My Ole Miss Wish Makes One Special Fan’s Day

Colton Bullock's adventure is part of Student Veterans Association charity effort

Colton Bullock, 8, of Brandon makes his way down the Walk of Champions at the University of Mississippi on April 27, high-fiving members of the Ole Miss ROTC program as part of his My Ole Miss Wish. Photo by Thomas Graning/Ole Miss Communications

OXFORD, Miss. – On Friday afternoon (April 27), the Walk of Champions through the Grove at the University of Mississippi was reserved for just one champion: 8-year-old Colton Bullock of Brandon.

Colton, who was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia at age 3 in September 2013, was made an honorary lifetime member of the Ole Miss Student Veterans Association before that evening’s Ole Miss vs. LSU baseball game at Oxford-University Stadium/Swayze Field. To celebrate the honor, the association bestowed upon Colton his own walk through the Grove before a ride to the stadium aboard an Oxford Fire Department fire engine, complete with flashing lights and blaring sirens.

Colton’s honor was made possible through My Ole Miss Wish, a philanthropic effort of the Ole Miss Student Veterans Association, a nonprofit that works to solve complex issues surrounding veterans in higher education. My Ole Miss Wish works with military families to give children unforgettable Ole Miss experiences in partnership with Charter Road Hospitality and the Department of Intercollegiate Athletics.

Colton is the son of Ken Bullock, a first lieutenant in the Mississippi Air National Guard where he serves as a flight nurse, and Brittney Bullock.

Supporting military families is important because it is part of the university’s Flagship Forward Strategic Plan, which includes building healthy and vibrant communities, said Andrew Newby, a U.S. Marine Corps veteran and UM assistant director of Veteran and Military Services.

“The SVA is composed of student veterans dedicated to service, and this initiative allows them to serve in new and different ways by making impacts in the lives of our state,” Newby said. “Student veterans understand the transient nature of military families, and with this in mind, we want to make sure they understand that they have a place within the Ole Miss family.”

Ole Miss baseball coach Mike Bianco offers a few words of encouragement to Colton Bullock. Photo by Thomas Graning/Ole Miss Communications

Colton’s day also included a Pass and Review Parade with more than 150 members of the university’s ROTC program and Ole Miss family saluting him, a meet-and-greet with the Rebels baseball team and throwing out the first pitch at the game

On Saturday (April 28), Colton was involved in a Nerf gun war that raged across the Grove. The family’s hotel stay was provided by Charter Road Hospitality, which operates several hotels.

“My Ole Miss Wish will continue to find military families with an affinity or affiliation to the university, and hopes to work with one family in the fall and one in the spring,” Newby said. “As the program gains traction, we hope the community will continue to support our efforts, as they have so far with the new additions to our programming and initiatives on campus.

“The goal in all of this is to make the University of Mississippi nationally relevant for veterans, and we are heading in the right direction.”

The Ole Miss Student Veterans Association was introduced to Colton and his story during this year’s RebelTHON charity, a dance marathon that raised a record-breaking $265,912.30 for the Blair E. Batson Children’s Hospital at the UM Medical Center, exceeding its goal of $225,000. Colton is a patient at Batson.

Colton Bullock of Brandon visits with the Ole Miss baseball team as part of his My Ole Miss Wish, a philanthropic effort of the Ole Miss Student Veterans Association. Photo by Thomas Graning/Ole Miss Communications

“The purpose of My Ole Miss Wish is to give Ole Miss experiences to children with illnesses and military families,” said Evan Ciocci, a Navy veteran who serves as president of the Ole Miss Student Veterans Association. “It is important to support the family of military as it is the military member.

“It is our way of giving back to the community and continuing to serve; though our service time is up, (it) doesn’t mean we cannot continue to serve.”

Colton arrived for his wish clad in a powder blue Ole Miss baseball hat and jersey, as the ROTC cadets in uniforms and green-and-blue camouflage lined the Walk of Champions.

Colton’s honorary lifetime member statement was read aloud to him, noting his “strength, courage and amazing ability to overcome any obstacles.”

“Your genuine love and support of your family, your respect for your parents and your love for Ole Miss make this an easy decision,” the statement read. “We look forward to great things from you in the future, and hope you will accept this small token of appreciation as a sign of commitment to you, your family and your future.”

With that, the No. 1 question on the Ole Miss campus was asked: “Are you ready?” Then the crowd erupted with Hotty Toddy as Colton made his way down the walk, high-fiving the blue-, red- and green-clad throng awaiting him.

To nominate children and families to participate in My Ole Miss Wish, contact Andrew Newby at Please put “My Ole Miss Wish” in the subject line.

UM Graduate Programs Highly Ranked by U.S. News & World Report

Business school finishes No. 53 among public institutions

The University of Mississippi School of Business is tied for No. 53 among public institutions in the 2019 edition of the U.S. News & World Report Best Graduate Schools rankings. Photo by Nathan Latil/Ole Miss Communications

OXFORD, Miss. – The University of Mississippi offers 14 graduate programs ranked in the Top 100 among public institutions. Seven programs joined the ranks of the Top 100 in the recent 2019 edition of the U.S. News & World Report Best Graduate Schools rankings, adding to seven other UM graduate programs that were previously ranked.

UM graduate programs ranked in the Top 100 are:

Online graduate programs at UM ranked in the Top 100:

  • online MBA (No. 20)
  • online education (tied for No. 35)

The business program performed exceptionally well in the 2019 edition of the rankings, finishing in a tie for No. 53 among public institutions.

“We are excited for the recognition of our MBA program, and this ranking is a testament to the quality of our faculty and the outstanding educational experience that we provide for our students,” said Ken Cyree, dean of the School of Business Administration. “We continue to create opportunities for student success and offer an excellent value in the marketplace for students aspiring to receive an MBA.”

Earlier this year, U.S. News & World Report named the university’s online Master of Business Administration as one of the best in the nation, ranking No. 20 nationally, and the Ole Miss online graduate education programs tied for No. 35 among public institutions.

The School of Law is tied for No. 54 among public institutions in the 2019 edition of the U.S. News & World Report Best Graduate Schools rankings. Photo by Robert Jordan/Ole Miss Communications

“We’re pleased to see many of UM’s graduate programs ranked nationally,” Chancellor Jeffrey S. Vitter said. “As we continue our focus upon preparing the next generation of leaders for challenges on a national and global stage, these rankings provide important benchmarks for us to highlight and measure our successes.

“Through our outstanding faculty and collaborative research opportunities, we are committed to fostering excellence in graduate education and to growing our reach and impact.”

The new rankings arrive a year after U.S. News & World Report graduate program rankings for history, English and political science placed each of those UM programs in the Top 100 for public institutions.

In the 2018 edition of the rankings, the UM graduate program in history cracked the Top 40 for the first time, tying for No. 38 among public institutions.

The English program tied for No. 40 among public universities.

The political science graduate program entered the rankings for the first time and tied for No. 59 among public institutions.

Ken Cyree, dean of the UM School of Business Administration, said the school’s high ranking in the U.S. News & World Report Best Graduate Schools rankings is a testament to its faculty and educational experience. Photo by Robert Jordan/Ole Miss Communications

In the 2017 edition of the U.S. News & World Report Best Graduate Schools rankings, the Ole Miss pharmacy program ranked No. 23 among public institutions, and the university’s clinical psychology graduate program tied for No. 67 among public institutions.

“The institution has focused on enhancing graduate education, and we are so pleased that our excellent programs have garnered this level of recognition,” said Christy M. Wyandt, interim dean of the Graduate School.

In four of the last five years, the university also has improved its overall U.S. News & World Report Top Public Schools ranking. In the 2018 edition, UM was tied for No. 73 among top public schools.

The 2019 edition of the rankings rates programs in business, law, medicine, nursing, engineering and education, among others. According to U.S. News, the ranking methodology varies by discipline, taking into account factors that may include test scores of entering students, job placement rates and starting salaries of recent graduates, academic quality ratings by officials at peer institutions, and opinions of hiring managers.

UM Students Sweep Public Relations Association of Mississippi Awards

Twelve Ole Miss students honored out of 14 winners, including Best in Show

Student-curated Exhibit Open at J.D. Williams Library

Display of artifacts spanning 10,000 years available for viewing through summer

The artifacts, which span 10,000 years of native life in Mississippi, will be available for viewing throughout the summer. Photo by Marlee Crawford/Ole Miss Communications

OXFORD, Miss. – University of Mississippi anthropology students have curated an exhibit of stone artifacts that are on display at the J.D. Williams Library.

The exhibit features a grasshopper effigy bead, arrowheads, chunky stones, axes and a ceramic human effigy from the Calvin S. Brown Collection, managed by the university’s Center for Archaeological Research. Brown, a modern languages professor at UM in the early 1900s, acquired objects from archaeological sites across the state for the university.

The curated objects are in a display case in the reading room of the library’s Department of Archives and Special Collections. The exhibit will remain through the summer.

Students curated the exhibit during the fall semester as part of Anthropology 309: Archaeology of the Southeast and Mississippi. They chose each object to display, worked on descriptions for each and designed the display.

Maureen Meyers, assistant professor of anthropology, taught the course to give students a more hands-on learning experience.

“Unlike a traditional paper, this project allowed students to use these valuable collections by identifying the objects and researching each, then learning how to present that information to the public,” Meyers said. “Students found the experience both unique and invaluable because it allowed them to learn about how items displayed and also how they used by native peoples.”

The items on display span 10,000 years of native life in Mississippi.

“When Dr. Meyers approached me with this idea, I felt it was a perfect fit for the department and would showcase an extremely important subject through rare artifacts,” said Jennifer Ford, head of special collections. “In addition, having UM students work on the exhibit was a wonderful experience for us, as it is one of the first student-curated displays held in special collections.”

Ford and Meyers presented the students with information about how to create an engaging exhibit by telling stories and making people want to learn more.

Brandon Fassinger, a senior from Phoenix who is double majoring in history and anthropology, said he enjoyed how the course incorporated real archaeological work in a classroom setting.

Students worked in the archaeology lab when not in the classroom to determine the use and function of the artifacts that would eventually be in the exhibit. Fassinger and his classmates used digital scales and calipers to precisely determine the dimensions and weight of each artifact.

“This part was really my favorite because it was really hands-on and engaging,” he said.

The students then decided which pieces represented cultural aspects of Mississippian society to put on display.

Fassinger said the experience gave him extensive knowledge of Southeastern archaeology and ancient Native American people and was a major factor in his decision to add anthropology as a second major.

“I learned more about archeology from this class than I ever had before,” he said. “I really felt like I was learning how the research was done, and I’ve come to respect the man hours put into these large-scale projects and curation in general.”

For more information on research, educational and outreach programs in archaeology at Ole Miss, visit

Ancient Graffiti Project Offers Door to Past for UM Professor

Project uncovers wall plaster etchings buried by Mount Vesuvius

Rebecca Benefiel, an associate professor of classics at Washington and Lee University and Ancient Graffiti Project director, uses an iPad to photograph graffiti in Herculaneum, Italy. Submitted photo

OXFORD, Miss. – Centuries before Kilroy was here, “Hyacinthus was here,” lurking around the streets of ancient Herculaneum, carving his eternal presence into wall plaster with graffiti.

Hyacinthus’ reminder is joined by other graffiti etched into the walls of the Italian town that was entombed under tons of volcanic pyroclastic flows from the erupting Mount Vesuvius in A.D. 79.

Other graffiti writers professed their love while some wrote short poetry or drew elaborate images of camels and women. And some, not surprisingly, carved obscenities or used their engravings to spread vicious rumors.

These inscriptions have been preserved for centuries by the weight of the exploding Vesuvius. Those graffiti and graffiti from the neighboring town of Pompeii, also buried by the blast of Vesuvius, are being documented and digitized by The Ancient Graffiti Project, a venture whose field director is University of Mississippi classics professor Jacqueline DiBiasie-Sammons.

“The Ancient Graffiti Project is an archeological project whose goal is to find, document and digitize ancient graffiti from the cities of Pompeii and Herculaneum,” she said. “We search for graffiti on the walls of these ancient cities, document them using archeological techniques and then digitize them in an online, free database so that anybody in the world can learn about ancient graffiti.”

Graffiti were probably ubiquitous in ancient cultures, DiBiasie-Sammons said, noting that ancient Rome, for example, was likely covered with graffiti, but the wall plaster preserving these engravings did not survive until modern times. Fortunately for the project – though unfortunately for the residents of Pompeii, Herculaneum and other nearby Roman settlements – the catastrophic eruption of Vesuvius buried Pompeii and Herculaneum, preserving the graffiti.

“Ancient graffiti give us a sense of what it was like to live 2,000 years ago,” DiBiasie-Sammons said. “One thing I’ve been struck by is that life 2,000 years ago was not so different than life today. We express some of the same sorts of thoughts and ideas and dislikes.

“I believe we can learn a lot about ourselves by looking to the past. This is one reason why the study of classics is important: by looking backward, we can learn a great deal about the present.”

During fieldwork in previous summers, the project, which started in 2014, has digitized more than 500 ancient graffiti, about 300 from Herculaneum and another 200 from Pompeii.

The project is directed by Rebecca Benefiel, an associate professor of classics at Washington and Lee University in Lexington, Virginia. The assistant director is Holly Sypniewski, an associate professor of classics at Millsaps College in Jackson.

Jacqueline DiBiasie-Sammons, UM assistant professor of classics, lines up a photograph of graffiti with reflectance transformation imaging, a type of computational photography. Submitted photo

The process for documenting the graffiti includes work both in the field and in the library, Sypniewski said. Project members study all published documentation of each graffito and, when possible, archival information.

That information is compiled into an electronic publication, but the project also studies those inscriptions that survive on site and records other information such as the graffito’s size, letter shapes and exact location. The project then photographs each inscription extensively and makes precise line drawings to record how each inscription appears.

“It’s a multistage and complex process that requires many different types of scholarly research and work,” she said.

This summer, DiBiasie-Sammons and three Ole Miss students, along with other members of the project, will return to Herculaneum to document the graffiti. Next summer, DiBiasie-Sammons will spend her field season in Pompeii, which once had about 8,000 graffiti markings.

Madeleine Louise McCracken, a freshman classics major from Austin, Texas, is one of those students going to Italy this summer for fieldwork.

“I hope to gain a firsthand knowledge of Roman culture and daily life in Herculaneum while also getting experience in the archaeological field,” she said. “It is a unique opportunity to put the knowledge that I have gained into context while also learning new skills that will help me in my future studies.

“I am fascinated with the lives and cultures of ancient civilizations, and I think that it is interesting and important to study their daily lives and compare how the ancients lived to modern society.”

The ancient graffiti were etched into wall plaster and differ from stone inscriptions, which were given forethought, while many of the graffiti were more spontaneous. But not all the engravings are impromptu words or phrases. There are poems, drawings of animals, prayers to gods for help – any number of inscriptions.

Since ancient Romans did not have cheap access to paper, items a modern human might write on a Post-it note, an average Roman citizen would write on a wall.

“Ancient graffiti are different than modern graffiti in that modern graffiti are either now illegal or frowned upon, but this doesn’t seem to have been the case in antiquity,” said DiBiasie-Sammons, who discovered her love of archeology during a second-grade field trip to an archeological excavation in her native Kentucky.

UM classics professor Jacqueline DiBiasie-Sammons takes a photo in Herculaneum, Italy, while working on The Ancient Graffiti Project. Submitted photo

“People were allowed to write in interior spaces of homes, but unlike today’s graffiti, which are typically large, spray-painted and draw your attention, ancient graffiti are usually really hard to find. They are often lightly scratched into the wall plaster, so if you’re not trained to look for this type of writing, it is easy to miss.”

The professors involved in The Ancient Graffiti Project seek out different types of funding to make the project possible: grants, support from project members’ home institutions and support from organizations such as the Center for Hellenic Studies, Sypniewski said. 

Most recently, the project was aided by a crowd-funding campaign organized to help students participate.

DiBiasie-Sammons said UM has been “incredibly supportive, especially the Department of Classics. I have all the technological resources available to me that I need to do this research.”

The Mike and Mary McDonnell Endowment in Classics, created in 2009, also has been a wonderful resource for classics majors, particularly when it comes to travel overseas, DiBiasie-Sammons said.

“This summer, we will offer scholarships to any of the participating students who are classics majors from an UM Foundation fund generated from the Mike and Mary McDonnell Endowment in Classics,” said Molly Pasco-Pranger, associate professor and chair of the Department of Classics.

“The McDonnells’ first priority for the endowment is summer travel to classics students to study archaeological sites, so this project fits with their desires perfectly. We are hoping for an even bigger group of undergrads to participate next summer, when we offer a class in connection with the project.

“The study of ancient graffiti offers an incomparable window into the daily life of Romans of every social class that will allow our students to connect with the culture they are studying in new and vivid ways.”

The Ancient Graffiti Project also gives students a chance to do independent research, DiBiasie-Sammons said.

“This material hasn’t been studied extensively so there’s opportunity for students to do completely original research that makes a significant contribution to the field,” she said. “This is a wonderful opportunity for students to really make a difference in our understanding of the ancient Romans.”

Keep up with the faculty and students involved with The Ancient Graffiti Project during the field season this summer by following the project on social media via Herculaneum Graffiti Project on Facebook or @hercgraffproj on Twitter.

‘Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Cinderella’ Comes to Ford Center Tuesday

Tony Award-winning show features dazzling costumes and scenes from the classic fairy tale

Featuring dazzling costumes and musical numbers, the national touring production of ‘Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Cinderella’ comes to the Ford Center for a performance at 7:30 p.m. April 24. Submitted photo

OXFORD, Miss. – The University of Mississippi’s Gertrude C. Ford Center for the Performing Arts will host “Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Cinderella” for one performance at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday (April 24).

The Tony Award-winning Broadway musical, from the creators of “The Sound of Music,” puts a contemporary twist on the classic fairy tale. Featuring dazzling costumes and scenes, the performance transports viewers back to their childhood through memorable moments, including the pumpkin, the glass slipper and the masked ball.

A live orchestra will perform some of Rodgers and Hammerstein’s most beloved songs, including “In My Own Little Corner” and “Ten Minutes Ago.”

Kate Meacham, Ford Center marketing director, said she is excited to bring this funny and romantic Broadway experience to Oxford.

“Cinderella is such a fun story, and this is the same production that won a Tony when it was on Broadway in 2013,” she said. “We are sure that our audiences will enjoy it and have a magical time.”

Tickets are available at the UM Box Office inside the Ford Center or online at

They are $75 for orchestra/parterre and tier 1 box levels, $69 for mezzanine and tier 2 box levels and $63 for the balcony level. A 10 percent discount is available for UM faculty, staff and retirees when tickets are purchased at the box office. UM student tickets are $25 for the orchestra/parterre level and $17 for the mezzanine/balcony level.

Veterans with Purple Hearts Honored with Reserved Parking

Dedication ceremonies scheduled April 24 in front of the Lyceum

Veterans Association students and their dependents gather in the new Veterans Resources Center on campus. Photo by Thomas Graning/Ole Miss Communications

OXFORD, Miss. – Most University of Mississippi students are restricted from parking in certain areas of campus, but that is about to change for Don Zielenski and other Purple Heart recipients at Ole Miss.

The sophomore from south Texas is the first to receive the new Purple Heart Parking Pass, which allows owners to park anywhere on campus. The permit will be unveiled during the university’s Purple Heart Recognition Program at 10 a.m. April 24 on the Lyceum steps.

The event will highlight efforts by the Office of Veteran and Military Services to honor the university’s veteran community and promote access across UM’s official Purple Heart University campus.

“The Purple Heart Recognition Program allows students, faculty, staff and retirees the opportunity to exchange their current parking pass for a Purple Heart Parking Pass,” said Andrew Newby, a U.S. Marine Corps veteran and UM assistant director of veteran and military services. “This pass allows the recipient to park in any lot within any space on campus.

“We will have a dedicated space in the Lyceum Circle that is marked with a Purple Heart placard, which will allow visitors with proper proof of Purple Heart credentials to access the space as well.”

The April 24 program schedule includes the March of the Colors by the ROTC Color Guard and the official party, the national anthem performed by the University Low Brass Group and opening remarks from Evan Ciocci of Sandwich, Massachusetts, a sophomore information systems management and computer science major and president of the Student Veterans Association.

Newby will discuss VMS programming, present the parking pass and unveil the parking spot on the Circle as the ceremony ends.

Zielenski was a cavalry scout in the U.S. Army. While on deployment as a turret gunner on mounted vehicle patrol, he was struck during a mortar attack. Pushing through his injuries, Zielenski continued to fire on the enemy, which resulted in a Bronze Star Medal with Valor device and a Purple Heart.

Months later on the same deployment, he was on foot patrol when an improvised explosive device triggered a set of explosives placed on top of a building. The building collapsed onto Zielenski, rupturing his spleen, which was removed in transit aboard a helicopter, collapsing a lung and crushing his skull. His injuries left him deaf and blind on the left side of his face, and he was awarded a second Purple Heart.

“Don recovered from his injuries and is now majoring in psychology,” Newby said. “He intends to work with veterans experiencing PTS and TBI. We look forward to great things from Don, and are excited to honor him here at this Purple Heart campus.”

Zielenski said he is honored to have been chosen as the first student to receive the Purple Heart Parking Pass.

“Andrew has helped our Student Veterans Association progress by leaps and bounds in the short time he has been here,” said the veteran, who was stationed at Camp Hovey South Korea in 2008, then deployed to Afghanistan in 2011. “Being part of the Student Veterans helped tremendously upon arriving my freshman year. This organization gave me a great group of people I could associate with.”

Three years ago, UM, the city of Oxford and Lafayette County were named a Purple Heart University, a Purple Heart City and a Purple Heart County for their efforts to create a welcoming environment for veterans and Purple Heart recipients. The Purple Heart is a military decoration given only to those wounded or killed in combat.

While UM is one of four SEC institutions to hold the Purple Heart University designation, it is the first university in Mississippi to receive the designation in conjunction with the city and county in which it is located.

“The special things that Ole Miss does specifically for veterans that attend the university are what qualify them to become a Purple Heart University,” said Ben Baker, commander of the Oxford Purple Heart Chapter.

The university’s Office of Veteran and Military Services was created in April 2013 to provide comprehensive resources for veterans, active members of the military and their dependents, and to assist them in becoming successful as Ole Miss students.

“Being named a Purple Heart University means we support, honor and welcome veterans to this great campus,” said Matt Hayes, senior military instructor for Army ROTC and a Purple Heart recipient. “When you have a campus that is supportive of your goals and ambitions, it really gives the veteran the inspiration and drive to succeed.”

Ole Miss is home to 1,355 military-connected students, 959 of whom are using GI Education Benefits.

To learn more about veteran and military services at Ole Miss, visit

Drug, Alcohol Education Attracts Support

Grassroots effort surpasses $1 million for UM's new William Magee Center

David Magee (front center) visits with members of UM chapter of Sigma Nu fraternity, including (front, from left) philanthropy co-chair Nick Egorshin of Hoover, Alabama; Campbell Hillard of Fort Worth, Texas; and philanthropy co-chair Miller Frazier of Clarksdale, at the group’s house. The fraternity’s members have increased their support of the university’s new William Magee Center for Wellness Education, putting fundraising efforts over the million-dollar mark. UM photo by Bill Dabney

OXFORD, Miss. – When William Magee, a University of Mississippi young alumnus, lost his battle with drug addiction, parents Kent and David Magee, of Oxford, shared his story and started an ongoing movement to help students.

Student organizations, alumni, parents, aunts, uncles, faculty, staff, friends, a foundation, a corporation and a church congregation have collectively given more than $1 million in a 12-month period to establish the William Magee Center for Wellness Education Endowment, with the hopes of making a difference in the lives of other young people with similar struggles. The goal is to build a minimum endowment of $1.5 million to support the center’s programming and operations.

The first student organization to make a major gift of $25,000 to the Magee Center, Sigma Nu fraternity, has followed up with another $50,000 commitment to take fundraising over the million-dollar mark. Another fraternity, Phi Kappa Psi, hosted weekend events to increase its original $30,000 gift, and Phi Mu fraternity has stepped forward with a $25,000 gift.

“What has been so exciting about this campaign has been the level of engagement and support from our campus community,” said Brandi Hephner LaBanc, vice chancellor for student affairs. “I am especially impressed with our student-led support.

“Their willingness to contribute to the opening of the William Magee Center for Wellness Education indicates their interest in helping reduce the alcohol and other drug culture, and their desire to support educational efforts at the University of Mississippi.”

David Magee responded: “To pass our first milestone of $1 million in such a short time shows how much the Ole Miss family cares about providing the very best in alcohol and other drugs education to its students. The hard work from students, alumni, faculty, staff and friends has been amazing.

“Not a day goes by without someone new reaching out and saying, ‘I want to help.’ Our speed in achieving this first $1 million is energizing for the hard work ahead.”

Sigma Nu members made the gifts to pay tribute to William’s life, David and the family’s other son, Hudson, all Sigma Nu members. William Magee also was a member of the Sally McDonnell Honors College, the Croft Institute for International Studies and a letterman on the Ole Miss track and field team.

John Green, a Sigma Nu chapter adviser, said when David Magee shared the center’s mission with the chapter, it was a natural decision.

“When David described his vision for the William Magee Wellness Center and the impact it could have on the young men and women at Ole Miss, Epsilon Xi Chapter of Sigma Nu immediately agreed to be a partner in providing the center early support,” Green said.

“We are pleased the early financial commitment encouraged other Greek-letter organizations on campus to make financial commitments, which have totaled almost $250,000 from fraternities and sororities to date, with follow-up commitments to come from the Greeks in the future. We look forward to a long-term relationship between Sigma Nu and the William Magee Center.”

Phi Kappa Psi president Harris Jones, of Franklin, Tennessee, agreed that the center will be a significant resource.

“Substance abuse is not something that only affects addicts; it affects their friends, family and peers as well,” Jones said. “We focus so much on helping the outside community that we often forget about helping each other, so we want to pour into the Ole Miss community by providing education and resources to combat an issue that adversely impacts our community.

“We believe that a healthier Ole Miss community will ultimately be more prosperous and able to help the outside community in a greater capacity as well.”

The William Magee Center is slated to open in early 2019 at the university’s new South Campus Recreation Facility. A second Ignite Ole Miss crowdfunding campaign is underway, led by seniors Tucker Fox, of Cordova, Tennessee, and Savannah Smith, of Corinth – named Mr. and Miss. Ole Miss for the 2017-18 academic year – and the Class of 2018 senior class officers.

“After hearing the late William Magee’s story and the purpose of this, it was clear that being a small part of helping the William Magee Center come to life would be the best way to achieve our goal,” Fox said.

Senior class president Guy Thornton, of Hattiesburg, shared that officers agreed that wellness is a common denominator that affects every student in one way or another and that contributing to the center provides a meaningful way for the class to leave a legacy.

“We realize that wellness education is a real need here at Ole Miss,” Thornton said. “We want to do something to engage students with a center that promotes a holistic approach to wellness.”

Phi Mu president Erin Larkin, of McKinney, Texas, said, “The benefits from giving our support to this program are endless. There is complete peace of mind in knowing that the girls in Phi Mu will have somewhere to go if they have struggles, where they will feel supported and listened to, without judgment.

“It is no secret that many students on this campus feel constricted by the obstacles of alcohol and drug abuse, so to know that there are people working endlessly to create a safe place of holistic healing is beyond encouraging. With all of the recent tragedies in Greek life across the nation, I think it will also be the change that the college culture needs.”

Hephner LaBanc said she believes many have offered their financial backing for the William Magee Center because people value individual wellness, but so many individuals struggle to make healthy choices – especially during college.

“I have fully appreciated everyone’s willingness to talk about a traditionally taboo topic and then respond with support for a comprehensive initiative aimed at reducing the risk surrounding alcohol and other drugs,” she said. “I am incredibly thankful to those who have helped us develop an effective and sustainable intervention.”

In-depth planning and curriculum development for the student body is being completed, and the campaign to seek more funds will continue, David Magee said.

“This is only the beginning. This first $1 million ensures that this center is becoming a reality, on its way to opening in 2019. Important work is underway and it’s making a difference. With more resources, there’s so much more we can do.

“We hope and believe that others who care about this cause will continue to step forward. Ultimately, such support can help Ole Miss build a wellness center that’s on the cutting edge in supporting and educating students about alcohol and other drugs.”

“William’s Story” can be found at

The William Magee Center for Wellness Education is open to receive gifts from individuals and organizations by mailing a check with the center’s name in the memo line to the University of Mississippi Foundation, 406 University Ave., Oxford, MS 38655.

For more information contact Brett Barefoot, development director, at or 662-915-2711.

Ole Miss Theatre Presents ‘Macbeth’ this Weekend at the Ford Center

Performance is directed by Cynthia White of the Orlando Shakespeare Theater

UM students Riley McManus, as Macbeth, and Karen Ann Patti, as Lady Macbeth, perform in the Ole Miss Theatre production of ‘Macbeth’ this weekend at the Ford Center. Photo by Thomas Graning/Ole Miss Communications

OXFORD, Miss. – University of Mississippi theater students will bring Shakespeare’s tragedy “Macbeth” to life this weekend with a performance at the Gertrude C. Ford Center for the Performing Arts.

The classic Shakespeare tale, set in medieval Scotland, chronicles the rise and fall of the warrior Macbeth and his wife, Lady Macbeth, as they lust for power and grab an easy opportunity to kill the reigning king, leading to a civil war in the kingdom.

The Ole Miss Theatre production opens at 7:30 p.m. Friday (April 20), but there are multiple chances to catch the show throughout the weekend. Performances are also set for 2 and 7:30 p.m. Saturday and 2 p.m. Sunday.

The production is led by guest director Cynthia White, from the Orlando Shakespeare Theater, whose expertise in Shakespearean tragedies creates a unique opportunity for both the student actors and audiences. White has directed several Shakespearean plays at regional theatres and universities across the country.

“I think it’s especially great that Ole Miss brought in a woman director for this large production at the Ford Center, since it’s important to give the students the opportunity to work with a wide range of professionals in their field – and after many years in the field, it still seems to be of note that I am a woman director,” White said.

Joe Turner Cantu, Ole Miss professor of theatre arts, taught White many years ago at Southern Methodist University. She has since directed him in two Shakespeare productions, and he recommended her to the department as a guest director because of her extensive knowledge.

“Last year I recommended Cynthia, first, because she is an exceptional director and, second, because I felt it would be great for our students to work with a professional female director,” Cantu said.

White hosted on-campus auditions in January and has cast 21 students in the production. The performance stays true to the story itself, but the design, costumes and lighting are influenced by the HBO drama “Game of Thrones.”

“In Shakespeare’s time, all the actors were men and costumes were basically their everyday Elizabethan clothing,” she said. “For our production, some of the warriors are women because some of the women in the theatre department are very good at working with the period weapons and because our world is more diverse than Shakespeare’s world was.”

White said she is creating a hybrid world that has strong elements of medieval Scotland, including violence, manipulation and immorality, all of which reflect the present day.

“It is nearly impossible to tell the tale of Macbeth without noticing certain similarities with our current world,” she said. “And that’s what makes theatre powerful: we tell old stories that shed light on our contemporary lives.”

Tickets are available at the UM Box Office inside the Ford Center or online at They are $21 for orchestra/parterre and tier 1 box levels, $18 for mezzanine and tier 2 box levels and $15 for the balcony level. A 20 percent discount is available for UM faculty, staff and retirees when tickets are purchased at the box office. All Ole Miss student tickets are $7.

Journalism Professor Releases Book Examining RFK’s Delta Visit

Ellen Meacham to sign copies new work Wednesday at Square Books.

Ellen Meacham

OXFORD, Miss. – University of Mississippi journalism professor Ellen Meacham details Robert F. Kennedy’s visit to the Mississippi Delta in 1967 in her new book “Delta Epiphany: RFK in Mississippi.”

Meacham’s book, published by University Press of Mississippi, examines the history, economics and politics of the Delta and how those factors influenced the lives of people whom Kennedy met there during that visit. She will sign copies at 5 p.m. Wednesday (April 18) at Square Books in Oxford.

The book was inspired by a description from fellow journalist Curtis Wilkie’s memoir of Kennedy in a dark shack trying to speak to a toddler who was paying more attention to crumbs on the floor.

“I wondered about the impact it had on Kennedy, because it’s mentioned as an important moment in all of his biographies,” Meacham said. “The next question I had was, ‘What happened to the baby?'”

After seven years of searching, Meacham found and interviewed children from the four families Kennedy encountered on his visit, including that toddler.

“As I got into the research, I realized pretty quickly that there was a big part of the story that had not been told,” she said. “Most of the contemporary news accounts and later historians had only looked at RFK on the stage. The people who were living the lives that moved him so were more of a ‘poverty stage set.'”

Meacham wanted to tell the stories of those people.

“It became very important to me to bring those families into the light and find out how they came to be in that place at that time, what struggles they faced and their accomplishments since,” she said. “I think it brings more balance.

“It’s not just a story of a hero or a saint, it’s about a real person meeting real people.”

The book also features about a dozen photos, including the cover, that are published for the first time.

“The photographs were essential to telling this story,” Meacham said. “They brought such a vivid realism that showed the impact of the visit on Kennedy in a powerful way.”

A working journalist for more than two decades, Meacham used her experience as a newspaper reporter in Mississippi, which gave her access to contacts within both politics and journalism in the state, putting her in a unique position to tell these stories.

“Ellen Meacham is a talented and perceptive journalist who recognized, nearly a half-century after the fact, the great impact of Robert Kennedy’s brief trip to the Mississippi Delta in 1967,” said Wilkie, a UM associate professor of journalism and fellow of the Overby Center for Southern Journalism and Politics.

“It was a mission that changed his life, the tortured history of that region and the nation’s attitude toward hungry people in America. Though Ellen was not old enough to have been there, her investigation of the story has brought it back to life, and it is an example of her valuable work.”