Pharmaceutics Graduate Student Honored for 3D Printing Research

Jiaxiang Zhang awarded Best Oral Presentation at annual pharmaceutical meeting

Jiaxiang Zhang

OXFORD, Miss. – Jiaxiang Zhang, a University of Mississippi graduate student in the School of Pharmacy’s Department of Pharmaceutics and Drug Delivery, was awarded Best Oral Presentation at the annual meeting of the Controlled Release Society in New York City last month.

Zhang’s presentation focused on combining 3D printing with hot-melt extrusion, a process that melts and mixes polymers and drugs into rod-like shapes. Once formed, the rods can be delivered immediately into a 3D printer to create personalized drug dosages in the forms of tablets, capsules and films.

“Without Ole Miss, I wouldn’t have gotten this award,” Zhang said. “I’m thankful that the university has the facility and equipment for these projects and for the unprecedented freedom to explore new ideas, materials and designs.

“This award is not only for me, but also to encourage young scientists who want to help improve the lives of others through this field.”

Mike Repka, Zhang’s adviser and chair of the Department of Pharmaceutics and Drug Delivery, has worked with Zhang for four years on his 3D printing research.

“Jiaxiang delivered an animated, yet clear, presentation that showed his interest in the topic and that he was deserving of this recognition,” said Repka, who is also director of the Pii Center for Pharmaceutical Technology. “His novel ideas have been great for our discussions and presentations at various conferences.”

After earning his pharmaceutical engineering degree from Northwest University in his home country of China, Zhang continues to grow his expertise. He hopes that this award, along with the resources within the School of Pharmacy, will help him solve problems facing the pharmaceutical industry.

“I was excited when I found out I got the award,” Zhang said. “The first thing I thought about was to inform Dr. Repka that our work was being recognized.

“He supported my research and inspired me throughout my study, from the big concepts to every single detail in the research. This affirms our academic efforts.”

The Inn at Ole Miss Granted Qualified Resort Status

Designation will allow hotel to offer full range of food and beverage options for events

The Mississippi Department of Alcohol and Beverage Control has granted qualified resort status for The Inn at Ole Miss. Submitted photo by Pablo Corona

OXFORD, Miss. – The Inn at Ole Miss has been approved for qualified resort status by the Mississippi Department of Alcohol and Beverage Control. The state granted resort status July 25 to the hotel and conference center on the University of Mississippi’s Oxford campus.

The shift in status was essential, given demand by customers and guests to have the option to serve all types of alcohol at special events held at The Inn, said Kirk Purdom, executive director of the Ole Miss Alumni Association.

Though The Inn was previously able to serve wine and liquor using third-party vendors, beer was not an option because the hotel, along with most of the university, is in the county, where beer sales are prohibited.

“This is a designation that is focused on enhancing the stay of our guests and alumni,” Purdom said. “It will specifically allow us to renovate our existing McCormick Cafe area, which we are in the early planning stage of, for guests of The Inn.

“We’ll also have the ability to serve beer in addition to wine and liquor at wedding receptions and other events held on the premises – an amenity that we believe will entice more families and groups to choose The Inn as they look to be able to eat, meet and sleep under one roof.”

A modern facility for use by alumni and friends of the university, The Inn at Ole Miss has undergone numerous renovations since its October 1951 opening as the Alumni House. To meet the demand for luxury accommodations in Oxford, a $21 million expansion was completed in 2008, boasting an eight-story all-suite facility complete with a new dining area, gift shop and more than 10,000 square feet of meeting space.

The Inn has 146 guest rooms and 133,199 square feet of hotel and event space.

“We are so excited to be granted qualified resort status by the state of Mississippi’s Department of Revenue,” said Gaye Bukur, the facility’s general manager. “This will allow us to better serve our groups and events, and any existing groups that are already booked at The Inn can now add beer to their bar service.

“We have always been proud that we are able to accommodate large groups in a variety of meeting rooms and guest rooms. Since taking over the food and beverage operation, we have been able to offer an approved list of caterers to choose from, and having resort status is what we needed to be able to give our guests a complete food and beverage option.”

For more information on booking an event at The Inn at Ole Miss, contact MaryGrace Vasilyev, sales manager, at 662-236-4834 or

Matching Gift to Benefit Medgar Evers Scholarship in Law

Alumnus, former professor challenges others to contribute to endowment

Tara Ellis (left), managing partner of Balch and Bingham, and UM law Dean Susan Duncan (right) congratulate Kye Handy, the first recipient of the Medgar Evers scholarship. Photo by Suzette Matthews/University Development

OXFORD, Miss. – John Robin Bradley, a native of Inverness, is challenging the University of Mississippi Office of Development to raise $100,000 for the Medgar Evers Scholarship in Law Endowment. In turn, he has agreed to match up to the total goal amount himself.

Bradley, law professor emeritus, wants the scholarship endowment to grow and hopes this unique approach to fundraising will make that happen.

Bradley established the endowment in 2008 with gifts of more than $100,000 to provide financial assistance to law students, with special consideration going to graduates of Tougaloo College, Jackson State University and Alcorn State University – all historically black institutions of higher learning.

“The law school has a history of more than 50 years of offering legal education to all people, this after a much longer history of excluding African-Americans from this opportunity,” Bradley said. “When I joined the law faculty in 1966, I took pride in being part of this then-new role.

“The results have been gratifying and valuable to students of all backgrounds, and I am glad to have had the opportunity to join others in being part of that. The law school is better for the change, as are our profession and state. A signal of the school’s continuing commitment to inclusiveness remains important even these many years later.”

Fundraising efforts are underway, with $10,000 already raised toward the campaign goal, said Suzette Matthews, development officer for the law school. The Balch and Bingham law firm of Jackson was first to respond with a $2,500 gift.

“Once the generous support of alumni and friends of the law school help us meet our $100,000 goal, Professor Bradley will then provide a match, resulting in a $200,000 gift for the school,” Matthews said. “We are very grateful to Professor Bradley for his great interest in the perpetuity of the Medgar Evers scholarship.”

Bradley, a graduate of Mississippi College and the UM School of Law, was in private law practice for four years before joining the faculty at Ole Miss in 1966. He has been a visiting professor at Florida State University and the University of Richmond, and he taught in a Cambridge summer session.

Besides teaching courses on contracts and corporations, he taught about and is an authority on workers’ compensation, having written extensively on the topic. He served as chair of the Administrative Law and Workers’ Compensation section of the Mississippi Bar and as chair of the Mississippi Workers’ Compensation Advisory Council.

His book, “Mississippi Workers’ Compensation” is a Thomson/West publication (with co-author Linda Thompson) that is widely used and cited by courts. First published in 2006, the treatise is published in a new edition annually that is supplemented and updated.

Bradley has taught thousands of students, including former Gov. Ronnie Musgrove; Bill Waller, chief justice of the Mississippi Supreme Court; and U.S. Sen. Roger Wicker.

Best-selling novelist John Grisham had his first class in contracts at the School of Law with Bradley and later took workers’ compensation from him. Likewise, Grisham’s son enrolled in the law school and his first class also happened to be contracts with Bradley.

In 2013, law students selected the professor as teacher of the year. Although Bradley retired later that year, he taught workers’ compensation courses for two more years and still supplements and updates his book annually.

“What is gratifying is watching students who come in not knowing the subject but then develop a really good touch and understanding of how to use it,” he said. “The maturation process, that’s what is really gratifying to me.”

Bruce Levingston, the UM Chancellor’s Honors College artist-in-residence, has known Bradley for many years and says the professor has a generous spirit and deep interest in the welfare of his home state.

“John Robin Bradley has always cared deeply about Mississippi and sought throughout his life, along with his wonderful wife, Laura, to make Mississippi a special place of opportunity for all people,” Levingston said. “His generous philanthropic support of scholarships and educational programs at the University of Mississippi will leave a lasting legacy that will nurture and inspire many generations to come.”

Bradley has served as president of the Lafayette County Bar, twice as chair of the university Faculty Senate and many times as a Faculty Senate officer.

UM Chancellor Emeritus Robert Khayat said he believes Bradley’s teaching will leave a lasting legacy at the university.

“It was a very high-quality experience in his classroom,” Khayat said. “The lasting impressions students got from him were very positive and that will live on in the lore of the law school.”

To make a gift to the Medgar Evers Scholarship in Law, send a check with the fund noted in the memo line to the University of Mississippi Foundation, 406 University Ave., Oxford, MS 38655; visit; or contact Suzette Matthews at 662-915-1122 or

Alumna Establishes Endowment in Sister’s Memory

Gift will fund scholarships and other assistance for students in School of Applied Sciences

A planned gift from sisters ZonaDale Taylor (left) and the late Bonita Lyons will help support the School of Applied Sciences. Photo courtesy ZonaDale Taylor

OXFORD, Miss. – Bonita Lyons’ giving spirit is evident in the sentiments shared on her Facebook page.

“Hers was a life of purpose disguised as work,” posted Cory Major, who worked with Lyons in her capacity as director of academic status and retention services for the University of Memphis, a position the University of Mississippi graduate held for 16 years until she retired in 2008.

“She drew people to her and they left all the better for having known her. Some may forget what she said and what she did. But she will never be forgotten because of how she made us feel.”

Nyrone Hawkins, a student of Lyons’, wrote: “Doc, you are truly a special lady. Your spirit will always live within me. As I think back over our history together, I am truly blessed. You were the embodiment of Christ’s love. You took young people full of potential and showed them unconditional love … you were the picture of His love to so many of your children.”

Lyons of Memphis, Tennessee, received both a bachelor’s and master’s degree in education in 1969 from Ole Miss and a doctorate in education from the University of Memphis in 1977. She had no biological children, yet when she died in May 2017, she left a legacy among the young people she mentored and treated as her own, many of whom called her “Mom.”

Her legacy continues at Ole Miss, where generations of students will benefit from a scholarship endowment established in her memory.

With a $100,000 planned gift, Lyons’ sister, ZonaDale Taylor of Collierville, Tennessee, has established the Dr. Bonita Lyons and ZonaDale L. Taylor Legacy Endowment. Half the gift creates a scholarship for transfer students pursuing a degree in the UM School of Applied Sciences; the remainder is available as an emergency fund for students facing unforeseen financial crises.

“We always said we would do something together for Ole Miss,” said Taylor who earned a bachelor’s degree with an emphasis in home economics at UM in 1961. “You always think you have a lot of time and, although we had never signed an agreement, we had often discussed what we wanted to do.

“After her unexpected death, I wanted to fulfill the actions that we had discussed because our time at Ole Miss was a very important phase in our lives.”

Like her sister, Taylor spent part of her professional career as an educator, teaching at Mississippi State University and later at McNeese State University. Over time, both educators witnessed financial crises among their students.

“My sister often worked with students with limited means who were struggling academically,” Taylor said. “As a result, she started a program early on, where she would pass the hat in the office when somebody couldn’t get a book or needed to pay a fee or had other unexpected expenses.

“Using that example, I’ve requested that Ole Miss use these funds to help those in similar situations who don’t necessarily have the higher grade-point averages. While advising students, we both worked with people who really wanted a degree and whose grades were average because they were either working one or more jobs, or they had children to support and they just couldn’t meet basic needs. They had ability but they just didn’t have much time to study. We discussed this need many times.”

The sisters, who grew up in New Albany, just 30 miles from the Oxford campus, would attribute their philosophy of giving to their parents. For example, their mother always emphasized the importance of helping others and of preparing for life by first obtaining a college degree.

Their father set an example of generosity by planting a larger garden in order to share food with older people in the community.

“We did things very differently, my sister and I, but our final goals were very much the same regarding the importance of education,” Taylor said. “We’ve always tried to provide assistance to the people who need help in attaining an education.”

On completing coursework for her degree from Ole Miss, Taylor had an immediate job offer.

“I was not even able to walk to get my diploma because I had started to work as a home economist for Mississippi Power Co. in Meridian before the ceremony,” she remembered.

“I loved my job. I had a little company car and went to several small towns near Meridian, visiting schools to present programs and also visiting homes to teach people how to use the features of an appliance that they had purchased from the power company.”

In 1964, after almost five years in Meridian, Taylor accepted a position in Birmingham, Alabama, writing articles about household equipment, housing and home furnishings for Progressive Farmer magazine. It was during this time that The Progressive Farmer Co. was developing a new magazine for urban residents, and she became one of the founding editors of Southern Living magazine, which boasts a circulation of 2.8 million.

A few years later she married and joined her husband, Charles, a chemical engineer with PPG Industries, in Lake Charles, Louisiana. Taylor began working toward a master’s degree at McNeese State University.

Upon completion of this degree, she was recruited to teach at Mississippi State University, giving her husband an opportunity to pursue a master’s degree at his alma mater.

After completing his degree, the couple returned to Lake Charles, where she joined the Home Economics Department at McNeese and Charles returned to PPG. A few years later, they were transferred to Pittsburgh. There, she became manager of consumer and public affairs for Beecham Products USA, which would later merge with GlaxoSmithKline.

After retirement and 23 years in Pittsburgh, the couple moved to Collierville to be closer to her sister and their aging parents.

“We are deeply grateful to ZonaDale Taylor for her longtime interest in and support of higher education,” said Teresa Carithers, interim dean of the School of Applied Sciences. “ZonaDale has enjoyed an exceptional career, and we are proud to count her among the esteemed alumni of our great university.

“ZonaDale and Charles’s compassion for students who face financial crises will truly meet a need in (the School of) Applied Sciences, where we had very limited resources to assist in the past,” she said. “They have a true understanding of the impact that such a resource can have on a student’s ability to complete their education due to an unexpected change in their financial status.

“Many students transferring from community colleges face financial challenges as well. The Lyons and Taylor endowment will therefore be especially beneficial to these students and will help enable them to receive an education that will serve them well throughout their lives. We greatly appreciate ZonaDale’s generosity.”

Planned gifts award donors membership in the 1848 Society, named for the year the university welcomed its first students. The society recognizes those who thoughtfully provide for the university through bequests and deferred gifts.

For information on including Ole Miss in long-term estate planning, contact Sandra Guest at 662-915-5208 or

Additionally, the Dr. Bonita Lyons and ZonaDale L. Taylor Legacy Endowment is open to gifts from individuals and organizations. To contribute, send checks with the endowment name noted in the memo line to the University of Mississippi Foundation, 406 University Ave., Oxford, MS 38655; or visit

Business School Closes Centennial Celebration at Jackson Event

Mississippi Department of History and Archives hosts alumni at 'History is Lunch'

Ken Cyree (left), dean of the School of Business Administration, chats at the event with fellow presenters Maj. Gen. Leon Collins, former adjutant general of Mississippi, and Candie Simmons, geography marketing strategist for Regions Bank. UM photo by Joe Ellis/UM Medical Center

JACKSON, Miss. – Some of the state’s most celebrated business and civic leaders of the past century took center stage at a recent celebration in Jackson, helping mark the centennial of the University of Mississippi School of Business Administration.

Ken Cyree, the school’s dean, was joined by alumni Maj. Gen. Leon Collins, former adjutant general of Mississippi; Dick Molpus, former Mississippi secretary of state; and Candie Simmons, geography marketing strategist for Regions Bank, for the Aug. 1 lunchtime event at the Craig H. Neilsen Auditorium at Two Mississippi Museums.

Welcomed by Chris Goodwin, the program organizer for “History is Lunch,” the audience watched a 20-minute feature video, narrated by Cyree, that includes a compilation of alumni. Also on hand were copies of “Ole Miss Business: The First 100 Years,” a 200-page illustrated history of the school published by Nautilus Publishing Co. in 2017.

“We were delighted at the great mix of regular attendees and people who came to ‘History Is Lunch’ specifically to hear the business school’s story,” Goodwin said. “Our series is built on programs just like this that examine a particular aspect of local Mississippi history, and the centennial publication makes this story even more special.”

“It was great to be a part of such meaningful and fun series on the history of the state,” Cyree said. “We had a terrific time working on the book, and it is fun to share it with people who are interested in our history and that of Mississippi.”

Graduates of the business school have become ambassadors, university presidents, technology innovators, financial leaders, sports legends, commodities pioneers, politicians and military leaders.

The book chronicles the century-long journey from the inaugural 1917 semester of the School of Commerce, guided by founding Dean James Warsaw Bell, through the 10 men who have led the school and culminating with Cyree, the 11th dean. It also tells the story of the men and women who passed through the doors as students.

“The Ole Miss business school taught me something that was extremely important,” said Simmons, who received a bachelor’s degree in 2002 and an MBA in 2015, and received the Outstanding Young Alumni of the Year Award in 2017.

Maj. Gen. Leon Collins (right) signs a copy of ‘Ole Miss Business: The First 100 Years’ at the ‘History is Lunch’ event commemorating the centennial of the UM School of Business Administration. Photo by Joe Ellis/UM Medical Center

“It is not something you learn in the classroom or from a textbook, but you just learn it by building the relationships with people from day to day, and that key word and valuable asset I learned was ‘networking.’ The business school taught me to not be afraid to talk to people and share your career aspirations – especially when asked.”

“I have made thousands of decisions in my lifetime,” said Collins, incoming president of the Ole Miss Alumni Association. “Some were good and some were bad.

“Enrolling at the University of Mississippi was one of the best decisions I have made. Ole Miss provided a quality education and a network of graduates to interact with over the years.

“As the incoming president of the Alumni Association, I would like to mobilize that network to help all students approaching graduation to secure their first job prior to graduation day. What better way to show your love for your university than to lend a helping hand to a future alum.”

Molpus, chairman of the Molpus Woodlands Group and 2013 inductee into the Ole Miss Alumni Hall of Fame, charmed the crowd in recounting how he failed his first test in college, in beloved professor Jimmy Davis’ class, to take a girl on a date, and she dumped him two weeks later.

Molpus discussed professors who opened his mind to new ways of thinking.

“In 1968, Professor Fenstermacher said in 25 years, cash would be obsolete and everyone would be using something called ‘credit cards.’ Then in 1969, Professor Runnelling spent a whole class on how outdated Mississippi’s economic development was by exploiting cheap labor and tax breaks to attract businesses to the state.”

In closing, Molpus stressed that the most important lesson he learned while an Ole Miss student was a sense of social responsibility in business.

“I was taught the best businesses do well for their bottom line, but those that help society as a whole stand the test of time,” he said.

Two UM Pharmacy Faculty to Lead Mississippi Pharmacists Association

Lauren Bloodworth and Phil Ayers working to promote profession across state

Lauren Bloodworth

OXFORD, Miss. – The Mississippi Pharmacists Association has welcomed two faculty members from the University of Mississippi School of Pharmacy into leadership positions for the organization.

Lauren Bloodworth, clinical associate professor of pharmacy practice, will serve as the organization’s president for the 2018-19 term, and Phil Ayers, also a clinical associate professor of pharmacy practice, is MPhA’s interim executive director.

“For years, I have been proud to serve alongside our tremendous pharmacy family, and I am honored by the opportunity to serve as the next president of the Mississippi Pharmacists Association,” Bloodworth said.

Phil Ayers

MPhA connects pharmacists from all areas of the profession to one other and with other health care professions to promote pharmacy and patient welfare across the state.

Both Ayers and Bloodworth are graduates of the Ole Miss pharmacy school. Ayers joined the faculty in 1997 after graduating in 1996. Bloodworth graduated in 2000 and joined the school’s faculty in 2008.

David D. Allen, dean of the School of Pharmacy and ex officio member of MPhA’s executive committee, said the School of Pharmacy is “very proud” to have Ayers and Bloodworth lead the organization.

“Lauren and Phil are both extremely dedicated to bolstering Mississippi’s pharmacy landscape and are natural fits for these positions,” Allen said.

Jones Creates Scholarships in Wife’s Memory

Endowment will help students earn degrees from School of Business Administration

The late Ann McCully Jones, of Richton, is being memorialized through a new scholarship endowment at the University of Mississippi. Submitted photo

OXFORD, Miss. – On the first day of every month for 46 years, Ann McCully Jones and her husband, Frank, repeated their wedding vows. After he lost his partner in life, Frank Jones carried out what the couple had spoken of many times: funding University of Mississippi scholarships.

Jones, of Richton, has established the Margaret Ann McCully Payne Jones Memorial Scholarship Endowment with a gift of $800,000 for School of Business Administration students. First preference for the need-based scholarships will be given to freshman students from the Christian-based French Camp Academy, Baptist Children’s Village or Palmer Home for Children.

“Ann was always looking for ways to help individuals who were having difficult times because she experienced a host of life’s trials herself,” Jones said. “Ann and I had talked many times of helping those needing the most hope, and we wanted this scholarship to assist students in the years ahead who otherwise might not be able to attain their full potential.

“We hoped and prayed that these future recipients would be successful in their chosen endeavors and, as their lives unfolded, they would be able to pass on help to other young men and women. Our desire was that each person helped would in turn help others to reach their destiny. It is our intent that they join us in caring and carrying forward a legacy of helping others.”

Henry Jones, of Brandon, the oldest of the couple’s three sons, said anyone who knew his mother, who died in August 2017, recognized her priorities. “She loved God, her family and Ole Miss, and she was very happy when any two of those loves could be found together.”

Ann and Frank Jones were not Ole Miss students at the same time. Frank graduated in 1959 with a degree in chemistry and biology. Ann pursued a major in business education, graduating magna cum laude in 1965 and as a Taylor medalist and Phi Kappa Phi member, while being involved in Mortar Board academic honorary and Delta Gamma sorority.

Frank Jones originally planned to attend West Point Military Academy, but a neck injury prevented him from taking advantage of that opportunity. Ole Miss was the only other school he would consider.

After two years in the Army Chemical Corps, he enjoyed seven-and-a-half years working with the Pepsi Cola Corp. in New York and traveled extensively over the country. The call to come back to Mississippi and join his father in the funeral profession ended the Pepsi Cola involvement.

Ann Jones joined a host of other family members who chose to make the Oxford campus their college home, and an uncle advised her to seek out the Ole Miss business school. She was born in Waco, Texas, while her lawyer father, John Triplett McCully, served as an Army Intelligence officer. The family returned to DeKalb, where she graduated from DeKalb High School before going on to Ole Miss.

Her mother, Margaret Payne McCully, was an Ole Miss graduate and a high school English teacher at DeKalb High School and Murrah High School in Jackson.

The Joneses first met in New York City at a Marble Collegiate Church function following a message by Dr. Norman Vincent Peale, and then spent the afternoon at the Metropolitan Museum of Art with friends Lester and Janaan Clark, of Hattiesburg. Dedicated to a career that took her all over many states as a business trainer for IBM, Ann McCully initially wasn’t to be distracted by romance, and Jones said it took him five years to persuade her to marry him.

“Ann was blessed with great intelligence and typing speed,” her husband said. “The business world offered an opportunity for her to earn a much better salary than teaching, which was her mother’s profession. She loved traveling with IBM, which was a good company to work for.”

McCully left IBM and returned to Mississippi to plan her wedding. Later, she helped her husband with his Standard Oil agency and Chevron jobbing businesses before the couple, upon the retirement of Frank’s father, joined the family business, Jones & Son Funeral Home. The couple expanded the funeral home to other locations in south central Mississippi.

Besides raising their three sons – Henry, John and Walt, who all earned their first degrees at Ole Miss and were Sigma Chi members, like their father – they were extremely active in the First Baptist Church of Richton through the music and children’s programs, as well as in community organizations. Second preference for the scholarship is directed to Richton High School students.

Ann Jones was well-known for being an enthusiastic ambassador for Ole Miss.

“A constant recruiter to Ole Miss, she gave many of my south Mississippi friends their first exposure to Oxford and the Grove,” said son Dr. John Jones, of Indianola. “Mom was a faithful woman and a Rebel.”

“What I cherish about my mom was her passion and commitment to the things she loved,” said son Walt Jones, of Fort Worth, Texas. “She loved the Lord, her family, friends and Ole Miss.

“Everyone she met knew they were important to her and that she valued their relationship. She taught me how to love people well and to love Ole Miss!”

UM Chancellor Jeffrey Vitter thanked Frank Jones not only for the endowed gift but also for the thoughtful designation of the scholarships.

“Ann and Frank were deeply devoted to each other, and that great love spilled over into their view of and concern for people, that is, young people who might have experienced challenges or the loss of their parents,” Vitter said. “This couple shared a desire to help others by providing scholarship resources for them to attend their own alma mater, a place where they both thrived.

“So many young people today need that ‘hope’ of which Mr. Jones speaks, and giving encouragement through access to higher education not only dramatically changes their lives but also enriches our society as a whole. We are grateful for this extraordinary gift.”

Freshman recipients of the Jones Scholarship may retain the award until completion of their undergraduate degree (up to eight semesters) and it can assist graduate students with their MBA (up to four semesters), provided they remain in good academic standing. The School of Business Administration Scholarship Committee will make the selections each year.

Individuals and organizations with the same desire to meet the needs of those less fortunate may make gifts to the Margaret Ann McCully Jones Memorial Scholarship Endowment by sending a check with the fund’s name noted in the memo line to the University of Mississippi Foundation, 406 University Ave., Oxford, MS 38655; visiting online at; or contacting Nikki Neely Davis, executive director of development at and 662-915-6678.

Mississippi Poet Laureate, UM Professor Takes Stage for Performance

Beth Ann Fennelly, along with Jackson native Claire Holley, treats audiences to songs and poems

OXFORD, Miss. – The work of University of Mississippi English professor and Mississippi’s poet laureate, Beth Ann Fennelly, along with a Mississippi native singer-songwriter, can be enjoyed by all in August through a broadcast of an intimate performance of songs and poems.

Mississippi Public Broadcasting Television will air “An Evening with Claire and Beth Ann” at 9 p.m. Aug. 6, with encore presentations set for 9 p.m. Aug. 10 and noon Aug. 12.

Fennelly and Claire Holley took the stage inside The Cedars, Jackson’s oldest surviving residential structure, for the performance. Holley and Fennelly, who have been friends for 15 years, take turns treating the audience with their unique artistic talents during the performance, as reported by MPB.

Fennelly previously served as director of the UM Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing program, as well as teaching poetry and nonfiction writing at Ole Miss, before being named by Gov. Phil Bryant in 2016 as the state’s poet laureate. The designation comes with a four-year term she is using to make poetry more accessible to Mississippians.

In 2011, she was named UM Humanities Teacher of the Year and College of Liberal Arts Teacher of the Year. Her first collection of poetry, “Open House,” was a Book Sense Top Ten Poetry Pick and won a Kenyon Review Prize, a Zoo Press Poetry Prize and a Great Lakes College Association New Writers Award.

University Launches Flagship Society

Campuswide giving program to benefit academics at Ole Miss

The Flagship Society is the first campuswide leadership annual giving program at the University of Mississippi. Individuals can join this fiscal year and become charter members, providing crucial private support to our academic community. Photo by Kirsten Faulkner

OXFORD, Miss. – The University of Mississippi has launched the Flagship Society – its first campuswide leadership annual giving program – to recognize annual donors, share the impact of their giving and increase philanthropic support for academic programs and scholarships at a time when higher education costs are escalating.

“The Flagship Society will add to the margin of excellence at Ole Miss, advancing the university’s ability to transform lives and make a profound impact in Mississippi, the nation and the world,” said Charlotte Parks, UM vice chancellor for development.

For the seventh consecutive fiscal year, which ended June 30, Ole Miss alumni, friends, students, faculty and staff have committed in excess of $100 million in private support, much-needed resources as state support covers only 13 percent of the university’s annual budget.

Chancellor Jeffrey Vitter said he is constantly inspired by donors’ desire to give back to ensure future generations have exceptional educational opportunities and society has a higher quality of life.

“Through their giving, Flagship Society members will be expressing a strong belief in the power of higher education and the positive impact of private support,” he said. “Our alumni and friends are known far and wide for their continuous and generous investments in the Ole Miss student experience, our academic environment and outreach efforts.

“The University of Mississippi is honored to recognize these annual donors who step up, year after year, to propel the flagship forward.”

The Flagship Society name pays homage to the university’s flagship status as the oldest and largest public university in Mississippi. The name also represents members of the Ole Miss family who serve as philanthropic leaders in the academic, service and cultural programs, Parks said.

“We want to honor the Flagship Society members’ generosity by selecting a name that reflects their impact on the university,” she said. “Each Flagship Society gift combines with others to produce powerful resources.”

Gerald Wages, of Tupelo, is an alumnus and former executive with North Mississippi Health Services who has been providing consistent annual support for almost three decades.

“My decision to make a contribution to Ole Miss was an easy one for two reasons: First, a contribution would be a way to ‘pay back’ – to recognize the quality of the education I received that prepared me for my career and to repay the university for the outstanding experience that I had on campus during my college years,” Wages said. “Secondly, a contribution would represent an investment in the future of Ole Miss and an investment in the many students who will be receiving their education there in the years to come.

“For those reasons, I am excited to have an opportunity to contribute, and I encourage all alumni to continue being a part of the Ole Miss story with annual support.”

Annual gifts, for example, can bolster scholarship support for students, increase funds for recruitment and retention of faculty, increase graduate stipends to support doctoral students, heighten access to research grants whose results help people live healthier lives, increase maintenance funds to keep up the university’s array of facilities, and increase support for the cultural arts.

Having these funds available enables university leadership to be flexible and prompt in addressing needs and opportunities without diverting resources from elsewhere, said Alyssa Vinluan, an annual gifts officer in the Office of University Development.

Membership in the Flagship Society is open to any household or individual whose cumulative giving to academics totals $1,000 or more during the fiscal year (July 1-June 30). Donors can make unrestricted gifts to the Ole Miss Fund – resources used at the discretion of UM leadership for the university’s greatest needs – or donors can choose to direct their gifts to a specific school, program or scholarship, Vinluan said.

Membership in the Flagship Society can be met by an outright gift or by making pledge payments throughout the fiscal year. Levels of membership are Bronze with a gift of $1,000, Silver with a gift of $1,848, Gold with a gift of $2,500 and Platinum with a gift of $5,000 or above.

Graduates whose most recent UM degree is from the past five years can join the Flagship Society with an annual gift of $100. Likewise, alumni from the past six to 10 years become members with an annual gift of $500, as university officials understand these graduates are establishing their lives and careers.

Kirsten Faulkner, of Metropolis, Illinois, who finished her undergraduate degree in journalism in May and is pursuing graduate studies, said she hopes the Flagship Society drives home the message that gifts of all sizes matter.

“Giving back to a university that has given so much to me is something I feel very strongly about,” Faulkner said. “The Flagship Society is a great way to engage donors of all ages and let them know that gifts of any size can make a significant impact throughout the university and, in this case, through academic programs.”

Flagship Society members will be recognized in several ways and receive an exclusive Flagship Society car decal and invitations to special events. Donors who join in the Flagship Society’s inaugural year, which runs through June 30, 2019, will be identified as charter members.

With the support of alumni, friends, university leaders, faculty and staff, the Flagship Society stands to influence many areas of campus for years to come.

“The Flagship Society can help elevate the value of all University of Mississippi degrees; organizations such as U.S. News and World Report factor alumni giving participation into their rankings of the best universities in America,” Parks said. “We deeply appreciate each and every gift that fuels our reach for even greater heights of excellence.”

Gifts can be made by sending a check in support of academics to the University of Mississippi Foundation, 406 University Ave., Oxford, MS 38655; or by visiting For more information, contact Alyssa Vinluan, annual giving officer, at or 662-915-1311.

Major Gift to Help Support UM Band Recruitment

Former drum major, Tupelo native provides endowment for scholarships

UM liberal arts Dean Lee Cohen (left) and Ole Miss band director David Willson (right) thank Ed Pegues for his recent major gift in support of band scholarships. Pegues’ gift was announced at the spring concert of the Ole Miss Wind Ensemble. Photo by Bill Dabney/UM Foundation

OXFORD, Miss. – Recruitment efforts for the Pride of the South, the University of Mississippi’s acclaimed marching band, recently gained support with a major gift for band scholarships.

Former Ole Miss drum major Ed Pegues, of Tupelo, has designated UM as the beneficiary of a planned gift that will establish the William E. Pegues III University Band Programs Endowment.

“We greatly appreciate Ed’s generous gift, which will impact the lives of our student musicians for generations to come while also enabling us to make significant improvements to our program,” band director David Willson said.

Pegues, who earned a bachelor’s degree in music education in 1977 and a master’s degree in 1983, said he hopes his gift will give the university an edge over other Southeastern Conference schools that are able to recruit band members easier because of their proximity to larger metropolitan areas.

“Unfortunately, Ole Miss is located in a less-populated area with fewer band students to recruit,” Pegues said. “It is my hope that my gift will allow Ole Miss to offer larger scholarships and recruit more talented band students from a wider area and increase both talent and numbers to match or surpass the other SEC school bands.”

Pegues started playing clarinet in sixth-grade band. As his love for band grew stronger, his talent increased, allowing him to be named to the Mississippi Lions All-State Band for three consecutive years in high school. He then auditioned for and won a full-tuition band scholarship to Ole Miss.

“I was the first in my family to enroll at Ole Miss,” Pegues said. “My three younger siblings followed me to Ole Miss, as well as three of my nieces.”

Pegues said his fondest college memories include his semester as drum major in 1976 and playing in the University Orchestra, “especially my experience playing in the orchestra for Ole Miss production of the musical ‘Fiddler on the Roof’ and in the orchestra for the performance of Mozart’s opera ‘The Marriage of Figaro.'”

After college, Pegues worked as high school band director for four years in Carthage before returning to Ole Miss in 1981 to work on his master’s degree. He then taught high school band in Philadelphia until 1986, when returned to Tupelo and joined his family’s funeral business.

He and his brother, Greg, became the fourth generation to lead W.E. Pegues Funeral Directors, founded by their great-grandfather, Walter E. Pegues, in 1891.

“When I left band directing in 1986, my enjoyment for playing ended, but my love for listening to a good band never diminished,” he said. “To this day, I continue to buy season tickets to Ole Miss football games just to see and hear the Pride of The South perform every fall.”

Pegues also tries to attend spring concerts by the Ole Miss Wind Ensemble.

Besides seeking financial support for scholarships, UM fundraisers are working to secure private gifts to underwrite expenses associated with renovating the band’s practice field, said Ron Wilson, development officer for the band.

“This is a dire need,” Wilson said. “When it rains, the field becomes a marsh, which means our Pride of the South members have to march in the mud.

“We have needed to renovate the field for a long time and we can start to concentrate more on that project now, thanks to Ed.”

Planned gifts award donors membership in the 1848 Society, named for the year the university welcomed its first students. The society recognizes those who thoughtfully provide for the university through bequests and deferred gifts.

For information on including Ole Miss in long-term estate planning, contact Sandra Guest at 662-915-5208 or

The William E. Pegues III University Band Programs Endowment is open to gifts from individuals and organizations. To contribute, send checks with the endowment name noted in the memo line to the University of Mississippi Foundation, 406 University Ave., Oxford, MS 38655; or visit

For information on supporting the Pride of the South, contact Ron Wilson at 662-915-1755 or