Chemistry Professor Lands National Science Foundation CAREER Award

Davita Watkins is department's fifth honoree and university's first African-American winner

Davita Watkins (right), assistant professor of chemistry and biochemistry, works with students Briana Simms and Duong Ngo in her lab in Coulter Hall. Photo by Thomas Graning/Ole Miss Communications

OXFORD, Miss. – A University of Mississippi faculty member has won a prestigious National Science Foundation Career Award for her functional materials research.

Davita L. Watkins, assistant professor of chemistry and biochemistry, has received the grant to investigate the role of sigma-hole interactions in advanced functional materials that she develops in her laboratory. The five-year award is for approximately $500,000.

Watkins is the university’s fifth chemistry professor – and first female chemistry professor – selected as an NSF CAREER awardee, and the eighth NSF CAREER awardee in any discipline over the past decade from Ole Miss. She is also the first African-American to win this prestigious award at the university.

“Even now, it still feels surreal,” Watkins said. “The wonderful part about being a scientist and research professor is seeing your thoughts and ideas come to life.

“It’s encouraging and thrilling to know that the scientific community acknowledges the challenge that we are willing to face as scholars and values both the commitment and the work we are doing.”

Previous CAREER awardees from the UM chemistry department are Andrew Cooksy (1995), Nathan Hammer (2010), Amal Dass (2013) and Jared Delcamp (2015).

“I have some amazing and supportive colleagues, so it’s wonderful to know that I am in good company,” Watkins said. “I acknowledge the strides that women and underrepresented minorities are making in STEM.

“In review of the STEM workforce, minority women comprise fewer than one in 10 employed scientists and engineers. In turn, I do not take receiving the award lightly because I know that it transcends beyond me.”

CAREER Awards are among the most prestigious made by the National Science Foundation and are extremely competitive.

“We are so proud of Dr. Watkins for this accomplishment and look forward to the great science this award will enable,” said Josh Gladden, interim vice chancellor of research and sponsored programs. “The chemistry department has shown strong leadership in successful CAREER awards. We look forward to even more success across the university in this important NSF program in the coming years.”

The department has a long tradition of identifying and hiring outstanding teacher-scholars, said Charles Hussey, associate dean for research and graduate education and professor of chemistry.

“Even with this success, we could not have anticipated that we might find someone as extraordinarily talented as Professor Davita Watkins,” Hussey said. “Not only is she an outstanding person and emerging scholar, she is a gifted instructor too.

Davita Watkins is the university’s fifth chemistry professor – and first female chemistry professor – to win a National Science Foundation Career Award for her work. Photo by Thomas Graning/Ole Miss Communications

“Professor Watkins does research in synthetic organic chemistry, which is one of the most difficult areas of the field of chemistry. This grant award will guarantee that she has the resources and support she needs to fully launch her career.”

Watkins’ research explores the operational efficiency of functional materials – ranging from solar-harvesting polymers to nano-sized therapeutic drug-delivery systems. Efficiency depends upon two factors: the nature of the constituting components – in this case, molecules – and the arrangement of those molecules to yield a useful overall composition.

“The ability to control these molecules and understand their organization into discrete nanoscale arrays that exhibit unique properties affords transformative advances in chemistry and material science,” Watkins said.

“The research focus of this CAREER plan is to establish guidelines towards developing molecules that absorb natural energy and produce/conduct electrical current. These molecules are unique in that they are programmed to self-organize and form structures that enhance those light-harvesting properties.”

The new knowledge gained from this research will lead to the development of more efficient organic-based materials and devices, thereby advancing the pursuit of technological applications, such as electronic devices and biomedical implants.

Watkins plans to collaborate with researchers at both Ole Miss and elsewhere in her research.

“Within the chemistry department, our research programs tend to overlap and we all work together on various projects,” she said. “My primary collaborators are Dr. Nathan Hammer (UM spectroscopist), Dr. Gregory Tschumper (UM computational/theoretical chemist) and Dr. Arnold Rheingold (crystallographer at the University of California at San Diego).”

Additionally, the project affords opportunities to train the next generation of scientists and engineers.

“Specifically, outreach initiatives are aimed toward increasing the number of females and minorities in chemistry-related fields by immersing rising high school seniors into a summer research program called Operation I Can Be,” said Tschumper, chair and professor of chemistry and biochemistry. “The program ensures continuation in scientific career fields by establishing networks and mentorship across disciplines; in turn, diversifying the future of the scientific workforce and culture.”

Watkins acknowledged her position as a role model for future scientists of color.

“Even thinking about it now, it’s overwhelming,” she said. “I hope to inspire my young scholars to chase after the science that excites them and always thank those who paved the way for them to do so.”

The NSF CAREER Award is funded under grant number 1652094.

For more information about the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry, visit http://chemistry.olemiss.edu/.

UM Family Remembers Jeanette Phillips for Courage, Service

Longtime administrator forged career of teaching and upgrading nutrition programs

Jeanette Phillips. Photo courtesy of The Oxford Eagle

OXFORD, Miss. – Fearless. Gracious. Principled. Kind. A pioneer. Charming, with “a backbone of forged steel.”

There is no shortage of flattering terms used when people remember Jeanette Phillips, former professor and chair of the University of Mississippi’s Department of Nutrition and Hospitality Management. Phillips, 85, died June 13.

A native of Kewanee, just east of Meridian, Phillips earned a bachelor’s degree from Blue Mountain College in 1953, a master’s degree in home economics from UM in 1954 and a doctorate in 1973. She spent decades teaching at Ole Miss and served as department chair, but was also one of the most respected child nutritionists in the country and successfully brought the National Food Service Management Institute (now the Institute of Child Nutrition) to the university in the early 1990s.

She mentored thousands of students and many faculty members during her time on campus. Kathy Knight, associate professor of nutrition and hospitality management who joined the faculty in 1985, is one of those who learned so much from Phillips.

“She really helped me as a young faculty member,” Knight said. “When I got here, I was green as grass and didn’t know anything. She showed me how to be a professional young woman when, back then, there weren’t very many role models for us.”

With her calming influence, Phillips served as a mentor, adviser and confidant to both teachers and students, Knight said.

“I just don’t know anyone who went into her office and didn’t come out feeling better,” Knight said.

Phillips caring nature and calm demeanor didn’t ever prevent her from taking a stand for what she thought was right. Home economics programs faced elimination in the 1980s, but Phillips, who was then chair, made students aware the program was in peril. They began protests that ultimately saved it.

She went to Jackson to advocate on behalf of keeping home economics at Ole Miss and never wavered in her conviction that it was important.

“She had a backbone of forged steel,” Knight said. “She saved our department.”

Phillips began her teaching career in 1954 at Hurricane High School in Pontotoc County and went from there to University High School in Oxford. After three years, she became a member of the home economics faculty at Ole Miss, teaching family life, nutrition and marriage-focused courses.

Her life’s work was teaching and upgrading nutrition programs throughout the state and nation.

Phillips won many awards, including the university’s Outstanding Teacher Award, the School of Education’s Outstanding Teacher Award, Magnolia Award, Mississippi Dietetics Award for Outstanding Contribution to the Profession of Nutrition and the Leston L. Love Award for Outstanding Service in the Area of Students and Mortar Board, among others.

She was a member of Omicron Delta Kappa, an honorary fraternity that honors excellence in scholarship, leadership and service at the university.

Jim Payne, dean of the School of Education in the 1980s, was among Phillips’ friends and colleagues. At that time, home economics was part of the school, and Phillips was chair.

“She was so impressive in person and kind and soft-spoken, but you didn’t have to be around her long to know she was principled,” Payne said. “I saw her as a real pioneer, and she was always exploring uncharted waters.”

Payne, who had never been a dean before coming to Ole Miss, remembers there not being enough money in the budget for phones; all the lines were cut off except one at the secretary’s desk that the entire department had to use. Buildings weren’t being heating and cooled. There were hiring freezes. The roof leaked and there was no money to fix it. The department even ran out of paper.

Phillips knew of creative ways to get resources for her program when the state budget situation was dire, he said. The program not only continued, but flourished under her leadership.

“She made me look better,” Payne said.

Payne, who had been in the restaurant business before he getting into higher education, noticed the cafeteria that home economics operated had no walk-in cooler, which is essential for any restaurant. He and Phillips decided to have a telethon to raise the money for a cooler, which cost around $50,000.

When it came, Phillips knew exactly how to celebrate its arrival.

“Jeanette had me come over there, and me and (the home economics faculty) got in the cooler,” Payne said. “It was about the size of a large closet, and we walked in and all had champagne.

“We just celebrated in that cooler. I will never forget that moment.”

Upon learning the U.S. Department of Agriculture was hoping to establish an institute for child nutrition professionals, Phillips led the charge to have it established at UM. Her efforts, along with the help of others on campus, led to the National Food Service Management Institute being located here.

At first, the center had no building, but after getting it located here, she secured funds for the building and other needs. The street that passes in front of it is named for Phillips.

Charlotte Oakley, who helped Phillips with efforts to land the center, also served as its director later. Phillips taught Oakley and served on her graduate committee. They became friends and colleagues, and Phillips was her professional mentor for more than 50 years.

Oakley said part of what made her so adept at being an administrator is that she made everyone around her feel like they mattered. 

“She always magically seemed to have time for everyone,” Oakley said. “She never looked at her watch when you were with her. She just had the ability to draw you in and make you feel important to her.

“She had a real gift for engaging other people and getting you interested in something that is bigger and better than just the day-to-day things.”

Besides her storied academic career, Phillips was the first woman to serve on the board of directors for the Oxford-Lafayette Chamber of Commerce in 1974-77. She and her husband, Jesse Phillips, also owned and operated Jeannie’s Hallmark Shoppe and Rebel Press Office Supply Co. for decades.

She was an active member of First Baptist Church of Oxford from 1954 until her death.

“I don’t think there is any question Dr. Phillips was a gracious Southern lady of faith,” Oakley said. “She had the most amazing ability to balance life.

“She had family. She always put God first, her family second and her job third. I could talk about her all day. She is just greatly missed.”

Her survivors include two sons, Andy Phillips and Tim Phillips and his wife, Terri, both of Oxford, six grandchildren and two great grandchildren. Her husband of 60 years, Jessie P. Phillips, and a son, Dan Phillips, preceded her in death.

In lieu of flowers, the family requests that donations be made to the Daniel M. Phillips Memorial Scholarship at University of Mississippi Foundation, 406 University Avenue, Oxford, MS 38655.

UM Multidisciplinary Degree Adds New Counselor

Audra Trnovec helping students navigate career path in new position

Audra Trnovec , new academic counselor in the UM Bachelor of General Studies program, works with Serenity Jones, a student in the program, on her schedule. UM photo by Larry Agostinelli

OXFORD, Miss.­­­ – When she first started college, Audra Trnovec thought she wanted to be a cruise director like Julie McCoy on the ’70s television show “The Love Boat.” Although her career journey never took her out to sea, Trnovec’s path has had a few twists and turns.

The new academic counselor in the University of Mississippi’s expanding Bachelor of General Studies program, Trnovec ran outdoor adventure programs with two different universities for more than 20 years before making a change that would allow her to continue guiding students into unknown territory. The difference is that this journey winds up at their future careers.

“I like a challenge,” Trnovec said. “I guess that’s why I like my job. It’s similar to leading people in a ropes course. I’m helping students navigate academic and career decisions.

“It’s very rewarding when I get to see a student excited about completing their educational journey.”

Originally from northern Illinois, Trnovec attended Iowa State University to pursue a degree in recreation management.

“I found out that cruise directors had to work 18-hour days, so I changed my mind about that particular career goal,” she said.

Crediting her academic adviser for steering her in the right direction in her career and later suggesting graduate school studies, Trnovec said that she respected her adviser for asking her the tough questions.

“I had to really think about what I wanted to do with my life and analyze my skills,” Trnovec said. “I think having the opportunity to work in my field of study as a student also helped me to investigate opportunities and gain even more knowledge about the profession.”

It was her adviser who first mentioned the possibility of part-time work in the college’s recreation program. She took the job and worked as a student assistant in the program for the next three years.

“I was learning how to lead trips and handle equipment,” Trnovec said. “It really was the best job on campus for a student, and it helped me decide to pursue a career in student outdoor recreation.”

After completing her bachelor’s degree, Trnovec stayed on at Iowa State to complete a master’s degree in higher education and student development. Shortly after, she was offered a full-time position as the coordinator of outdoor recreation programs.

Part of Trnovec’s position included mentoring and guiding students through the undergraduate program, just as her mentor had done for her.

Audra Trnovec

“I wanted to help students prepare for their futures,” she said. “We worked on resumes, interview preparing, and training for not only our outdoor programs, but life.”

In 2001 Trnovec became the assistant director of outdoor recreation at the University of North Carolina at Wilmington, where she oversaw the Seahawk Adventure program and helped facilitate travel programs, surfing workshops and fly fishing lessons.

After getting married, her next move was to Indiana State University, where she took a position in the college’s career center as a liaison for the College of Health and Human Services.

“This position allowed me to help students find ways to infuse career and life skills together,” Trnovec said. “I worked with faculty to help add professional and career services into their classes while we worked to help students after graduation.”

The next leg of her journey brought her to north Mississippi, when her husband, Bud Edwards, came to serve as the director of the UM Counseling Center.

“He went to Ole Miss and wanted to return home and help his community,” Trnovec said.

Upon coming to Oxford, Trnovec interviewed for a position as an academic adviser in UM’s Center for Student Success. She also began teaching the EDHE 105: Freshmen Year Experience course.

“This was a neat experience because along with teaching study skills and life management, there was a lot to learn about the campus and the university as part of this class,” she said. “As someone who was new to Ole Miss myself, I told my students that we were going to learn about all of this together.”

In the Center for Student Success, Trnovec worked with students who had yet to declare a major.

“This took a lot of guidance and working with the students,” she said. “I worked to help them find the right fit for their academic and personal goals.”

In March, another challenge came her way when Trnovec landed her new position with the Bachelor of General Studies program.

“I like the creativity of this degree program,” she said. “Our BGS students get to put together their varied interests and career goals in order to make a degree as unique as they are. I really believe in the viability of this major, and I love to help students plan their own career paths while earning this degree.”

With the addition of Trnovec, the BGS advising office has a great team assembled to guide students in their educational journey, said Terry Blackmarr, assistant to the dean in the Office of General Studies.

“Audra really complements and understands the nature of this program and the goals of our students,” Blackmarr said. “Her background in career services is bringing experience that helps our students throughout their career journey.”

When she is not working with students, Trnovec is a student herself, working on a doctorate in higher education at Ole Miss.

“My hobby is school,” she said. “I love learning and growing in my skills. I feel like I am right where I’m supposed to be.”

Madison Couple Establishes Fund for Russian Folk Instrument Orchestra

Gift to support Ford Center programming and outreach efforts

The Russian Folk Instrument Orchestra will perform at the Gertrude C. Ford Center for the Performing Arts in October, thanks to a $20,000 gift by Billy and Rebecca Long. Submitted photo

OXFORD, Miss. – The Gertrude C. Ford Center for the Performing Arts will bring the Russian Folk Instrument Orchestra to the University of Mississippi this fall, thanks to a generous gift from Dr. Billy and Rebecca Long of Madison.

The $20,000 gift established the FCPA Russian Folk Instrument Orchestra Fund. The Longs became interested in assisting the Ford Center through Cheryle Sims, a Ford Foundation board member and former patient of Long’s.

“Several years ago, she invited us to attend a ballet performance and introduced us to this wonderful facility,” he said. “Since then, we have gotten progressively more interested in attending various events. We realize what a wonderful venue the Ford Center offers to the greater Mississippi community.”

Last year, the Longs traveled to Russia and attended several opera, ballet and symphony performances in Moscow and St. Petersburg while also touring academies where young Russians are trained in artistic skills. The UM alumnus and longtime Ole Miss sports fan wanted to provide a way to bring these performers to the United States.

Billy and Rebecca Long visit St. Basil’s Cathedral in Moscow. Their $20,000 gift to the Ford Center will allow the Russian Folk Instrument Orchestra to perform in Oxford in October. Submitted photo

“We are excited about the future offerings at the Ford Center, and the intention to promote the performing arts to a wider audience,” Long said. “I hope that our interest in the Ford Center may spark an interest in our junior high and high school students to see live performances. 

“The Ford Center is an essential part of the university’s outreach to Oxford and the surrounding area, but also to our college students who wish to develop an appreciation for the performing arts, and even become a performer themselves.”

The performance is set for Oct. 3 and will include an outreach activity earlier that day for area students, said Julia Aubrey, Ford Center director.

“It will be an international cultural event that will appeal to arts enthusiasts of all ages, and I believe our Oxford audience will embrace this group of talented young musicians and welcome them into our community,” she said.

To contribute to programming at the Ford Center, contact Angela Barlow Brown at 662-915-3181 or ambarlow@olemiss.edu.

University Community Mourns Paul Tobin Maginnis

Retired professor, chair helped build Department of Computer and Information Science

P. Tobin Maginnis

OXFORD, Miss. – Paul Tobin Maginnis, a professor emeritus who served as interim chair and helped build the Department of Computer and Information Science at the University of Mississippi, died June 14 at Baptist Memorial Hospital-North Mississippi in Oxford. He was 70.

A private graveside service was held June 16 at Oxford Memorial Cemetery.

Former colleagues and students reflected upon their relationships with Maginnis.

“Tobin will be missed by all of us, including the thousands of students he taught during his 36 years as an Ole Miss faculty member,” said Conrad Cunningham, former chair and professor of computer and information science and longtime friend of Maginnis. “Tobin’s dedication to the students and to computer science education and research – and his pro-student attitude – helped attract me to the faculty.”

Harley Garrett Jr. of Oxford, a retired Air Force officer with a second career in industry and a third with Global Technical Systems, recalled meeting Maginnis through work between 2003 and 2004. Though Garrett was 65 at the time, he credited Maginnis with having taught him “a lot – about a lot.”

“I have been blessed with three careers and have known many people in my life,” he said. “Out of that population, there are a few whose personality, professionalism and enjoyment of helping others can match Tobin’s.

“We shared moments of discussion on a myriad of topics, even though our professional focus was on the application of computer science in the hands of skilled students.”

Garrett said Maginnis’ love of life, passion for understanding things he was interested in, and kindness and generosity toward others are what he remembers most.

“He was also a gifted teacher whose gift transcended all of his endeavors, not just computer science,” he said.

Yi Liu, another former student of Maginnis’ and associate professor of computer science at South Dakota State University, remembered him as “a nice person.”

“I took two classes from him and he was my mentor in teaching the computer organization class,” she said. “I learned from him and I respected him.

“The last time I saw him was at the ACMSE conference at Ole Miss back in 2010. He gave me a hug. I wish I had spent more time talking to him.”

Bill Taylor, vice president of information technology at FNB Oxford, credited Maginnis with jump-starting his professional career.

“During my first meeting with him, he encouraged me to ask Dr. Cook for a job in the CS department,” Taylor said. “He said, ‘We have never hired a freshman before, but I think you are going to be the first.’ He was right.

“Then, right before Christmas break, he told me that when I came back in January, he wanted to talk to me about an opportunity to help get the first Linux certification program going. My professional career started when Dr. Maginnis recommended me for a local IT position.”

Born in Baltimore to the late Paul Tobin “PT” Maginnis and Emily Maginnis Robishaw, Maginnis began working at the university in 1979. He created and taught an extensive array of undergraduate and graduate courses on operating systems, networks and computer architecture. His hard work, long hours and innovative ideas helped shape the identity of computer science education at Ole Miss.

“He taught, advised and supervised many graduate and undergraduate students,” Cunningham said. “The students recognized and appreciated the passion that he brought to his position.”

Maginnis believed in academic integrity and would go to great lengths to preserve it, said Pam Lawhead, professor emeritus of computer and information science.

“He was fair to a flaw but would not stand for or support any breach of academic integrity,” Lawhead said. “His ability to create assignments that absolutely taught the student the concept in question were unparalleled in our department.

“His respect for the individuality of the many and different employees and students created an interesting environment in which to work.”

Maginnis’ roles evolved over the years, said Jimmy Palmer, information technology coordinator at UM’s Haley Barbour Center for Manufacturing Excellence.

“Early on, I thought of him as a mentor and teacher,” Palmer said. “A little later, I thought of him as an employer and leader. In more recent years, I thought of him as a colleague and friend.”

Palmer said Maginnis saw something in him that he did not see in himself.

“He trusted me and gave me responsibilities that made me grow as a person and an engineer,” Palmer said. “He asked me to work for him and gave me my first real job in my IT career. I will always be grateful for my relationship with Tobin.”

Maginnis took on the additional responsibility to maintain and support the department’s computer systems for many years. He and his students installed the department’s first network and connected it to the fledgling campus and national networks.

He advocated the use and development of open-source software, computer software that is freely available for anyone to use and modify without the proprietary restrictions imposed by companies. Maginnis used open-source operating systems such as MINIX, Free BSD and Linux in his teaching and research.

Sair Technologies, the company he founded in the 1990s, was at the forefront of open-source technology training and accreditation.

His interest in the “systems” aspect of computing continued until his retirement in 2015, but he adapted to the changing technologies and needs of Ole Miss students.

In the 1990s, Maginnis taught computer graphics and developed interactive “electronic brochures” using the personal computing technologies of that era. In recent years, he expanded his teaching to include web development, microcontroller programming and 3-D printing.

“The building of our 3-D printer lab in 2013 illustrates Tobin’s approach to being a faculty member,” Cunningham said. “He wanted to introduce 3-D printing into one of his courses. As chair at the time, I authorized department funds for that purpose.

“When the kit arrived, Tobin spent a couple of unpaid summer days assembling the kit. I still have the image of Tobin, with all the parts spread out across the conference room table, tools in hand, assembling the printer. I remember the pleasure he had at getting the first 3-D prints off the device. Students have made the resulting Digital Design and 3-D Printing course one of our more popular electives in recent years.”

A member of the Catholic Church in Menominee, Michigan, Maginnis was a sailing enthusiast and enjoyed riding motorcycles. An avid fan of all movies, he particularly loved action flicks and cartoons, and was a devotee of musical theater.

Besides Sair Technologies, he was the founder Gunsmanship Inc., owner of Tobix, an associate member at Wave Technologies and an associate staff member at Global Technology Systems. He also was a member of the Oxford Amateur Radio Club, National Rifle Association, the American Association for the Advancement of Science and a certified home inspector.

Maginnis worked briefly at the university’s Research Institute of Pharmaceutical Sciences before moving to the Department of Computer Science, where he was employed for 36 years.

Along with his parents, he was preceded in death by a daughter, Erin Elizabeth Dillon-Maginnis.

Survivors include his wife, Elizabeth Anneal Dillon of Oxford; daughters Lindsay Dillon-Maginnis of Oxford and Meredith Dillon-Maginnis of Augusta, Georgia; a son, Jordan Dillon-Maginnis of Oxford; sisters Michael Leonard of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Moira Dean of Milwaukee and Katie Winlinski of Green Bay, Wisconsin; and brothers Jack Maginnis of Washington, D.C., and Kevin Maginnis of Chicago.

Memorial designations in Maginnis’ memory can be made to the American Cancer Society, 1380 Livingston Lane, Jackson, MS 39213.

Annual Conference to Explore ‘Faulkner and Money’

July 23-27 event expected to draw hundreds from around the globe

William Faulkner’s typewriter, along with copies of a few of his best-selling novels and those of some of his African-American contemporaries, are on display at Rowan Oak. Photo by Robert Jordan/Ole Miss Communications

OXFORD, Miss. – “Faulkner and Money: The Economies of Yoknapatawpha and Beyond” is the theme for the University of Mississippi’s 44th annual Faulkner & Yoknapatawpha Conference, set for July 23-27.

Five days of lectures, panels, tours, exhibits and other presentations will explore the multifaceted economies of Yoknapatawpha County, the Faulkner oeuvre and the literary profession. Besides three keynote lectures, the conference program will include panel presentations, guided daylong tours of north Mississippi and the Delta, and sessions on “Teaching Faulkner.”

“This year’s theme was actually suggested a decade or more ago by one of the legendary figures of Faulkner studies, the late Noel Polk, who often mentioned how fascinating, and entertaining, a conference would be on Faulkner and money,” said Jay Watson, Howry Professor of Faulkner Studies and professor of English who serves as director of the conference.

“More recently, the program committee had contemplated building a conference around the slightly wider theme of Faulkner and economics. So two years ago, we decided to combine both the specific subject of money and the more general topic of economics and came up with ‘Faulkner and Money: The Economies of Yoknapatawpha.'”

This year’s subject is rewarding for a number of reasons, Watson said.

“First of all, William Faulkner spent his first 25 years or more as a serious writer of fiction in almost constant financial difficulty,” he said. “He had trouble supporting his extended family off his writing alone, and he worried all the time about money.

“His own financial arrangements, both personal and professional, his relationship to the literary marketplace and his search for other sources of income available to established writers all have the potential to shed important light on the profession of authorship in 20th century America.”

Additionally, and for some of the same reasons, Faulkner’s fiction is especially rich in economic content: money problems, elaborate business arrangements, convoluted bets and wagers, get-rich-quick schemes and con games.

“His people – and sometimes individual characters – run the gamut from enormous wealth to miserable poverty,” Watson said. “Many are unduly preoccupied with money, much like their creator.

“There’s a lot to learn from Faulkner’s work about the economics of rural and small-town life, of the South and of modern America. We’ll be exploring all of these issues in July.”

This bronze statue of William Faulkner near City Hall is a popular attraction for Faulkner enthusiasts visiting Oxford. Photo by Robert Jordan/Ole Miss Communications.

The conference will begin with a reception at the University Museum, after which the academic program of the conference will open with two keynote addresses, followed by a buffet supper on the grounds of Faulkner’s home, Rowan Oak. Over the next four days, a busy schedule of lectures and panels also includes an afternoon cocktail reception, a picnic at Rowan Oak, the guided tours and a closing party on Thursday afternoon.

The “Teaching Faulkner” sessions will be led by James B. Carothers, of the University of Kansas; Terrell L. Tebbetts, Lyon College; Brian McDonald, Lancaster, Pennsylvania School District; Charles Peek, University of Nebraska at Kearney; and Theresa M. Towner, University of Texas at Dallas.

Throughout the conference, the university’s J.D. Williams Library will display Faulkner books, manuscripts, photographs and memorabilia. The University Press of Mississippi will exhibit books of interest published by university presses throughout the country.

Faulkner collector Seth Berner is organizing a display of his collection, with books for sale. Berner also will give a brown bag lunch presentation on “Collecting Faulkner.”

Also, collaborators on the Digital Yoknapatawpha Project, a database and digital mapping project at the University of Virginia, will present updates on its progress at a special conference session.

The conference early registration fee, good through June, is $150 for students and $275 for other participants. After July 1, the fee is $175 for students and $300 for others.

To register or for more information, visit http://www.outreach.olemiss.edu/events/faulkner/.

University Participates in Culture of Respect Program

Initiative aims to address and prevent sexual violence on campuses

The Division of Student Affairs will participate in the Culture of Respect Program aimed at developing strategies to address sexual violence. Photo by Robert Jordan/Ole Miss Communications

OXFORD, Miss. – The University of Mississippi is among 53 institutions to join the National Association of Student Personnel Administrators 2017 Culture of Respect inaugural cohort with the aim of addressing campus sexual violence.

As part of the two-year program, UM will examine and evaluate its existing policies, build effective prevention programs, create a strategic plan for addressing violence, participate in professional development and receive coaching from public health professionals.

“We feel like we already do a good job on response and prevention on our campus, but we are always focused on improving and serving our students, faculty and staff,” said Lindsey Bartlett Mosvick, assistant director for violence prevention.

“The university upholds its commitment to a safe campus through several avenues, and Culture of Respect is bringing together more stakeholders than ever to ensure we are doing everything we can and maximizing existing resources.”

Institutions in the pilot program, launched in 2016, showed improvements in the six pillars of response and prevention: survivor support, clear policies, multitiered education, public disclosure, school-wide mobilization and ongoing self-assessment.

Throughout the program, institutions will learn from one other through online discussion boards and networking events.

“One of the core values of the Division of Student Affairs is “students first”; the Culture of Respect membership exemplifies our commitment to that specific value,” said Brandi Hephner LaBanc, vice chancellor for student affairs. “Continual assessment and improvement of professional practice is a hallmark of our university, but this initiative is especially important in our efforts to enhance student safety.”

For information about policies at Ole Miss regarding relationship violence and sexual assault, visit http://umsafe.olemiss.edu/.

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 http://www.visitmississippi.org/200.

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.

UM Inducts Third Class into School of Education Alumni Hall of Fame

Honorees commended for teaching, service and leadership

Ann Monroe (right), assistant dean of the School of Education, congratulates (from left) Thomas R. Burke, Robert C. Khayat, Laura Dunn Jolly, Jean M. Shaw, Jacqueline Vinson and Carole Lynn Meadows. Submitted photo

OXFORD, Miss. – The University of Mississippi School of Education recently inducted the third class of alumni into its Hall of Fame.

Collectively, the six inductees have more than 200 years of wisdom, experience and commitment to education and public service in Mississippi and across the country.

The 2017 honorees are: Thomas R. Burke of Kansas City, Kansas; Laura Dunn Jolly of Ames, Iowa; Robert C. Khayat of Oxford; Jean M. Shaw of Oxford; and the late Theopolis P. Vinson of Oxford. Carole Lynn Meadows of Gulfport, the second recipient of the School’s Outstanding Educational Service Award, also was recognized during the May 12 ceremony at The Inn at Ole Miss.

The School of Education Alumni Board of Directors selected honorees from nominations submitted earlier this year.

“The School of Education Alumni Hall of Fame honors those who have made a significant and long-term impact on the education profession,” said David Rock, UM education dean. “These six individuals are the epitome of what the University of Mississippi and the School of Education represents.”

Burke began his educational journey at Ole Miss in 1969, earning a bachelor’s degree in 1970 and a master’s degree in 1972 – both in history – and a doctorate in higher education in 1981. From there, he embarked on a distinguished 39-year career at four community colleges.

Burke progressed in roles at Kansas City Kansas Community College from history professor to dean of instruction to vice president and then president of the institution in 1992, a position he served 19 years until his retirement in 2011. Burke is also a member of the Mid-America Education Hall of Fame and The Thomas R. Burke Technical Education Center was named for him.

“It is certainly a high recognition from the School of Education, which I am honored to receive,” Burke said. “In my career, I learned more from my mistakes than my successes.

“I think the real key is to learn not to make the same mistake over and over again but never be afraid to take action because you might make a mistake.”

Jolly, who is dean of College of Human Sciences at Iowa State University, received a bachelor’s degree from UM in 1977 before completing master’s and doctoral degrees from Oklahoma State University. She has a 38-year tenure with six different institutions of higher learning.

Jolly received a Taylor Medal from Ole Miss in 1977, earned Georgia’s Most Powerful and Influential Women Award from the National Diversity Council in 2011 and was named among “100 Graduates of Significance” by the graduate school at Oklahoma State in 2012.

“I am truly honored,” Jolly said. “As I think about it, Ole Miss was such an important part of my educational foundation. It’s really wonderful to be recognized in this way. I feel very honored and humbled.”

Khayat, the university’s 15th chancellor, earned a bachelor’s degree from the School of Education in 1961. He returned to obtain a Juris Doctor from Ole Miss in 1966 and then a Master of Law from Yale University in 1980.

As chancellor, he transformed the university by raising more than $900 million in gifts, establishing the Sally McDonnell Barksdale Honors College, attracting a Phi Beta Kappa chapter and hosting a presidential debate, among many other accomplishments. He also published a book, “The Education of a Lifetime,” which chronicles his life and times at Ole Miss.

“If teaching is what makes you happy, I doubt you could find a better thing to do that would be more rewarding than teaching,” Khayat said. “I’ve taught eighth-grade science and I’ve taught law school. I’m so thankful my road took me to education and higher education and being able to teach.”

Shaw, who is the first faculty member of the School of Education selected to its Hall of Fame, received an undergraduate degree in mathematics from Bradley University, a master’s degree in mathematics from Northwestern University, a master’s degree in education from UM in 1974 and a doctorate in education from Columbia University.

A math and science educator, Shaw taught students from pre-kindergarten to graduate school for more than 40 years, including 30 years – 1976 to 2006 – at Ole Miss.

“As a teacher educator, I had a lot of opportunities,” Shaw said. “I had the opportunity to meet people, to go to conferences, to speak at conferences, to be on editorial boards and work with very talented people. Working alongside dedicated educators and student teachers was an honor.”

Vinson, the first deceased person to be inducted to the school’s Hall of Fame, earned a master’s degree in 1982 and a doctorate in 1997, both from UM.

A former teacher, he joined the staff of the School of Education in 1989 by serving as director of undergraduate student advising and field experience and assistant dean. He also worked with the Mississippi Teachers Corps, serving in Mississippi’s most critical needs school districts.

Meadows earned her bachelor’s degree in business administration from Ole Miss in 1960 and a master’s degree in business education in 1964.

Meadows has completed 27 years as a teacher, 22 of those at Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College. She is co-founder of the nationally renowned Lynn Meadows Discovery Center, the first children’s museum in the state, in Gulfport.

From 2009 to 2012, she chaired the Mississippi Council on Economic Education board, which includes 40 top business executives and is a national leader in providing instruction and curriculum to K-12 teachers so they can teach students to think from an economic point of view.

“What could be better than to be recognized for what you have done all your life with passion,” Meadows said. “We have an enormous role as teachers and educators. We are molding what’s to be.”

The School of Education Alumni Hall of Fame was established in 2015.