UM Extends Contract for Athletics Director

Deal will keep Ross Bjork at Ole Miss through 2019

2013 Signing Day Dinner.  Photo by Nathan Latil/Ole Miss Communications

2013 Signing Day Dinner. Photo by Nathan Latil/Ole Miss Communications

OXFORD, Miss. – The University of Mississippi and Athletics Director Ross Bjork have agreed in principle to a contract extension that will keep him at Ole Miss through 2019 at a base salary of $650,000 with $100,000 in academic and on-the-field performance incentives.

This extension, announced Friday by Chancellor Dan Jones, adds a year to Bjork’s contract, reaching the four-year maximum allowed by the state of Mississippi.

“I’m pleased to have a renewed commitment to Ole Miss from Ross,” Jones said. “All of us are grateful for his remarkable leadership, not only in athletics but far beyond.”

Since his arrival at UM in 2012, Bjork has provided outstanding leadership to Ole Miss athletics programs. Under his direction, Ole Miss has reached new heights in athletics support, with record private donations, an increase in athletics budget to $92 million for the 2015-16 season and record-breaking attendance numbers in football, basketball and baseball.

“When I was hired in 2012, Sonya and I quickly realized what the Ole Miss family already knew: Ole Miss and Oxford make up a very special place, the perfect blend of academics, social life and athletics,” Bjork said. “Furthermore, we have been deeply moved by all of the support we have received from the Ole Miss family over the past three years and feel like we’ve been embraced with open arms every step of the way. Sonya and I are extremely humbled by the university’s confidence in athletics leadership by awarding a new contract and we look forward to hitting our stride as an athletics program.

“I am eternally grateful to Chancellor Dan Jones for not only bringing us to Ole Miss, but more importantly, his transformational leadership and unwavering support of athletics. Personally, Sonya and I will miss Dan and Lydia’s presence on campus, and we will always value their friendship. While a transition in leadership creates some uncertainty, there is no doubt the best days are yet to come for Mississippi’s flagship university. Together, we have a bright future as we continue to build on the success in academics, athletics and fundraising.”

Ole Miss student-athletes and fans have experienced immediate success in competition under Bjork’s direction. For three consecutive years, the Rebel football team has made a post-season bowl appearance, the Ole Miss baseball team made its first appearance in 42 years at the College World Series in Omaha last season and Ole Miss men’s basketball claimed the 2013 SEC Tournament Championship and has earned two NCAA Tournament appearances. Other teams to reach post-season play include soccer, men’s and women’s tennis, track and field, and women’s golf. Ole Miss pole vaulter Sam Kendricks claimed back-to-back NCAA national championships in 2013 and 2014.

In the past 12 months, UM was the only Division I university to place a team in the College World Series, a New Year’s Six bowl game and the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament.

However, Bjork’s leadership reaches far beyond the playing field. He has placed a strong emphasis on academics, and the university’s student-athletes have responded, reaching a record average GPA of 2.96 in the fall of 2014. Moving forward, Bjork’s goal is to have student-athletes average a 3.0 GPA.

He also has been actively involved in other university activities, including the William Winter Institute for Racial Reconciliation; the Big Event, the university’s largest community service project; and RebelWell, a campaign to promote health and wellness among the Ole Miss community.

Bjork also has led efforts to expand and renovate athletics facilities with the Forward Together campaign. Construction of the new 9,500-seat Pavilion at Ole Miss is expected to be completed for SEC basketball play next season. The athletics department plans to break ground late this year on an expansion of the north end zone of Vaught-Hemingway Stadium, adding 3,500 seats to stadium capacity. Other projects led by Bjork include renovation of the Gillom Sports Center, FedEx Academic Support Center and Starnes Athletic Training Center, and the restoration of the Ole Miss Track & Field Complex.

“Everyone in the Ole Miss family will continue to be asked to do their part as we take the next step towards graduating all of our student-athletes and competing for and winning championships,” Bjork said. “The journey continues. We are Ole Miss.”

Bjork and football Coach Hugh Freeze will embark on the BancorpSouth Rebel Road Trip beginning April 19 in Houston, Texas. The five-state, 13-city tour will allow fans to hear what’s new and exciting in Ole Miss athletics and have an opportunity for photos and autographs. Men’s basketball Coach Andy Kennedy and women’s basketball Coach Matt Insell will join them at select stops.

For a full schedule and tickets, visit http://www.olemisssports.com/.

Historic Mississippi Town Comes to Life in UM Documentary

Film will be part of judging in this weekend's Tupelo Film Festival

"Take the Mountain" by Deborah Freeland will be screened on April 18 in Tupelo.

“Take the Mountain” by Deborah Freeland will be screened on April 18 in Tupelo.

OXFORD, Miss.­­­ – The documentary short “Take the Mountain” by Deborah Freeland, videographer for the University of Mississippi Division of Outreach, was screened earlier this spring as part of the university’s Black History Month events.

Now the film will be included alongside 64 other independent films chosen for the 12th annual Tupelo Film Festival, taking place this weekend in Tupelo. Freeland’s 12-minute production will be screened at 6:20 p.m. Saturday (April 18) on Screen 4 at the Malco Tupelo Commons Cinema.

“This film is the backstory leading up to the founding of the Taborian Hospital in Mound Bayou,” Freeland explained. “A lot of historians know about the hospital and how it figures into the civil rights movement, but what were its origins? I found this part extremely fascinating once I began to research.”

Freeland became interested in the small, historic town of Mound Bayou in 2011 when several UM departments were working together on service-learning projects in the area. Freeland teamed up with UM doctoral candidate Katrina Sims, who was writing and researching for her dissertation on the Taborian Hospital.

The hospital, founded in 1942, was one of the first modern medical facilities in Mississippi that was built, owned and operated by African-Americans.

“After learning more, my thoughts were that you couldn’t talk about the Taborian Hospital without talking about Mound Bayou, and you couldn’t talk about Mound Bayou without talking about Davis Bend,” Freeland said.

That interest led Freeland to create the film with the help of research adapted from Sims’ dissertation.

“The Bend,” as it was often called, was 20 miles south of Vicksburg and was developed by Joseph E. Davis, brother of Jefferson Davis, in the mid-1820s. The area included thousands of acres of rich farmland, located in a bend of the Mississippi River, but what made it noteworthy were Davis’ utopian ideas of a model slave community.

Freeland spent months scouring archives for information that would convey the inspiration behind the founding of this unique community and the special relationship between Davis and his most trusted slave, Ben Montgomery.

“Reading Isaiah Montgomery’s memoir about his father, Ben, in the New York World piqued my interest in the intertwining lives of the Davis and Montgomery families and the community at Davis Bend,” Freeland said. “Where did this idea of a cooperative community start? The culture at Davis Bend and its residents, who later start Mound Bayou, were so unique. Everyone took care of each other, shared the land and the corn crib was never locked.”

The intellectually gifted Benjamin T. Montgomery was a prominent leader in the slave community at the Bend. He managed all of Davis’ fields and cotton sales, and ran a store on the plantation.

Shortly after the Civil War, Montgomery purchased 4,000 acres from Davis and began to farm with the help of other freedmen from the area. Eventually the cotton business went under with the pressures of failing economic and agricultural conditions. The Montgomerys could no longer make payments on their land at the Bend. Years later, Ben’s son, Isaiah, took what he had learned at the Bend and established the new town of Mound Bayou.

“After these economic hardships, I think it was that legacy of cooperation and independence that allowed the former residents of Davis Bend and their descendants to re-establish their community as Mound Bayou,” Freeland said.

“Benjamin Montgomery was an extraordinary man and so was Joseph Davis, and I feel like they recognized that in each other.”

The documentary is stocked with original photos of the Davis and Montgomery families, the land and many of the residents of Davis Bend. Freeland found many of the photographs through extensive research in the Library of Congress and the city of Vicksburg archives.

“This compelling story comes to life through some truly amazing images,” Freeland said. “Each of the images chosen is original to the time period, and while some photographs are well-known, some may have never been published before. These decades-old photographs, often blurry and discolored with time, are both beautiful and haunting.”

The photos provide a rare look into the life of the “other” Davis brother and one of the most important sites for trade on the Mississippi River, said David Sansing, a retired UM history professor.

“This documentary gives us an insight into the community of Joseph Davis, who was probably the most influential person in the life of Jefferson Davis, the most famous Mississippian,” Sansing said. “There is not much known about Joseph Davis, and this film brings more light to his legacy and the founding by his former slaves of the cooperative community at Davis Bend. The Bend was a major trade site for Mississippi while shipping cotton up and down the river, and it was run meticulously.”

University of Virginia President to Deliver UM Commencement Address

Teresa Sullivan to address 2015 graduates and families May 9 in the Grove

Photo by Jo Worthem/University Communications

Photo by Jo Worthem/University Communications

OXFORD, Miss. – Teresa A. Sullivan, a respected sociologist and president of the University of Virginia, is set to visit the University of Mississippi on May 9 to deliver the main address at the university’s 162nd Commencement.

Sullivan has served as Virginia’s eighth president, the first woman elected to that position, since 2010. During her tenure, she has won praise for her consensus-building style of leadership and developed a financial plan to recruit and retain top faculty, restore the university’s Jefferson Grounds and provide scholarships for needy students. She has also guided the institution through two major controversies, her forced resignation and reinstatement by the university’s Board of Visitors in 2012, and a sexual assault scandal sparked by a 2014 Rolling Stone story that has been discredited and recently retracted.

A graduate of St. Joseph High School in Jackson, Sullivan speaks to graduating students, their families and other guests at 9 a.m. in the Grove. This year’s graduating class includes about 2,800 spring candidates for undergraduate and graduate degrees, plus some 1,200 August 2014 graduates.

“Over the years, we have had leaders from many fields come to campus for our Commencement addresses, and I chose Dr. Sullivan for this year because she is a distinguished scholar and administrator who has Mississippi connections,” Chancellor Dan Jones said. “She has been through some interesting times in her tenure as president of the University of Virginia, and she has provided valuable national leadership in dealing with some of the issues she has faced.”

Recipients of Doctor of Philosophy degrees are to be hooded by their major professors in a 7:30 p.m. ceremony May 8 in the Gertrude C. Ford Center for the Performing Arts. The Sally McDonnell Barksdale Honors College ceremony begins at 4 p.m. at the same location.

A shuttle service for handicapped and elderly visitors is available, and guests who need this service are asked to park in the new garage beside Vaught-Hemingway Stadium at Hill Drive and Manning Way. (Wheelchairs, if needed, must be provided by families.) To request assistance, call 662-915-7235 or 662-915-5203.

In case of rain, the ceremony will be moved to Tad Smith Coliseum. If the weather is threatening, a decision on moving the ceremony indoors will be made by 8 a.m. and announced through media outlets, text messaging and the Ole Miss website.

UVA President Teresa Sullivan

UVA President Teresa Sullivan

Following the main ceremony, individual schools and the College of Liberal Arts hold ceremonies at various times and locations to present baccalaureate, master’s, Doctor of Pharmacy and Juris Doctor degrees and awards. The schedule is as follows:

– College of Liberal Arts master’s degrees – 11 a.m., Fulton Chapel

– Patterson School of Accountancy – 11 a.m., Ford Center (overflow viewing across the street in Nutt Auditorium)

– School of Applied Sciences – 11 a.m., Olivia and Archie Manning Athletics Performance Center

– School of Business Administration – 11 a.m., Tad Smith Coliseum

– School of Engineering – 11 a.m., Lyceum Circle

– School of Education – 11 a.m., Grove

– School of Law – 11 a.m., Grove

– Bachelor of General Studies – 2:30 p.m., Grove

– School of Pharmacy – 2:30 p.m., Manning Center

– Meek School of Journalism and New Media – 2:30 p.m., Ford Center

– College of Liberal Arts – 2:30 p.m., Tad Smith Coliseum

In case of rain, the College of Liberal Arts master’s degree ceremony will be moved to 11 a.m. in the Jackson Avenue Center. The School of Education ceremony will be moved to 5 p.m. in Tad Smith Coliseum; Engineering, 11 a.m. in Fulton Chapel; and Law, 5 p.m. in the Manning Center.

Besides Sullivan’s address, the main ceremony also includes remarks by the senior class president, recognition for the university’s outstanding teacher and announcements of the Frist Student Service awards and the Distinguished Research and Creative Achievement Award.

Sullivan grew up during the desegregation era in the South, first in Little Rock, Arkansas, until she was 13, and then in Jackson. She was valedictorian of her class at St. Joseph, the first high school in the state to integrate. She earned her undergraduate degree from Michigan State University’s James Madison College and her doctorate in sociology from the University of Chicago.

She began her career as a sociology instructor at the University of Texas and quickly advanced to become executive vice chancellor for academic affairs for the University of Texas System. Before being tapped for the Virginia presidency, she was provost and executive vice president for academic affairs at the University of Michigan.

In fall 2012, she launched a major initiative to develop priorities for the University of Virginia’s future that included soliciting input from 10,000 alumni, parents, students, faculty and staff. This effort produced a new strategic plan for the university, the Cornerstone Plan.

A fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, Sullivan serves as vice chair of the Council of Presidents for the Association of Governing Boards of Universities and Colleges. She also provides leadership as the Association of American Universities representative on the board of directors for the American Council on Education.

“I’ve had the opportunity to spend some time with Dr. Sullivan, and I came away impressed with her commitment and loyalty to the people she works with,” Jones said. “It is truly an honor to welcome someone with her knowledge and experience to campus, and doubly so because of her Mississippi ties. Our graduates can learn a lot from her experiences.”

Because of campus construction projects, parking and transportation options have changed on campus. Guests are encouraged to check out parking and driving instructions here. A map showing Commencement venues, information booths, shuttle stops, parking areas and restrooms is available at http://map.olemiss.edu/.

For more information on Commencement activities, go to http://commencement.olemiss.edu/. For assistance related to a disability, call 662-915-7235.

Honors Convocation to Include Taylor Medals, Outstanding Teacher Award

Phi Kappa Phi and Phi Beta Kappa inductions also scheduled

The guest speaker for 2015 Honors Day Convocation is the 2014 Hood Award recipient, Ann Fisher-Wirth, professor of English.

The guest speaker for 2015 Honors Day Convocation is the 2014 Hood Award recipient, Ann Fisher-Wirth, professor of English.

OXFORD, Miss. – Outstanding students from all academic disciplines and the campuswide top teacher are to be recognized Thursday (April 9) at the University of Mississippi’s 72nd annual Honors Day Convocation.

The convocation begins at 7:30 p.m. at the Gertrude C. Ford Center for the Performing Arts. Seventy-two students are to be presented with Marcus Elvis Taylor Memorial Medals, the university’s highest academic award, and one faculty member will receive the Elsie M. Hood Outstanding Teacher Award.

Guest speaker for the event is the 2014 Hood Award recipient, Ann Fisher-Wirth, professor of English.

At separate events, new members are to be inducted into the university’s top two student honor societies. The Phi Kappa Phi ceremony is scheduled for 3 p.m. Thursday at the Ford Center. Phi Beta Kappa holds its ceremony at 3 p.m. Friday (April 10) in Paris-Yates Chapel.

The Taylor Medals, established in 1904, are the university’s highest academic award and recognize no more than 1 percent of the student body each year. The Hood Award was first given in 1966 and allows faculty, staff, students and alumni to nominate a deserving professor for superior classroom teaching.

Around 170 students are to be inducted into Phi Kappa Phi, the university’s highest academic honor across all disciplines. The speaker is David Rock, dean of the School of Education and professor of curriculum and instruction.

Sixty-eight students are slated for induction into Phi Beta Kappa, the university’s highest academic honor in the liberal arts. Ted Ownby, director of the Center for the Study of Southern Culture and professor of history, will speak at the ceremony.

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 http://math.olemiss.edu/.

Sweeney Named Mississippi Teacher Corps Director

UM alumnus rejoins program as new leader after serving as secondary school teacher, administrator

Joseph Sweeney

Joseph Sweeney

OXFORD, Miss. – Mississippi Teacher Corps veteran Joseph Sweeney has joined the University of Mississippi School of Education faculty as director of the highly selective teacher preparation program.

Sweeney, who took the helm of the Teacher Corps on March 16, is in the midst of preparing for the program’s 26th cohort of new recruits who will undergo hands-on teacher training during the program’s summer training school in Holly Springs in June and July.

“The Teacher Corps is a great program with great people,” said Sweeney, who also serves as an instructor in the Department of Teacher Education. “It’s almost surreal to be back here, but I feel very confident we will continue to offer a valuable service to the state of Mississippi. I feel like I’m home and this is my dream job.”

Established in 1989, the Teacher Corps, which receives its primary funding from the Mississippi Legislature, is an alternate route program that prepares college graduates to teach and succeed in secondary, critical-needs schools in the state. The program provides job placement with full benefits and salary upon finishing its summer training school.

Each year, the summer school calls upon Teacher Corps alumni and UM education faculty to expose the new cohort to skills and tactics they will need as teachers in the state’s most challenging middle and high school classrooms.

“Joe Sweeney was a rising star during his time in the program,” said Mississippi Teacher Corps co-founder Andy Mullins. “He was successful as a teacher and as a graduate student and showed skill and leadership abilities from the very beginning. When the opening occurred, we immediately thought that Joe would be an excellent choice.”

The Teacher Corps, which can accept up to 35 new recruits a year, requires teachers to complete graduate coursework at UM to earn a master’s degree in curriculum and instruction over two years. Graduates also qualify to apply for an advanced teaching license from the Mississippi Department of Education. More than 600 teachers have come through the program.

Sweeney, a native of Traverse City, Michigan, joined the Teacher Corps in 2004 and served as an English teacher at East Side High School in Cleveland. He later served as the principal for the Teacher Corps’ summer school for three years and was an adjunct faculty member in the UM School of Education, continuing his connection to the program.

Before joining UM, Sweeney was an instructional designer and faculty development coordinator at Baptist College of Health Sciences in Memphis, Tennessee, where he worked with faculty members in health care professions to develop and/or redesign curricula to utilize online, face-to-face and hybrid models. Sweeney has also held teaching positions at H.W. Byers Attendance Center in Mt. Pleasant, Byhalia High School in Byhalia and WinBe English School in Mie, Japan.

This spring, Sweeney expects to complete a doctorate in instructional design and technology from the University of Memphis. He also holds a master’s degree in curriculum and instruction from UM and a bachelor’s degree in English education from Michigan State University.

“We will continue to build on the great foundation that Dr. Mullins and others have built over 26 years,” Sweeney said. “We will continue to recruit good people, support them in the classroom and solidify the Mississippi Teacher Corps’ long-term and positive role in this state.”

UM Expands Physical Therapy Services

Two therapists available to help faculty, staff and students

Physical Therapists Michael Brown, left, and Michael Meurrier, right, are available to treat employees and students at the Starnes Athletic Training Center.

Physical therapists Michael Brown, left, and Michael Meurrier are available to treat employees and students at the Starnes Athletic Training Center.

OXFORD, Miss. – The University of Mississippi now has two physical therapists at the Starnes Athletic Training Center to treat faculty, staff and students. The expansion of service means patients get appointments faster and experience improved overall rehabilitation services.

A partnership between the Department of Intercollegiate Athletics and University Health Services provides the services of Michael Meurrier, who has been at UM for nine years, and new physical therapist Michael Brown, who joined the staff in January. Doubling the therapy staff allows patients to get appointments in a timelier manner, plus those services are conveniently located on campus.

“Since I’ve gotten here, I can see how much of a need for PT there is on campus and how much we can offer,” Brown said. “With two therapists here, there’s a good chance you’ll get in quickly and you’ll get the one-on-one care we can offer, plus the education about your injury.”

Adding Brown to help with the backlog has greatly improved services to patients, said Travis Yates, director of University Health Services.

“He is doing an excellent job, and I am receiving very favorable feedback from his patients,” Yates said. “We’re very pleased to have him on board.”

With a doctor’s referral – either from the Student Health Center, Employee Health Center or from an off-campus physician – faculty, staff and students can have access to a range of physical therapy services. The treatment fees for employees are filed on their insurance, and any cost not covered can be handled through payroll deductions or paid out of pocket. 

The office treats lots of orthopedic injuries, primarily fractures, sprains, tendonitis, muscle injuries and problems caused by poor posture. Posture issues of lower back and cervical pain are often caused by employees sitting all day without getting up or changing positions, the therapists said.

Meurrier said he often sees staff members who have been in pain for months and have been taking pain medicine to decrease symptoms, but they haven’t dealt with the actual injury through therapy, so it doesn’t improve. He urges getting help for an injury as soon as possible. 

“Both therapists encourage those with injuries to seek help as soon as possible,” Meurrier said. “Medicine, ice and heat can and do help with pain, but those things do not correct the root issue that has led to the painful symptoms. Our job is to try to figure out why the patient is experiencing their symptoms versus just treating the symptoms themselves.”

The office is open 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday, and appointments can be scheduled by calling 915-2027.

Q&A: UPD Chief to Retire May 31

Calvin Sellers discusses his career and brushes with the Allman Brothers, B.B. King, Lenny Kravitz and others

University Police Chief Calvin Sellers

University Police Chief Calvin Sellers

OXFORD, Miss. – University Police Chief Calvin Sellers will retire May 31, closing the books on a more-than-30-year career in law enforcement that included leading efforts here to become the safest school in the Southeastern Conference and one of the safest in the country.

Sellers, 62, of Oxford, plans to spend more time reading, golfing and skeet shooting. He wants to ride his Harley Davidson up the Pacific Coast. He’s also engaged to be married to Mary Watts, a local nurse. Though he has many plans for retirement, leaving UM won’t be easy, he said.

“You know, it’s not a place you can just walk away from,” Sellers said. “That’s going to be the hardest part, I think. Coming to work every day is not hard. Not coming to work every day is not going to be the problem, but not being involved in something that you care so much about – the department and the university. That’s going to be difficult.”

He prides himself on building a diverse department of officers, who play a large role in crime prevention through educating students about safety. He also leads efforts to keep campus safe during many high-profile events such as the 2008 presidential debate, concerts and many big-time sporting events. Being at those events also allowed him to meet many famous musicians, writers and athletes during his 25 years as an Ole Miss officer.

Sellers answered some questions for Inside Ole Miss about his time here. Here’s a portion of that interview:

IOM: How did you get your start in law enforcement?

Sellers: I started in Water Valley, Mississippi. I knew some of the people there. I knew some of the firemen there, knew a good many of the policemen. They had a job opening, and back in those days – that would have been 1984 – it wasn’t that hard if you knew the chief or you knew the mayor. Now, you just – you almost have to have some sort of experience to ever get in a field of work. Then, I started to work for Water Valley. They sent me to the police academy, and I had some friends who worked here. I hadn’t finished college and I wanted to. And it was just one of those things I didn’t think I could do. I probably couldn’t have done it financially. It was difficult.

So I came here a couple years after, in 1986. I wanted to come here and I wanted to finish school. So it’s 1986, and in 1998, I got that degree. It was very difficult working. I worked nights and we’d work from 11 p.m. until 7 in the morning. Sometimes you just didn’t feel like staying and going to a class. It got to a point that I just (thought), “I can’t do this anymore.” You didn’t get but one class or two classes a semester, so it took a long time. I quit there for a while. I got moved off of nights onto the afternoon shift and it made it a lot easier to go to class, so I got back into it. Mike Stewart was a chief here at that time, and Chief Stewart would push you to get that degree. He pushed me and I kept going. I finally got it and I’m proud of it. If you have to take that many steps to get it, it’s a little more special, right?

IOM: Was there a moment in time when you decided that working in public safety on college campus was the job for you? Talk about that.

Sellers: I really can’t say that when I started here, that was a goal. I started here with the ambition to get my degree. But, then after I got here and started working on a college campus, and worked with the students, I realized this was my place. This is where I needed to be. I enjoyed – I still enjoy – interacting with the students. They keep you young. I mean, I don’t look young, but they make your ideas younger. The ideas on a campus are different, you know. I worked at Ole Miss from 1986 till I got my degree in 1998. Then, a couple years after that, I went to Mississippi University for Women. I had worked my way up to captain here and MUW had an opening for a chief. I applied and was fortunate enough to get hired and I went to “the W.” I stayed at “the W” for eight years. Ole Miss had an opening for a chief and I applied and was fortunate to get to come home. I’ve been here since 2008. So altogether, from Water Valley, then Ole Miss, to “the W” and back to Ole Miss, I’ve got 30 years, you know, doing this job, and 28 of those have been on a college campus. 

IOM: We’ve had some pretty high-profile incidents on campus while you were here. Would you care to mention some of those and talk about your approach as chief during those times when we’ve come into a national media spotlight?

Sellers: The (2008 presidential debate) was big, but racial incidents, the one with the Meredith statue, probably got me interviewed by more people and more different agencies. It’s just something about Ole Miss and a racial issue that makes CNN. You know. It’s just automatic. I was interviewed by folks from The New York Times and the LA Times and I even got a call from someone in London, you know? My approach is I don’t try to hide anything. I try to be, as the word nowadays is, “transparent.” But my word for it is “honest.” I try to be as honest as I can. Now, there may be things that I’m told or things that I know that I can’t tell you. You know, I can’t tell you we’re looking at Joe Blow. We think he did it. You know, I can’t say that, but I can tell you we’ve got somebody we think did it. I just try to be honest. I’ve always been that way about dealing with the media. Whether it’s the school newspaper or The New York Times, I just try to be honest. I hope I have been. I feel like I always have.

When we’ve had these incidents, being a police chief is kind of like being a member of the media. You try to stay separate from that and not let your feelings about it get caught up in the situation when something terrible has happened here.

IOM: What do you feel might be some of your greatest professional accomplishments as UPD chief – the things you’ll look back on and take great pride in?

Sellers: I take pride in Ole Miss hosting the 2008 presidential debate and that going off (without incident). There was so much planning that went into that and us working with all the different agencies. It was a successful event and I think that our department had a lot to do with that being a success.

We’ve also become an accredited police department, and that’s not easy to get. It’s not something where you fill out an application and they do it, you know? Your department is audited by independent people who come from all over the country. They see you’re filing standard practices and protocols in law enforcement. We’re one of the small percent. I think Mississippi State’s also accredited and since that time, maybe Southern Miss. I’m proud of that. That that was an accomplishment, for not me particularly, but for the department, because everybody here worked on that. You just had to have somebody that just kept pushing. That’s where you get to be the leader of the department. … You have to push folks to their potential, you know, and I think we’ve done that.

I think we’re very diverse. That’s a point of emphasis. I think that’s important. I think that our department probably has more African-Americans in leadership positions than any department around. We have more females in leadership positions on this floor. There’s a chief and assistant chief. The captain in charge of our investigations, and then there’s two more captains. Out of all those folks – we’ve got three captains – two of them are females. And one of those is an African-American female. My other captain is a black male. That’s important to us. We have more women working on patrol out on the street than any other department in our area. It’s so easy to let that just float away, and the next thing you know, you look around and all your African-Americans are gone or you don’t have any females working anymore. We try to keep that balance, you know, but it’s difficult. I’m proud of the fact that we are a diverse department and we are represented by males and females, black, white and Latino.

IOM: What about something that still haunts you. Were there situations you were involved in here, things you responded to, that stick with you?

Sellers: Early in my career, I may have been the patrol officer on midnight shift. I got called out by the city. They asked me to come help because a student had committed suicide, shot himself in the head. His dad was a federal judge, or a judge of some type. I won’t ever forget that one.

IOM: Was that on campus?

Sellers: No. It happened in apartment complex, but off of campus.

I went to one (crime scene) one time of a girl who had gotten raped and beat up so bad you couldn’t recognize her face as a face. I never have forgot that one because I arrested that guy. I was on foot patrol at that time. I was probably just an officer, not a supervisor. There was a kid that I had stopped here. He was riding around on a dirt bike out there in the middle of the night, a loud, little motorcycle. I went up and stopped him. The back tire was flat and he had run it completely off the rim. He was all dressed up, or had on a white shirt, but it had blood on it. I said, “Have you been in a fight?” He said, “I don’t know what happened.” I said, “You need to go up to your room. You need to go park that motorcycle and go to your room.” And I said, “What room do you live in? I’m going to come by and check on you.” I wasn’t, but you know. I said, “What’s your name?” And he told me his name and he went on up to his room.

Then I got a call to go to the hospital, because that girl was down there that’d been raped and she was all beat up. Man I’m telling you. Really, you could not look at her and say that was a face of a human. And she couldn’t talk, but she could just whisper a little bit. And I talked to her, and talked to her and talked to her. And I finally asked her, did she know who did this to her and she told me. It was the name I had written down just a few minutes ago. The boy was out riding a motorcycle after he had beat the hell out of this girl. I just never forgot that.

IOM: When was that?

Sellers: Oh that would have been ’87 or ’88. Not long after I started here.

IOM: Other memories?

Sellers: There’s been a lot of stuff over the years though. We make contact with a lot of famous, very important people. I guess one of the biggest memories for me is B.B. King. He did a concert. They put a fence around a parking lot and they also had Bobby Blue Bland and all these others. Good concert. A lot of people came. At the end of the night, B.B. King sat in a folding chair at the door of his bus and he signed autographs until there was nobody left who wanted an autograph. I stood there just to make sure that nobody acted stupid. He got through and he looked at me and said, “Is there anybody else, officer?” And I said, “No sir, I think you’ve satisfied everybody.” He said, “Well I’m going to get on the bus, won’t you come in?” I said, “Yes sir.” So I went in B.B. King’s bus and sat there and talked to him for probably 30 to 45 minutes. I’m a blues fan. And B.B. King was playing some music in his bus and he could tell I was listening to it and he said, “That’s just an old blues man right there.” I said, “Yes sir, I know who that is. That’s Lightnin’ Hopkins.” He said, “How did you know that?” I mean I got to sit and have a conversation with B.B. King. You know you can’t replace that. That’s definitely one of those perks that you don’t realize that you’re going to have sometimes.

Charlie Daniels came. He was playing out in the Grove, and his manager came and said, “Charlie Daniels won’t admit it, but he can’t see very good. Would some of y’all come over here and have a flashlight and make sure he gets on the stage without falling?” So I did. And he got off his bus and it wasn’t like B.B. King where I went in and sat down. We had a 30-minute conversation. I just told him that when I was a younger man, the Charlie Daniels Band played a concert with the Rolling Stones in the Liberty Bowl in Memphis, and I went to it. And I told him, I said, “Do you remember that?” He said, “I sure do.” He said, “We didn’t play with the Rolling Stones much, so I do remember the day.” I said, “It was a July 4th.” He said, “Yep, they played that afternoon. Got on a plane and flew – and played Willie Nelson’s 4th of July show.”

As far as famous musicians, we’ve had a lot of them here, and athletes. I remember when Shaquille O’Neil came to our gym as a freshman. I thought that was the biggest man I’d ever seen in my life. And then he went on from there to gain about 50 pounds.

We saw a bunch of them. A bunch of famous musicians. We don’t get the big name musicians anymore.

We had the Allman brothers. These are people from my generation. Dickey Betts (the Allman Brothers’ guitarist) and I stood at the side of the stage and watched a crowd before they went on. I got to talk to him. We tried to swap hats, but his cowboy hat was too little for my head.

The one thing I wished I’d have done is taken more pictures with some of these folks. Back in those days you had to have a camera. Now, everybody’s got a cell phone, you know, and, you’ve got a camera with you at all times.

We’ve also had dignitaries here. We’ve had kings and princesses, princes and, of course, governors from all the states. We’ve had the Texas governor here in the last two (football seasons). We get the Louisiana governor.

We have famous writers. John Grisham. Stephen King was here for a writer’s symposium one time. I knew Barry Hannah very well. Barry was a night person, you know, he slept all day, I guess, and was out all night.

There were presidential candidates. I met President Barack Obama (when he was a candidate in 2008). I didn’t meet (2008 presidential candidate) John McCain. I had met Obama when I was at MUW, actually.

As far as big name bands, we used to have – we used to get these bands right on the edge when they were just about to get big.

We had the Smashing Pumpkins. I never heard of those folks, you know. I remember them. We had R.E.M. here and I’d certainly never heard of them. They went on to do wonderful things in music. Widespread Panic, we had them once, and Better than Ezra. If I start naming them all, I’ll miss some.

We also had country acts like Hank Williams Jr. and Randy Travis and Alan Jackson.

We had Lenny Kravitz. That was a good show. If you enjoy music like I do, and I enjoy a lot of different types of music and I enjoyed getting to work that concert and be backstage with some of these folks. Lenny Kravitz had a female drummer. I got to talk to her.

You work with these musicians’ crews that come out, you know, they have somebody in charge of their security. And one of the things you realize real quick is you can’t judge anybody by what they look like. You know, they may have hair down to their waist and got tattoos on every part of the body you could see, but when you sit down with him and start talking about the job, he’s a professional. He knows what he’s doing.

IOM: What would you like to say about the staff that you have here?

Sellers: I’ve got some of the best people. If I have had any success at all here, it’s due to them. We’ve had success in the last few years. We were ranked the safest university in Southeastern Conference. We were ranked the safest university in the state of Mississippi. We were ranked two years in the top 10 safest universities in the country. That’s not a personal accomplishment. That’s the department’s accomplishment and that’s because I have a group so dedicated to our purpose, which is to have a safe campus.

We write goals every year. My number one goal every year, which we don’t need to write anymore, is we will be the safest campus we can be. I don’t need another goal. And that doesn’t need to change. If I accomplish that this year, than I need to accomplish it next year. You don’t reach a pinnacle and say, “You know, we’re a safe campus. We can quit.”

We interviewed two job candidates this morning. It’s not a requirement to be an officer here that you have a college degree, but we have more officers here with college degrees than any department we know of. I think that speaks a lot about our folks. A lot of them get that degree while they’re working here, just like I did. And that speaks a lot to a person that they’re just willing to keep going. You know, it’s easy to quit. It’s easy to quit. When you’ve got a job and a family and full-time responsibilities, going to school can get to be something that you just think you’re going to let go. But we have people that keep at it, while they’re working, getting that one class a semester or two classes a semester, until they get that degree. And that just speaks volumes for me about their dedication. I mean I’m not taking anything away from somebody who gets to come to school and has scholarships and financing. They can go to school for four straight years and get their degree. But that guy, or that lady, that had to work all night and then go to class that morning, that’s kind of a special person. I’ve got a lot of those working here.

IOM: This may be hard to narrow down, but I want to know your favorite experience at Ole Miss. Is there something that stands out to you?

Sellers: As far as accomplishments, I was proud that we got the presidential debate, but I don’t think I can narrow it down to one. I mean I’ve been so proud of the accomplishments of the university. I am proud of that (debate), but I don’t think that stands out as much to me as some of the accomplishments of the university that maybe the public doesn’t pay much attention to. You know, our university does some great things. From the medical down to we put such an emphasis here on acceptance, and I think we’re all learning. That never stops. You know, we continue to learn how to get along with people who are not like you, and we have to make an effort. Our university makes an effort. … And this is my opinion, and I could be wrong, but I think we do more for race relations at Ole Miss than any other university in the United States. We don’t get credit for it, but we do.

IOM: Moving on from the professional side of your time here, what does Calvin Sellers do when he’s not working? What are your hobbies, your interests?

Sellers: I shoot shotguns. I shoot trap and skeet. I ride a Harley Davidson motorcycle. I play a little golf, not a lot. I’m not very good, but I play. This job consumes so much of my time. From the time we start in the fall, when we start in August, I don’t get a weekend until Christmas. Every weekend we have something going on with football and when football’s not here, there’s always something else going on. I used to deer hunt, but you don’t have time.

IOM: What’s your timeline for stepping down?

Sellers: May 31.

IOM: Do you know anything about who will be your replacement? Has that been determined yet?

Sellers: No. I’m not sure they’ve even posted that job yet.

IOM: Do you have any parting words or parting wisdom – anything else you’d like to say about your time here at Ole Miss?

Sellers: I loved it. It’s kind of crazy, I guess. I think I’ve got the best job in the state of Mississippi in my field. I do. There’s not another chief of police job anywhere in the state that I’d want, but I’m going to walk away from it.

IOM: It’s probably not easy to leave, right?

Sellers: No it’s not. I think it’s time. I’ve got 32 years in, and I’m 62 years old. And I’m still basically healthy. I don’t look like it, but I want to have a few years where I can, you know, enjoy doing some things while I’ve still got the health to do it. I want to ride my motorcycle to California. I want to ride up that Pacific Coast Highway. You know, those are things that are going to take three or four weeks to do. And I want to do that while I’ve still got the health to do it. There’s also a few places I want to go.

I like to read and I like to listen to music. I’ve got a lot of books that I bought over the years that I never have read. So I could spend a long time just reading books that I bought. I’m the world’s worst. Don’t take me to a book store. I buy them and I never read them.

… There’s been a lot of changes over the years. The people you come in contact with come and go – the different chancellors and vice chancellors and university attorneys that have come through. You build these working relationships with these folks. You don’t ever forget them. And it’s been good. I hope the next guy that comes has as much fun and has as much success as I’ve had. If I’ve had success though, it’s not a credit to me, it’s to the people who work here. They’re good people.

A Letter from Chancellor Dan Jones

Photo by Robert Jordan/Ole Miss Communications

Photo by Robert Jordan/Ole Miss Communications

Dear Ole Miss Family,

Several days ago I wrote to you about the decision by the IHL Board not to renew my contract to serve as Chancellor. Last week, Dr. Jim Borsig, Commissioner-elect for the Board, approached me with a “compromise offer.” The Board was willing to extend my contract for 21 months if I committed to retire in June of 2017. My performance or effectiveness up to that date would have no impact on whether I could continue to serve as Chancellor after June of 2017.

Over the last several days, Commissioner Borsig and I have continued conversations, and this week we traveled to meet individually with a number of Board members. In doing so, I hoped to determine if Board members would consider an extension that would allow me to serve as Chancellor without the outcome of my leadership predetermined. From these meetings it has become clear that the Board is not willing to do so.

I feel strongly, as do most of my advisors, that serving two years as a lame duck would make it difficult to recruit and retain key leaders and continue our momentum in private giving. More importantly, it is clear from the Board’s position that the Board would not support my leadership during any extension. For the University to thrive and succeed, the University needs a leader who has the support of its governing board, which I clearly do not enjoy. For these reasons, it is in the University’s best interest for me not to accept the Board’s offer.

I cannot sufficiently express the gratitude Lydia and I feel for the amazing outpouring of support for us personally and for our beloved University. We will leave our position in September with a deep love for this place and, most especially, the people of the Ole Miss family. Let me encourage all of you to follow closely the search process for the next Chancellor. The IHL Board will make a better decision knowing that you are engaged and that they are accountable to all constituents of the Ole Miss family.

Let me also encourage us all to follow our creed and treat Board members with civility and respect. I encourage any communication to the IHL Board members to be in that spirit. During the last few days, Commissioner Borsig has dealt with me in a candid and transparent fashion. Please remember that he was thrown into the middle of a difficult situation and was not involved in any of the decisions about my future.

My decision not to accept the Board’s offer may disappoint some of you. Please know the decision is made in the best interest of Ole Miss and out of love and respect for her. Lydia and I look forward to our last few months of service to the University and opportunities to visit with you.

Sincerely,

Dan Jones,

Chancellor

UM Reaches Gold as a Heart Association Fit-Friendly Worksite

University promotes wellness, healthy eating to make employees healthier

Workout equipment for students and facility that have a “FIT” sticker their Identification card.

Workout equipment for students and facility that have a ‘FIT’ sticker on their ID card.

OXFORD, Miss – The University of Mississippi has been recognized as a Gold Fit-Friendly Worksite by the American Heart Association, which commended the university’s efforts to make its workplace a healthy environment for employees.

The university recognizes that this support may yield positive business results, such as reduced health care costs, reduced absenteeism, improved productivity, lower turnover and enhanced university image,” said Andrea Jekabsons, assistant director of the UM Department of Human Resources.

The gold level recognizes a worksite that practices healthy eating while promoting a wellness culture. In order to earn the distinction, the university must have a minimum of 25 employees who fulfill at least six physical activities, two nutrition criteria and a culture criteria form.

The worksite has specific tools such as a walking tracker, wellness kit, an e-newsletter and more. These tools can help employees live longer, healthier lives.

Since November 2014, the university has been on the Fit-Friendly Worksite Honor Roll. At the worksite, the university offers each employee a 20 percent discount on customized booklets and brochures to raise the awareness about heart disease and strokes.

Human Resources continue to partner with departments and committees on campus to provide wellness-related programs and communications with the objective of enhancing individuals’ health.

While making employees aware of healthy lifestyles, the university receives recognition at local events, a recognition plaque to hang in the workplace and the right to use a recognition seal for internal and external communication programs.

For more information on the Gold Fit-Friendly Worksite, call Human Resources at 662-915-7431, or visit the American Heart Association website at https://www.heart.org/HEARTORG/GettingHealthy/WorkplaceWellness/Fit-FriendlyWorksites/Fit-Friendly-Worksites_UCM_460748_SubHomePage.jsp.