Alumni Association to Honor Seven Distinguished Graduates

Group to be lauded at Friday reception and on the field at Saturday's Homecoming game

Mary Ann Strong Connell

Mary Ann Strong Connell

OXFORD, Miss. – The University of Mississippi Alumni Association is awarding its highest annual honors to seven distinguished alumni as part of Homecoming 2015 activities.

Inductees into the Alumni Hall of Fame for 2015 are Mary Ann Strong Connell of Oxford, Dr. Alan Partin of Baltimore, Billy Van Devender of Jackson and Thomas D. Wallace Jr. of Bakersfield, California. Lee McCarty will be posthumously recognized with the Alumni Hall of Fame award.

Created in 1974, the Hall of Fame honors alumni who have made outstanding contributions to their country, state or the university through good deeds, services or contributions that have perpetuated the good name of Ole Miss.

Suzan B. Thames of Jackson will receive the Alumni Service Award for service to the university and the Alumni Association over an extended period. Hunter Carpenter of Dallas will receive the Outstanding Young Alumni Award, which recognizes alumni who have shown exemplary leadership throughout their first 15 years of alumni status in both their careers and dedication to Ole Miss.

The Alumni Association will host a reception for the honorees at 6 p.m. Friday (Oct. 9) in the Gertrude C. Ford Ballroom at The Inn at Ole Miss. A dinner for the award recipients follows the reception at 7 p.m.

Connell is a 1959 graduate with bachelor’s degrees in history and English. She earned her Juris Doctor from Ole Miss in 1977 and practices law with Mayo Mallette PLLC in Oxford. She served as UM university attorney from 1982 to 2003 and as school board attorney for the Oxford School District from 2003 to 2013.

As a faculty member, Connell taught courses in higher education law, school law, legal research and writing, business law and employment law. She received the Distinguished Service Award from the National Association of College and University Attorneys; the Distinguished Service Award from the Lafayette County Bar Association; the Thomas S. Biggs Jr. Award for leadership, integrity and service in the legal profession and the higher education community from Stetson University Law School; the NAACP Freedom Award for lifelong service in the area of education and civil rights; the Mississippi Women Lawyers Association’s Outstanding Woman Lawyer in Mississippi Award; the UM Chancellor’s Award for outstanding contributions toward increasing diversity; and the Mortar Board Award for outstanding teacher of the year.

Connell is a member of the Vestry of St. Peter’s Episcopal Church in Oxford. She received her Master of Laws degree from Harvard Law School.

Lee McCarty

Lee McCarty

McCarty is the co-founder of McCartys Pottery. Born in 1923, McCarty grew up in Merigold, and after earning a bachelor’s degree in education from Ole Miss, he and his wife left for Columbia University in New York, where he received a master’s degree in education. The couple then returned to Oxford, where McCarty taught science at University High School.

While in Oxford, the couple took pottery classes in the university’s art department. The McCartys created their first studio in the garage of their small home on South Eighth Street and set about developing their glazes and style that would later serve as the foundation for McCartys Pottery.

In 1996, the Mississippi Institute of Arts and Letters awarded the McCartys a Lifetime Achievement Award. In 2012, the Mississippi Arts Commission honored McCartys Pottery with the Governor’s Award for Excellence in the Visual Arts, and the Smithsonian Institution inducted the gardens at the studio into its Archives of American Gardens.

McCarty’s wife, Pup, passed away in 2009. McCarty continued working in the studio with his godsons, Jamie and Stephen Smith, until his death Sept. 7. He was 92.

 Dr. Alan Partin

Dr. Alan Partin

Partin is a professor of urology, oncology and pathology at the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine. His areas of clinical expertise include prognosis prediction and surgical treatment for men with prostate cancer. He has served as the urologist-in-chief for the Department of Urology since 2005.

Partin earned his bachelor’s degree in chemistry at Ole Miss, achieving the honor of Academic All-American and varsity letter recognition for two years in football. He graduated summa cum laude in 1983 and went on to receive his M.D. and Ph.D. in pharmacology and molecular systems from Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. He also completed his residency in urology and surgery at the Johns Hopkins Hospital.

Billy Van Devender

Billy Van Devender

A starting defensive back on the 1970 Sugar Bowl champion football team, Van Devender graduated from UM in 1971 with a bachelor’s degree in civil engineering. He received his MBA in 1973 from Southern Methodist University and then joined the Central Intelligence Agency. After four years with the CIA, he moved back to Mississippi to begin his business career.

Van Devender’s career began in the oil and gas industry, followed by investments in real estate development and the forest product industry, where his family is primarily involved in timber management and lumber manufacturing.

He has served as commissioner of the Mississippi Department of Environmental Quality since 1998 and joined the board of the Mississippi Fish and Wildlife Foundation in 1997. Van Devender served on the board of Mississippi’s Young Life organization and the Mississippi Baptist Health System. He is a member of First Baptist Church of Jackson.

Thomas D. Wallace Jr.

Thomas D. Wallace Jr.

Wallace is vice president for Student Affairs at California State University at Bakersfield. Before that appointment in 2012, he held administrative and faculty positions at UM and the University of Nebraska at Omaha. He served as vice chancellor for student affairs and associate professor of education at UM.

He earned bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degrees in education from Ole Miss, in 1978, 1980 and 2002, respectively. Wallace was named Northwest Mississippi Community College Alumnus of the Year in 2008 and the UM School of Education Alumnus of the Year in 1998. During that same year, he was presented with the Ole Miss Alumni Association’s Minority Award of Distinction.

The state College Board named Wallace the Black History Month Educator of the Year in 1999. In representing Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity Inc., Wallace presented the idea for the Chucky Mullins Courage Award to Ole Miss Athletics.

Suzan B. Thames

Suzan B. Thames

Thames, the Alumni Service Award recipient, is retired from the practice of audiology at the Jackson Ear, Nose and Throat Clinic in Jackson. A 1968 graduate of Ole Miss, she received her master’s degree in speech pathology and audiology from Tulane University and studied in behavioral disorders at the University of Wisconsin.

Her volunteer career with the UM Medical Center began in the early 1980s with fundraising efforts, in concert with the Junior League of Jackson, which resulted in the opening of the Junior League of Jackson Children’s Cancer Clinic. Fundraising for Mississippi’s only children’s hospital then began under the leadership of Friends of Children’s Hospital, the support group Thames chaired for 20 years. With support from the group, the Blair E. Batson Hospital for Children opened in 1997.

Thames is a member of the UM Foundation board of directors, the Ole Miss Women’s Council, the school of Applied Sciences Board of Directors and the Advisory Board for Communicative Sciences and Disorders.

Hunter Carpenter

Hunter Carpenter

The Outstanding Young Alumni Award recipient, Carpenter is a partner of RedBird Capital Partners, a New York- and Dallas-based principal investing firm, where he is responsible for natural resources and industrial related investment activity. Carpenter’s responsibilities over the course of his career have spanned the full life cycle of private investments. The majority of his investing experience involved backing entrepreneurs to help them grow as well as navigate the challenges of scaling over longer term hold periods.

Carpenter is a board member of the UM Foundation and chairman of its investment committee. He was named one of Oil & Gas Investor magazine‘s “Top 20 Under 40” in Energy Finance in 2014 and one of the “Top 40 Under 40” by Arkansas Business Magazine in 2011.

A four-year letterman in men’s basketball at Ole Miss, Carpenter earned his bachelor’s degree in accountancy in 1999, his master’s in 2000 and his Juris Doctor in 2003.

For more information about the Ole Miss Alumni Association, visit

UM School of Law Claims Another National Championship

Environmental moot court win is fourth title in five years for program

David Case (left), Mary Margaret Roark and John Juricich

David Case (left), Mary Margaret Roark and John Juricich

OXFORD, Miss. – For the fourth time in five years, a team from the University of Mississippi School of Law has won the national environmental moot court competition.

Triumphing over 61 other law schools, Ole Miss prevailed at the 27th annual Jeffrey G. Miller Pace National Environmental Law Moot Court Competition, held Feb. 19-21 at Pace Law School in White Plains, New York. The Ole Miss law school previously brought home the title in 2011, 2012 and 2014.

This victory builds on a string of successes for the law school’s advocacy programs, which include four national championships last year alone, a top 14 national ranking for the school’s moot court board in 2014, second place at the National Sports Law Negotiation Competition last fall and a top-8 finish last month at the moot court national championship hosted by the University of Houston.

Collecting the trophy for Ole Miss were two second-year law students, John Juricich of Anniston, Alabama, and Mary Margaret Roark of Cleveland, Mississippi. With elimination round victories over Vermont, Montana, Florida Coastal, Penn State, Florida State and Northeastern, the pair advanced out of a tremendous field of law schools, which also included Yale, Columbia, Berkeley and Penn.

“The best experience I have had in law school, hands down,” Juricich said.

The victory, Juricich and Roark agree, happened only because of the help of many others.

“The entire school supported John and me throughout this process, and that’s simply not true for all schools with moot court teams,” Roark said. “It changes your entire frame of mind when you have a moot court program and a student body that not only strives for winning titles like these, but to a certain extent, expects it as well.”

Juricich credited the faculty coaches, David Case and Stephanie Showalter Otts, for their work honing the team for competition.

“This championship wouldn’t have been possible without the coaches,” he said. “It was an honor to make them proud at the competition by doing exactly what they taught us.”

“An accomplishment like this is the product of countless hours of work by the students and their coaches,” said Richard Gershon, UM law dean. “Our repeated success at this competition, and in our advocacy programs in general, says a great deal about the outstanding students we have at the University of Mississippi School of Law. This is the embodiment of their promise as lawyers.”

“It is an amazing feat for two second-year law students to win a national competition in a field of teams primarily made up of far more experienced third-year law students,” Case said. “Their exhaustive preparation allowed them to succeed on such a well-known and respected national stage.”

The environmental law competition is one of the country’s oldest and most prestigious, testing students on their abilities to argue a mock case before a federal appellate court. The team commenced work on the competition in October, when they started writing their brief. After filing the brief in November, they began to practice oral arguments with their coaches. In New York, the team argued in three preliminary oral argument rounds before advancing to elimination matches in the quarterfinal, semifinal and final rounds. Both Roark and Juricich garnered Best Oralist Awards at the competition.

The Ole Miss team faced a formidable panel of judges for the finals, including Patricia M. Wald, retired chief judge on the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit; Malachy E. Mannion, judge on the United States District Court for the Middle District of Pennsylvania; and Barbara A. Gunning, administrative law judge for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

The team’s faculty coaches are both national experts in environmental law. Case’s scholarship focuses on environmental regulation, and he holds a J.D. from Ole Miss and a Ph.D. from Vanderbilt University. Otts, who holds a J.D. and master’s degree from Vermont Law School, directs the National Sea Grant Law Center, a program devoted to wise stewardship of marine resources.

“Professors Case and Otts once again proved that the faculty here are amazing,” Gershon said.

The UM program’s four victories at the environmental law competition come hand-in-hand with school’s growing reputation as a leader in the specialty, Otts said.

“Ole Miss is a recognized leader in ocean and coastal law research due to the presence of the National Sea Grant Law Center and the Mississippi-Alabama Sea Grant Legal Program,” she said. “The success of our Pace team establishes the growing strength of our academic program in environmental, ocean and coastal and natural resources law.”

FBI Looking into Threat against Grove Trees

OXFORD, Miss – A handwritten note threatening damage to trees and shrubs in the Grove at the University of Mississippi and signed “Hail State/Go to Hell TSUN” was turned over to the Jackson office of the FBI today (Nov. 26) by UM Police Chief Calvin Sellers.

The note, which arrived on campus late Tuesday (Nov. 25), said:

“What’s going to happen to ya’ll on the field Saturday Aint nothing compared to what’s going to happen on your beautiful campus. You won’t be one of the most pretty campus’s Next year. A lot of shrubs and trees are going to die; especially in the grove. Can’t stop us” (signed) “Hail State Go to Hell TSUN.”

Law enforcement authorities are taking the threat seriously and are encouraging fans to report suspicious behavior, Sellers said. In addition, he said, law enforcement resources have been added to address fan safety inside and outside the stadium.

“This longtime football rivalry has separated families and friends for generations, but while it’s spirited, our attention has been focused mostly on the football field,” Sellers said. “We encourage everyone to remember that this is a game, after all, not a time for hate. We are hopeful that passions have not escalated to the point that someone is prepared to do damage to a landmark for which all Mississippians take great pride.”

The threat revived memories of Alabama fan Harvey Updyke Jr., who pled guilty to poisoning the iconic Toomer’s Corner oaks near the Auburn University campus following the 2010 Iron Bowl.

WAPT: UMMC Staff Trained to Treat Ebola

JACKSON, Miss. —The University of Mississippi Medical Center is training its staff to treat and avoid catching Ebola.

Doctors and nurses are working to recognize the symptoms of the virus to keep it from spreading further.

“You know, you never want to jinx yourself, but we are about as prepared as we can be,” said Jonathan Wilson, UMMC’s chief administrative officer.

Eighty percent of UMMC’s doctors and nurses are receiving enhanced training on Ebola response. The latest Tuesday was training on hazmat suit use — how to put them on and take them off without risking the spread of the potentially deadly virus.

Since last week, the hospital has received a handful of what it deemed potential Ebola threat cases: Patients with flu-like symptoms who were ruled out after they failed to meet other criteria.

Read more:

Miss University Pageant Set for Wednesday

Winner advances to Miss Mississippi competition next summer

Last year's Miss University contestants

Last year’s Miss University contestants

OXFORD, Miss. – Fourteen University of Mississippi students will vie for the title of Miss University 2015 at the 66th annual pageant Wednesday evening (Oct. 22) at the Gertrude C. Ford Center for Performing Arts. The event is hosted by the Student Activities Association and the Ole Miss Student Union.

The winner will advance to the Miss Mississippi Scholarship Pageant in June 2015 in Vicksburg. Tickets for the 7:30 p.m. Miss University pageant are available at the UM Box Office in the Student Union for $10 with an Ole Miss student ID and $15 to the general public.

The pageant will be emceed by Anna Beth Higginbotham, reigning Miss University, and Jasmine Murray, Miss Mississippi 2014. Entertainment will feature students from Hinge Dance Company as well as both Murray and Higginbotham. Besides performing her talent from Miss America, Murray will speak about her reign as Miss Mississippi and her experience preparing for Miss America.

All contestants participate in a private interview with a panel of five judges the day of the pageant. The interview counts as 25 percent of their score. That evening, each contestant competes in the talent competition, worth 35 percent, and swimwear, worth 15 percent. Contestants will also take part in the evening wear competition, worth 20 percent, and an on-stage interview, worth 5 percent. Judges score each contestant on a scale of 1 to 10 in each phase of competition.

The contestants participating in this year’s pageant are: France Beard of Madison; Morgan Lindsey Burnett of Brandon; Carol Coker of Blue Springs; Taylor Cos of Hoover, Alabama; Katri Gilbert of Bellevue, Washington; Mary Randall Ivy of Oxford; Emmaline Johnson of Chattanooga, Tennessee; Taylor-Alice Mays of Arab, Alabama; Jade Mixon of Greenville; Grace Myers of Austin, Texas; Katherine Rollins of Cape Girardeau, Missouri; Ivey Swan of Hattiesburg; Dana Wesley of West Point; and Rachel Westmoreland of Kennesaw, Georgia.

For more information, contact Bradley Baker, director of the Ole Miss Student Union at 662-915-1044 or

Living Blues’ October Edition Highlights Blues Tourism

Double issue provides a guide for adventurers traveling the Mississippi Blues Trail


Living Blues started as the first blues publication in Chicago in 1970 and is the nation’s longest running blues magazine. The Center for the Study of Southern Culture publishes it bimonthly.

OXFORD, Miss. – Blues tourism in Mississippi is highlighted in the special October double issue of Living Blues magazine. Focusing on more than 180 Mississippi Blues Trail markers, the issue spotlights the people, places and themes of the blues in Mississippi with hundreds of destinations including clubs, museums, festivals and restaurants.

The issue is underwritten with a grant from Visit Mississippi.

“We have decided to revisit the blues in Mississippi and provide readers with a travel guide to the markers and some of the many exciting experiences visitors can have while driving the back roads of Mississippi,” said Brett Bonner, editor.

This is the second-largest issue of Living Blues ever, and the second time Visit Mississippi has collaborated with the magazine to produce a Mississippi-themed issue. Founded in Chicago in 1970, Living Blues was acquired by the university’s Center for the Study of Southern Culture in 1983.

“Ten years ago, we partnered with Living Blues, but that was before the state embarked on the Mississippi Blues Trail marker program, before the B.B. King Museum and Delta Interpretive Center opened its doors and before festivals like Juke Joint and Mighty Mississippi were making waves internationally,” said Malcolm White, director of Visit Mississippi. “We here at Visit Mississippi felt like it was high time to revisit the partnership with Living Blues, the nation’s quintessential blues publication, during our 2014 Year of the Creative Economy campaign.”

The magazine’ writers, researchers and photographers have worked with Visit Mississippi on the Mississippi Blues Trail since its inception, so it was only natural to help share the story of one of the state’s greatest tourism assets, White said.

Living Blues received a Mississippi Blues Trail marker from the state in 2009, which is located outside Barnard Observatory on the UM campus. The magazine was also honored as a past recipient of the Blues Foundation’s prestigious “Keeping the Blues Alive” award.

“With the generous support of Malcolm White and Visit Mississippi, I once again tapped my dynamic blues duo of writer Scott Barretta and photographer Bill Steber to tackle the project,” Bonner said.

The effort of several months of hard work, 5,000 miles, 40,000 words and thousands of photos, the issue is a user-friendly guide for adventurers traveling the Mississippi Blues Trail. Using the Mississippi Blues Trail Markers as anchors, the guide identifies hundreds of destinations throughout the state, including museums, juke joints, festivals, famous gravesites and more than 100 places to eat great Southern food.

This issue of Living Blues is also available as a digital edition, with songs available to correspond with each region. Downloads are available on the Living Blues Facebook page. For more information, visit

Saturday is Deadline for Voter Registration

Citizens of Oxford fill out ballots on election day.

Oxford citizens fill out ballots on election day.

OXFORD, Miss. – It is safe to say that a lot of people around Oxford are pretty football-focused this week, so we wanted to share a friendly reminder that Saturday is the deadline to register to vote in the November elections in Mississippi.

Each circuit clerk’s office will be open from 8 a.m. to noon Saturday (Oct. 4) to accept voter registration forms. Mail-in voter registration forms must be postmarked by that day, according to information from the Mississippi Secretary of State’s office.

Voters are required by law to register at least 30 days before an election day. Voter registration applications submitted after Oct. 4 will be processed by the circuit clerk, but the voter will not be eligible to cast a ballot in the Nov. 4 general election.

Eligible military and overseas voters get an extended registration period through Oct. 25. Registration forms are available at your local circuit clerk’s office. You can also download an application from the Secretary of State’s website at

So, before you head out to tailgate and cheer the Rebels on against the Crimson Tide, make sure you are registered to vote. For more information, contact the Secretary of State’s office or your county circuit clerk’s office.

Scholar to Discuss Civil Rights and Why They Matter

Author, researcher Jacquelyn Down Hall to lecture Sept. 24

Jacquelyn Dowd Hall

Jacquelyn Dowd Hall

OXFORD, Miss. – Exploring the civil rights movement’s importance to continuing efforts for social justice is the focus of this year’s Gilder-Jordan Lecture in Southern History at the University of Mississippi.

Jacquelyn Dowd Hall, the recently retired Julia Cherry Spruill Professor at University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, speaks at 7 p.m. Wednesday (Sept. 24) in Nutt Auditorium. The event is free and open to the public.

She will lecture on “How We Tell About the Civil Rights Movement and Why It Matters Today,” after spending the day with UM history and Southern studies students and faculty.

Ted Ownby, director of the Center for the Study of Southern Culture, which organizes the lecture, said he is delighted to have Hall as this year’s Gilder-Jordan Lecturer because she has helped show how to incorporate gender issues into history.

“She was the leading author in a big collaborative labor history project ‘Like a Family,'” Ownby said. “That book was a project of the Southern Oral History Project, which Hall directed. She has written about the relationship between oral history and autobiography, and she encouraged historians to rethink our basic chronology in an essay with the term Long Civil Rights Movement.”

Hall’s research interests include U.S. women’s history, Southern history, working-class history, oral history and cultural/intellectual history. She is the founding director of the Southern Oral History Project and has served as a leader or member of the Organization of American Historians, the Southern Historical Association, and the Labor and Working Class History Association. In 1997, she received a John Simon Guggenheim Fellowship and was awarded a National Humanities Medal in 1999 for her efforts to deepen the nation’s understanding of and engagement with the humanities.

Hall is working on a book about women writers and intellectuals and the refashioning of regional identity in the 20th century South, and another project explores the social movements generated by civil rights activism.

Jessica Wilkerson, UM assistant professor of history and Southern studies, was a student of Hall’s at North Carolina.

“Hall oversaw the collection of more than 5,000 interviews, available through the Southern Historical Collection at UNC-Chapel Hill,” Wilkerson said. “One of the hallmarks of the Southern Oral History Project is its digital oral history collection on civil rights history. In 2008, Hall was awarded an Andrew W. Mellon Foundation grant to support the ‘Long Civil Rights Movement Initiative,’ a collaboration with UNC Press and the university library to conduct and preserve oral history interviews and to disseminate civil rights scholarship through print and digital media.”

Organized by the center and the UM African-American Studies Program, Center for Civil War Research and Department of History, the Gilder-Jordan Speaker Series is made possible through the generosity of the Gilder Foundation Inc. The series honors Richard Gilder of New York and his family, as well as his friends, Dan and Lou Jordan of Virginia.

Past Gilder-Jordan lecturers have been Barbara J. Fields of Columbia University, David Blight of Yale University, Grace Elizabeth Hale of the University of Virginia and Walter Johnson of Harvard University.

Kiss Gets NASA’s Highest Civilian Honor

Grad School dean to be awarded Outstanding Public Leadership Medal in September

John Z. Kiss

Awards are always nice things to receive – especially when they weren’t expected.

So when John Z. Kiss returned from a conference in Moscow and found an email announcing he is the recipient of NASA’s Outstanding Public Leadership Medal, the UM grad school dean was thrilled.

“I have worked with NASA for 27 years and feel humbled and honored to receive this medal,” said Kiss, who plans to attend the awards ceremony at the NASA-Ames Research Center in September. “I feel very privileged to contribute, in a small way, to the excitement of space research and to be a part of NASA’s broader mission to educate and inspire the next generation.”

The prestigious honor recognizes non-government employees for notable leadership accomplishments that have significantly influenced the NASA Mission. The internationally renowned scientist served as vice chair of the International Committee on Space Research. As TROPI spaceflight project director from 2004 to 2010, Kiss supervised 36 scientists and engineers at four NASA centers and two centers of the European Space Agency. These efforts resulted in two successful projects on the International Space Station.

“We have had seven spaceflight projects, which have been on the Space Shuttle and now the International Space Station,” Kiss said. “Thus, this award is shared by the numerous colleagues, co-workers, undergraduates, and graduate students who have been part of these exciting projects.”

Kiss is a pioneer in studying plants in fractional gravity, research that is impossible to do on Earth. His Seedling Growth-1 experiment was on-board SpaceX-2, which docked with the International Space Station last year. A professor of biology, he is principal investigator on the program designed to study light and gravity signaling in plants and their effects on cell growth and proliferation. It also has a strong relevance for improving crop species on Earth to obtain increased production and sustainability.

“I’ve had the pleasure of knowing John for about 10 years and all during those years, I’ve been impressed with John as a leader,” said Sidney Sun, chief of NASA’s Space Biosciences Division. “He’s been a leader in plant physiology, identifying how plants respond to different lighting and gravitational conditions.”

Kiss and his colleagues are continuing to work with NASA-Ames on the Seedling Growth-2 project, which will launch on the SpaceX4 mission to the ISS Sept.19.

For information, on the latest mission, click on this link.


Honors College Welcomes Bruce Levingston as Artist-in-Residence

Acclaimed classical pianist is inaugural recipient of honor

Bruce Levingston

Bruce Levingston

OXFORD, Miss. – Playing music and changing lives are Bruce Levingston’s passions. So when the renowned concert pianist was offered an opportunity to combine artistry and altruism at University of Mississippi, he immediately obliged.

Levingston has been named the Chancellor’s Sally McDonnell Barksdale Honors College Artist-in-Residence. Through the leadership of Chancellor Dan Jones, Provost Morris Stocks and Honors College Dean Douglass Sullivan-Gonzalez, the new position is made possible thanks to a generous endowment from Lester “Ruff” Fant through the Lester G. Fant III Charitable Lead Annuity Trust. Fant’s father taught at UM for 30 years.

“Dr. Sullivan-Gonzalez kindly invited me to join the staff of this wonderful school,” Levingston said. “I accepted the position this summer, after previously serving as a senior fellow in the Honors College and the adviser on the arts to the chancellor.”

Levingston will work with students to develop their interests and opportunities, both in the arts and in general.

“So much about life is learning to take a series of variables or situations and making something really positive and productive out of them, which often requires spontaneous and creative thinking,” he said. “My hope is that whether or not students pursue a career in the arts, they will learn to be thoughtful, innovative and resourceful, so that they may build fulfilling and meaningful lives for themselves and for the communities in which they live and work.”

UM administrators and faculty expressed appreciation and enthusiasm for Levingston’s contributions.

“We are fortunate to have him in this key role in the university,” Jones said. “His knowledge of the arts broadly and his national stature and connections in the arts, political and donor communities are great assets he shares with us. Just being around him makes me and others better people.”

Stocks agreed.

“Bruce Levingston has already demonstrated his ability to create learning opportunities for our students, to open doors for our faculty and staff and to bring wonderful talent to our campus,” Stocks said. “We are very pleased that he is joining the University of Mississippi.”

Sullivan-Gonzalez anticipates that Levingston will continue to have a significant impact upon students.

“Bruce Levingston has already touched our students’ lives with his extraordinary work, introducing them to the world’s best at the Boston Ballet and at Carnegie Hall,” Sullivan-Gonzalez said. “Bruce brings a vision of what the arts can be in Mississippi and in the nation with his dedication to the highest expression of arts. We look forward to great opportunities to engage the fundamental questions through Bruce’s leadership and vision.”

The artist-in-residence is optimistic about discovering talented yet unknown future musicians and artists while at UM.

“While I’ve had wonderful opportunities to commission and work with many gifted and established artists, perhaps the most exciting time for me has been when I’ve commissioned something from a really talented but unknown artist and then that person goes on to achieve great praise and acclaim for their work,” he said.

“Sometimes doing this requires taking a risk, but when it turns out you’re right, that your belief is validated and has even proved inspiring, it just feels wonderful. Sometimes just the act of believing in someone’s potential can bring out the very best in them, their own special magic. That is what I try to do with every student I meet.”

A childhood interest in playing the piano set the Cleveland native on the path to winning competitions, studying with the masters and his own stellar career success.

“After I played a very difficult piece of Bach, both the general audience and other musicians told me they had been touched in their hearts by what I did,” Levingston said. “I found that very powerful and moving personally. I realized that it’s an incredible thing to be able to touch hearts and souls with music. That’s when I felt maybe I had something to give as a musician and an artist.”

Appearances Levingston has scheduled during his first year at Ole Miss include:

  • an Oct. 26 performance at the Lyric Theater in Oxford in a world premiere of a new oratorio based on the life of the civil rights figure Booker Wright;
  • Dec. 5-6 concerts at the Brooklyn Academy of Music Opera House with famed composer Philip Glass;
  • a March 27 concert at the UM Gertrude C. Ford Center for the Performing Arts;
  • and a spring tour of opera houses throughout Italy.

Noted for his creative programming, Levingston has collaborated with such artists as composers Philip Glass and Lisa Bielawa; painter Chuck Close; actor Ethan Hawke; authors Michael Cunningham, Nick McDonell and George Plimpton; violinist and cellist Colin Jacobsen and Eric Jacobsen; the Brooklyn Rider Quartet; virtuoso dancers Tyler Angle, Herman Cornejo and Alessandra Ferri; and choreographer Jorma Elo.

Levingston is founder and artistic director of Premiere Commission Inc., a nonprofit foundation that has commissioned and premiered more than 50 new works. He maintains residency in both Oxford and in New York City.

His upcoming professional activities include the fall release of “Heavy Sleep” (Levingston’s fifth solo CD) and the 2015 publication of “Bright Fields: The Mastery of Marie Hull” (a book published by the University Press of Mississippi in celebration of the 125th anniversary of the famed Mississippi artist’s birth).

Levingston earned degrees from the University of Texas at Austin, the Aaron Copland School of Music and also studied in Sion, Switzerland, at the Royal Conservatory of Toronto and the Aspen School of Music. He has performed regularly at Carnegie Hall and Lincoln Center in New York City, the Boston Opera House, the Library of Congress, the Aspen Music Festival and Aspen Institute and many other international venues.

Many of the world’s leading composers have written works for Levingston, and his world premiere performances and recordings of their works have received critical acclaim in The New York Times, The Boston Globe, The Washington Post, The New Yorker and Gramophone, among other publications.