ATO Chapter Honored with True Merit Award

UM fraternity receives award for eighth straight year

William Fisher, chapter president, accepted the True Merit award.

William Fisher, chapter president, accepts the True Merit award.

OXFORD, Miss. – The Delta Psi chapter of Alpha Tau Omega at the University of Mississippi received the True Merit award at the ATO national convention for its outstanding accomplishments for the 2014-15 academic year.

This is the eighth year in a row for the UM fraternity.

“Because of Mississippi’s proven success as a chapter, individual members enjoy a strong ATO experience that enhances their college education and makes them more valuable as citizens, currently on their campus, but very soon, as members of their respective communities,” said Wynn Smiley, chief executive officer of the national fraternity.

The True Merit award is recognition of the chapter’s overall excellence, including community and campus involvement.

“Receiving a true merit bowl is a significant honor for our chapter,” said William Fisher, chapter president, of Greenwood. “It makes me proud to know that we are continuing a legacy that has been set by many of the Ole Miss ATOs that came before us.”

The men of the Delta Psi chapter raised more than $40,000 for Delta Streets Academy, recruited pledge classes of more than 80 men and continually excel in campus involvement.

“The fact that the men have won this award eight straight years shows in incredible level of consistency,” said Dylan Farrell, leadership consultant for the Mississippi chapter.

All chapters are required to submit an annual report detailing each area of their performance throughout the year. The reports are presented to a panel of judges not affiliated with ATO.

“Even though we are the largest chapter in the country, we still excel in almost every category on campus and nationally. We are constantly striving to be the best that we can be,” Fisher said.

UM Graduates to Compete at SEC Symposium

Entrepreneurs hope to connect job-seekers with companies that fit their personalities

Alexander Ray (center) of Zyn careers claiming first place at innovate Mississippi competition.

Alexander Ray (center) of Zyn Careers claims first place at Innovate Mississippi competition.

OXFORD, Miss. – Two 2015 University of Mississippi graduates will introduce their business venture, a Web-based services that helps connect job-seekers with employers that match their personality profile, Sept. 20-22 at a pitch competition during this year’s SEC Symposium in Atlanta.

Jackson native Alex Ray, who earned a bachelor’s degree in economics, and Madison native Caleb Robinson, who earned his bachelor’s in computer science, will present their business plan for The entrepreneurs, both 22, will make their presentation before 14 judges, all alumni of SEC schools.

“Their idea is a cross between eHarmony and,” said Richard Gentry, assistant professor of management and director of the UM Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship. “There is a clear definition of a problem when hiring potential employees. Through research and management of this idea, it can help connect people with a style to an organization similar to their own personality.”

Ray began working on the idea last December after he grew frustrated in his own job search. He approached Robinson because of his background in computer science.

“When I started looking for a job, I was frustrated that I couldn’t find an exciting enough place to work,” Ray said. “I went to Caleb with the idea, and then in February we started researching traits that made people happy in their jobs.”

“Alex approached me at the entrance of the Turner Center talking about an exciting idea that he had,” Robinson said. “Usually I would be pretty cautious if someone approached me with a tech-based idea, but I know Alex is the kind of person to follow through on something that he starts, so I was really excited to start on it.”

Ray and Robinson spent countless hours researching factors that affect cultural fit between a prospective employee and employer, such as job satisfaction, organizational commitment and tenure. They also worked closely with a professor in organizational psychology to develop their algorithm.

“We have put in a lot of work over several iterations of the algorithm,” Robinson said. “I was familiar with algorithms before this venture because of my computer science background. The difference about this project was that the problem – matching people to jobs – is very broad compared to some of the problems that we might solve in class.”

The algorithm examines up to 60 factors to produce “Zyn” scores associated with levels of happiness at a job, Ray said. Zyn scores range from 1 to 100, with 100 being rated extremely happy.

So far, has amassed 150 corporate profiles to match with prospective users, with businesses such as Facebook, FNC Inc., Coca-Cola and C Spire.

Ray and Robinson started to introduce their idea last spring in competitions and to students at UM. In April, they entered the university’s Gillespie Business Plan and finished in the top three. Faculty members encouraged Ray to enter the business into the Rebel Venture Capital Fund, and he received $4,000 to help get the business running.

In a trial run, 100 Ole Miss students signed up for initial assessment and gave the site reviews, Ray said. In May, Ray and Robinson received a boost when placed first in the Innovate Mississippi New Venture Challenge.

“It’s been really exciting, and something that I’ve dreamt about since the creation of the idea,” Ray said. “At the beginning, I just focused on how I could use this to find a job. Once I talked to others and noticed this was a widespread problem, I realized that this could be a business.”

The summer got even hotter for Ray and Robinson. They did a major site redesign while getting prepared for their biggest competition, the SEC Symposium.

“To categorize, the SEC Symposium is like ‘Shark Tank’ without formal investments,” said Clay Dibrell, associate professor of management and executive director of the Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship. “If you win the competition, you win a cash prize for your start-up.”

Dibrell and Gentry have worked with Ray and Robinson to help structure the business plan. Both faculty members agree that the site has many practical applications in the business world, and Ray and Robinson have been doing well with initial pitches to investors.

“It’s very rare to find people who are willing to invest in a company,” Dibrell said. “Pitching to other venture capitalists by taking meetings and making presentations are positive indicators of future success.”

“The site can make a big impact,” Gentry said. “It’s a huge problem that has not been well-solved. It could reduce selection costs significantly for big data businesses.”

Recently, Robinson encountered a student from Georgia Tech who was having difficulty finding a job. That instance just added more fuel to the Zyn Careers engine.

“(The student) said he only wanted to be accepted by a single company so he didn’t have to choose between companies because he had no idea where he would be happiest and didn’t want to make the wrong decision,” Robinson said. “He was extremely surprised when I told him that I had been working on that exact problem for the past several months.”

The SEC Symposium will pit Ray and Robinson against teams from other SEC schools. The competition promises to be their hardest yet, but it also could produce the biggest reward.

“I’m excited to see the ideas other groups will bring to the symposium,” Ray said. “But I believe Zyn Careers can make the world a happier place, so that motivates me to work harder and keep tweaking the website.”

New Parking App Available for UM and Oxford Drivers

The Passport parking app will be available both on campus and in the city of Oxford.

The Passport parking app is available both on campus and throughout Oxford.

OXFORD, Miss. – The University of Mississippi and the city of Oxford are launching the PassportParking app this month, giving drivers the luxury of paying for parking from their smartphone. Passport will be available at all metered spaces on campus and throughout the city.

The app is designed to make driving around the Oxford area more convenient by allowing drivers to use a smartphone or tablet to pay for a parking session, rather than pulling out change or a credit card after parking.

“The city of Oxford has been working toward improvements in our parking program, so the addition of a mobile payment option was a natural progression for us,” said Matt Davis, Oxford parking director. “We found Passport to be the best solution for our parking environment, and with the launch at Ole Miss, it makes this transition seamless.”

The app also sends reminder notifications to drivers before the end of their parking sessions so they have a chance to extend the session and avoid parking tickets. It also keeps track of all user parking history.

“Having the city introduce the same Passport mobile technology as our campus was important to us,” said Mike Harris, UM director of parking and transportation. “Once we decided that we wanted to offer this option for our meters on campus, it made sense to provide the same service citywide from the leader in mobile payments.”

Users can download the free PassportParking app from the iPhone App Store or Android GooglePlay. Following the sign-up process, drivers can type in the zone number found on a parking meter. The zone for campus is 401. Accounts can be managed at

“When we can bring a solution across a city as well as its university’s campus, it’s very exciting,” said Nathan Berry, vice president of sales at Passport. “We’re looking forward to introducing this parking solution to the city of Oxford and the University of Mississippi.”

UM Student Housing Day of Service Benefits L-O-U Community

Assistants-in-training visit, help local organizations in annual event

UM Student Housing Day of Service volunteer Giovanni Lavermicocca Ciccone examines a large earthworm he unearthed while weeding in the Oxford Boys and Girls Club garden. Photo by Robert Jordan/Ole Miss Communications

UM Student Housing Day of Service volunteer Giovanni Lavermicocca Ciccone examines a large earthworm he unearthed while weeding in the Oxford Boys and Girls Club garden. Photo by Robert Jordan/Ole Miss Communications

OXFORD, Miss. – Unfazed by severe thunderstorms that moved through the area much of the day, 138 University of Mississippi students visited several local organizations Friday afternoon (Aug. 7) to help beautify facilities and assist staff members with their duties.

The UM Student Housing Day of Service involved all community assistants-in-training in volunteer efforts around the Lafayette-Oxford-University community. Organizations participating in the annual event included the Oxford Police Department, Oxford Park Commission, Lake Stephens United Methodist Camp, North Mississippi Regional Center, U.S. Corps of Engineers at Sardis Lake, Veterans Administration Home, Oxford Boys and Girls Club, Yoknapatawpha Arts Council, Hermitage Gardens Assisted Living Facility, Mississippi Sustainable Agriculture Network and the United Way of Oxford-Lafayette County.

“This is our third year that we will have done a day of service as a community assistant team,” said Scott Oliver, UM assistant director of student housing-residential learning. “We started it the year that we instituted the residential curriculum because service is one of the common strategies that we believe supports engaged scholarship and responsible citizenship. We ask out our community assistants to both know the way and also to show the way.”

This is the second year that UM has partnered with Volunteer Oxford to coordinate events and activities. Ten teams, led by two student leaders each, participated in such scheduled activities as posting signs, picking up trash, planting flowers, weeding gardens, playing Bingo, dancing, stuffing envelopes and painting both fences and fingernails.

Some of the CAs said that the Day of Service is more than just a welcome departure from their summer leisure.

“This program has really shown me the importance of community service,” said Jalen Neal, a senior political science major from Shaw. “The Day of Service impacts the people in the community, and it also shows us as students just what a positive difference we can make in the world surrounding us while we’re yet in school.”

Christian Robinson, a pharmacy student in his first year of the professional program, agreed.

“Last year was amazing,” said Robinson, of Atlanta. “As we CAs went to a local nursing home, we really bonded. Seeing how much it meant to the residents for us to spend time with them was a truly great experience. I anticipate this year’s will be even better.”

Emily Schneider, a junior from Memphis, Tennessee, majoring in integrated marketing communications, said the event is another way for her to connect with the close-knit student housing community.

“We’re really like a family,” said Schneider, who moved to Memphis from her native New Jersey. “Volunteering in the community is nice because it allows me to give back to the town that has embraced and welcomed me.”

A Boys and Girls Club representative said the presence and work of UM student volunteers definitely contributes to the program’s success.

“We’re very fortunate to have UM students to voluntarily work with us,” said Amy Goodin, unit director. “Because the university and Oxford are so integrated, it really means a lot. We’re very thankful for the help.”

UM Panhellenic Community CARE Walk is Aug. 26

Proceeds from 12th annual event to benefit breast cancer research, patients

NJL_1839-Q copy

This annual walk is an important piece in supporting the cancer center’s mission to promote awareness, research and ultimately eradication of this disease.

OXFORD, Miss. – Members of the Greek community at the University of Mississippi are again taking to the streets Aug. 26 to raise funds in the fight against cancer.

The 12th annual UM Panhellenic Council Cancer Awareness Research and Eradication, or CARE, Walk will begin at 5:30 p.m. in the Grove. Registration, which includes a T-shirt, is $15. All funds go to the Baptist Cancer Center-North Mississippi in Oxford.

“Campus and community members come together to enjoy a walk around the beautiful University of Mississippi campus as they raise funds for the Baptist Cancer Center-North Mississippi,” said Jenell Bukky Lanski, UM coordinator of Greek affairs. “In 2014, with the help of the campus and local community, the Panhellenic community donated over $40,000 to the Baptist Cancer Center for breast cancer research, free mammograms and programs.”

Hospital officials said they are grateful for the Greeks’ generosity.

“With the money donated from the CARE Walk last year, in the past 12 months the donation has funded over 100 free mammograms and almost 50 free diagnostic mammograms and/or breast ultrasounds,” said Jennifer Eastland, coordinator for marketing at BMH-NM. “It is really amazing the difference our Ole Miss students are making in the lives of our Baptist-North Mississippi Cancer Center patients right here in our community.”

Pamela Gordon, a UM staff member in the School of Law, helped an international student who needed a mammogram make contact with the cancer navigator at the Cancer Center. After it was determined that she would need an ultrasound instead, arrangements were made for the student to have the procedure using CARE Walk funds.

“Without the financial assistance afforded by the generosity of the Panhellenic Council, this particular student might never have received the help that she needed,” Gordon said. “It was very fulfilling for me to have played even a small role in helping her make that vital connection.”

This annual walk is an important piece in supporting the cancer center’s mission to promote awareness, research and ultimately eradication of this disease.

CARE Walk flyer 2015

CARE Walk flyer 2015

“We all know someone who has been affected by cancer, and this is a great way to support them,” said Peter Dilatush, director of oncology at BMH-NM. “Participants have the ability to walk in honor of someone dear to them and we also have cancer survivors that walk as well. It’s a great community event that would not be possible without the vision and support of the Ole Miss Panhellenic Council. These funds will go so far in fighting against breast cancer here in Oxford and the surrounding communities and we are honored to be associated with such a great cause.”

To register for CARE Walk, visit

For more about fraternity and sorority life at the UM, call the Office of the Dean of Students at 662-915-7248 or visit

International Strongman Competitor Trains at Turner Center

Criminal justice major continues competing after life-changing accident

Ole Miss student John Stitt lost the lower part of his leg in a motorcycle accident in 2013, but that hasn’t stopped his from training for and competing in strongman competitions.

UM student John Stitt lost the lower part of his leg in a motorcycle accident in 2013, but that hasn’t stopped him from training for and competing in strongman competitions.

Following his accident, John Stitt had just two questions for his doctors: “When can I walk again?” and “When can I lift weights again?”

Stitt, a criminal justice major at the University of Mississippi, began training for strongman competitions in 2012. A year later, he competed in his first event and came in dead last. But he still loved it.

In November 2013, his training came to an abrupt halt. Just two days after his 23rd birthday, Stitt was in a life-changing motorcycle accident. He broke his left femur and left arm, fractured his pelvis, and his left leg was amputated immediately below the knee.

Even while lying in a hospital bed, all Stitt could think about was training again. In spring 2014, he received a prosthetic foot and began standing. A month later, he started weightlifting again.

“Originally, they said I’d never be able to lift weights again,” Stitt said. “Now, it’s a year-and-a-half later, and I’ve done two strongman competitions as a disabled athlete.”

Earlier this month, Stitt traveled to Iceland to compete in the World’s Strongest Disabled Man Competition. He left with two first place event finishes in the Hercules Hold and Arm over Arm Car Pull, and finished fourth in the world overall. By the end of the competition, he earned the nickname “John Vice Grip.”

A native of Hopkinsville, Kentucky, Stitt has lived in Oxford for the past six years while pursuing his bachelor’s degree in criminal justice.

He does most of his training for competitions at the Turner Center, where he has become an inspiration for many others.

“When people see him work out, they are compelled to ask him about his training and to comment on how impressive his accomplishments are,” said Charles Allen, coordinator of fitness for campus recreation. “In turn, this allows John the opportunity to share his story and training expertise with lots of people. His pursuit of fitness is a compelling example to us all that there really is no reason or obstacle that should prevent us from pursuing our own fitness, health and wellness-related goals.”

Stitt said his passion for the sport is what kept him pushing through his recovery.

“If I can inspire people doing this, it’s great,” he said. “But for me, I just love the sport so much, and I didn’t want anything to stop me from getting back to it.”

Stitt plans to compete in another competition this August in the United Kingdom.


‘Pig and Small’ Wins CELI Read Aloud Book Award

UM literacy center honors South African author for tale of unlikely friends

CELI literacy specialist Olivia Morgan reads Pig and Small to children at Willie Price Lab School at UM.

CELI literacy specialist Olivia Morgan reads ‘Pig and Small’ to children at Willie Price Lab School at UM.

OXFORD, Miss. – A children’s tale about an unlikely friendship between a pig and an insect unfolds in the pages of “Pig and Small,” winner of the 2015 Read Aloud Book Award, presented by the University of Mississippi’s Center for Excellence in Literacy Instruction.

South African author and illustrator Alex Latimer created “Pig and Small” in 2013 and the book was released in the U.S. in 2014 by Peachtree Publishers. A committee of UM graduate students, north Mississippi teachers and CELI faculty and staff selected Latimer’s book for the award in May. The book will feature the CELI Read Aloud Seal on its cover.

“Each year we look to honor a book that, when read aloud, provides a positive and enjoyable learning experience for students,” said CELI literacy specialist Angie Caldwell, a member of the committee. “CELI’s Read Aloud seal marks a book that is funny and engaging, while also providing students with important lessons that they can carry with them for years to come.”

Established in 2007, CELI is part of the UM School of Education and provides professional development, research and service to reading teachers throughout Mississippi. The institute has awarded the Read Aloud Book Award since 2010 with financial support from the Robert M. Hearin Support Foundation in Jackson. The goal of the award is to promote reading aloud to young children to cultivate a love of reading and a deep appreciation of storytelling.

A children's tale about an unlikely friendship by South African author and illustrator Alex Latimer.

A children’s tale about an unlikely friendship by South African author and illustrator Alex Latimer.

“This was a great book to teach diversity,” said Kim Homan, a committee member and teacher who shared the book with 22 of her first-graders at Pontotoc Elementary School. “We don’t have to be the same to get along and be friends. The students were quick to pick up on this theme.”

In the text, main characters Pig and Bug constantly run into the same dilemma: they can never quite figure out how to play together. With Pig being too large and Bug being too small, the pair cannot ride a tandem bike or play catch. However, by the tale’s end they do find several activities to enjoy together.

“This has been a favorite in our classroom,” said committee member Sarah Siebert, a preschool teacher at Willie Price Lab School. “We’ve even had parents asking for the title.”

Thirty-four books from seven publishers were submitted for the 2015 award. Latimer’s book received the highest praise from teachers and more than 200 children in north Mississippi. All Read Aloud submission books were later donated to teachers in critical-needs schools throughout north Mississippi.

UVA President Challenges UM Graduates to Become Problem-Solvers

Teresa A. Sullivan shares trials and triumphs during university's 162nd Commencement

Photo by Kevin Bain/Ole Miss Communications

Photo by Kevin Bain/Ole Miss Communications

OXFORD, Miss. – Acknowledging national and global crises, University of Virginia president Teresa A. Sullivan challenged University of Mississippi graduating seniors Saturday (May 9) to remain engaged, improve themselves and their communities and shoulder responsibilities.

“In a world full of problems, this University of Mississippi Class of 2015 is a well-educated, highly-trained team of problem-solvers,” Sullivan said during her address at the university’s 162nd Commencement ceremony in C.M. “Tad” Smith Coliseum. “In fact, we expect spectacular, groundbreaking, earth-shattering things from you. We expect you to solve the difficult problems that have confounded us in our time.”

Since taking office in 2010, Sullivan has led UVA through a period of significant progress. In fall 2012, she launched an effort that produced a new strategic plan for the university, the Cornerstone Plan. Sullivan also oversaw completion of a $3 billion capital campaign that will help ensure the institution’s stability and spur innovation in a period of significant financial pressure in higher education.

“Dr. Sullivan is perhaps best known nationally for her leadership on two key issues in higher education,” said Chancellor Dan Jones, who introduced the speaker. “First, the relationship between the publicly appointed boards of public universities and the institutional academic leadership and, second, the merging issues of sexual assault, alcohol use and Greek life on university campuses.”

After Rolling Stone published an account of an alleged sexual assault at a UVA fraternity house last year, sparking a national scandal, Sullivan demonstrated remarkable leadership in her measured, but firm, response and her dedication to providing a safe environment for all students, Jones said.

“Though Rolling Stone has since withdrawn the story and apologized publicly for misreporting, Dr. Sullivan did not dodge the opportunity to evaluate campus policies and practices to assure student well-being,” he said.

Sullivan, in turn, praised Jones as one of the strongest models of values in action.

“Through his ethical leadership, through his personal integrity, through his commitment to pursue the best interests of the University of Mississippi – even at considerable cost – Chancellor Jones has provided a living lesson for all of you,” Sullivan said. “I hope that you will remember his model of exemplary leadership and exceptional humanity as you prepare to assume positions of leadership in your own careers and communities across the nation and around the world.”

Showers forced university officials to move Commencement from its planned location in the Grove. Individual school ceremonies were also shuffled to the coliseum and other rain locations across campus. This is the last graduation for the coliseum, which will be replaced late this year by the new Pavilion at Ole Miss, under construction nearby.

Before Sullivan’s speech, Grady Lee Nutt II of Louisville, Kentucky, president of the 2015 senior class, announced the creation of the Chancellor Dan Jones Endowed Service Scholarship. Following a lengthy standing ovation, Jones, visibly moved by the many supportive remarks, said serving as UM chancellor for the past six years has been the highest era of his professional career. His tenure ends in mid-September per a decision by the State Institutions of Higher Learning board of trustees not to renew his contract.

Referencing humanitarians such as Robert F. Kennedy, Walt Whitman and Martin Luther King Jr., Sullivan acknowledged the progress that has been made in human equality and envisioned future evolution in societal attitudes.

“We have come a long way from the days of segregation and the civil rights struggles of the 1960s, but we still have a long way to go, as recent crises in cities across the nation have shown us,” Sullivan said. “I hope you will apply the knowledge and training you have acquired here to continue bending the arc of history toward justice, and equality and harmony among people of all races.

“As you leave here, remember to carry with you the values that you have learned – values of honor, hard work, respect for others, civility and reconciliation. In those moments when you are put to the test, you may be tempted to compromise your values. Resist that temptation.”

This year’s graduating class included nearly 2,800 spring candidates for undergraduate and graduate degrees, plus more than 1,200 August graduates.

Among the attendees, William and Angela Dykeman of Forest came to watch their son, Matthew, graduate with a bachelor’s degree in exercise science.

“This is a great experience for us,” William Dykeman said. “Thirty years ago, I earned my degree in electrical engineering from here. Our daughter, who is graduating from high school later this month, is planning to enroll here this fall.”

Kenny Lindsay of Cape Girardeau, Missouri said he and his wife, Roxie, were excited to watch their granddaughter, Megan Lynn, graduate with a bachelor’s degree in English.

“We’re as proud as we can be that she’s graduating from Ole Miss,” said Kenny Lindsay, who was in Oxford with other family members. “Neither one of us ever had more than a high school education, so this is a huge achievement within our family.”

Louis Shivers of Natchez came to see his friend, Lewis Bridges of Grenada, receive his specialist degree in curriculum and instruction.

“I’m so proud of him for his diligence which led to this accomplishment,” Shivers said. “As an older student, he had to financially support himself. Even through his illness, he really did wonderfully.”

Following the general ceremony, the College of Liberal Arts and the Oxford campus’ eight schools held separate ceremonies to present baccalaureate, master’s, Doctor of Pharmacy and law diplomas. Sports talk broadcaster Paul Finebaum was the speaker for the Khayat School of Law, Federal Express executive Rose Jackson Flenorl addressed the Meek School of Journalism and New Media, and entrepreneur Edith Kelly-Green spoke at ceremonies for the Patterson School of Accountancy.

Recipients of doctoral degrees were honored at a hooding ceremony Friday evening in the Gertrude C. Ford Center for the Performing Arts, where three awards were presented by the Graduate School. The Group Award for Excellence in Promoting Inclusiveness in Graduate Education went to the Department of Civil Engineering. Chancellor Jones received the Individual Award for Excellence in Promoting Inclusiveness in Graduate Education. John Rimoldi, professor of medicinal chemistry, was presented the Award for Excellence in Graduate Teaching and Mentoring.

During Saturday’s ceremony, Robert Brown, professor of political science, was honored as the recipient of the 2015 Elise M. Hood Outstanding Teacher of the Year Award, presented annually to the campuswide outstanding teacher.

Charles L. Hussey, chair and professor of chemistry and biochemistry, was named the recipient of the university’s eighth Distinguished Research and Creative Achievement Award.

The university also recognized the winners of this year’s Frist Student Service Awards: Anne McCauley, assistant director of the Office of Sustainability, and Luca Bombelli, associate professor of physics and astronomy.

UM Economics Student Wins Prestigious Prize

Doctoral candidate honored for research on relationship between homeownership and unemployment

George Akpandjar

George Akpandjar

OXFORD, Miss. – George Akpandjar, a doctoral student in the University of Mississippi Department of Economics, is the winner of the 2015 Barry M. Moriarty Graduate Paper Competition sponsored by the Southern Regional Science Association.

Akpandjar, of New Castle, Deleware, was recognized for his paper titled “The Effect of Homeownership on Unemployment: Outcomes and Implications,” based on his dissertation. Akpandjar investigated the relationship between homeownership and unemployment using a job search framework. He discovered that the increased search costs associated with homeownership do not weaken employment opportunities for homeowners.

“Results from the paper are very important for federal and state governments’ policy on homeownership,” Akpandjar said. “Going by the result from the paper, homeownership should be encouraged by federal and state government as higher homeownership rates across the country will lead to lower unemployment rates since homeowners are less likely to be unemployed.”

He competed nationally for the $1,000 prize. Previous winners have come from major universities such as Duke University, Ohio State, Texas A&M and the universities of North Carolina, Southern California and Texas.

“It feels great to win this award,” he said. “It makes me believe I can contribute something meaningful to society. I am really gratified that all the efforts that I put into my research have been recognized.”

Akpandjar entered the Ph.D. program in 2010. He has also been a graduate instructor of economic principles and statistics for several semesters.

“George has been an outstanding student and is highly regarded by the undergraduates he teaches, his fellow graduate students and faculty alike,” said Walt Mayer, UM professor of economics.

After graduation, Akpandjar plans to begin a career with Bank of America as a quantitative operations associate.

Memorial Scholarship Created by Papa John’s CEO and Archie Manning

Fund memorializes late UM student Fenton Kottkamp

Fenton (left), Harrison, Rush, Jane and Stephen Kottkamp gather in one of their favorite spots, the Grove at the University of Mississippi. Fenton Kottkamp’s spirit will live on at Ole Miss, where a scholarship has been created in his memory. His parents will accept his diploma at the May 9 Commencement. Courtesy photo.

Fenton (left), Harrison, Rush, Jane and Stephen Kottkamp gather in one of their favorite spots, the Grove at the University of Mississippi. Fenton Kottkamp’s spirit will live on at Ole Miss, where a scholarship has been created in his memory. His parents will accept his diploma at the May 9 Commencement. Courtesy photo.

OXFORD, Miss. – “In honor of Fenton, please love one another,” read the last line of the obituary for University of Mississippi senior John Fenton Kottkamp, a request added by his dad, Stephen Kottkamp of Louisville, Kentucky.

“Fenton would want everyone to love one another, and he would want all of us to go forward with our lives,” said the dad, describing his son as having a “huge heart with great love for his family and friends.”

And people likewise loved Fenton, as evidenced from the outpouring from around the country when he lost his life in a tragic Feb. 25 accident in Oxford. He and his identical twin brother, Rush, were slated to graduate May 9, both from UM’s Patterson School of Accountancy. Fenton’s parents will accept his diploma during Commencement exercises.

Fenton’s influence will continue on campus for generations to come through the Fenton Kottkamp Memorial Scholarship Endowment, created by John Schnatter, president and CEO of Papa John’s Pizza, and Archie Manning, businessman and Mississippi football icon.

The Kottkamp brothers chose Ole Miss because of its nationally recognized accountancy program and well-rounded college experience, along with the university’s size and tightknit community.

“Ole Miss gave us the best four years anyone could have wanted,” Rush Kottkamp said. “Fenton loved everything about Ole Miss and Oxford. He loved every single sporting event. No matter what time the football game started, Fenton was in the Grove as early as possible.”

Stephen Kottkamp recalls spending Thanksgiving 2014 in Oxford with wife Jane and youngest son Harrison, preparing dinner for the twins’ friends who lived too far from campus to go home for the holiday.

“We love Ole Miss for Ole Miss,” Stephen Kottkamp said. “Ole Miss became our happy place. As Rush said to Jane on the way home from Fenton’s visitation, ‘Fenton and I caught lightning in a bottle when we chose Ole Miss.’ Fenton and Rush hit their stride in the Ole Miss environment; they blossomed and excelled. Our family will strive to make Ole Miss our happy place again.”

Schnatter encourages others to honor Fenton by supporting the scholarship fund.

“My family and I have been deeply impacted by the tragic passing of Fenton Kottkamp, not only because of the fine young man that Fenton was, but also because of the relationship between the Kottkamp family and my family,” he said. “Over the years, my wife, Annette, and I have become close to Fenton’s mother and father, Jane and Steve. Fenton’s youngest brother, Harrison, can often be found at our home hanging out with our son, Beau.”

Fenton’s Ole Miss experience was not lost on his four-year journey in Mississippi, Schnatter said. “Fenton and his brother Rush both served as interns at Papa John’s headquarters not far from our Anchorage, Kentucky, homes. Ole Miss clearly had an impact on Fenton; he was bright and ambitious and welcomed the experience. He embodied all of the qualities we want from a young professional looking to make his place in the world.

“Working with Ole Miss alumnus Archie Manning to create the Fenton Kottkamp Memorial Scholarship Endowment was a way for my family and other donors to honor Fenton’s memory and highlight for the Kottkamp family how much affection and respect we hold for their son.”

Manning agreed, adding, “We are deeply saddened by the loss of Fenton, a beloved member of our Ole Miss family. Our hearts continue to be with the Kottkamp family during this difficult time. We hope others will join us in remembering this extraordinary young man by helping build this scholarship endowment to help others experience Ole Miss in Fenton’s name.”

The Kottkamps agree that Fenton would be pleased to have his name on a scholarship. “He probably would have been a little embarrassed, too, for all the attention – but very proud,” Jane Kottkamp said.

In addition to his great love of people, among other descriptions family and friends offer include “excellent student,” “fun and funny,” “welcoming and kind,” “compassionate” and “adventuresome.”

The scholarship committee will look for recipients who embody Fenton’s spirit, character and integrity. Those eligible for consideration are students in the Patterson School of Accountancy and the School of Business Administration. Recipients must maintain a minimum 3.0 grade-point average.

The scholarship is an appropriate means of remembering Fenton, said Mark Wilder, dean of the Patterson School.

“His life had such a positive impact on the faculty and students in our school, as well as other members of the Ole Miss family. Fenton was always friendly, cheerful, smiling and never in a bad mood. He was instantly likeable because of his good nature. Fenton worked very hard in school, and his determination showed. It was obvious that his parents had raised him right.”

Jane Kottkamp said she feels Fenton’s deep enjoyment of the university stemmed from his devotion to family, something she also sees in Ole Miss.

“Fenton was always happy and excited to come home and be close to his family and cousins in Kentucky, and then he would be eager to get back to his college home,” she said. “Ole Miss is the place where you develop lifelong friends – friends who are like family – and not just among students but also parents of students. We hope Fenton’s scholarship will make it possible for other young people to go to Ole Miss and also for them to be a part of this great tradition of developing great lasting relationships.”

Laura Johnson of Atlanta, a senior education major and close friend of Fenton, graduates in May and intends to carry forward his impact.

“Fenton was an all-around great guy,” Johnson said. “He was so inspirational in that he lived every day to the fullest. He was always down for a night out with friends and taking new adventures. I met Fenton at the freshman welcome picnic the day before classes started, and we had an instant friendship. He’s been my best friend for the past four years at Ole Miss.

“I want the individuals who receive this scholarship to know that Fenton always had a smile on his face and made any situation positive. To recipients, I encourage you to aspire to live your lives in a similar way – to live life to the fullest and to take chances. Fenton always took the extra step to make others happy and include everyone before even thinking about himself. I aspire to live my life like him and to be welcoming to everyone.”

A graduate of Anchorage Public School and DuPont Manual High School, Fenton planned to pursue a master’s degree in accountancy at Ole Miss beginning this fall.

His goal was a career in public accounting, but he recognized that his degree provided many career options. He was a member of St. Francis in the Fields Episcopal Church and Phi Kappa Psi fraternity, and an avid Rebels and Louisville Cardinals supporter.

In addition to his parents and brothers, Fenton is survived by his grandparents, Dr. Wayne and Eileen Kotcamp; and a large number of aunts, uncles and cousins. He also leaves his loyal dog, Biggs.

Individuals and organizations can make gifts to the Fenton Kottkamp Memorial Scholarship Endowment by sending a check with the fund noted in the memo line to the University of Mississippi Foundation, 406 University Ave., Oxford, MS 38655 or online at For more information, contact Brett Barefoot, director of development for Parents Leadership, at 662-915-2711 or