Pharmacy Professor Honored with Educational Innovation Award

Jamie Wagner praised for effort to improve focus and understanding in classroom settings

Jamie Wagner

OXFORD, Miss. – A University of Mississippi pharmacy professor received the 2017 Innovations in Continuing Pharmacy Education Award from the American Association of Colleges of Pharmacy at its annual meeting Sunday (July 16) in Nashville.

Jamie Wagner, a clinical assistant professor of pharmacy practice, was awarded for a continuing education activity she created that uses polling technology to help an audience retain information and remain engaged. The award honors an individual who develops and demonstrates an original technique to promote pharmacy-related learning.

Wagner’s activity, called “Use of audience response technology to improve participation, understanding and comprehension of content within a HIV pharmacotherapy CPE activity,” was selected by the AACP’s Section of Continuing Professional Development.

“This award helped give me confidence to continue striving for more innovative techniques in my teaching and presentations,” Wagner said.

The awards committee called the technique “a truly an innovative program with creative use of audience response software.”

“Dr. Wagner put forth great effort and care in the design and implementation of therapeutic content to meet the programmatic targets and intended audience,” said Seena Haines, chair of the Department of Pharmacy Practice at the UM School of Pharmacy. “This is a well-deserved honor.”

Team Effort Funds Improvements for Ole Miss Baseball

Bullpen Club makes major gift to upgrade Oxford-University Stadium

Ole Miss baseball players greet Rebel fans at Swayze Field. UM photo by Bill Dabney

OXFORD, Miss. – A ritual has emerged within Ole Miss baseball that compels the Rebels to pump their fists in unison to the beat of the 2007 hit song “Love is Gone.” Now, with a major gift, the sport’s fan base wants to show its players that the love is back.

The Ernie LaBarge Bullpen Club has committed $150,000 toward Oxford-University Stadium enhancements primarily designed to benefit the student-athletes.

“As a former player and coach, I’m happy to see these improvements being made on behalf of the players,” said Matt Mossberg, associate athletics director for development and major gifts. “Everyone knows the allure of Swayze Field, and the previous enhancements to the stadium have been crucial to that fan experience.

“Personally, I am extremely excited to help in the effort to improve the space our talented coaches and student-athletes work in every day.”

Thanks in part to the Bullpen Club’s gift, players will soon enjoy a state-of-the-art locker room and team meeting room, new hitting and pitching facilities, weight room enhancements and more. The gift will also help fund the M-Club Rooftop Plaza, which utilizes space on top of the performance center for additional seating.

“When I arrived here in the summer of 2000, one of the first people I met was Ernie LaBarge, the president of the Bullpen Club,” said Mike Bianco, head baseball coach. “I knew I wanted Ernie and the Bullpen Club to be an integral part of the program.

“Ernie built the club to over 1,000 members before his passing and then the club was named in his memory. The ELBC has continued to be instrumental in our growth as a program, helping supplement our budget.”

A longtime friend of the university and Rebel fan, LaBarge died in March 2008.

Members of the Ernie LaBarge Bullpen Club present the Ole Miss Athletics Foundation with a $150,000 gift to be used for stadium enhancements that will benefit student-athletes. Submitted photo

Of the Bullpen Club’s gift, $100,000 was donated as part of the $200 million Forward Together campaign, which was launched in 2011 to strengthen Ole Miss athletics in its continuous commitment to excellence. The additional $50,000 is committed to support other baseball projects within the athletics department.

These team-related stadium enhancements are possible because of private giving, said Keith Carter, senior associate athletics director for development and executive director of the Ole Miss Athletics Foundation. Previous stadium renovations, such as the addition of the Diamond Club, were made possible by revenue-generating components, such as the sale of premium seats.

“While there are some new premium seats in this renovation, philanthropy is key to this whole project,” Carter said. “We needed people to step up and the Bullpen Club once again did that. I believe our players will be very grateful.”

For more information about the Forward Together campaign, contact Carter at, call 662-915-7159 or visit For more information about the Ernie LaBarge Bullpen Club, click here.

Journalism Dean Tapped for Press Association Hall of Fame

Will Norton joins Carolyn Wilson for this year's class of inductees

Carolyn Wilson, former executive director of the Mississippi Press Association, and Will Norton Jr., UM journalism dean, show off their plaques after being inducted into the trade group’s Hall of Fame. Photo courtesy Mississippi Press Association

OXFORD, Miss. – Will Norton Jr., professor and dean of the Meek School of Journalism and New Media at the University of Mississippi, has been inducted into the Mississippi Press Association Hall of Fame.

Joining Norton on the list of those who have made lasting contributions to journalism is Carolyn Wilson, longtime chief executive of the state newspaper trade group.

Both were inducted Saturday (July 8) at the MPA convention in Biloxi.

Norton, who previously served on the faculty and as chair of the Department of Journalism at Ole Miss, returned to Mississippi in 2009 as inaugural dean of the Meek School. He holds a doctorate in mass communications from the University of Iowa and a master’s degree in journalism from Indiana University.

A partner in The South Reporter in Holly Springs, Norton was serving as dean of the College of Journalism and Mass Communications at the University of Nebraska at Lincoln when the innovative school was launched at Ole Miss.

Under his leadership, the school has experienced tremendous growth in enrollment and in scholarship dollars earned by its students.

He has been an active member of both MPA and the Nebraska Press Association, where he was inducted into the Journalism Hall of Fame in 2009.

Norton has been crucial in establishing newspaper “reporting expeditions” to member papers. Funded by the MPA Education Foundation, the trips allow teams of journalism majors to work over the course of several days on assignment for member newspapers.

“Will is a tremendous advocate for excellence in both the curriculum and practice of journalism,” said Layne Bruce, MPA executive director. “He also has been invaluable in strengthening the relationship between Ole Miss and our member newspapers.”

Wilson, who lives in Sandy Hook, served as MPA executive director for 22 years and was one of only two employees when she joined the staff in 1982. She was promoted to executive director in 1985.

Under her leadership, the organization grew to a peak of a dozen employees and handled more than $5 million in advertising placements for its member papers through its business subsidiary, Mississippi Press Services.

An Arkansas native, Wilson worked on behalf of newspaper members on such cornerstone issues as open records and sunshine laws, as well as internships for journalism students and continuing education for member employees. She was also a key player in the purchase of two headquarters locations for MPA in 1987 and 2002.

She retired in 2007 but continued to consult with MPA on contract through 2009.

“Those years of Carolyn’s hard work, along with the leadership of board members through the decades, has ensured MPA continues to be in a strong position to serve its members during an age of rapid change in our industry,” Bruce said. “She certainly deserves this honor, and we couldn’t be happier for her.”

The Hall of Fame was created in 1986. Inductees are chosen by a committee of previous honorees and past presidents of the association.

UM and Jackson State Partner to Further Pharmacy Education

Preferred Admission Program offers JSU students spots in professional program

The UM School of Pharmacy is partnering with Jackson State University to offer qualified JSU students admission to the pharmacy school. Photo by Robert Jordan/Ole Miss Communications

OXFORD, Miss. ­­­– In an effort to provide more opportunities for aspiring pharmacists, the University of Mississippi School of Pharmacy and Jackson State University have collaborated to create the Preferred Admission Program, which offers qualified JSU students admission to the UM pharmacy school.

“We saw a need to allow students around the state to complete their pre-pharmacy requirements closer to home, and in some cases, at a lower cost,” said David Gregory, associate dean for academic affairs at the School of Pharmacy. “Additionally, we are both hoping to enhance the number of students in our applicant pool.”

As per the agreement, JSU students who perform well in pre-pharmacy coursework and are involved in service activities may be admitted to the School of Pharmacy after the first semester of their freshman year. The program is set to begin this fall, with the first JSU applicants coming to the Ole Miss campus in 2019 to begin work on their Pharm.D.

Pre-health professions students from Jackson State University visit the UM School of Pharmacy earlier this year for a tour of campus and to work on a compounding activity. Photo by Chelsea Bennett

“We are elated that our bright and dedicated students have an opportunity to engage in such a prestigious program,” said Richard A. Aló, dean of the JSU College of Science, Engineering and Technology. “We look forward to witnessing the impact this partnership will have on their lives and the field of public health.”

Students admitted via the Preferred Admission Program will be on the School of Pharmacy’s standard graduation track and will be held to the pharmacy school’s academic and service expectations. The school will maintain its class size of 115 students in each of its four Pharm.D. years.

Kandis Backus

The partnership is “aligned with the university’s priorities of excellence, as well as with our mission,” UM Chancellor Jeffrey Vitter said.

“This expanded access to professional pharmacy education is an important step toward promoting STEM education and impacting the lives, health and well-being of Mississippians.”

Kandis Backus attended JSU as an undergrad and received her Pharm.D. at UM in 2017. During one of Gregory’s visits to JSU, she came along to share her experience at Ole Miss with JSU pre-pharmacy students.

“The tireless pursuit of students’ dreams is common to both schools,” Backus said. “Ole Miss wants students to succeed, and they work to help students graduate.”

This partnership comes in the midst of a statewide pharmacist shortage, which contributes to a stable job market for those graduating with Doctor of Pharmacy degrees. Mississippi has the third-highest shortage of pharmacists in the nation, according to the most recent data from the Pharmacist Demand Indicator.

“We are committed to doing all we can to make sure bright and compassionate students have the opportunity to contribute to the health care landscape,” said David D. Allen, dean of the School of Pharmacy. “This partnership is a step toward ensuring the future of our essential profession.”

UMMC Chief’s Clout Extends to Nation’s, Canada’s Medical Schools

Dr. LouAnn Woodward start one-year term as chair of accrediting body

Dr. LouAnn Woodward

JACKSON, Miss. – Dr. LouAnn Woodward, University of Mississippi vice chancellor for health affairs and dean of the School of Medicine at the UM Medical Center, will help set the course for medical education in this country and beyond as chair of a powerful accrediting body.

For a one-year term that begins July 1, Woodward chairs the Liaison Committee on Medical Education, which sets standards for U.S.- and Canadian-chartered medical education programs run by universities or medical schools.

Having led UMMC since March 1, 2015, Woodward served simultaneously as chair-elect of the LCME for a year after being confirmed unanimously by its board.

Since 2013, she has worked on the executive committee and as chair of the subcommittee on International Relations for the LCME, which is sponsored by the Association of American Medical Colleges and the American Medical Association.

“I am honored to serve at a time when overall national changes to heath care and health care delivery are in full swing,” Woodward said. “We want to try and mitigate the impact on medical education and on students.”

As the head of the nation’s authoritative accrediting body, she will help set the tone for medical education during a critical time for health care in this country.

“There are a few things we always worry about,” Woodward said. “Right now, student debt load is becoming a concern as schools become more financially strained and they look to students to help cover those shortfalls; we want to protect against that as much as we can.

“Also, we continue to pay attention to the way students interface with electronic health records; it’s a balance between training them on the use of EHRs and keeping the EHR from distracting from their learning and clinical experiences.”

During the previous 12 months, when Woodward served as LCME’s chair-elect, about a dozen medical schools were added to the AAMC’s membership, for a total of 147 accredited U.S. schools. Also on its rolls are around 400 major teaching hospitals and health systems, including 51 Department of Veterans Affairs medical centers, and more than 80 academic societies.

Another 17 M.D. programs in Canada are accredited by the LCME in cooperation with the Committee on Accreditation of Canadian Medical Schools, on which Woodward will serve as a voting member.

Since 2002, first-year enrollment at the U.S. schools has ballooned by 28 percent, the AAMC reports, for a total of 21,030 students for 2016-17; 22 schools have been created and accredited since that year.

“While I am chair, I’ll still be functioning as a member of the LCME, doing site visits and reviews, but also as chair, organizing and helping determine the direction of meetings,” Woodward said.

“I believe my role as chair, beyond all of that, is to help guide the LCME in shaping the strategic direction of medical education, making sure it is relevant and continues to realize positive changes.”

Most state boards of licensure require that medical schools earn LCME accreditation, indicating that they meet national standards for the awarding of a medical degree.

Accreditation usually occurs every eight years and covers standards in these areas: institutional setting, educational programs for the M.D., medical students, faculty and educational resources.

An institution must be accredited by the LCME in order to receive federal grants for medical education and participate in federal loan programs.

“As vice chancellor for health affairs, Dr. Woodward is ideally suited to lead the LCME as it adapts to meet many challenges,” said LCME board member Dr. Roger Hadley, dean of the Loma Linda University School of Medicine in California and executive vice president for medical affairs and chief medical officer for Loma Linda University Health.

“Economic demands and unprecedented advancements in technology will force many changes in the role of medical doctors.”

A native of Carroll County, Woodward is also a professor of emergency medicine. She earned her undergraduate degree from Mississippi State University and, in 1991, her M.D. at the UM School of Medicine in Jackson, where she also completed her residency training.

Dr. John Fogarty, who served as LCME chair for the 2015-2016 academic year, said that in the four years since Woodward was selected to be a member of the organization, “she has been a tireless contributor and dedicated professional.

“Dr. Woodward is a highly knowledgeable and experienced LCME member, and it was a delight to work with her,” said Fogarty, dean of the Florida State University College of Medicine in Tallahassee, who just completed six years on the LCME.

“I am confident that the LCME is in great hands under Dr. Woodward’s excellent leadership.”

UM Promotes Leaders in Development

Hollis, Davis and Beyers assume chief fundraising, strategic planning roles

Nikki Neely Davis (left), Denson Hollis and Lauren Beyers have been promoted to senior-level leadership positions in the Office of Development, the unit charged with securing private gifts to support the academic community. UM photo by Bill Dabney

OXFORD, Miss. – Three experienced fundraising and strategic planning professionals in the University of Mississippi Office of Development have been promoted to new leadership positions and charged with attracting private gifts to support academic excellence.

Denson Hollis and Nikki Neely Davis, who were previously senior development officers for the College of Liberal Arts, have been named development directors. Both will work closely with Chancellor Jeffrey Vitter and supervise development officers assigned to schools across campus and to the College of Liberal Arts.

Lauren Beyers, prospect research manager, is the new philanthropy services director, overseeing several Office of Development units and support personnel.

“It is crucial that our flagship university be supported by a high-performing fundraising team with the talent to build enduring relationships with Ole Miss alumni and friends and to encourage investments in academics,” Vitter said.

“Denson, Nikki and Lauren are steadfast in their efforts to attract major gifts at a time when UM must generate almost 90 percent of its operating revenue from sources other than state funding. They will help take our university to higher levels of excellence. We are grateful for these talented professionals, as well as for our extremely generous and loyal donors.”

The Office of Development is responsible for encouraging active participation by alumni, parents, friends, corporations and foundations, and matching their interests and passions with university needs, including resources for scholarships, faculty, academic programs, research and libraries.

Efforts from this department, combined with those of the UM Foundation, UM Medical Center Development and the Ole Miss Athletics Foundation, resulted in $194.3 million in private gifts during fiscal year 2016, the fifth consecutive year private giving exceeded $100 million.

Just months after his tenure began, Vitter charged Alice Clark, vice chancellor for university relations, and Robin Buchannon, associate vice chancellor, with a review of the development office’s structure. That work began in March 2016 and has culminated with these promotions, as well as a national search for the first-ever vice chancellor for development – a search that is ongoing, with Clark leading the search committee chair.

“Our oversight of development included evaluating organizational structures of peer institutions, working with an independent consultant and reviewing previous recommendations for our development office offered by a consultant that studied our capital campaign readiness,” Buchannon said. “We feel we have implemented a structure that will better support our successful fundraising team and allow for future growth opportunities.

“From the outset, Denson, Nikki and Lauren were recognized as strong directors who consistently developed new strategies and built both internal and external relationships to propel the university forward.”

Hollis and Davis, who were called upon to work closely and travel with Vitter more than a year ago on an interim basis, will continue this senior-level work as development directors. The two have been serving as development officers for the College of Liberal Arts, helping strengthen all the programs and centers under the CLA umbrella.

They will continue to supervise all development officers for the college and schools across the Oxford campus, as well as development officers who work with family and parent leadership and with corporations and foundations.

Hollis joined the development office eight years ago and has since received promotions that reflect his proven success in securing major gifts and building enduring relationships with UM alumni and friends. He holds a bachelor’s degree in political science from Ole Miss and a master’s degree in sports management from Georgia Southern University.

Davis joined the development office five years ago and, likewise, has earned promotions based on her performance with and vision for fundraising. She was previously with Emory University as associate director of foundation and corporate relations. She holds a bachelor’s degree in art and a master’s degree in journalism, both from Ole Miss.

As philanthropy services director, Beyers is part of the senior leadership team that will establish and implement the vision, mission and goals of development and philanthropy services. She will direct and manage the priorities of staff members within the areas of prospect research, annual giving, communications, Ole Miss First, Ole Miss Women’s Council, and operations and fiscal functions.

An 11-year employee, Beyers has served as the director of prospect management and research since 2008 and was a prospect research analyst for the previous two years.

She is responsible for innovative approaches to implementing analytical solutions; creating systems, reports and performance metrics; building an employee training program; and establishing policy for major gifts and annual giving. Her work with prospect management and research includes integrating analytics and tools to improve decisionmaking and work-flow efficiencies, delivering greater insights with data and supporting strategic thinking across the development team.

In 2000, Beyers earned an undergraduate degree in managerial finance from the UM School of Business Administration. She then developed expertise as an analyst in the energy sector of Houston, Texas, before joining the UM staff in 2006.

Librarian Leaves Impressive Legacy at University

Gift provides access to vast database of government documents

Veteran librarian Laura Harper has established a Government Publications Fund to give Ole Miss students access to a broader scope of information. UM photo by Bill Dabney

OXFORD, Miss. – Veteran University of Mississippi librarian Laura Harper may have left campus, but her legacy remains in the form of a treasure trove of information older than the Titanic and far below the surface of Google.

Harper recently retired after 45 years at the J.D. Williams Library, but she continues to have such a strong desire for students to be able to access government information that she personally paid for subscriptions to databases that contain such documents as the unpublished transcripts of congressional hearings dating back to 1824, congressional research from 1830 forward and interactive, digital maps of Mississippi as early as 1867 through 1970.

“Laura’s gift will provide added depth to our already extensive collection of government information,” said Ashley Dees, research and instruction librarian and longtime co-worker of Harper’s. “Her gift highlights Laura’s longstanding commitment to providing students and the UM community with access to government information.”

The recent database subscriptions plus her previous financial support for the library’s Information Commons, Art Store, STUDIOone and Friends of the Library bring Harper’s total giving to Ole Miss to more than $150,000.

Harper takes her gift in stride.

“I thought, ‘Why not?'” she said – modest words for this “extraordinary librarian” known for her “helpfulness and her ability to find anything you’re looking for,” according to letters from colleagues who recommended Harper for the prestigious 2011 Bernadine Abbott Hoduski Founders Award, which she won.

The American Library Association’s award recognizes librarians who may not be known at the national level but have made significant contributions to the field of government documents. Other recommendations describe Harper’s work as “second to none” and laud her knowledge as “extensive.”

Those comments are all true, said Cecilia Botero, library dean.

“From my perspective, Laura’s gift to the university is the manifestation of her deep devotion to promoting access to government information and her desire to ensure that the UM community and the people of the state of Mississippi are offered the best opportunity to make use of that wealth of information,” Botero said.

So what’s available? Oliver North, Iran-Contra, the different impeachment investigations, Watergate, Supreme Court nomination hearings, and the Lincoln, Kennedy and McKinley assassinations, just for starters.

“Even the documentary, day-by-day, most detailed history and correspondence of the Civil War is there in full text,” Harper said. “All of the words in the reports are searchable – people, places, battles.

“By searching the text of hearings in the early 1950s, for instance, you can trace the rise of McCarthyism … and its fall in 1954 during the historic, 36-day live telecast of the Army McCarthy hearings, when the senator was asked by lawyer Joseph Welch, ‘Have you no sense of decency, sir, at long last?’ You can also type in the names of witnesses such as Lillian Hellman, Dashiell Hammett or Will Geer to read their testimony in earlier investigations of communism in Hollywood.”

Students researching these and other topics may be tempted to turn first to Google, but they’ll be hard pressed to find the most in-depth information, Harper said.

“Government documents are by their nature a sort of difficult area, requiring a little more effort to try to research them,” she said. “You need to invest some time and get people to help you.

“I would hope that students who graduate from Ole Miss would learn to value the library and the librarians for their expertise as professionals, and that they realize they can do a better paper and learn to do their research in a more sophisticated manner if they will go and talk to a librarian.”

Harper witnessed thousands of students succeed in her tenure at Ole Miss, which included 17 years in the Reference Department, 11 library directors/deans and six chancellors.

“When a faculty member chooses to make a financial gift to the university, it speaks volumes about their commitment to the meaningful work that we do and the endearing qualities of this institution,” said Noel Wilkin, interim provost and executive vice chancellor. “For more than four decades, Laura Harper was committed to helping our students broaden their educational opportunities.

“Now, through her gift, she will continue to reach generations of students as they work to realize their educational goals through study and research. For her time and for her generous contributions, we are very grateful.”

After earning her undergraduate and master’s degrees from Louisiana State University, Harper’s first professional job as a librarian was in the public library in her hometown of Monroe, Louisiana. Then, she and her late husband moved to Oxford.

“A newlywed, I thought I would work here only two years or so and we would move on after my husband finished his doctorate,” she said. “But we stayed here when he got a job at Blue Mountain College. Later, after his death, I had the opportunity to become a department head, when the legendary Annie Mills retired as head of Government Publications.”

As the regional depository for Mississippi, Government Documents provides guidance to smaller depositories and serves the entire state. The library’s catalog provides access to almost a million volumes of government publications, 40 percent of which are available in full text online.

Before retiring, Harper moved to Technical Services, where she managed processing and cataloging of documents, as well as answered reference referrals.

“It has been a privilege to have been part of the library and the Ole Miss family for so many years,” Harper said. “I will miss being a part of the next chapter in the library’s history but hope to watch from the sidelines as a member of the Friends of the Library board.”

The Laura G. Harper Government Publications Fund is open to receive gifts from individuals and organizations; mail a check with the name of the fund noted in the memo line to the University of Mississippi Foundation, 406 University Ave., Oxford, MS 38655 or visit online at For more information, contact Angela Barlow Brown, development officer for the J.D. Williams Library, at or 662-915-3181.

School of Business Administration to Receive Global Recognition

Risk Management and Insurance program earns international designation for excellence

Chancellor Jeffrey Vitter (left) and finance professor Andre Liebenberg (right) greet Bill Bryson, a member of the UM insurance program’s first graduating class. Photo by Kevin Bain/Ole Miss Communications

OXFORD, Miss – The School of Business Administration at the University of Mississippi will be awarded the Global Centers of Insurance Excellence designation this summer at the International Insurance Society’s forum in London.

The school’s Risk Management and Insurance program is among only 12 programs in the U.S., and 20 worldwide, to receive the designation.

“We are proud to be awarded this designation that requires a strong institutional commitment to risk and insurance education and rewards excellence in student placement and industry engagement,” said Andre Liebenberg, the Gwenette P. and Jack W. Robertson Chair of Insurance and associate professor of finance.

“This designation requires that an RMI program is staffed by highly qualified faculty and that its graduates are hired in the insurance industry. Our ability to meet these requirements is due to the commitment and support of our administration, advisory board, employers, donors, and sustaining sponsors.”

The Global Centers of Insurance Excellence, or GCIE, certification program recognizes universities and colleges with outstanding Risk Management and Insurance programs.

“I am hopeful this certification will facilitate our efforts to further grow our RMI career fairs and insurance symposium, and also to attract funding for a new faculty position,” Liebenberg said.

The aim of the designation is to encourage universities to play an integral role in advancing insurance education, to enhance industry research and intellectual development, and to build connections between the insurance industry and top-tier academic programs and faculty.

We are proud of this well-deserved recognition of our RMI program,” said Ken Cyree, UM business dean. “This award is a testament to the hard work of the faculty, staff and advisory board that helps prepare our students for success.”

GCIE designees will be announced before a global insurance audience of 500 senior executives, academics and policymakers at the IIS Global Insurance Forum taking place July 17-20 in London.

“The Ole Miss RMI program is honored to receive the prestigious GCIE designation from the IIS,” said Stephen Fier, the Liberto-King professor of insurance and associate professor of finance. “As one of the oldest and largest RMI programs in the nation, we have maintained a longstanding commitment to high-quality risk management education, and this designation serves as further evidence of those efforts.

“We take great pride in our program, our students and alumni, and our relationships with employers and other industry leaders. We believe this recognition reflects our continued emphasis on academic and professional excellence.”

The UM School of Business Administration was established in 1917 and the insurance major was introduced in 1947. The RMI program consistently ranks among the 10 largest in the nation, its faculty has received multiple teaching and research awards, and the majority of students are placed in the insurance industry.

For more information on programs in the School of Business Administration, go to

UM Law School Mourns Loss of Professor George Cochran

Services set for Friday at Waller Funeral Home

George Colvin Cochran

OXFORD, Miss. – George Colvin Cochran, a 45-year law professor at the University of Mississippi, died Monday (June 19) at the age of 80 from complications of melanoma.

An educator and civil rights scholar, Cochran leaves a singular, enduring legacy with the School of Law and a half-century’s worth of its graduates.

“It is hard to imagine the law school without George Cochran,” said Debbie Bell, the school’s interim dean. “His students remember him for his intense, challenging classes and his amazing memory of materials and cases.

“Over the years, he was quietly generous to students in need, a fact a number of our graduates have mentioned to me in the last two years.”

Visitation is scheduled for 5 to 7 p.m. Thursday (June 22) in West Hall at Waller Funeral Home in Oxford, and services will be at 11 a.m. Friday (June 23), also at Waller Funeral Home. In honor of Cochran’s service to our country, the flag of the U.S. Army will be flown.

A campus memorial service and celebration will be planned later.

Cochran was born Dec. 1, 1936 in Maysville, Kentucky. He graduated from Cranbrook School in Michigan and from North Carolina State, where he studied textile engineering, played football and was active in student politics.

In his early 20s, Cochran worked briefly for his family’s Kentucky textile mill before serving two years as a second lieutenant in the U.S. Army Airborne infantry at Fort Benning, Georgia.

Cochran graduated first in his class from the University of North Carolina Law School and served as editor-in-chief of the law review. He was inducted into the Order of the Coif, the premier legal honor society.

He clerked for U.S. Supreme Court justices Stanley Reed and Earl Warren, including service on the President’s Commission on the Assassination of President Kennedy.

Cochran practiced law with Steptoe and Johnson between 1966 and1968. That year, he and his wife, Nancy Newbold Cochran, welcomed his only child, daughter Reed. Though he and Nancy ultimately divorced, Cochran considered her to be his greatest love and their daughter to be his crowning accomplishment.

Cochran worked as director of the Duke Center on Law and Poverty from 1968 to ’72, when he accepted a faculty position at the UM School of Law. Here, he found his true calling as educator and scholar.

Cochran arrived in Oxford while Mississippi was still resisting the outcomes of Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka, the Legislature having expelled faculty members who supported the Supreme Court decision.

As one writer has observed, “Professor Cochran joined the law faculty at a turning point. From early in his career, he played an important role in transforming the law school from a parochial institution into a nationally respected” law school.

He taught constitutional law, federal jurisdiction, Supreme Court practice and related seminars. For 19 years, he also taught during summers at Fordham Law School in New York.

Also in New York, he collaborated with the Center for Constitutional Rights, considering one of its founders, Morton Stavis, to be among his greatest friends and mentors.

Altogether, Cochran was attorney of record in 17 constitutional law cases. He and his good friend Wilbur Colom successfully challenged single-sex education at Mississippi public universities in the U.S. Supreme Court.

Cochran was also one of the nation’s leading experts opposing punitive actions against public interest attorneys. And he was instrumental in establishing the Mississippi Innocence Project, which was renamed the George C. Cochran Innocence Project by unanimous vote of the faculty in 2015.

To his students, Cochran was best known for his spirited and provocative lectures on constitutional law, civil liberties and, especially, free speech. Former Mississippi Supreme Court Justice Oliver Diaz, one of his students, wrote, “He offended liberals and conservatives alike. He taught us that the price for living in a free society is that we will be offended. Get over it. This is what democracy does. We can’t be frightened by speech.”

While the professor was notorious for his gruff demeanor and salty language, Cochran’s students never doubted his devotion. He continued teaching after retirement, through this spring. Indeed, he was in the classroom only a few weeks before his passing.

Cochran’s favorite hobby was sailing. He and Nancy owned “Young Tiger” in the early years of their marriage on the Chesapeake Bay. Later, he and Colom would sail “Misty” to Cuba, by legal invitation, with their daughters Reed and Niani among the crew.

Cochran is survived by his daughter, Reed Cochran; his sister, Frances Cochran Sanders; niece, Ann Sanders Anderson-Behrend; and nephews William Henley Sanders, John Poyntz Cochran and William Duffield Cochran IV.

In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to the University of Mississippi Foundation, 406 University Ave., Oxford, MS 38655, designated for the George C. Cochran Scholarship in Law Endowment or to the George Cochran Innocence Project.

Saturday Governor’s Concert Returns Indoors

OXFORD, Miss. – Due to the threat of inclement weather from Tropical Storm Cindy, the Governor’s Concert on Saturday (June 24) at the Mississippi Bicentennial Celebration North will return to its original location, the Gertrude C. Ford Center for the Performing Arts at the University of Mississippi.

“Safety is our priority,” Gov. Phil Bryant said. “The decision to move the concert indoors to the Ford Center will allow us to celebrate Mississippi’s bicentennial in north Mississippi as planned, despite the rainy forecast.”

Tickets originally issued for the Bicentennial Celebration North Governor’s Concert will not be valid at Saturday’s event. Through email notification, original ticket holders have a 24-hour advance window to claim new tickets, from noon today to noon Thursday. After that window, any remaining tickets will be available free to the general public through

Doors at the Ford Center open at 6 p.m. Saturday, and the Governor’s Concert begins at 6:30 p.m.

Country and Americana legend Marty Stuart will headline the concert, appearing along with hit singer-songwriter Mac McAnally, Mississippi’s Music and Culture Ambassador Steve Azar and Shannon McNally.

“We Are Mississippi,” a salute to the state’s musical heritage conducted by Jay Dean, executive director of the Arts Institute of Mississippi, will lead off the festivities. The showcase includes Vasti Jackson, the Roots Gospel Voices of Mississippi, 2015 Ultimate Elvis Tribute Contest winner David Lee, the Mississippi Bicentennial Symphony Orchestra and the Mississippi Bicentennial Singers.

Other events during the Bicentennial Celebration North are also affected by the expected weather.

The “Thacker Mountain Radio” show’s live taping at 7 p.m. Friday (June 23) will move to the Lyric Theater, with seats available on a first-come, first-served basis, followed by the Mississippi Soul Singer Tribute Concert with Damein Wash.

Events scheduled for Sunday (June 25) in the Grove are cancelled, but Blackwater Trio will perform at 5 p.m. at the Powerhouse Community Arts Center in Oxford, with food trucks on site.

Mississippi Bicentennial Celebration events also are planned for Dec. 9 in Jackson during the grand opening of the Museum of Mississippi History and the Mississippi Civil Rights Museum.