Federally Funded Marijuana Turns 50

University researchers observe half-century of growing contract

Mahmoud ElSohly, professor of pharmaceutics and director of the UM Marijuana Project, has worked with the project since joining as a postdoctoral fellow in 1975. Photo by Kevin Bain/Ole Miss Digital Imaging Services

OXFORD, Miss. ­– Fifty years ago, the Research Institute of Pharmaceutical Sciences at the University of Mississippi School of Pharmacy was awarded a competitive contract from the government to grow marijuana that could be standardized for research.

Interest in marijuana research had grown throughout the late ’60s, and the government wanted to study the effects of cannabis on the brain and the body. To do that, it needed a source of certifiable plant material that was responsibly grown and harvested.

Coy Waller, who would later become the leading force of UM’s marijuana operation, was serving on a committee of the National Institute of Mental Health and recommended to the organization that a program be created to provide this standardized marijuana to the government.

After an open competition among institutions around the country, UM won the first contract in spring 1968 to be the government’s provider of marijuana for research purposes. Later that summer, Ole Miss researchers grew the first crop of legal research marijuana in the country, beginning a research project that has lasted half a century.

The marijuana growing field at UM was last planted in 2014, but the National Institute on Drug Abuse has requested a larger crop to be produced in 2019, so university officials are readying the field for use next summer. Photo by Don Stanford/Research Institute of Pharmaceutical Sciences

The university’s Marijuana Project is under the supervision of the National Institute on Drug Abuse. Its longevity is a result of decades of honing the operation through tough competition for the contract, for which UM competes every three to five years.

“The University of Mississippi applies for the contract just like everyone else,” said Mahmoud ElSohly, director of the Marijuana Project and professor of pharmaceutics in the School of Pharmacy. “Our research capability, our expertise, our knowledge in the areas of cannabis chemistry and production, our personnel and facilities ­­– everything is in place to make us very competitive.”

Since ElSohly joined the project as a postdoctoral fellow in 1975, the marijuana operation has expanded, security has increased and the project has been registered with the FDA as a drug manufacturer, meaning that everything they do must comply with the FDA’s Good Manufacturing Practices.

“For half a century, the Marijuana Project has done an outstanding job of working within federal guidelines to produce cannabis products that are standardized for scientific research,” said David D. Allen, UM pharmacy dean. “I am extremely proud of the stellar faculty, research scientists and staff who have been deeply committed to excellence in this area.”

The Marijuana Project is part of the National Center for Natural Products Research, which is housed within the School of Pharmacy. Ikhlas Khan, NCNPR director, has been closely involved with the project over the years.

“We are very proud of our contribution towards the science and understanding of cannabis chemistry, pharmacology and product development over last 50 years,” Khan said.

Indeed, NCNPR and the Marijuana Project both contribute to the university’s unique research profile.

“This 50-year anniversary of the Marijuana Project at the University of Mississippi is truly a remarkable accomplishment and a testament to the quality of the science produced by the program,” said Josh Gladden, vice chancellor of research and sponsored programs. “The exciting part is that there is still much to discover and UM hopes for another 50 years of scientific leadership in this rapidly developing field.”

Since the university produces marijuana based on what researchers request from NIDA’s Drug Supply Program, it grows marijuana in a variety of chemical makeups. Recently, it has begun creating marijuana products for research, such as extracts rich in THC, marijuana’s psychoactive component, or cannabidiol, known as CBD.

For the 2019 growing season, NIDA has exercised the option in its contract to grow marijuana in about half the university’s marijuana field, which consists of roughly 12 total acres of heavily secured land. For the past several years, the project was able to fulfill NIDA’s demand for smaller amounts of plant material by growing in its 1,100-square-foot indoor grow room.

The exact amount to be grown is not yet finalized, said Suman Chandra, a co-director of the project. However, if the crop is planted based on the exercised option, it will be the largest amount of plant material NIDA has ever asked Ole Miss to grow in a single season.

“This is probably because of the research community’s increased interest in CBD oil and CBD-rich cannabis varieties,” Chandra said. “Therefore, we anticipate that the majority of the crop is going to have high levels of CBD.”

Pure CBD extract is created at the UM Marijuana Project for research and clinical trial use. Photo by Don Stanford/Research Institute of Pharmaceutical Sciences

In fact, earlier this month, a clinical study on CBD’s impact on certain forms of juvenile epilepsy began at the University of Mississippi Medical Center, using standardized CBD extract produced on the Oxford campus.

“I truly believe that this CBD extract study will serve as a model for researchers across the country,” ElSohly said. “If we are able to show that a standardized CBD extract is safe and effective for the treatment of severe epilepsy in children, there could be a lot more demand for the material for research purposes.”

UM is also conducting research on new pharmaceutical dosage forms that contain CBD, THC and other cannabinoids that will allow the therapeutic properties of marijuana to work while eliminating the psychoactive component.

“Our interest is not in medical marijuana, but in developing FDA-approved, cannabis-derived pharmaceutical products,” ElSohly said. “There are over 500 known chemicals in marijuana, 120 of which are cannabinoids, and we are interested in what they can be used for.”

Although ElSohly is familiar with some of marijuana’s potential therapeutic benefits, he has also seen how the drug can be misused. Through a potency-monitoring project, the lab has analyzed marijuana samples seized by law enforcement since the early days of the contract and has seen marijuana’s potency increase dramatically.

“We have data from over 85,000 seizures over the years,” ElSohly said. “In the 1970s, the average THC content of seized marijuana was 2 percent or less. In 2017, the potency reached 17 percent.”

This trend also aligns with an increase in the ratio of THC to CBD in seized marijuana. In the 1980s and early ’90s, most seized material had about 10 to 15 times more THC than CBD, ElSohly said. But in 2017, that ratio had jumped to 100 times.

“This is parallel to the increase in emergency room admissions of people experiencing psychosis, irritability and paranoia as a result of using cannabis,” he said.

Although many states have legalized some uses of marijuana, the federal government still considers it to be a Schedule I drug, meaning it is illegal at the federal level to produce or possess. Because of this, UM remains the only place in the country that produces legal marijuana grown within federal requirements and standardized for research.

The DEA announced in August 2016 that it would approve registrations for other qualified growers to produce and distribute marijuana for research purposes, but no additional registrations have yet been granted.

After 50 years of operation, researchers in the Marijuana Project are still working to secure the next growing contract from the government when the current one expires. The project is in its fourth year of a five-year contract, and the university will be reapplying next year.

For more information about marijuana research at UM, visit http://pharmacy.olemiss.edu/marijuana/.

Maura Wakefield Langhart Named UM Director of Annual Giving

Alumna to work to boost consistent private support for UM scholarships, programs

Maura Wakefield Langhart

OXFORD, Miss. – As new director of annual giving for the University of Mississippi, alumna Maura Wakefield Langhart hopes to strengthen the Office of Development‘s connection with donors while also working to increase crucial private support.

“In the short term, my goal is to modernize our annual giving efforts by increasing our presence online and making it easier for our donors to give,” said Langhart, a 2014 graduate of the UM School of Applied Sciences with a bachelor’s degree in exercise science.

“In the long term, I want to encourage our donors to give sustainably – that is, give modest amounts every month for several years. This allows donors to maximize their impact on the university because it creates a stable stream of long-term funding that our units can rely on receiving.”

Annual giving also enables Ole Miss to connect more meaningfully with its donors as the university gains insight into their unique affinities, she added.

At a time when state support helps offset only 12.4 percent of university expenses, private giving can make up the difference, providing support for student scholarships, faculty programs, academic facilities and other operational expenses within the university’s schools, colleges and departments.

“Private giving is important for so many reasons,” Langhart said. “Firstly and most importantly, it makes an immediate and lasting impact in the lives of our students and in the value of their degrees.

“Private gifts are also a metric that national ranking committees consider when they examine our university. The percentage of alumni who give is seen as an endorsement of the university. When more alumni give, we attract more grants and major gifts. Gifts of any size lead to a transformative impact.”

After graduating, Langhart, who grew up near Washington, D.C., remained at Ole Miss as a graduate assistant in the Office of Development while earning a master’s degree in business administration in 2015.

She then accepted a full-time position as assistant director of annual giving with the UM Office of Development. In 2016, she joined the staff of Ruffalo Noel Levitz, a national fundraising and donor-engagement company, where she worked as director of client services for two years before returning to the Office of Development in her current position.

Langhart brings great value to the development staff and to the university as a whole, said Charlotte Parks, vice chancellor for development.

“We are excited to have Maura onboard,” she said. “She is already proving to be a great asset in helping to establish a steady, consistent stream of private support and sharing ideas on how to increase support.

“Given her prior experience, combined with her knowledge of the university, we have great expectations.”

In college, Langhart was active in Phi Mu sorority. She also met her husband, Alex, at Ole Miss. The couple married in 2017 and lives in Oxford.

“I’m happy to be working for a university that has given me so much,” Langhart said. “Even on our worst days, I would rather be an Ole Miss Rebel than anything else!”

To make gifts to the university, go to https://give.olemiss.edu/ for academics, https://www.umc.edu/givenow/ for the UM Medical Center or http://givetoathletics.com/forward-together/ for Ole Miss athletics.

Maximize Charitable Giving Under New Deduction Change

Strategy enables taxpayers to continue to claim deductions for charitable gifts

Private giving helps maintain the level of excellence in UM programs, facilities and other aspects of the student experience. Photo by Kevin Bail/Ole Miss Digital Imaging Services

OXFORD, Miss. – Until last year, Phil and Charlotte Malone, of Oxford, were able to receive a charitable gift deduction for annual insurance premiums of $20,200 on life insurance policies they transferred to the University of Mississippi Foundation.

A 2017 change in tax law could have prevented the couple from claiming a full deduction for their yearly gift to the university.

The Malones’ annual charitable gift benefits an endowment established as a tribute to their son, Ryan, an Ole Miss graduate student who was only 24 when he died in September 2012. Unfortunately, the gift is less than the standard deduction threshold for a married couple, which Congress raised to $24,000 under the new plan; the threshold for individuals is $12,000.

“The challenge in effectively deducting all eligible charitable contributions is for itemized deductions such as medical expenses, health insurance costs, home interest costs and other taxes paid to exceed the standard deduction,” said Phil Malone, retired chair and associate professor of finance at Ole Miss.

“Unless you maximize your gifts, then only part – or in the worst case scenario, none – of your charitable contributions will decrease your taxes.”

A strategy called “bunching” will help donors such as the Malones, said Anna Langley, director of finance and accounting for the UM Foundation. Bunching allows donors to combine several years’ worth of contributions into one gift.

“If donors find themselves short on itemized deductions, they can consider consolidating – also known as bundling or bunching – a few years of charitable contributions into a single year to help exceed the higher standard deduction threshold,” she said.

For example, if the Malones bunch their 2018 and 2019 premiums into a single gift for 2018, their contribution will exceed the $24,000 standard deduction threshold, allowing them to itemize and receive a charitable tax deduction on their gift.

“In order to achieve the full reduction of taxes each year, the best strategy would be to double, triple, et cetera, your contributions in one year and itemize,” Phil Malone said. “The next year, or years, they could make no charitable contribution and employ the standard deduction.”

For gifts to be counted in the 2018 tax year, checks must be postmarked and security gift transfers received by Dec. 31. If giving by credit card, online gifts must be initiated by noon on Dec. 31 and credit cards sent by mail should be received by Dec. 28.

For more information about tax advantages related to charitable giving, contact Langley at 662-915-1298 or anna@umfoundation.com.

New Associate Director of Development Named

Robert Jolly to garner support for arts, museum and historic houses

Robert Jolly

OXFORD, Miss. – As the new associate director of development for the University of Mississippi, alumnus Robert T. Jolly hopes to strengthen existing relationships while exploring new bonds that will help secure the future of the arts at Ole Miss and in the region.

Jolly is responsible for garnering support for the Gertrude C. Ford Center for the Performing Arts and the University Museum and Historic Houses, including Rowan Oak, home of Nobel Prize-winning author William Faulkner.

“In the scope of just one day, visitors to the university have the opportunity to visit the museum to view the South’s finest collection of Greek and Roman antiquities in the morning, walk in William Faulkner’s footsteps at Rowan Oak during lunch, and enjoy the Moscow Ballet performing at the Ford Center that evening,” Jolly said. “How cool is that! Without private support, none of that is possible.”

Jolly said he looks forward to helping donors match their philanthropic passions in ways that enrich the academic, research and service missions of his alma mater. 

“This job allows me to share my love for Ole Miss with a diverse group of people who are deeply dedicated to the success of the extraordinary arts and cultural programs housed here on the Oxford campus,” said Jolly, a Columbus native who earned a bachelor’s degree in Southern studies from UM in 2002 and a Juris Doctor from the School of Law in 2006.

As an undergraduate, he was a member of the Chancellor’s Leadership Class and Alpha Tau Omega fraternity.

After graduating from law school, he served as a judicial law clerk for Chief U.S. Magistrate Judge John M. Roper for two years before joining the law firm of Watkins, Ludlam, Winter and Stennis.

In 2013, Jolly had an opportunity to join the UM legal staff as a law fellow in the Office of General Counsel. In 2015, he was named assistant general counsel for the university.

“I have always admired the important work performed by the University Development team and have seen the positive impact of building resources in order to have top-tier programs,” Jolly said.

Jolly will be of great value to the development staff and to the university as a whole, said Charlotte Parks, vice chancellor for development.

“We are excited to welcome Rob onboard,” she said. “He is already proving to be a great asset in helping nurture existing donor relationships with supporters of the arts. Given his love for and knowledge of the university, we have great expectations for the coming year.”

Private support is especially important for the development of the arts on campus, Jolly said.

“The arts are crucial to understanding where we came from, who we are and where we’re going,” he said. 

“By being housed on a college campus, the Ford Center, the museum and Rowan Oak are uniquely positioned to serve a wide range of individuals for multiple purposes. For example, students not only have the opportunity to attend a Broadway show at the Ford Center, they also have the opportunity to perform there – a world-class arts and entertainment venue.

“Likewise, faculty can utilize the museum’s vast collection to further their specific academic research while also enhancing their students’ educational experiences.”

Jolly is a sixth-generation Mississippian who met his wife, Rebecca, in law school. She serves as general counsel for a private wealth investment advisory firm in Memphis. The couple has a 2-year-old son and another son expected in March 2019. 

In his free time, Jolly enjoys listening to live music, painting, photography and studying Southern history.

To make gifts to the university, go to https://give.olemiss.edu/.

Cabaret Competition Set to Shake Up Nutt Auditorium

Thursday event will support Ignite campaign for Living Music Resource

Duly Noted, the house band for the Living Music Resource, will perform Thursday evening as part of the cabaret competition at Nutt Auditorium. Photo by Thomas Graning/Ole Miss Digital Imaging Services

OXFORD, Miss. – The University of Mississippi’s Nutt Auditorium will dress herself appropriately to host a full-bore cabaret competition Thursday (Nov. 29) evening.

“If you think you know what Nutt looks like, think again,” said event organizer Nancy Maria Balach, an Ole Miss associate professor of music who is creator and artistic director of the Living Music Resource.

The 7:30 p.m. event is produced by Living Music Resource and the UM Department of Music. Tickets are $10, available from the UM Box Office, at https://olemissboxoffice.com/ or 662-915-7411, and at the door.

“Vault Entertainment will transform the space from a traditional recital hall to a showcase that’s a cross between ‘America’s Got Talent’ and the Grammy awards,” said Brady Bramlett, co-organizer of the event and executive managing director of the Living Music Resource.

This family-friendly event features 11 finalists competing for the highly-coveted Cabaret Crown and a $500 prize.

“We have singers, dancers, and instrumentalists performing in a variety of styles and moods,” Balach said. “And the audience gets to choose the winner!”

The evening also features the Living Music Resource’s house band, Duly Noted. Doors open at 7 p.m.

All the proceeds from the cabaret competition will support Living Music Resource’s Ignite Ole Miss campaign to expand programming and opportunities for music students and give them skills to engage as musicians with their communities.

“We are hoping to reach our stretch goal,” Balach said. “Every dollar makes an impact in the LOU community and positions our students for creative, engaged professional lives, no matter where they go from Ole Miss.”

Business School Launches Networking Program

Business Connect will link students with former graduates for employment

Alon Bee (left) of Regions Bank, Phil Dixon of R.J. Young and Tyler Meisenheimer, Business Connect director, gather at a Jackson reception to officially launch the UM Business Connect program. Photo by Caroline Stewart

OXFORD, Miss. – Gathering leaders from some of the state’s largest businesses for a high-powered reception in Jackson, the University of Mississippi School of Business Administration has kicked off a new networking program to connect students with alumni for employment.

The Business Connect program, founded this summer, seeks to determine the hiring/talent acquisition goals of employers and match them with the school’s “business-ready” students and graduates for placement with permanent career and internship opportunities.

The program officially kicked off Nov. 8 at a reception at the Jackson Yacht Club. Attendees included UM business Dean Ken Cyree, Business Connect director Tyler Meisenheimer and representatives of the school’s advisory board, alumni and potential employers.

“Business leaders have spoken about keeping a talented workforce in state,” Meisenheimer said. “The business school at the University of Mississippi has listened to their voices and acted quickly with the creation of this new program.

“My focus is to build relationships with industry leaders to discover their talent-acquisition goals that match our ‘business-ready’ graduates. Our students are benefitting from a multitude of career preparation resources with a dedicated team to prepare them for their respective careers.”

The purpose of the gathering was to bring industry leaders and university advocates together to learn about how the program can benefit their organizations with hiring top talent. Some 60 attendees representing 25 companies came to learn about the program’s goals and to connect with one other.

Chip Crunk (left) of R.J. Young, incoming president of the business school advisory board; Ken Cyree, dean of the UM School of Business Administration, and Melanie Dowell of Morgan Stanley, president of the school’s advisory board, chat at the Jackson reception. Photo by Caroline Stewart

“We were pleased with the response and the turnout for the event,” said Melanie Dowell, president of the school’s advisory board. “We were also particularly impressed by the number of businesses expressing a desire to learn more about the Business Connect program and hire our graduates.

“We are excited about this new program for the business school and appreciate Dean Cyree and Provost Wilkin’s support and enthusiasm as we move ahead.”

The participating organizations included: C Spire, Trustmark Bank, Butler Snow LLP, University of Mississippi Medical Center, St. Dominic Health Services, Baptist Memorial Healthcare Corp., Regions Bank, Sysco, Ergon, Morgan Stanley, Raymond James, Irby, the Molpus Group and BancorpSouth.

Hu Meena, C Spire president and CEO, discussed the uniqueness of Ole Miss business graduates who are highly-skilled in communication and networking and have excelled as C Spire employees.

Cyree discussed the university’s commitment to Business Connect, and Meisenheimer detailed how the business school is taking major strides to prepare students for future careers and internships.

“This is the first step in outreach to potential employers who will hire our graduates, and the success of the event was very encouraging,” Cyree said. “We are pleased to have had such a successful launch of this final piece of our career team to help our students get jobs and internships.

“We are delighted there was such an interest in Business Connect, and the impact it will have as employers engage with the business school and hire our students.”

Brisack Makes History as UM’s First Female Rhodes Scholar

Senior from Oxford earns coveted award, becomes university's 26th honoree

Jaz Brisack

OXFORD, Miss. – Jaz Brisack is the University of Mississippi’s 26th Rhodes Scholar, and the first woman in the university’s history to be selected to the elite international academic program. 

Brisack, a senior general studies major from Oxford, is the 2018 Truman Scholar for Mississippi and has a long history as a champion for human, civil and labor rights in Mississippi. She is president of the College Democrats and a frequent contributor to The Daily Mississippian.

She has worked as a teacher-adviser for the Sunflower Freedom Project in 2016 and as a labor organizer with the United Auto Workers on the Nissan campaign. She also helps defend the Jackson Women’s Health Organization, known as the “Pink House,” Mississippi’s sole abortion clinic.

She was selected after interviews with officials from the Rhodes Trust Nov. 16-17 in Birmingham, Alabama. Scholarship recipients were announced Saturday (Nov. 17).

“I guess this is one small step toward smashing the patriarchy,” Brisack said. “But I think it’s especially important to use this platform to call attention to the way the glass ceiling is easier for some women to break through than others.”

The Rhodes Scholarships, which were created in 1902, bring outstanding students from many countries to the University of Oxford in the United Kingdom. Besides “intellectual distinction,” the selection committee seeks excellence in qualities of mind and of person, which combined offer the promise of effective service to the world in the decades ahead.

Rhodes Scholars receive tuition, travel, room and board, and a stipend for two years of study at Oxford University, with the possibility of being renewed for a third year.

Ole Miss students Jarvis Benson and John Chappell were also 2018 finalists for the Rhodes Scholarship and competed in Birmingham with Brisack. Besides those current students, Chinelo Ibekwe, a 2018 chemical engineering graduate from Lagos, Nigeria, was named a finalist in the Rhodes Scholarships for West Africa program. She will interview Dec. 1 in her category. 

UM has had 25 Rhodes Scholars and many Rhodes finalists, but never four finalists in one year.

“I’m awed by how wonderful the other applicants all are,” Brisack said. “I’ve known John and Jarvis, the other UM applicants, for years and am continually inspired by them. But everyone was brilliant, caring and amazing.”

Chancellor Jeffrey S. Vitter said that from last year’s Truman Scholarship to this distinction of being the university’s first female Rhodes Scholar, Brisack continues to chart a groundbreaking path of excellence.

“Her success on the national stage reflects the best of the university’s exceptional programs – like the Sally McDonnell Barksdale Honors College – that enable students to flourish intellectually and personally,” Vitter said. “With her deep drive, leadership abilities and passion, Jaz will continue making a difference in the lives of others.”

Douglass Sullivan-González, dean of the UM Sally McDonnell Barksdale Honors College, said that out of the thousands of honors students he’s met over a decade-and-a-half, Brisack is one of the top 10.

“She engaged our academic community with deep conviction, knowledge and understanding,” Sullivan-González said. “The name of Jaz Brisack may become a household name when all is said and done. I’m proud to know her as a colleague and scholar of the SMBHC.”

Brisack is thankful for the opportunity that Ole Miss and the Honors College have provided her to work with professors who have inspired her.

“I have had the opportunity to work with so many amazing people at this school, from Debra Young and Tim Dolan to Joe Atkins and Curtis Wilkie to JoAnn Edwards and Kiese Laymon,” Brisack said. “They have challenged me to think about the world in different ways and inspired me to pursue this chance.”

Journalism professor Curtis Wilkie first met Brisack when she was in an upper-level Honors College course he was teaching. He said Brisack is one of the most extraordinary students he’s ever taught. 

“I was astonished that she already knew virtually every book that I cited during the semester,” Wilkie said. “Aside from her excellent grades, I’ve been impressed by her passion for so many causes that are rarely embraced by people of her age. 

“We are all so proud of Jaz, and feel that her triumph is one for Ole Miss as well.”

Bloomberg BusinessWeek Ranks Ole Miss MBA Program in Top 50

National recognition given for the university's advanced degree

Officers for the 2018-19 MBA class at UM are (front, from left) Maranda Armstrong, vice president of finance; Mary-Morgan Coburn, vice president of social events; and Abbey Bufkin, vice president of communications and public relations and (back, from left) Chi Cunningham, vice president of recruitment; Quinn McKemey, co-president; John Irvine, co-president; and Blain Rose, vice president of community service. Bloomberg BusinessWeek has ranked the Ole Miss MBA program at No. 37 among American public universities. Photo by Andrew Nail

OXFORD, Miss. – The University of Mississippi’s Master of Business Administration program has been named as one of the nation’s best by Bloomberg BusinessWeek. The rankings, released Thursday (Nov. 8), place Ole Miss at No. 37 among American public universities.

For the 2018 edition, Bloomberg ranked MBA programs using four categories: Compensation, Learning, Networking and Entrepreneurship. The UM program came in at No. 28 in Entrepreneurship.

“We are excited about the success we have enjoyed in our MBA program, and the reflection of the quality of our program as indicated in these rankings,” said Ken Cyree, dean of the School of Business Administration. “These rankings are an indication of the dedicated faculty and staff who make the program successful, and our alumni who add depth with personal development programs for our students.

“We are especially proud of being ranked No. 28 in the area of entrepreneurship, as this is an up-and-coming part of the business school that has existed for less than a decade.”

All schools surveyed were required to submit employment data for the Class of 2017 following standards set by MBA Career Services and Employer Alliance, a trade group founded in 1994 to establish and collect consistent, comparable, peer-reviewed data.

“The reputation of our MBA program is a result of a team of faculty members who are highly qualified and intensely engaged with our students,” said Walter Davis, faculty adviser to the MBA program. “The faculty work hard to develop the professional skill set of our students.”

Bloomberg surveyed 26,699 MBA students, alumni and recruiters in 2018 about their goals and experiences. These rankings are based on their responses, as well as compensation and job placement data from each school. A full global ranking will be published Dec. 11.

“We are proud of our program and our most recent rankings,” said Ashley McGee, the program’s director. “Earning an MBA is going to give a person the opportunity to advance within their field and the flexibility to move across industries.

“At Ole Miss, we have the option of a one-year campus program, and the success of the program is a collaborative effort.”

Coming in at No. 71 overall, UM ranked ahead of Auburn, at No. 75; Syracuse, No. 77; Missouri, No. 82; and University of South Carolina, No. 86.

Museum Unveils 2018 Keepsake Ornament

Collectible allows Ole Miss faithful to show off the Grove in their holiday decor

The 2018 University Museum holiday keepsake ornament features the Grove, the iconic heart of the Ole Miss campus. Submitted photo

OXFORD, Miss. – The University of Mississippi Museum and Historic Houses has unveiled its 18th annual holiday keepsake ornament, celebrating one of the university’s most beautiful spaces and time-honored traditions, the Grove.

“Whether it be memories of football Saturdays, the pride of receiving a degree or just lounging on a sunny afternoon, the Grove holds a special place in the hearts of the entire Ole Miss community,” said Kate Wallace, the museum’s membership, events and communications coordinator. “The UM Museum is honored to celebrate the most beautiful space on one of the most beautiful campuses with this year’s keepsake ornament.”

The 10-acre green space in the center of campus, officially named the Grove in 1935, was first envisioned and implemented by Robert Burwell Fulton, UM chancellor from 1892 to 1906. When the university was building its first library, Ventress Hall, in 1889, Fulton extended the campus east, outside the “inner circle” toward the train depot, and planted trees and shrubs to beautify the campus.

During his time as chancellor, Fulton worked to grow and preserve the lush landscape.

In the 1950s, under the coaching of John Vaught, the football Rebels were a national power, and the Grove began to transform into the tailgate mecca it is today. Students moved their pregame festivities from sorority and fraternity houses to a more centralized location on campus.

Fans parked cars, trucks, buses and RVs under the trees on game days until a massive rainstorm in 1991 forced the university to ban vehicles in the Grove completely.

Today, the Grove is more than just one of the country’s best football tailgates. It hosts year-round community events, including the annual Summer Sunset Concert Series, and is the main venue for the university’s annual Commencement ceremonies.

The Grove commemorative ornament is available for $25 in the Museum Store. Ornaments can be purchased in the store or by phone at 662-915-7073. Shipping within the continental U.S. is $7, and all shipped orders must be placed by Dec. 10 if needed by the holiday. All sales are final.

“Sales of the annual ornament provide much-needed support for the collection and programming we offer throughout the year,” Wallace said. “As always, we are blown away and appreciative of the support we receive from the Rebel faithful.” 

Collectible ornaments from previous years, which are still available, include the Old Skipwith House, Brandt Memory House, Ventress Hall, the Lafayette County Courthouse, Oxford City Hall, the Ole Miss Women’s Basketball Jersey, the Theora Hamblett House, Theora Hamblett’s “Christmas Trees,” the Walk of Champions, Oxford’s Double Decker Bus, the Herakles Neck Amphora and the Barlow’s Planetarium. Previous years’ ornaments are $20 each.

Museum members and Friends of the Museum get a 10 percent discount on all merchandise in the store. To become a member, visit http://museum.olemiss.edu/join-the-museum or stop by the museum.

The UM Museum is at the corner of University Avenue and Fifth Street. Holiday hours for the museum store are 8 a.m.-6 p.m. Mondays through Fridays and 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Saturdays.

Museum gallery visiting hours will remain the same, 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Tuesdays through Saturdays. To learn more about upcoming events, exhibits or how to support the museum, visit http://museum.olemiss.edu or call 662-915-7073.

Former Band Member’s Gift to Help Construct New Tower

Alumnus Sumner Spradling's leading effort; new facility to bear his name

UM band members and administrators gather to thank alumnus and former band member Sumner Spradling for his lead gift that will help begin construction of a new director’s tower. Pictured are (from left) Matt Louis, of Corinth; Ole Miss band director David Willson; Matt Smith, of Flowood; donors Risa and Sumner Spradling; Wil Stacy, of Southaven; Francena Sekul, of Biloxi; UM development officer Ron Wilson; Richard Springer, of Biloxi; and Max Warren, of Ocean Springs. Photo by Bill Dabney/UM Foundation

OXFORD, Miss. – A gift to the University of Mississippi is expected to help take the Ole Miss band program to a new level – literally.

Sumner Spradling, of Greensboro, North Carolina, has given $100,000 to establish the Band Director’s Tower Fund, an account designed to support the construction of a new director’s stand overlooking the practice field of the Pride of the South, the university’s acclaimed marching band.

“I hope the tower will enable the band director and staff to observe the marching band in a safe environment while also helping to move Ole Miss practice facilities into a competitive position,” said Spradling, a Clarksdale native who graduated from UM in 1975 with a bachelor’s degree in music education; he later earned a master’s degree in music education from the University of South Carolina.

Because of his lead gift, the tower will bear Spradling’s name.

“Sumner stood beside me in jazz band decades ago and is a great musician, composer and better person,” Ole Miss band director David Willson said. “He contacted me and asked what he could do to help the band. He offered to sponsor it and do more, wanting nothing in return but the good feeling it gave him to serve the institutional band that served him. 

“Now he is the leader in kicking off our field renovations, and we are very thankful for his generosity and leadership in this important campaign.”

Spradling chose to attend Ole Miss after meeting then-band director Luther Snavely.

“I loved the idea of becoming an Ole Miss Rebel and when I visited the campus, Dr. Snavely welcomed me and offered an attractive scholarship,” said Spradling, who played trumpet for the band. “Plus, Ole Miss had – and still has – a reputation for academic excellence and therefore was the best option among the in-state schools.”

During his time at Ole Miss, Spradling focused on earning top grades, often taking in excess of 20 hours a semester while also managing to practice, attend rehearsal, work part time in the music library and become active with a number of campus and honorary organizations, including Phi Mu Alpha, Kappa Kappa Psi and Phi Kappa Phi.

“The memories that stand out from my time at Ole Miss are not necessarily extraordinary; they are instead mostly of the simple pleasures,” said Spradling, elaborating, “… enjoying the beauty of the campus while walking to class, the activity and excitement of home games, making lifelong friends, eating pizza at Pasquale’s on the Oxford Square and, believe it or not, classes. I loved them!”

After graduating from Ole Miss and spending six years as a band director in Sumter, South Carolina, and at Southwest Baptist University in Bolivar, Missouri, Spradling returned to Mississippi to help with the family business. His father founded Infolab Inc. in Coahoma County, which became one of the nation’s largest regional medical-supply distribution centers, covering 22 states.

Upon his father’s death, Spradling became president, managing the company for three years until 2012, when Infolab merged with a larger company.

He always kept his interest in playing music.

“Through the years, I have continued to actively pursue opportunities in music, serving as interim minister of music in numerous churches and playing in various professional and community ensembles,” he said.

Spradling and his wife, Risa, have two adult sons, Jason and Carter, who live nearby with their families. He enjoys spending time with his grandchildren as well as farming, hunting, golfing and time at the beach.

He remains active in his church and serves as principal trumpet in one of the local symphonies. He also plays in a swing band in Danville, Virginia.

Up to $100,000 more is needed to fully cover the tower’s construction costs, said Ron Wilson, the band’s development officer.

The Sumner Spradling Band Director’s Tower Fund 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 http://www.umfoundation.com/makeagift.

For information on supporting the Pride of the South, contact Ron Wilson at 662-915-1755 or jrwilso3@olemiss.edu.