the campus through renovation and new construction, including adult and children’s hospitals at the UM Medical Center, Paris-Yates Chapel, Gertrude C. Ford Center for the Performing Arts, and the Olivia and Archie Manning Athletics Performance Center.

He was instrumental in helping the university achieve its long-held goal of sheltering a chapter of Phi Beta Kappa honor society. The defining climax of his term came in 2008 when the university was selected to host the first presidential debate between then-Sen. Barack Obama and U.S. Sen. John McCain.

Khayat said he is grateful for the continued efforts of “faculty, staff and students who remain so committed” to making the university the best academic and research institution it can be.

“My name is on this, but it’s really an award for the University of Mississippi,” he said.

The College Sports Information Directors of America was founded in 1957, making it the second oldest management association in intercollegiate athletics. Its 3,000-plus members include sports public relations, communications and information professionals throughout all levels of collegiate athletics in the United States and Canada.

Previous recipients of the association’s Dick Enberg Award include Donna Shalala, president of the University of Miami and former U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services (2001); the Rev. Theodore Hesburgh, president emeritus of the University of Notre Dame (2005); President Gerald R. Ford (2006); Pat Summitt, former women’s basketball coach at the University of Tennessee (2007); and Roger Staubach, former Dallas Cowboys quarterback and a member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame (2016).

Pharmacy Practice Professor Wins Mentoring Award

Laurie Fleming trains student pharmacists in workplace skills

Laurie Fleming

JACKSON, Miss. – Laurie Fleming, clinical associate professor of pharmacy practice at the University of Mississippi School of Pharmacy, has been recognized by the American Pharmacists Association with its 2017 Community Pharmacy Residency Excellence in Precepting Award.

The role of a preceptor is to mentor postgraduate student pharmacists in workplace situations. As part of the School of Pharmacy’s residency programs, Fleming, who is also a pharmacy practitioner, works alongside students and acts as a role model to teach skills needed to work in an ambulatory care setting.

Dylan Lindsay, a previous resident of the university’s Community Pharmacy Residency Program, nominated Fleming for the award. In his nomination letter, Lindsay highlighted Fleming’s commitment to her patients, residents and the profession, saying that she embodied “professional commitment and leadership.”

“This award is an amazing honor and is a direct result of the outstanding residents that I have precepted over the past 10 years,” Fleming said. “Their successes have been the most rewarding part of my career. I am indebted to my students, my colleagues and my family.”

Fleming went on to say that winning this award challenged her to be a better preceptor for her students and residents.

“Our profession allows us the opportunity to improve the lives of patients, no matter the practice setting,” she said. “Making even a small difference is so very meaningful.”

Besides this honor, Fleming was named the School of Pharmacy’s 2016 Preceptor of the Year by the school’s students. She has been a recipient of the school’s Teacher of the Year award four times. Previously, she served as president and association manager of the Mississippi Society of Health-System Pharmacists.

“Laurie has demonstrated excellence in precepting, mentoring, leadership and administration of the residency program,” said Seena Haines, chair and professor of pharmacy practice. “She has endless energy and passion that is infectious to our students and residents. I truly appreciate her time and dedication to developing outstanding representatives of community practice.”

Fleming will receive the award at the APhA Annual Meeting and Exposition March 24-27 in San Francisco.

Top Scholars Visit UM Business School for Research Consortium

Mid-South Management Research Consortium featured expert discussions and mentoring opportunities

Participants in this year’s Mid-South Management Research Consortium spend time networking in Lamar Hall. Submitted photo

OXFORD, Miss. – More than 80 scholars from nearly 20 institutions of higher learning gathered at the University of Mississippi over the weekend (Feb. 24-25) to discuss research and potential projects in the field of management and to mentor doctoral students in the discipline.

The Mid-South Management Research Consortium convenes each year to strengthen faculty and doctoral students’ research programs, and to develop research collaborations. This year’s event began with an opening reception at Boure hosted by Noel Wilkin, UM interim provost, and Ken Cyree, dean of the School of Business Administration.

“We are excited to be hosting such a distinguished group of scholars here at Ole Miss,” Cyree said. “It’s good for academics to get together and share research interests and findings, and we are fortunate to be able to provide a venue for this event to take place.

“I am thankful for the hard work consortium coordinators Paul Johnson and Walter Davis put into the event; it was a productive and educational time for the attendees.”

The conference featured scholars from across the Southeast, including representatives from the universities of Alabama, Kentucky and Memphis, Georgia State University, Louisiana State University, Florida State University, Southern Illinois University, Texas A&M and the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga.

The opening keynote speaker was Micki Kacmar, endowed chair of the Department of Management at Texas State University, who spoke about the purpose and impact of management research on organizational leaders.

Saturday sessions in Lamar Hall included various roundtable discussions and expert panels on topics ranging from “Navigating the Job Market” by John Harris, a fifth-year doctoral candidate at Florida State University, to “Entrepreneurial Orientation: An Incisive Reflection and Evaluation of its Critiques” by Erik Markin, a second-year doctoral candidate at Ole Miss.

“It was a wonderful opportunity for us to show off the University of Mississippi to our colleagues from around the South,” said Paul Johnson, assistant professor of management. “We keep telling them about all the great things we do here in the School of Business, but this is the first time they get to see it with their own eyes.”

One of the most important functions of the consortium was to introduce a new generation of doctoral students to the opportunities available in business research.

“We are pleased to bring some of the top business researchers in the nation to the Ole Miss campus,” said Walter Davis, associate professor of management. “This was a great time for doctoral students to explore opportunities to collaborate with some of the best scholars from other universities.”

The closing keynote speaker was William Gardner, director of the Institute for Leadership Research at Texas Tech University, who spoke about the importance of networking with others and the implications of networking for organizations.

U.S. Pharmacopeia CEO to Deliver Hartman Memorial Lecture

Annual event honors late UM pharmacy dean Charles Hartman

Ronald T. Piervincenzi

OXFORD, Miss. – Ronald T. Piervincenzi, CEO of the U.S. Pharmacopeia, will deliver the 2017 Charles W. Hartman Memorial Lecture at the University of Mississippi.

The lecture, which is free and open to the public, is set for 11 a.m. March 3 in the Gertrude C. Ford Center for the Performing Arts. Piervincenzi will discuss “Scientific Stewardship in the Age of Drug Resistance.”

The U.S. Pharmacopeia is a health organization dedicated to creating standards that ensure the quality and safety of food and medicine. The standards it sets are used worldwide, and the organization has facilities on five continents.

USP also works with the U.S. Agency for International Development to fight the harmful influx of substandard and counterfeit medicines in developing countries and around the globe.

“We are very excited to welcome Dr. Piervincenzi to our campus as our 2017 Hartman lecturer,” said David D. Allen, dean of the School of Pharmacy. “His work in improving public health on a global level is extremely important. We’re thrilled that our students will be able to hear him speak and talk with him.”

Piervincenzi earned his master’s and doctoral degrees from Duke University, where he studied biomedical engineering with a focus on protein engineering. 

He is the founder of many nonprofit community service and scientific groups. He serves as board chair for both the Newark Mentoring Movement and the NextStep Translational Research Foundation.

Before his appointment as CEO of USP in February 2014, Piervincenzi was a partner in McKinsey & Company’s global pharmaceuticals and medical products practice. While there, he initiated McKinsey’s global drug safety, medical and regulatory service line.

He later served as vice president in development sciences at Biogen Idec, where he worked to improve technology that addressed multiple sclerosis.

The Hartman Lecture was established at Ole Miss in 1973 to honor the late Charles W. Hartman, who was dean of the pharmacy school from 1961 until his death in 1970. Former lecturers include American Board of Medical Specialties president and CEO Lois Margaret Nora, former Mississippi Gov. William F. Winter and U.S. Sen. Thad Cochran and former U.S. Sen. Trent Lott.

Southern Studies Center Launches M.F.A. in Documentary Expression

New UM program teaches the intersection of documentary skills and scholarly approaches

The new MFA program in documentary expression allows students to use their documentary skills, including photography, oral history and filmmaking. Photo by David Wharton

OXFORD, Miss. – A new Master of Fine Arts in Documentary Expression begins this fall at the University of Mississippi, and prospective students are encouraged to apply before the April 13 deadline.

The new degree, housed at the university’s Center for the Study of Southern Culture, will be a two-year, 30-hour graduate program that combines three forms of training.

Some classes will emphasize documentary production, with advanced training in photography, film and audio production. Some classes will emphasize the study of particular subjects. Also, students will spend about half their hours in the program completing a documentary project.

“We are excited to offer this opportunity, particularly because it grows out of the interest our students have increasingly expressed over the years,” said Katie McKee, the center’s graduate student adviser, McMullan Associate Professor of Southern Studies and associate professor of English. “They have found photography, oral history and filmmaking invigorating ways to explore region and place, and this degree will formalize the centrality of documentary work to our curriculum.”

As the proposal for the new M.F.A. states, “The degree emphasizes the skills – observing, listening, storytelling and understanding context and multiple perspectives – that are central to the Southern studies program.

“The degree program does not simply teach technical skills to Southern studies students or teach interdisciplinary techniques to documentarians. Rather, the degree program teaches the intersection of documentary skills and scholarly approaches so students who already have an advanced degree can conceptualize and complete documentary projects of exceptional quality.”

The new program allows students to learn documentary methods within the cultural studies framework that the center has developed for decades, said Andy Harper, director of the Southern Documentary Project.

“It recognizes and combines a few of the things we do best and allows us to pass those skills on to a new generation of storytellers,” Harper said.

A unique feature of this program is that it includes interdisciplinary study of the American South while also requiring that students master some of the skills of documentary work. Students will need to show an academic understanding of their subject as part of doing their films, photography and audio documentary work.

Students can enter the M.F.A. program only if they already have a Master of Arts in the humanities, social sciences or journalism. Students with master’s degrees in Southern studies likely will be among the students, but the program will accept students with graduate training in numerous disciplines.

“This program will offer a new generation of students who are actively studying something specific about the South an excellent opportunity to tell the rest of world what they have learned in new – personal, nontraditional and exciting – ways,” said David Wharton, the center’s director of documentary studies.

The impetus for the new degree came from several directions, said Ted Ownby, the center’s director.

First, Southern studies faculty and staff have been doing documentary work throughout the center’s history, dating back to the films and photography founding director Bill Ferris was making at Ole Miss in the 1970s, he said. Today, documentary work is the backbone of the oral histories, ethnographic work, films and photographic work of numerous faculty members, along with the filmmakers in the Southern Documentary Project, the interviews and photography of Living Blues magazine, and the oral histories, films, podcasts and publications of the Southern Foodways Alliance.

Students thinking about documentary work might look to the center’s multimedia documentary website Mississippi Stories at, the films of the Southern Documentary Project, and the films, podcasts and oral history work of the Southern Foodways Alliance as examples.

“Second, many of our students have asked for the M.F.A. or something like it,” Ownby said. “Several have said they are becoming comfortable with some documentary skills just as it’s time to wrap up their M.A. theses.

“Third and more broadly, we live in an age in which technology allows all of us to be documentarians. One could make a good argument that documentary skills represent a new type of literacy. So this M.F.A. degree will bring together people who already know how to study social and cultural issues and turn them loose to do great things.”

The program will start on a limited scale in fall 2017 and have a full range of classes beginning in 2018. Students can apply at

UM Moves Up in Measures of Academic and Research Performance

University included in several rankings of the nation's and world's best institutions

The University of Mississippi is ranked among the nation’s best public institutions in several third-party evaluations of academic and research performance. Photo by Robert Jordan/Ole Miss Communications

OXFORD, Miss. – Efforts by faculty, staff and students to excel in their pursuit of knowledge have given the University of Mississippi, the state’s flagship university, new momentum in its mission to lead the way in learning, discovery and engagement for the state and nation.

UM has been ranked among the nation’s best public institutions in several third-party evaluations of academic and research performance, and the university has climbed in recent measures of those areas.

In 2016, the university was included for the first time among the elite group of R1: Doctoral Universities – Highest Research Activity by the Carnegie Classification of Institutions of Higher Education, the definitive list of the nation’s top doctoral research universities. UM is among a distinguished group of 115 institutions, including Harvard, MIT and Johns Hopkins in the highest research category, which includes the top 2.5 percent of institutions of higher education.

The university also achieved its highest-ever standing in the 2017 U. S. News & World Report annual rankings of Best (Undergraduate) Colleges and Universities, where UM tied for No. 64 in the Top Public Universities category, up seven places from the previous year’s rankings. The rankings reflect 15 indicators of academic excellence, such as graduation and retention rates, undergraduate academic reputation, faculty resources, financial resources and alumni giving rates.

The business (including accounting) and engineering programs were also ranked nationally.

Chemical engineering students conduct an experiment. Photo by Kevin Bain/Ole Miss Communications

“These achievements and rankings reinforce our flagship status and are a testament to the value of our degrees, the impact of our research and the competitiveness of our students, staff and faculty,” Chancellor Jeffrey Vitter said. “While they provide important benchmarks for our university, we remain committed to achieving even higher levels of excellence.

“We will focus upon growing the reach and impact of Ole Miss to continue making a positive difference for Mississippi, our nation and the world.”

The university ranked in the top 20 percent of U.S. institutions for total research and development expenditures in a report issued by the National Science Foundation based upon 2015 expenditures. For the 10th consecutive year, the university was ranked in the top 20 percent in this report.

The university also performed well in the inaugural ranking of U.S. colleges and universities by The Wall Street Journal and Times Higher Education publications. This measure ranked UM 74th among all the nation’s public universities.

This ranking constitutes a comparative assessment of more than 1,000 colleges and universities, measuring factors such as university resources, student engagement, outcomes and environment. The latter includes a gauge of the university’s efforts to build a diverse and inclusive environment for students, faculty and staff.

“Many of our academic offerings continue to gain exposure and recognition,” said Noel Wilkin, the university’s interim provost and executive vice chancellor. “I fully expect this trend to continue because of the quality and commitment of our faculty and staff.”

Success in international education and research partnerships contributed to the university’s standing on U.S. News’ 2017 list of Best Global Universities. Among the top 1,000 research universities in 65 countries, UM ranked in the top third on this year’s list.

Ole Miss students attending the PULSE Sophomore Leadership get to interact with Corporate Execs from FedEx, Hershey’s, Chico and others. PULSE is a two-day sophomore leadership workshop that brings together sophomore students from a variety of roles on campus to learn about themselves and their leadership potential. Photo by Kevin Bain/Ole Miss Communications

The Best Global Universities list ranks each institution’s international and regional research reputation, including a statistical analysis of peer-reviewed publications, citations and international collaborations. The university ranked in the top 10 percent in international collaborations, and the university’s research areas of physics and pharmacology/toxicology were ranked in the top 20 percent.

“The reputation of the university in national and international research circles has been steadily growing over the past few decades,” said Josh Gladden, interim vice chancellor for research and sponsored programs. “We have seen this trend through an increasing number of national leadership positions in societies and consortia, an increase in the number of grant awards, as well as in statistical reports such as U.S. News and World Report.

“It is an exciting time for the research community at the university, and I look forward to increasingly higher impact of UM research.”

U.S. News and World Report ranked two of the university’s graduate academic programs in the top 25 nationally among public universities: the online MBA program (No. 19) and pharmacy (No. 23). Here are some of the other U.S. News rankings of UM graduate programs among public universities:

  • School of Education online program (tied No. 35)
  • History (tied No. 48)
  • Master of Business Administration (tied No. 51)
  • English (tied No. 56)
  • Clinical psychology (tied No. 67)
  • Civil engineering (tied No. 70)
  • Education (tied No. 72)
  • Social work (tied No. 77)
  • Physics (tied No. 84)
  • Electrical engineering (tied No. 85)
  • Mathematics (tied No. 91)

In national rankings by other sources, the university achieved several additional accolades among all public and private universities:

  • Patterson School of Accountancy (all three degree programs ranked in the top 10 nationally by the journal Public Accounting Report)
  • Patterson School of Accountancy master’s and doctoral programs (No. 1 in SEC)
  • Patterson School of Accountancy undergraduate program (No. 2 in SEC)
  • Creative writing (No. 6 among “Top 10 Universities for Aspiring Writers” by
  • Online health informatics undergraduate program (No. 3 by the Health Informatics Degree Center)
  • Business law program in the School of Law (one of only four schools to earn a perfect score of A+ by preLaw Magazine, ranking it as one of the country’s top programs)

The university’s efforts to achieve excellence in all its endeavors also has helped recruit talented students to learn and contribute on all its campuses. The Chronicle of Higher Education named the university as the nation’s eighth-fastest growing among both public and private colleges in its Almanac of Higher Education, moving up from 13th in 2014.

The ranking is based upon enrollment growth from fall 2006, when the university enrolled 14,497 students, to fall 2016, with 24,250 students registered.

The university’s incoming freshmen continue to be better-prepared for the rigor of college, posting an average ACT score of 25.2 in fall 2016, surpassing the school record of 24.7 set in 2015. The high school GPA of incoming freshmen also increased, growing from 3.54 to 3.57, another university record.

“Ole Miss is committed to student success,” Vitter said. “The demand for a University of Mississippi degree is unprecedented, and the success of our programs and initiatives aimed at helping students stay in school and graduate is clear in our increasing retention and graduation rates.

“Each and every day, our faculty and staff demonstrate strong commitment to transforming lives through higher education.”

Endowment Honors Memories of Three Friends

Scholarship recipients carry on fraternity brothers' legacies

Kappa Alpha fraternity brothers (with plaques, from left) Michael Deauville, Kyle Thigpen and Dillon Pitts, recipients of the 2017 Kelly, Kelly and Wilbanks Scholarship, are joined by (from left) chapter President Hayden Poer, Lynn and Ken Wilbanks, Chris and Christine Kelly, and Sam and Kim Kelly. Photo by Bill Dabney

OXFORD, Miss. – A scholarship endowment paying tribute to the lives of three University of Mississippi students has grown to more than $335,000, and three new recipients of the scholarship say they feel honored to represent the men for whom the endowment is named.

Continuing gifts from the Kappa Alpha fraternity have expanded the Charles Walker Kelly, Samuel Clayton Kelly and Bryant Mason Wilbanks Memorial Scholarship Endowment that pays tribute to the lives of lifelong friends tragically killed in a 2011 car accident. Kappa Alpha fraternity recently contributed an additional $60,000 to the endowment and $15,000 for this year’s scholarship awards. 

All natives of Madison, the friends graduated together from Madison Central High School, attended Broadmoor Baptist Church, enrolled at Ole Miss and pledged the same fraternity. Their legacies are kept alive by fellow KA brothers who receive scholarship awards.

This year’s recipients are Michael Deauville of San Jose, California, Dillon Pitts of Pearl and Kyle Thigpen of Jackson.

“One of the biggest fears of a parent who has lost a child is that the child will be forgotten,” said Ken Wilbanks, father of Mason Wilbanks. “Thanks to the generosity and support of KA and the Ole Miss community, our sons’ legacies will continue on the Ole Miss campus long after we are gone.

“It is truly humbling and such an honor to be able to present these three scholarships annually to active KA members in memory of Mason, Sam Clayton and Walker. I know our boys are smiling, knowing they are continuing to help those in the fraternity they loved so much at the university they loved so dearly.”

Alumni advisers of the KA Alpha Upsilon Chapter and UM’s Scholarship Committee work together to select recipients. The award is based on a number of criteria, including financial need, leadership and academic performance.

Deauville, a sophomore biology major with a minor in chemistry who hopes to attend medical school, said the scholarship will enable him to have the resources he needs to pursue his goals.

“From the bottom of my heart, I am incredibly blessed and grateful for this recognition and scholarship,” Deauville said. “It is nothing short of an honor. Knowing that I am continuing the legacy of the three men is a very good feeling, and I aspire to be everything that they were.

“I am humbled by this recognition, and while I believe that there were many other deserving men, I will vow to continue their legacy in all that I do.”

At the recent Kappa Alpha awards banquet, Deauville spent time with Sam and Kim Kelly, parents of Sam Clayton Kelly.

“They opened their arms to me, and after a few short minutes I felt I had known them my entire life,” he recalled. “Mrs. Kelly even noted that I too am now a part of her family.

“I just want to thank them, as well as the other two families, for their enduring support of KA. I am honored to call them friends. I know they will all be a part of its family, and the chapter is better for that relationship.”

Pitts, a junior marketing and corporate relations major with a minor in manufacturing engineering, said the scholarship will help him pursue his goal to attend law school.

“Receiving this scholarship is an honor – not only to myself, but an honor that I get to represent three amazing young men who were members of our chapter,” Pitts said. “To me, being a part of KA has opened numerous doors. I have been blessed to grow and make many lifelong connections and I owe it all to being a part of KA.”

Thigpen, a junior accounting major who plans to work for an accounting firm after graduation, said the scholarship will help him offset tuition costs as he pursues his degree.

The Kelly, Kelly (and) Wilbanks Scholarship is an awesome way to remember the lives of our three brothers who were lost,” Thigpen said. “Their story has led me to think about the relationships I’ve built throughout my short time at Ole Miss, and I’ve come to realize how great of an impact the ones I love have had on my life.

“Mason, Sam Clayton and Walker continue to impact lives every day, and it’s awesome to know that they will continue to do so for years to come.”

Chapter adviser Trey Horne, of Oxford, has been instrumental in growing the endowment.

“Mason, Sam Clayton and Walker were strong men of character who loved God and their families,” he said. “Through this scholarship endowment, their legacies will live on by providing three men of Kappa Alpha Order scholarships each year.

“As new classes enter Ole Miss, this endowment will remind these men that the lives that Mason, Sam Clayton and Walker lived are worthy to be followed.”

Sandra Guest, vice president of the UM Foundation, said she’s heartened by KA’s generosity.

“By memorializing its members through scholarships, Kappa Alpha has set an outstanding example for other student organizations to follow,” she said. “I commend Mr. Horne for his leadership efforts to sustain the momentum of this initiative over the last four years and to the chapter for working hard to keep the spirit of their lost brothers alive.

“KA has turned a tragic situation into a lasting tribute, ensuring the legacy of Mason, Sam Clayton and Walker will forever remain at Ole Miss.”

The endowment is open to gifts from individuals and organizations. To contribute, send checks with the Kelly, Kelly and Wilbanks Scholarship noted to the University of Mississippi Foundation, 406 University Avenue, Oxford, MS 38655; contact Sandra Guest at 662-915-5208 or; or visit

Former UM Director Receives Arts Commission Lifetime Achievement Award

Bill Ferris to be honored at 2017 Governor's Arts Awards

Bill Ferris (left) looks over a copy of Living Blues magazine with blues great B.B. King during a visit by King to the University of Mississippi in the 1980s, when Ferris was director of the Center for the Study of Southern Culture. Photo by Robert Jordan/Ole Miss Communications

OXFORD, Miss. – William R. Ferris, the preeminent scholar and documenter of Mississippi’s rich culture, music and folklore, has been documenting the lives of Mississippians for more than 50 years. On Feb. 16, the Mississippi Arts Commission will honor him with the Lifetime Achievement Award at the 2017 Governor’s Arts Awards.

Ferris is a scholar, author, documentary filmmaker and founding director of the Center for the Study of Southern Culture at the University of Mississippi. For him, the award is linked to the center in a deep and wonderful way, as well as to the Oxford community.

“It’s a tremendous honor, and I know it would never have happened without the work I was blessed to do at the University of Mississippi and at the center,” Ferris said. “It was a special period in my life that connected me to Mississippi in ways that were very special and very moving, and I know full well that the friendships I was able to share there are a big part of why I was selected for this honor.”

The award is an opportunity to look back and appreciate more deeply what one’s life’s work represents, since in the moment, totally engaged and working, it can be difficult to see where things will land, said Ferris, who was on the Ole Miss faculty from 1979 to 1998.

Southern studies students are leading various areas in new and exciting ways, said Ferris, who keeps up with the program’s students and alumni.

“I look around the state, the region and the nation and know there are powerful voices that were shaped at the center and by the Southern studies program,” he said.

Ferris grew up on a farm south of Vicksburg and developed an early love of storytelling, books, art and music. In 1997, he became chair of the National Endowment for the Humanities under President Bill Clinton.

Since 2002, he has served as Joel Williamson Eminent Professor of History and senior associate director of the Center for the Study of the American South at the University of North Carolina.

The 2017 recipients will be recognized at the 29th annual Governor’s Arts Awards ceremony at the Old Capitol Museum in downtown Jackson at 6 p.m. Thursday (Feb. 16). A public reception at 4:30 precedes the awards.

“When I first found myself out in the cultural landscape of Mississippi’s vast richness, Bill was already there, established and knee-deep in the exploration of art and culture,” said Malcolm White, executive director of MAC. “Bill is a pathfinder and an icon of this work, and I am proud to be at the helm of MAC on this occasion of his recognition.”

Other award recipients include Sammy Britt (MFA art ’66), Excellence in Visual Art; Vasti Jackson, Arts Ambassador; Lucy Richardson Janoush, Arts Patron; Jaimoe Johnie Johnson, Excellence in Music; and the Mississippi Opera, Artistic Excellence.

“Because these six recipients have made a significant and lasting impact on our state’s arts culture, it is fitting to recognize them during Mississippi’s bicentennial celebration,” White said.

Ferris is the author of 10 books, including “Give My Poor Heart Ease: Voices of the Mississippi Blues” (University of North Carolina Press, 2009), “You Live and Learn. Then You Die and Forget it All: Ray Lum’s Tales of Horses, Mules, and Men” (Anchor Books, 1992) and his latest, “The South in Color: A Visual Journey” (University of North Carolina Press, 2016).

He is the recipient of numerous awards, including the Charles Frankel Prize in the Humanities and France’s Chevalier and Officer in the Order of Arts and Letters. The Blues Hall of Fame recognized his book “Blues from the Delta” (Anchor Press, 1978) as one of the classics of blues literature.

Established in 1988, Governor’s Arts Awards are given to individuals and organizations for the excellence of their work in a wide variety of art forms including visual, literary and performing arts, and community development through the arts in Mississippi.