UM Honors Five at School of Education Alumni Hall of Fame Induction

Honorees lauded for teaching, service and leadership

The 2016 UM School of Education Hall of Fame includes (left to right): Robert Depro of Sikeston, Missouri; Suzie Adcock of Jackson; Cathy Stewart of Oxford; Jahnae Barnett of Fulton, Missouri and Cecil C. Brown, Jr. of Jackson.

The 2016 UM School of Education Hall of Fame inductees are (left to right): Robert Depro of Sikeston, Missouri; Suzie Adcock of Jackson; Cathy Stewart of Oxford; Jahnae Barnett of Fulton, Missouri; and Cecil C. Brown Jr. of Jackson.

OXFORD, Miss. – The University of Mississippi has inducted its second class of alumni into its School of Education Hall of Fame. Collectively, the group has more than 178 years of experience, commitment and public service to education.

The 2016 honorees are Suzie Mills Adcock of Jackson; Jahnae H. Barnett of Fulton, Missouri; Charles Robert Depro of Sikeston, Missouri; Cathy Stewart of Oxford; and Cecil C. Brown Jr. of Jackson. Brown received the School of Education’s first-ever service award for noneducation alumni.

“Our alumni board of directors selected our 2016 alumni award recipients for their distinguished careers as educational leaders and practitioners,” said David Rock, UM education dean. “Each of these five alumni are models for our current university students and graduates to emulate.

“We believe there is no more important or greater area of service in our state and nation than in the practice and advocacy of education.”

The ceremony was May 13 at the Inn at Ole Miss. Honorees were selected after being nominated by their peers and colleagues earlier this year.

Adcock, who graduated from UM in 1977 with a bachelor’s degree in elementary education, has taught in both public and private schools for more than 31 years and is still teaching. She serves as the lower elementary school librarian and media specialist at Jackson Academy.

Her service work includes the direction of “Read for Need” service projects, which have benefited school libraries that have burned and the Blair E. Batson Hospital for Children. In addition, she has served on the UM School of Education’s alumni advisory board in various capacities throughout the years, including the presidency.

“I’m so humbled by this honor because I know so many teachers who should be in this spot; I really do,” Adcock said. “I am a teacher because I genuinely love what I do. I do everything that I do for my students. They are my heart. They really are.”

Barnett, who earned a master’s degree in business education from UM in 1967 and a Ph.D. in higher education in 1972, is president of William Woods University in Fulton, Missouri, a position the alumna has held for more than 26 years. Before her presidency, Barnett was a vice president and a department chair at William Woods.

When Barnett received her doctorate, she was only 24 years old and was the youngest individual to receive a Ph.D. from Ole Miss at that time. She was also the first female president of William Woods, an institution that has grown from a few hundred students to more than 3,000 during her tenure and grown from college to university status.

“I cannot imagine anything more rewarding that your peers, your colleagues and your academic institution saying that you’ve done exactly what you were supposed to do in your life,” Barnett said. “We just had our own alumni weekend at William Woods where we inducted some alumni into the hall of fame, and I knew exactly what that meant to them because of this honor.”

Depro, who earned a master’s degree in secondary education from UM in 1970, has taught history and social studies for more than 50 consecutive years and has taught more than 10,000 students in his career. From 1966 to 2000, he served as a social studies teacher and departmental chair at Sikeston Senior High School. He still teaches as an instructor in history at Southeast Missouri State University’s Sikeston campus, as part of a dual enrollment program with area high schools.

Among his other professional accomplishments include being named the Missouri Teacher of the Year and a finalist for the National Teacher of the Year in 1988.

“This is an honor that I never even in my wildest dreams thought that I would receive,” Depro said. “There are a lot of really good teacher out there; I teach with some of them every day. I accept this on behalf of all really good teachers.”

Stewart, who is a three-time graduate of UM, earned a bachelor’s degree from Ole Miss in elementary education in 1978, as well as a master’s degree and doctorate in curriculum and instruction in 1981 and 1995, respectively. Besides serving 20 years as an elementary teacher in the Lafayette County School District, Stewart also served as an adjunct professor at UM and as the founding director of the university’s World Class Teaching Program and director of the UM Writing Project.

She and her husband own and operate Wild Rose Kennels, the much-acclaimed breeder of British and Irish Labradors.

“I knew in first grade that I wanted to be a teacher,” said Stewart. “I never changed my mind and I never wavered. My advice for future teachers is to never quit learning and to always be open to learning a better or different way to do and improve the way you teach.”

Brown, who earned a bachelor’s degree in English and mathematics from UM in 1966, has been a public and private sector leader in Mississippi for more than 25 years. A Certified Public Accountant and the owner of his own accounting firm, Brown’s public service includes a stint at Mississippi State Fiscal Officer and a 16-year tenure as a member of the Mississippi House of Representatives, where he served as the chairman of the House Education Committee for seven years.

More recently, Brown was elected to serve as the state Public Service Commissioner in 2016.

“I’m very thankful for this award,” Brown said. “My hope is that somehow children will continue to benefit from the work that I have been able to contribute in service to education. They are the most important thing.”

The School of Education Alumni Hall of Fame was established in 2015, when UM inducted its charter class of three alumni: Milton Kuykendall of DeSoto County, Judith Reynolds of Clinton and Jerome Smith of Jackson.

Derek and Kelly King Honored with Inaugural Mullins Scholarship

Mississippi Teacher Corps alumni pursue graduate degrees with help from new scholarship

Derek and Kelly King stand with Andy Mullins in Lyceum at UM. Photo by Thomas Graning/Ole Miss Communications

Derek and Kelly King stand with Andy Mullins in Lyceum at UM. Photo by Thomas Graning/Ole Miss Communications

OXFORD, Miss. – Just ask University of Mississippi alumni Derek and Kelly King about their students in the North Panola School District in Sardis, and the husband and wife team light up with excitement.

As the instructional coach for North Panola High School (Kelly) and the assistant principal at North Panola Middle School (Derek), the Kings can personally name more than 710 students between their two schools this year – just ask them.

“Both of us love teaching and being in the classroom,” said Kelly, who provides instructional leadership to more than 32 faculty members at her school. “Once you get into teaching, it’s really addictive. I’ve directly taught at least three-fourths (of those students) myself.”

The Kings are UM’s inaugural recipients of the Andrew P. Mullins Jr. MTC Alumni Scholarship, which supports Mississippi Teacher Corps alumni who wish to pursue advanced graduate study.

The endowed scholarship is available to Teacher Corps alumni with at least three years’ of teaching experience in K-12 education and may be awarded twice to individuals. Recipients may pursue an advanced degree in any field of their choosing on the Ole Miss campus.

Founded in 1989, the Teacher Corps has placed more than 630 new teachers in critical-needs school districts throughout the state. The alternate-route teaching program is highly competitive and has attracted recruits from 216 colleges and universities around the country. All participants receive job placement and two years of funding to earn a master’s degree in education from UM.

Derek and Kelly were selected for the honor by a committee of administrators within the School of Education and will each receive $1,500 per semester toward tuition throughout the next academic year.

“It’s an honor to receive anything with Dr. Mullins’ name on it,” said Derek, who has also served as head coach for men’s track and football at North Panola. “I think (Dr. Mullins) is proud to see Teacher Corps people who are still working in education here in Mississippi. It’s an honor to just to be a small part of what he originally envisioned for the program.”

In addition to their full-time jobs at North Panola, Derek and Kelly – who met during their first year in the Mississippi Teacher Corps – are enrolled in UM graduate programs in K-12 leadership. Derek hopes to finish a doctorate within the next two years, and Kelly is on track to claim her second Ole Miss diploma in December when she finishes a Specialist in Education degree that will grant her a state school administrator’s license.

“It warms my heart to see this scholarship awarded to two such worthy recipients,” said Mullins, Mississippi Teacher Corps co-founder and former chief of staff to the chancellor. “They have both been valuable resources to the school districts in which they have served.”

As 2010 recruits for the Teacher Corps, the Kings came from very different parts of the country before joining the program and landing their first teaching jobs at Byhalia Middle School.

Kelly, a Boston native, received a bachelor’s degree in black studies from Amherst College. Derek, a native of Fairfield, Alabama, earned a bachelor’s degree in psychology from Rhodes College, where he played football and baseball and even began his coaching career as an undergraduate while working for Big Brothers Big Sisters and the Memphis Grizzlies Preparatory Charter School.

Back then, the Teacher Corps offered opportunity for the two aspiring educators to enter the classroom after college. After an intensive summer training program, Kelly took a job teaching social studies. Derek taught English and coached men’s track and football.

They did not, however, expect that it would lead to a whole new life. After dating for four years, the couple found themselves both working at North Panola High School and soon married. The couple, alongside numerous other current and former Teacher Corps members, played key roles in the school’s drastic graduation rate turnaround. Between 2010 and 2014, the school increased its graduation rate by nearly 30 percent and rose from failing to “B” status.

“This is my sixth year in education,” Kelly said. “I have been able to see how Teacher Corps has transformed (North Panola) over the years. It’s as close as you can get to a ‘Teacher Corps School.’

“There are several other Teacher Corps people at my school. One in her seventh year of teaching and one in her fifth, and before that we had other people who stayed at least four or five years. The program has made a strong lasting impact in that district.”

After their graduate studies, the Kings hope to continue pursuing opportunities in education. Kelly hopes to pursue a leadership position at the district level, helping teachers develop and coordinate curricula, and Derek hopes to one day serve as a full principal or perhaps a career in academic development for student-athletes.

“When two people are doing graduate school at the same time, it’s definitely a big investment,” Derek said. “So, it is amazing to receive this first scholarship. Any amount of scholarship helps, but to have one named after Dr. Mullins makes us both very proud.”

Brokaw Touts Service, ‘Real’ Life Experiences to UM Graduates

Veteran newsman delivers Commencement address to thousands in the Grove

Journalist and former NBC Nightly News anchor Tom Brokaw addresses graduates during the University of Mississippi’s 163rd Commencement. Photo by Thomas Graning/Ole Miss Communications

Journalist and former ‘NBC Nightly News’ anchor Tom Brokaw addresses graduates during the University of Mississippi’s 163rd Commencement. Photo by Thomas Graning/Ole Miss Communications

OXFORD, Miss. – Respected journalist Tom Brokaw warned the University of Mississippi’s graduates that they’re living in an age of violence and social media noise and he challenged them to cherish “real” experiences and help make their world a better place.

Brokaw, best known as the longtime anchor of “NBC Nightly News,” gave the university’s 163rd Commencement’s main address Saturday morning in the Grove under powder blue skies that turned overcast. He stood at the podium wearing an Ole Miss baseball cap.

He reminded the 4,000-plus graduates that though social media is a big part of their lives, many experiences transcend anything that comes from inside an iPhone. Those are the moments that should be cherished the most.

“No text will ever replace the first kiss,” Brokaw said. “No email will ever compete with the spoken phrase, ‘I love you. I want to spend the rest of my life with you.’ No selfie can ever take the place of holding a first child moments after birth. Life will always be most rewarding when real, not virtual, emotions are involved.”

Ole Miss is where a lot of the important nondigital experiences Brokaw referred to have occurred for Saturday’s graduates. For many, the friendships and memories made in college will be cherished for the rest of their lives.

Not much in life compares to being beneath Grove’s oaks on a Saturday in the fall, Brokaw said.

Suggested caption: Tom Brokaw delivers the 2016 Commencement address to more than 4,000 University of Mississippi graduates on Saturday, May 14. Photo by Thomas Graning/Ole Miss Communications

Tom Brokaw delivers the 2016 Commencement address to more than 4,000 University of Mississippi graduates on Saturday, May 14. Photo by Thomas Graning/Ole Miss Communications

“For the rest of your life, Ole Miss will be a prominent part of your formative years,” Brokaw said. “You’ll go to great parties and you’ll think, ‘Not bad, but it’s not the Grove.'”

Brokaw is very familiar with the university, which he calls a “special place” in the state. He served as a guest lecturer in UM’s Meek School of Journalism and New Media in 2010 and discussed presidential politics in a campus program before the first 2008 presidential debate between then-U.S. Sen. Barack Obama and U.S. Sen. John McCain, which was held in the Gertrude C. Ford Center for the Performing Arts.

Brokaw has also visited campus several times over the last decade, often attending football and baseball games. He was here for the football victory over Alabama in 2014, which he enjoyed. A verbal jab directed toward the University of Alabama drew laughter from the Commencement crowd.

“I’m so relieved to be speaking to a graduating class from Ole Miss,” Brokaw said. “If I were speaking at Alabama, I would have to use smaller words and shorter sentences.”

Brokaw, who holds a political science degree from the University of South Dakota, has enjoyed a long and distinguished career, including covering the Watergate scandal of the early 1970s that led to President Richard Nixon’s resignation. He also served as host of the “Today” show from 1976 to 1982, when he became an anchor of “NBC Nightly News.”

Since retiring as anchor in 2004, he’s kept busy with journalism projects. He worked on documentaries for the Discovery Channel, the History Channel and Fox Sports Net and also moderated the second McCain-Obama presidential debate at Belmont University in 2008.

He is also author of “The Greatest Generation,” which is about those Americans who grew up during the Great Depression, went on to fight World War II, won and came home to transform their country.

As a young journalist, he witnessed the many struggles of people of color to find equality in the United States. He sees great progress at the university, which was the scene of deadly riots over James Meredith’s enrollment as the first black student in 1962.

“As a reporter in the South in those days, I must tell you I could never have imagined I’d be here one day with the affection I have for Ole Miss and speaking to a student body that is ever more diverse, or that I would walk into the chancellor’s box during a football game and find James Meredith as the guest of honor, or that the president of the Ole Miss Alumni Association would be an African-American mother of a student here who also happened to be an executive at FedEx,” Brokaw said.

“These are important, historic steps forward in Mississippi but in most of the country, in every state and in every institution, the issue of race, reconciliation, resolution – these are the unfinished businesses of our time. It’s not confined just to states in the great South, but it’s across state lines, from sea to shining sea in our nation.”

Continuing to address these issues is critical, he said.

“The dream of equality for all is not an obligation of one race or another,” Brokaw said. “It is a common calling in our unique society. We are still a nation of immigrants, where the rule of law is inadequate if the rule of the heart is not also an equal part. All shades of the American palette matter.”

The graduates live in a country where mass shootings in schools and other public places, police-involved killings, terrorism and racially motivated violence are common. Brokaw said he owns “a closet full of guns” and is an active sport shooter, but he supports more stringent gun control laws to help lessen the violence.

He said no one will take his guns away, but he’s “appalled” by an ongoing movement to arm more people with even more lethal weapons without considering the consequences.

“More guns and more firearm tolerance will mean more homegrown acts of terror,” Brokaw said. “Yes, you have a constitutional right to own guns. I believe strongly in the Second Amendment, but with that right comes the personal obligation to be on guard against the promiscuous use of guns, not to pretend no limits means no trouble.”

He called graduates to use their skills to address the state and nation’s problems. Noting that social media wields great influence over communication, social, scientific, academic, commerce, political and research endeavors, Brokaw urged graduates take what they’ve learned at Ole Miss and dedicate part of their life to working for increasing tolerance, education, economic opportunity, social acceptance for all Mississippians.

“Take as much pride in where Mississippi ranks on those metrics as it does on the national football standings,” he said.

UM Chancellor Jeffrey S. Vitter, presiding over his first Commencement at the university, took a panoramic photo of the Grove full of graduates to post on his Twitter account. He wished them luck.

“Today, you complete your work as students at the university when you graduate,” Vitter said. “You also begin the next chapter of your life at Commencement. Our collective prayer for you is a life filled with joy, good health, successful, meaningful careers and peace. God bless each of you.”

Edward C. Maloney, president of the UM Alumni Association, paraphrased the biblical parable of the talents from Matthew 25:14-30 to charge graduates to live up to their potential.

“Some of you were given five talents,” Maloney said. “Some of you were given two talents; some, one talent. Whatever talent you have been given, be the best you can be.”

Mary Katherine Berger, president of the senior class, said that during their time here, classmates have had to be Rebels by making tough decisions and standing up for what they believe is right.

“As we leave the spot that ever calls, I charge each of you with the task of remaining a Rebel in your everyday life,” Berger said. “To take a stand for what you believe in, to always uphold the Creed, to go against the status quo and to always shout ‘Hotty Toddy’ at the random person you see in the street wearing an Ole Miss T-shirt wherever life may take you.”

UM Alumnus Begins New Career with Service Dog Arliegh at Side

Ben Stepp applies personal experiences in military to new role as counselor

UM graduate student Ben Stepp and service dog Arliegh have attended every class together since 2014. Photo by Robert Jordan/Ole Miss Communications

UM graduate student Ben Stepp and service dog Arliegh have attended every class together since 2014. Photo by Robert Jordan/Ole Miss Communications

OXFORD, Miss. – When graduate student Ben Stepp walks across the stage during the University of Mississippi’s Commencement ceremonies Saturday (May 14), he will do so in the company of his canine companion, Arliegh, a service dog who rarely leaves his side.

A retired U.S. Army staff sergeant and an infantry veteran of the Iraq War, Stepp, 36, is set to receive his third UM diploma – a master’s degree in community and mental health counseling. But what makes this accomplishment even more thought-provoking is that Arliegh, a nearly 3-year-old Labrador retriever mix, has attended virtually every class alongside her owner since 2014.

“(Arliegh) is a highly trained medical device,” explained Stepp, a husband and father of two. “When my heart rate gets elevated, she can sense it and places her paw or head on my leg for me to pet her. You might see me petting her a lot on graduation day.”

Stepp and Arliegh are preparing to begin a new career in which Stepp plans to eventually become a Licensed Professional Counselor, hoping to specialize in counseling veterans adjusting to life after military service.

As a service dog, Arliegh helps Stepp manage anxiety related to the effects of PTSD, one of two wounds the Fairbanks, Alaska, native received during his 15 years of military service. Stepp’s other injury is a still-bothersome grenade wound to his right ankle, which resulted in long-term pain from reflex sympathetic dystrophy, or RSD, a type of nerve damage that causes a burning pain in the injured area among other symptoms.

Stepp joined the LOU community in 2006 when he returned from his service in Iraq. While deployed, first in 2003 then later during parts of 2004 and 2005, he served as the leader of an infantry fire team, a group of four to five soldiers.

After transferring from the regular Army into the Mississippi Army National Guard, Stepp enrolled in undergraduate courses at UM with a plan to finish a bachelor’s degree in economics – which he had started at the University of North Carolina at Pembroke – and return to active duty as an officer.

However, Stepp faced challenges he did not expect as a tried to “normalize” into life as a college student and war veteran.

“I was in a lot of denial about my problems at the time,” he recalled. “I was easily agitated, easily set off. I had nightmares and flashbacks.”

At the urging of Ole Miss ROTC faculty, Stepp began seeing a therapist on campus and later at the VA office in Memphis, Tennessee. It was an important and necessary decision for Stepp, but it was also a decision that set his life in a new direction.

“I was then medically disqualified from being an officer,” he said. “They said I could stay as an enlisted man, but I couldn’t be an officer.”

This was a hard blow to Stepp, who had first joined the military at age 17 with the consent of his mother. But, after refocusing his efforts on academic pursuits, Stepp earned a bachelor’s degree in economics in 2009 and a master’s degree in criminal justice in 2011, while working as a University Police Department officer, a position he held from 2007 to 2013.

The same year he earned his bachelor’s degree, Stepp also married his wife, Erin. The couple welcomed their first child in 2010 and carved out a life together in Oxford.

However, Stepp still had personal battles to fight. He was becoming increasingly frustrated with the care offered through the VA. He struggled privately with chronic anxiety and longed for therapists who better understood issues faced by veterans. And, there was also his lingering ankle wound, which he continued to manage with regular nerve block injections and opiates prescribed by VA physicians.

“I was tired of being treated like a science experiment,” Stepp said. I wasn’t happy with the way any of us vets were being treated. So I decided to seek out my own treatment.”

Soon after in 2013, Stepp resigned from UPD, a position he felt passionately about but could no longer complete to the best of his abilities due to personal difficulties.

“I was in a lot of pain, physical pain,” he said. “I thought I was doing a good job of covering it up. But it all finally kinda came to a boil, I guess, and I decided that the best thing for me was to really get help and ‘get right.'”

After seeking out a pain specialist, Stepp began to wean off opiates and underwent new treatments to manage his pain. He wears a device that allows him to walk more freely without help from drugs.

He also continued seeing local counselors, including Marc Showalter, an assistant professor of counselor education at the UM School of Education. It was during this time that Showalter approached Stepp about a potential career move into counseling. It was one of multiple ideas he put in front of Stepp as he planned to the future.

“What I saw in Ben early on was perseverance,” Showalter said. “I have seen him grow and overcome so many difficulties, and always with the desire to help people. Even as he was trying to find his own way, I always heard from him that he wanted to find some way to help others, especially veterans. So I put the idea of becoming a counselor in front of him.”

Before beginning UM’s Master of Education program in counseling in 2014, Stepp connected with Arliegh through the K9s for Warriors organization in Pontre Vedra, Florida. Through his experience with the Wounded Warriors Project, he’d become aware of other veterans with similar backgrounds who use service dogs to help manage anxiety related to trauma.

After some soul-searching, Stepp decided to pursue using a service dog for his own anxiety. The application process took about a year.

“(Having a service dog) was hard at first,” Stepp said. “For a lot of vets … you sometimes feel like you are always being watched and the need to make sure there is no one trying to hurt you. Then, once you get a dog, everyone actually is always looking at you. Well, actually they are mostly looking at the dog. But you feel like ‘Oh, all eyes are on me.’ That was a struggle at first.”

K9s for Warriors supports veterans by connecting them with specially trained service dogs that help manage and address anxiety related to stress. The program brings in former warriors for an intensive three-week orientation and training period, during which they learn about working with service dogs. Most service dogs are rescued from shelters and trained for months before being paired with a veteran.

“The saying is, ‘We rescue them so they can rescue us,'” Stepp said.

Like any dog, Arliegh can be playful and enjoys attention from others. But when her service vest is on, Arliegh is at work. As a rule of thumb, it’s OK to pet and play with Arliegh when she is not wearing her vest. Otherwise, she is on duty.

Besides helping lower anxiety, service dogs can help individuals identify “triggers,” the sights, sounds or smells that can cause panic or flashbacks among individuals recovering from PTSD. Having a service dog gives those who need it a specialized tool to identify sources of stress and learn to process them in a productive way.

Throughout Stepp’s latest experience in graduate school, Arliegh has been a constant companion as he worked as a full-time student. The program is intensive and rigorous, requiring students to complete year-round, full-time coursework over two years.

During this time, Stepp has gained experiences through internships, including one at Oxford Counseling Center, where he will begin working full time following graduation. He hopes to finish the requirements to become a Licensed Professional Counselor within the next year.

“You know, for me, (becoming a counselor) isn’t very different from a lot of my experiences,” Stepp said. “When you’re a squad leader, you have people who always look to you. You become their dad, brother, friend, teacher or even banker. Everyone needs something different.

“As a police officer, you find people who just need some help from someone, even when it’s 2 a.m. and a confused student desperately needs someone to speak to and you are the first one they find. I did these things for such a long time that when I decided to become a counselor, it wasn’t the huge leap you might imagine.”

Yates Wins Farrington Distinguished Entrepreneurship Award

Annual recognition honors graduate advancing family-owned construction firm

The Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship and the School of Business Administration honor William Yates as the 2016 Distinguished Entrepreneur of the Year during a reception at the Farrington Gallery in Bryant Hall. Pictured are Dean Ken Cyree, Jan Farrington, Yates and Lawrence Farrington. Photo by Thomas Graning/Ole Miss Communications

The UM Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship and the School of Business Administration honor William Yates as the 2016 Distinguished Entrepreneur of the Year during a reception at the Farrington Gallery in Bryant Hall. Pictured are (from left) Dean Ken Cyree, Jan Farrington, Yates and Lawrence Farrington. Photo by Thomas Graning/Ole Miss Communications

OXFORD, Miss. – William G. Yates III, president and CEO of W.G. Yates & Sons Construction Co., is the recipient of the 2016 Farrington Distinguished Entrepreneurship award, presented by the University of Mississippi School of Business Administration.

The award, named for Ole Miss alumni Jan and Lawrence Farrington, is given annually to a graduate who exemplifies the best of entrepreneurship.

Yates, a Philadelphia native who graduated summa cum laude in business administration from UM in 1993, calls the recognition “truly an honor.”

“This selection is really a reflection of the wonderful people that I work with at Yates Construction and I share this award with them and accept it on their behalf,” Yates said. “I am very fortunate to have the opportunity to work with an amazing and committed team.”

The Farrington Distinguished Award was created to honor successful entrepreneurs who carry on the tradition of the Farringtons in creating businesses that make a difference.

“Jan and Lawrence Farrington have been involved in innovation and entrepreneurship in the state of Mississippi for many years and have been an integral part in funding a number of businesses,” said Ken Cyree, dean of the UM business school.

“They are keen business people who help other entrepreneurs bring their ideas to fruition, thereby providing valuable goods and services, as well as creating employment for Mississippi citizens. They give back their time as well to the university and are great ambassadors for the business school and the university.”

Yates said that this award differs from others he’s received because it recognizes entrepreneurship.

“To me, entrepreneurship means how you identify and manage risk and then how you can do that while still providing true value to your customers,” he said. “That is what we do every day at Yates: we work hard to understand what is important to our clients, provide value to them and do it in way that equitably shares risk.”

Yates’ father, William G. “Bill” Yates Jr., and grandfather, Gully Yates Sr., started the family-owned company in 1964. In its 52nd year, the firm has offices in eight states and Mexico. Its portfolio includes projects from arts and culture, civil, commercial, education, entertainment and gaming, federal, health care, hospitality, manufacturing, municipal, retail and technology.

Ole Miss was truly a great experience for me,” Yates said. “It helped prepare me for my professional life in many ways, both technically from a business perspective but, just as importantly, it introduced me to people that have been lifelong business associates and friends.”

Before becoming president, Yates served several years as executive vice president of the Gulf Coast division of Yates Construction. He is the incoming 2017-2018 chairman of the Mississippi Economic Council.

Yates, who also earned a master’s degree from Arizona State University, has served on the board of directors for Trustmark National Bank and Trustmark Corp., where he is chairman of the Wealth Management Committee. He is immediate past chairman of the Mississippi Partnership for Economic Development and is also on the board of directors for the Gulf Coast Business Council. He is the immediate past president of the Board for the United Way of South Mississippi and was the 2013-14 co-chairman of the Southeast U.S.-Japan Association annual meetings.

He also has served on the Millsaps College board of trustees, the Blueprint Mississippi advisory council and the MEC’s board of directors. He is also on the UM Foundation’s board of directors and has been a member of the Young Presidents’ Organization since 2004.

He is a past chairman of Mississippi Associated Builders and Contractors and served as a member of the Associated Builders & Contractors national board of directors. He has served as co-chairman of the Mississippi Gulf Coast Pacesetter Campaign, and was the 2011 chairman for the American Heart Walk for the Mississippi Gulf Coast.

In 2016, Yates received the United Way’s President’s Award and was recognized by the Mississippi Business Journal as a Mississippi Top CEO. He has also been featured in the Mississippi Business Journal and the Sun Herald as a Top Businessmen Under Forty and was inducted into the Roland Weeks Hall of Fame Outstanding Community Leaders Class of 2010. He was also a recipient of the Coast Young Professionals 4 Ever Young award in 2011.

In 2009, Yates was named the Construction Person of the Year by the Mississippi chapter of the Associated Builders and Contractors. He has served on the advisory council of the Mississippi State University School of Architecture and on the advisory committee of the University of Southern Mississippi School of Engineering Technology.

Yates is married to Tara Duett Yates, a former teacher. They reside in Biloxi with their daughter, Abby, and their son, Gully.

For the Farringtons, lending a helping hand is all part of their desire to give back.

“Lawrence and I want to do everything we can to encourage entrepreneurs in Mississippi,” Jan Farrington said. “We have so many bright, talented entrepreneurs in our state who have had the vision and tenacity to start their own companies. These businesses can and will make a difference in the future of our state if we can keep them here in Mississippi.

“Encouragement from the government, universities, organizations such as Innovate Mississippi, investors and individuals can help make this happen. This award was just a small way that we thought we could contribute.”

Alumni and Friends Urged to be Ole Miss True

New UM program recognizes consistent contributors to academics

Ole Miss True is a program designed to recognize the most faithful academic donors whose annual gifts serve as the foundation for universitywide growth.

Ole Miss True is designed to recognize the most faithful academic donors whose annual gifts serve as a foundation for universitywide growth.

OXFORD, Miss. – Each year, the University of Mississippi reaches new levels of academic achievement, further establishing Ole Miss as one of America’s great public institutions of higher learning. Much of this success is possible thanks to the generous annual giving of the university’s loyal alumni and friends.

To show its gratitude, the university has created “Ole Miss True,” a program designed to recognize the most faithful academic donors whose annual gifts serve as the foundation for universitywide growth.

“If you are Ole Miss True, then you are among a special community of donors dedicated to shaping the future of the university through consistent giving over time,” said Suzanne Thigpen, director of annual giving. “Through this program, we want to recognize those who show their loyalty by their faithful, consecutive giving and we want them to know that their gift matters to the university, regardless of the amount.”

UM alumni and friends who give any amount to the academic area of their choice for three consecutive fiscal years will be recognized as a member of Ole Miss True and will receive a participant card and two Ole Miss True window decals.

Those who continue to make gifts to academics every year without interruption will sustain their participation in the program and achieve new recognition levels, including special certificates of achievement as 5, 10, 15 and 20 years of consecutive annual giving are reached. Those who receive special recognition for 25 years or more of annual giving will also get a commemorative lapel pin.

School of Education Dean David Rock said private support is integral to his program.

“Annual fund giving is our top fundraising strategy at the School of Education because it makes a lasting impact on the academic experiences for our students and faculty,” Rock said. “We want a broad base of engaged supporters, giving anywhere from $25 to $1,000 per year. These continuous donors provide a margin of excellence for our students, faculty and programs year-in and year-out.

“Mississippi and our nation need great schools of education. That is what we are working toward every day at Ole Miss with the help of our donors. Together, we impact thousands through teaching and school leadership that literally transforms lives.”

Specifically, annual giving has helped the UM School of Education:

  • Support one of the most dynamic technology innovations for teacher education in the nation, TeachLive. This interactive technology experience enables students to experience live teaching in front of five avatar children supported by a human interactor using HD video technology. All pre-service teachers experience TeachLive multiple times.
  • Support its annual trip to Birmingham, Alabama, which allows students and faculty to visit the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute, the 16th Street Baptist Church and Kelly Ingram Park, and spend the night with dinosaurs in the McWane Science Museum to experience interactive, hands-on experiments.
  • Sponsor the visit of the National Teacher of the Year to the university.
  • Create outstanding academic programming for faculty and students by providing funds to support state and regional academic conferences.
  • Support graduate student travel to academic meetings and conferences.

The School of Education is just one example. Annual private giving supports similar programs and events in schools and departments campuswide.

“Ole Miss True recognizes a community making a difference in informed and creative teaching, student scholarships, cutting-edge research and service to society at large,” Thigpen said. “Collectively, annual gifts have a powerful impact on the university’s ability to embrace new opportunities and meet emerging needs while also honoring the timeless tradition of giving to Ole Miss.”

For more information on Ole Miss True, contact Thigpen at 662-915-5944 or by email at sthigpen@olemiss.edu.

UM Names Kirk Purdom Executive Director of Alumni Affairs

Ole Miss graduate returns after leading advancement efforts in Tennessee, Kentucky

Kirk Purdom

Kirk Purdom

OXFORD, Miss. – Kirk Purdom, vice president for advancement at Transylvania University and a University of Mississippi alumnus, has been named UM executive director of alumni affairs, effective March 14.

Tim Walsh, who held the post since 2008, retired in March 2015. Sheila Dossett, senior associate director of alumni affairs, has served as interim executive director since that time.

“We are delighted that Kirk and his family are coming home to Ole Miss,” Chancellor Jeff Vitter said. “He has established a solid record of success while serving universities in Tennessee and Kentucky, and we are excited to have him rejoin our team. The Ole Miss Alumni Association has been blessed with dedicated leadership for many years, and we look forward to its continued growth and prosperity for years to come.”

Purdom has served in his current role at Transylvania University since 2011. He came to Transylvania University from Kentucky Wesleyan College, where he was vice president for advancement.

“I am extremely honored to be returning to Ole Miss and grateful for the opportunity to lead our Alumni Association,” Purdom said. “Ole Miss is a great institution with wonderful alumni, and the Alumni Association is blessed to have such a dedicated staff. With all the growth and excitement surrounding Ole Miss, I look forward to joining the team and to working with our board of directors as well as Chancellor Vitter and all our great volunteers.”

A 1993 UM graduate, Purdom played baseball for the Rebels and worked for several departments on campus from 1994 to 2001, including two years with the Alumni Association. His wife, Keilly, also played golf for the Rebels and served as head women’s golf coach from 1991 to 2001.

The Purdoms’ oldest daughter, Kie, is following in her parents’ footsteps as a freshman on the Ole Miss golf team. The Purdoms have two other daughters: Kara Beth, 12, and Kate, 16.

It is important for the new executive director to have a strong Ole Miss connection, Alumni Association President Eddie Maloney said.

“After an almost yearlong nationwide search, we are happy to have Kirk as our new executive director,” Maloney said. “Our executive director reports directly to Chancellor Vitter, and I felt a strong Ole Miss background was necessary to keep our university moving in a positive direction with all of us working together. From the interview process, I believe Kirk can follow in the footsteps of his esteemed predecessors.”

Purdom becomes only the sixth director to lead the association. Before 1947, the highest position, alumni secretary, was elected annually.

Formed in 1852 by the university’s first graduating class, the Alumni Association publishes the quarterly Ole Miss Alumni Review magazine, organizes reunions, sponsors the Alumni Hall of Fame, coordinates local club meetings nationally, operates The Inn at Ole Miss and is involved in many other programs and activities to strengthen the university and to help maintain a strong relationship between the Ole Miss alumni community and the university.

For more information about the Ole Miss Alumni Association, visit http://www.olemissalumni.com.

HGTV Pilot Episode of ‘Home Town’ Hosted by Two Ole Miss Alumni

Shop owners Erin and Ben Napier encourage small-town living

The pilot episode of "Home Town,” hosted by Erin and Ben Napier, airs on HGTV Sunday, Jan. 24 at 11 a.m. CST.

The pilot episode of ‘Home Town,’ hosted by Erin and Ben Napier, airs on HGTV at 11 a.m. Sunday (Jan. 24).

OXFORD, Miss. – Two artistic University of Mississippi alumni will host the pilot episode of “Home Town,” airing Sunday (Jan. 24) on HGTV.

Erin and Ben Napier, residents of Laurel, have made their living by creating historical-inspired designs for furniture, home goods and wedding stationery. They’ve used their talents to help revitalize downtown Laurel, and HGTV took notice.

During the show, the couple will help new residents find and renovate a home in Laurel while also showing them the benefits of living in a small, Southern town. In the pilot episode, a family is searching for and finds an old, historic home. The Napiers, along with local architects and craftsmen, restore the old house.

“We’re just two people who want others to see the magic of small-town living and everything it has to offer,” Erin Napier said.

If the pilot is successful, then the show could become a series on HGTV.

Ben Napier hopes the show will encourage other young families to make their homes in small towns across the country.

“When you live in a small town, you can make a difference,” he said. “It’s affordable. You can travel if you want to see the world, but the small towns are important. That’s where most people’s lives begin.”

Erin Napier honed her skills during her undergraduate career at UM, where she earned a Bachelor of Fine Arts with an emphasis in print design. She owns an international wedding stationery shop called Lucky Luxe Heirloom Design and her home goods line, Lucky Luxe Dry Goods.

Ben Napier graduated from Ole Miss with a bachelor’s degree in history and went into a career in student ministry. After he and Erin married, he began learning about woodworking as a means to fill their new home with furniture.

It was at first a hobby, but his handcrafted pieces have become the heart of his business, Scotsman Co., a wood shop also featuring apparel and vintage items with Southern, masculine style.

Virginia Chavis, chair of the Department of Art and Art History, said Erin Napier was an unforgettable student who frequents her classes each spring as a guest speaker.

“She is self-motivated, creative and ahead of the curve in her ideas,” Chavis said. “While she does talk about her successes, more importantly, she describes the path she took to get her where she is today. She explains to students the difficult decision she had to make in the beginning of her career to let go of her reliable paycheck in order to pursue her creative ambitions.”

Chavis recalls one faculty member saying, “Erin will be famous one day.”

“I’m so proud of Erin and her accomplishments,” she said. “Not only is she a great designer and entrepreneur, she is a good person and has remained the genuine and caring person I knew as a student.

“She’s still passionate, probably even more now than ever, about what she does. In order to be successful in the creative world, one must be willing to put in long, hard hours. Erin is not afraid of getting her hands dirty or staying up late to get the job done.”

The Napiers’ designs can be found at ErinAndBen.co. Be sure to check out the pilot episode of “Home Town,” airing on HGTV at 11 a.m. Sunday.

UM Student Organization Seeks Funds to Fight Hunger Locally

Ignite Ole Miss campaign facilitates effort to raise support for campus food bank

Donating to crowd-funding campaign will help the Kinard Hall-based Food Bank stock its shelves with frozen meals and fresh produce.

Donating to crowd-funding campaign will help the Kinard Hall-based Food Bank stock its shelves with frozen meals and fresh produce.

OXFORD, Miss. – The University of Mississippi has launched a crowd-funding campaign in an effort to raise $10,000 to support the Ole Miss Food Bank, a student-run organization that makes nutritious foods available to those in need.

Contributions to the campaign via https://ignite.olemiss.edu/finsup4food will help the Kinard Hall-based Food Bank stock its shelves with frozen meals and fresh produce. Additionally, funding will support the bank’s supply of canned goods and personal hygiene items, all of which are made available free to qualified members of the campus community.

“Students’ health and nutrition is important to us here at the Food Bank,” said Toni Cruse, UM Food Bank chair. “We believe every student deserves to feel nourished and satisfied when they go to bed at night.”

The food bank was created in 2012 to foster a healthy college community by working to alleviate hunger on the UM campus. With support from volunteers and donors, the Food Bank has grown ever since.

“It is a grim reality that nutritious meals are not an option for some of our students due to the expense,” Interim Chancellor Morris Stocks said. “Through the Ole Miss Food Bank, we have been able to alleviate hunger in our campus community and make nutritious meals more accessible.”

For more information on the Ole Miss Food Bank, visit http://dos.orgsync.com/org/umfoodbank, and for information on the Ignite OleMiss campaign, go to https://ignite.olemiss.edu/finsup4food or contact Maura Wakefield at mmwakefi@olemiss.edu.

Jordan Increases Forward Together Campaign Support to $2 Million

Manning Center practice field to be named in his honor

Bill Jordan, his wife, Shannon, and their children – Tyler, a senior at Ole Miss, Graycen, 9, and Colton, 6 – enjoy a football game together in Vaught-Hemingway Stadium. Photo by Bill Dabney

Bill Jordan, his wife, Shannon, and their children – Tyler, a senior at Ole Miss, Graycen, 9, and Colton, 6 – enjoy a football game together in Vaught-Hemingway Stadium. Photo by Bill Dabney

OXFORD, Miss. – Early in his career, Bill Jordan found it difficult to scrape up enough money to pay the rent on a trade show booth. Now, as creator and CEO of the nation’s leading line of camouflage patterns, he is recognized as a major supporter of the University of Mississippi’s athletics programs, and his name soon will be directly linked with the most respected name in Rebel football history.

The Columbus, Georgia, native, who caught Archie Manning’s passes as wide receiver from 1969 to 1971, recently pledged $1 million to the Forward Together campaign. The pledge, which will be paid over the next five years, increases Jordan’s total Vaught Society giving to $2 million since 2013.

In recognition of his generous support to Ole Miss athletics, the practice field at the Olivia and Archie Manning Athletics Performance Center will bear Jordan’s name following a spring 2016 dedication ceremony.

“It’s a great honor for my family and me,” Jordan said. “I feel especially good about being able to tie this gift to the Manning Center, having played football with Archie. Also, having graduated from Ole Miss with so many great memories and now having my son there as well, providing support just seemed like the right thing to do at this stage in my life.

“I’m telling people it’s a great time to be an Ole Miss Rebel. Ole Miss is very important to me and my family. We’re all Ole Miss Rebels through and through, and we hope this gift will help not only the athletics facility but the school as well.”

Jordan graduated from UM in 1973 with a bachelor’s degree in business administration and returned to Columbus to work at his family’s boat dealership. In 1983, he started Spartan Archery Products in the back room.

At the same time, he began designing and developing what would become Realtree, billed as the world’s most effective camouflage pattern, which he introduced at the 1986 Shooting, Hunting and Outdoor Trade show.

In the late ’80s, Jordan introduced the first Team Realtree logo. Realtree employs more than 80 people and boasts more than 2,500 licensees of its patterns. Its logo adorns thousands of outdoor and lifestyle products.

Richard Childress Racing’s No. 3 car, driven by Austin Dillon, even features Realtree as an associate sponsor, as does NASCAR champion Kevin Harvick’s helmet. And Jordan is host of the popular “Realtree Outdoors” television show, which has aired since 1993.

Jordan’s athletic achievements earned him induction into the Georgia/Alabama Chattahoochee Valley Sports Hall of Fame and the Ole Miss M-Club Hall of Fame. In 2012, the Ole Miss chapter of the National Football Foundation and College Hall of Fame honored him with its Distinguished American Award.

Jordan and his wife, Shannon, have three children: Tyler, a senior at Ole Miss; Graycen, 9, and Colton, 6.

“We are so thankful for generous alumni like Bill Jordan who know what it’s like to build a business into a national presence,” said Keith Carter, senior associate athletics director for development and executive director of the Ole Miss Athletics Foundation. “Essentially, that’s what we’re doing here. We’re building a program that must continually improve in order to be competitive.

“Bill’s gift will certainly go a long way toward helping us do that. Bill’s contribution is significant, but every gift to this campaign is important.”

The $150 million Forward Together campaign was launched in 2011 to strengthen Ole Miss athletics in its continuous commitment to excellence. Campaign contributions have surpassed the $138 million mark.

To learn more about the Vaught Society and how it supports the Forward Together campaign, contact Keith Carter at jkcarter@olemiss.edu or call 662-915-7159.