UM Alumna Takes Comedy on the Road

Kendall Ketchum tours with former 'SNL' cast member Darrell Hammond

Ole Miss alumna Kendall Ketchum performs her comedy routine at KAABOO’s comedy club in Del Mar, California. Submitted photo

OXFORD, Miss. – University of Mississippi alumna Kendall Ketchum has performed her comedy routines for a decade in New York City, but she’s recently taken her talent from dive bars to a tour with former “Saturday Night Live” cast member Darrell Hammond.

Ketchum, who studied theatre arts at Ole Miss, earned her bachelor’s degree in 2006 and moved to New York shortly after, intent on breaking into comedy.

“It was always going to be New York,” she said. “I always wanted to be on ‘Saturday Night Live.'”

For a girl from Yazoo City, the cultural transition was not as difficult as one might think, thanks to a close network of other Ole Miss graduates. She immediately tried her hand at stand-up comedy.

“I completely bombed,” she said. “I would get up there and it would just be the sound of crickets. It was horrible.”

Ketchum took a break from stand-up to join the Upright Citizens Brigade, an improv group and training ground for comedians that once included such heavyweights as Amy Poehler.

About five years ago after regaining her footing through improv, Ketchum began doing stand-up again. She performed successfully at big-name venues such as Gotham Comedy Club and Caroline’s on Broadway, which eventually became her home base.

The focus of Ketchum’s comedy is not jokes, but storytelling. She is known for her brand of Mississippi-meets-New York humor as she describes cultural differences and how each handles different situations.

Ketchum met Hammond while she was preparing new material for a show at Caroline’s.

“I was sitting in the green room by myself and I felt a presence of someone walk into the room,” she said. “I look up and it’s Darrell. He asks if he could sit with me, and I said, ‘sure,’ but I thought, ‘OK, don’t pester him. Just keep staring at your material.'”

The two ended up talking about New York delis and other random topics when he asked her to watch the show with him. She did, and they sat and whispered about different styles of comedy, including her own unique style.

“I did my set and when I got offstage, he was gone. We didn’t exchange contact information, so I thought that was that.”

Just a few days later, she received a call from Hammond, who had gotten her information from someone at Caroline’s.

“I met with him, and he wanted me to open for his set in New York,” she said. “He was intrigued that I was Southern and that I went to Ole Miss.”

The two began touring in September and have been working together since. Ketchum has performed with Hammond in Del Mar and San Francisco, California; Jacksonville, Florida; Charlotte, North Carolina; Salt Lake City; and Tempe, Arizona.

“Kendall can be anything she wants to be, go anywhere she wants to go,” Hammond said. “Her comedy is appealing to everyone of all ages, Republican and Democrats alike. Being able to strike across the board like that is key.”

Ketchum said Hammond, who has a similar comedic style of storytelling, helps her with writing and ideas.

“It’s just been so great to learn from him, but I always thought my mentor would be someone a few steps ahead of me, not an ‘SNL’ legend,” she said. “He’s the best impressionist, but what people don’t know is he is the nicest person on the planet.”

Ketchum said she is excited to have gotten a break after years of hard work and, sometimes, frustration.

“I had been doing comedy in some not-so-fun places and I’m still performing in the back of dive bars,” she said. “It was nice to be thrown a bone a little bit, even though it felt out of the blue, even now.”

Pharmacy School Remembers Associate Dean Emeritus Charlie Hufford

Professor, researcher and administrator influenced many over 43-year Ole Miss career

Charlie Hufford

OXFORD, Miss. – Charles D. Hufford, associate dean emeritus for research and graduate programs and professor emeritus of pharmacognosy at the University of Mississippi School of Pharmacy, died Monday (May 15) at the age of 72. His career at Ole Miss spanned 1972 to 2015.

Faculty and alumni remember him as an encouraging and effective leader who quietly supported the careers of many throughout his 43 years at the school. Colleagues called him trustworthy, competitive and energetic.

“Charlie was an incredibly talented, yet humble individual,” said David D. Allen, dean of the School of Pharmacy. “He was the example of servant leadership, mentoring others so they could succeed while never seeking recognition for himself. He dedicated himself to serving the students and the school, and was responsible for many of the school’s achievements.”

Originally from Sycamore, Ohio, Hufford earned his pharmacy degree and Ph.D. from Ohio State University and served as a pharmacist in the Air Force Reserve before joining the UM faculty as an assistant professor of pharmacognosy in 1972.

He became chair of the Department of Pharmacognosy in 1987 and the school’s first associate dean for research and graduate programs in 1995. He retired Feb. 1, 2015, but still made time to visit with students and faculty.

During his time at the School of Pharmacy, Hufford was credited with transforming the school’s natural compounds and drug metabolism research, patenting compounds and helping to bring in more than $7.4 million in grants to the university.

He was instrumental in helping the school acquire eight nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy machines that identified complex natural products. This boosted the school’s drug and agrichemical discovery, which helped build the infrastructure necessary to make the school a leader in natural products research.

Charlie Hufford is remembered by colleagues as a dedicated teacher, administrator and researcher, who helped transform the UM School of Pharmacy’s natural compounds and drug metabolism research. Photo by Robert Jordan/Ole Miss Communications

One of Hufford’s signature initiatives was research aimed at removing side-effects of the antimalarial drug primaquine. Faculty and scientists at the school have continued this research, resulting in the school’s first-ever clinical trial on May 18, 2017, testing primaquine in human volunteers.

Another of Hufford’s accomplishments was updating the pharmacy curriculum to include information on dietary supplements several years before Congress passed the Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act in 1994 to regulate the supplement market. The National Center for Natural Products Research at the School of Pharmacy works closely with the FDA to determine the safety and legitimacy of dietary supplements.

Hufford also contributed countless hours to the renovation of the school’s Faser Hall facility. In 1999, then-dean Ken Roberts entrusted Hufford to oversee the project, and Hufford spent the next 14 years securing funds, working with builders and keeping records of the construction, all while maintaining his responsibilities as associate dean.

“He was by far one of the most dedicated and hard-working individuals I’ve ever been associated with,” Roberts said. “I have no doubt the School of Pharmacy rose in stature because of the untiring devotion of Dr. Charles Hufford and those who were influenced by his strong character and leadership.”

Hufford was an avid bowler who recorded more than 30 perfect games over his career.

Hufford was awarded for his accomplishments throughout his career, winning the 1994 School of Pharmacy Faculty Research Award and the 1995 Jack Beal Award for most distinguished graduate of the Ohio State University College of Pharmacy graduate program. He held leadership positions within the American Society of Pharmacognosy and was a fellow of the American Association of Pharmaceutical Scientists.

“It was such a pleasure and honor for me to work with Dr. Charles Hufford for 10 years,” said Barbara Wells, dean emeritus of the pharmacy school. “In all matters, his counsel was always informed and on-target, and his judgement was excellent.

“He worked hard to advance the School of Pharmacy, and he was just as committed to the mission and vision of the university. Unlike most leaders who step away from their teaching as they assume greater and greater responsibilities, he never gave up his teaching because he loved working with bright young minds.”

At the end of his career, he was even able to present a student award named for him. The Charles D. Hufford Graduate Student Award is given each year to a graduate student who excels in pharmacognosy.

Hufford was a favorite with students, offering his signature combination of humor and patience as he mentored and encouraged those who came through his doors. He spent most of his early years teaching graduate students, saying it was “rewarding to … get them accustomed to thinking on their own and seeing (their) joy from the gratification of solving whatever problem we were working on.”

“Dr. Hufford as a teacher had a tremendous influence on me in my care of patients,” said David Gregory, associate dean for academic affairs. “I was uniquely blessed to have the unexpected opportunity to return to UM and work with our offices side-by-side.

“He used practical and common sense in his leadership, and even maintained his sense of humor and mentorship when he asked me to be on his bowling team. I thought I had arrived, but we both knew it was for my very high handicap.”

Hufford was a competitive bowler who approached the sport as he did everything else – with commitment to constant improvement. He held 10 championship tournament titles with the Senior All Star Bowling Association, logged more than 30 perfect games and was a member of both the SASBA Hall of Fame and the Mississippi State Bowling Association Hall of Fame.

Upon his retirement in 2015, he planned to spend even more time at the lanes, as well as with his family, including children Gary and Jennifer, grandchildren Ryan and Andy and his wife of 32 years, Alice Clark.

Marvin Wilson, associate dean emeritus of academic and student affairs, spent nearly 40 years working alongside Hufford in the pharmacy school, both progressing from assistant professors to associate deans.

“Even though he was committed to the school, it paled in comparison to his dedication to Alice, his children and his grandchildren,” Wilson said. “He and Alice probably spent years in gyms, at ballfields or traveling to and from such activities to be with and support their family.”

Wilson added, “I would implore you when you hear thunder, to think of Charlie rolling another strike in heaven.”

Services are set for 2 p.m. Friday (May 19) at Waller Funeral Home in Oxford. Visitation begins at noon. Memorial contributions in his memory may be made to the Charles D. Hufford Graduate Student Fellowship Endowment at the University of Mississippi Foundation.

First Group of METP Students Graduate from Ole Miss

Fourteen graduates make plans for new teaching careers in Mississippi

The first group of students in the Mississippi Excellence in Teaching Program graduated from UM over the weekend. They are (back row, from left) Benjamin Logan, Jake Wheeler, Kaypounyers Maye and Shelby Knighten, (middle row) Emily Reynolds, Abigail Null, Kaye Leigh Whitfield, Katianne Middleton, Nancy ‘Bella’ Hutson and Jenna Smiley, and (front row) Anna Claire Kelly, Brenna Ferrell, Lydia Hall and Rachel Sanchez. Submitted photo

OXFORD, Miss. – Fourteen seniors who graduated Saturday (May 13) at the University of Mississippi are prepared to make a difference in the lives of students statewide as the first group to graduate from the Mississippi Excellence in Teaching Program.

METP, a highly selective and rigorous teacher preparation program, was established in 2013 to offer full scholarships to the best and brightest students from around the nation to study education and teach in Mississippi.

The 2017 graduates are Brenna Ferrell of Ocean Springs; Lydia Hall of Madison; Nancy Hutson of Liberty; Anna Claire Kelley of Madison; Shelby Knighten of Gautier; Benjamin Logan of Sherman; Kaypounyers Maye of Gulfport; Katianne Middleton of Selma, Alabama; Abigail Null of Corinth; Rachel Sanchez of Southaven; Emily Reynolds of Brandon; Jenna Smiley of Meridian; James Wheeler of St. Johns, Florida; and Kaye Leigh Whitfield of Birmingham, Alabama.

“Five years ago, METP was just an idea,” said Ryan Niemeyer, the program’s director. “Seeing these students walk across the graduation stage will be a moment of great pride for many faculty and staff at the School of Education who have gone to great lengths to make the program what it is today. We have great expectations for the impact they will have on the future of our state.”

METP is a collaboration with Mississippi State University, which celebrated the graduation of its first cohort earlier this month.

Initial funding for the program came from a $12.9 million grant from the Robert M. Hearin Support Foundation of Jackson in 2013, and the foundation reaffirmed its support with a $28 million commitment in January. The two universities split the funding and collaborate on educational opportunities for students each semester.

This first group of students entered UM with a high school GPA of 4.0 and an average ACT score of 28.5. Besides earning full tuition scholarships, the students received monies for housing, technology, professional development and study abroad.

More than 100 students from 18 states have been admitted into the program since its creation. With four classes admitted, the program has an average incoming ACT score of 30.

Graduate Jake Wheeler said he chose METP four years ago over 17 other programs to which he applied because it was the one that provided the most opportunities in a classroom environment.

“I was in classrooms my freshman year,” Wheeler said. “None of the other programs that I applied to put students in classrooms before junior year.”

Wheeler also traveled around the country and to Canada as part of study abroad to learn about national and international education policies during his METP career.

“The most recent and beneficial trip was to San Antonio for the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics annual conference,” he said. “At NCTM, I was able to spend three days in professional development that undergraduate students do not typically participate in, where I learned about cutting-edge tools, technology and resources in math education as well as innovative teaching practices.”

Each student agrees to teach for five years in a Mississippi public school after graduation. Many already have signed contracts to begin jobs as new teachers this fall.

In August, Wheeler is to begin teaching Algebra I at Northwest Rankin High School in Flowood, where two other METP teachers will join him.

“I hope to bring some of the teaching practices I have learned to Northwest Rankin to help my students meet their educational goals,” Wheeler said. “I hope to join or start a strong community service organization at NWRHS to benefit the Flowood community and the Jackson area as a whole. 

“I hope to get myself and my students invested in helping the community become as beautiful and productive as it can be.”

Anna Claire Kelly, another new graduate of the program, always knew she wanted to be a teacher and this program suited her and her goals perfectly. This fall, she begins her new teaching career at Tupelo High School.

“METP was one of the best decisions I could have made during my college career,” she said. “The program expanded our horizons and has given us more opportunities than we could have ever imagined.

“As I begin my teaching career in the fall, I can only hope to impact my students’ lives the way so many of my teachers did mine. I want to be the teacher that doesn’t make school all about academics, but about life, too.”

Archive of Theatrical Memorabilia Created in UM Library

New collection honors actress Marian Seldes and the Actors Fund of America

Jennifer Ford (left), head of the Department of Archives and Special Collections, and Cecilia Botero, UM dean of libraries, share an autographed poster from ‘The Phantom of the Opera’ with Chancellor Jeffrey Vitter and his wife, Sharon. The poster is a gift from the Actors Fund of America. Photo by Robert Jordan/Ole Miss Communications

OXFORD, Miss. – Curators of the Mamie and Ellis Nassour Arts and Entertainment Collection at the University of Mississippi have created a unique archive to honor the late actress Marian Seldes and the Actors Fund of America, the latter for its generous donations of theatrical memorabilia. 

The Marian Seldes/Actors Fund Archive, housed in the J.D. Williams Library’s Department of Archive and Special Collections, includes signed Broadway posters and other materials.

To mark its establishment, the Actors Fund donated a framed poster signed by the original cast of Broadway’s longest-running musical, “The Phantom of the Opera.” Representatives of the fund also gave a commemorative Actors Fund 125th anniversary ornament to Chancellor Jeffrey Vitter and his wife, Sharon, for use at Carrier House, the UM chancellor’s residence.

“At the University of Mississippi, our arts and cultural programs are among the best, and one of our most passionate supporters is alumnus Ellis Nassour,” Vitter said. “We are extremely grateful to Ellis and to the Actors Fund for their gifts to Ole Miss.

“These donations enhance our Department of Archives and Special Collections and are a great resource for our students, faculty and staff.”

In celebration of the gift, the Department of Theatre Arts staged a reading with Ole Miss students John Brahan, a senior acting major from Hattiesburg and Ole Miss Hall of Fame inductee, and Rachel Staton, a senior musical theatre major from Atlanta who won and Outstanding performance award from the Kennedy Center’s American College Theatre Festival.

Brahan and Staton performed excerpts from Tennessee Williams and Edward Albee plays in which Seldes starred. The performance was directed by Rory Ledbetter, associate professor of theatre arts.

Co-founded in 1882 by classical actor Edwin Booth, the Actors Fund of America is a nonprofit human services organization that serves professionals in theater, film, television, music, opera and dance through programs that address their unique and essential needs. Joseph Benincasa is president and CEO of the fund, and Tony Award-winning actor Brian Stokes Mitchell is board chair.

With offices in New York, Los Angeles and Chicago, the Actors Fund directly serves more than 8,000 entertainment and performing arts professionals, and approximately 300,000 more through web resource programs.

“We were happy to support this archive and the memory of Ms. Seldes, who was an ardent supporter of the Actors Fund,” Benincasa said.

The Actors Fund gifts, which began in 2015, include framed and signed Broadway posters from noteworthy performances and annual Actors Fund all-star fundraising galas.

Joseph Benincasa (right), president and CEO of the Actors Fund of America, and Ellis Nassour with photo of actress Marian Seldes. Submitted photo

Ellis Nassour, a Vicksburg native and member of the Ole Miss Class of 1964, suggested that the archive be named for Seldes, his longtime friend.

“Marian was among the most admired and hardest-working actors on any stage,” Nassour said. “Her 60-year career covered theater, television, film and radio. Her conversational abilities are still legendary. She was indefatigable until the very end.”

Seldes was honored with Tony and Drama Desk awards, as well as numerous nominations. She was inducted into the American Theater Hall of Fame in 1995 and presented a Tony Award for Lifetime Achievement in 2010. She died in 2014.

The Mamie and Ellis Nassour Arts and Entertainment Collection, dedicated in 2004, was donated by Ellis Nassour in honor of his parents.

The collection includes posters, bound film and theater scripts, photos, caricatures, circus posters, show souvenir books and theatrical memorabilia. It also includes an impressive assortment of playbills, many of which are autographed, from performances worldwide.

A third of the collection is designated for exhibition display, and another third is archived for research. The most important third, Nassour said, is a growing collection of DVDs of film, opera and dance and CDs, ranging from country and pop to Broadway, classical and opera, that is available for circulation.

“We are extremely grateful to both Mr. Nassour and the Actor’s Fund of America,” said Jennifer Ford, the library’s head of special collections. “Donations such as these help to ensure the outstanding nature of the unique archival collections at the University of Mississippi.”

The collection is an amazing resource, said Ed Meek, an Ole Miss classmate of Nassour, former UM assistant vice chancellor and founder of the Meek School of Journalism and New Media.

“When he was director of social affairs for the Associated Student Body in the ’60s, the innovations he brought to revamping campus entertainment were impressive. He went on to establish a niche in New York among his news and public relations peers.

“This is another first for the university that could only be made possible by an alumnus who loves Ole Miss.”

Nassour points out that he had help from ASB presidents Douglas Abraham, Dick Wilson and Tom Cleveland, volunteers on various committees and the late Tom Hines, dean emeritus of students.

Early in his life, Nassour developed an interest in the performing arts. At UM, he was a contributor to The Daily Mississippian, where his first interview was Bob Hope, who was performing on campus.

Nassour began collecting materials related to the entertainment industry while at The New York Times, where, under the tutelage of Mississippian Turner Catledge – at the time the newspaper’s managing editor – he climbed the ranks.

He later became director of artist relations of MCA Music/Universal Pictures, where he worked with Tim Rice and Andrew Lloyd Webber on their landmark studio album “Jesus Christ Superstar,” and artists Elton John, Neil Diamond, The Who, Brenda Lee, Clint Eastwood, Dean Martin, Shirley MacLaine, Conway Twitty and Loretta Lynn.

Nassour has written two biographies of Patsy Cline: the first, “Patsy Cline, An Intimate Portrait,” in 1981 and “Honky Tonk Angel: The Intimate Story of Patsy Cline,” in 1993. The entire spoken portion of the revue “Always, Patsy Cline” is taken from four pages of Nassour’s biography.

Horizons Seeks Support for Wednesday Fundraiser

Innovative summer program at UM boosts achievement among underserved students

Camp Best, a regular volunteer in the Horizons summer program, teaches social skills to elementary school students. Submitted photo

OXFORD, Miss. – Members of the Lafayette-Oxford-University community have an important opportunity Wednesday (May 17) to support an innovative summer learning program operating on the University of Mississippi campus.

Horizons, a key initiative in the McLean Institute for Public Service and Community Engagement’s mission to fight poverty through education, is a six-week, full-day summer learning program that provides academics, enrichment and recreation to underserved students from the community.

Horizons aims to raise $20,000 to support its mission to eliminate summer learning loss. The UM affiliate will join other Horizons affiliates across the country Wednesday to raise money to expand existing programs and bring Horizons to more communities nationwide.

“UM’s Horizons program is creating summer learning opportunities for students in Oxford and Lafayette County school districts who otherwise might not have it,” said Albert Nylander, director of the McLean Institute and executive director for Horizons. “For six weeks, students are afforded an opportunity to be Ole Miss students on campus.

“UM students are also making a difference in the lives of these schoolchildren through their volunteer efforts in the program.”

Horizons offers a quality learning experience outside the traditional school year that supports academic achievement and healthy youth development.

Children who begin Horizons after kindergarten are invited back every summer for at least nine years. This long-term commitment means that children in Horizons will accumulate learning gains that will prepare them for success in college and their careers.

“Research shows that students not reading at grade level by third grade are unlikely to graduate from high school, and low-income students enter kindergarten already behind in literacy skills due to disparities in opportunity, vocabulary and nutrition,” said Laura Martin, assistant director of the McLean Institute.

First-grade teacher Raven King helps Horizons program students with their reading skills. Photo by Robert Jordan/Ole Miss Communications

“Summer learning loss compounds over time, so without programs like Horizons, students who experience summer learning loss can be as much as three years behind by the fifth grade. Horizons exists to eliminate summer learning loss and, over time, close the achievement gap in our community.”

Horizons will host 90 kindergarten-to-fifth-grade students from the Lafayette County and Oxford school districts this summer. On average, students who participated in the previous four summers started the school year at or above where they ended the previous year.

Horizons is a community-based program with a number of campus and community partners contributing students’ success.

For Horizons Giving Day, all Horizons’ staff, board members, partners, alumni, volunteers, donors, corporate partners, sponsors and supporters will come together for a friendly, yet competitive, race to raise $1 million for Horizons programs across the nation, with all money raised locally remaining with the local affiliate.

This one-day fundraising event has the potential to bring crucial resources to the children served by Horizons at UM. For more information, go to or like Horizons on Facebook at

Alice Clark Receives 2017 Distinguished Researcher Award

UM vice chancellor honored for pivotal role in research and creative achievement

Alice Clark

OXFORD, Miss. – Alice Clark, a renowned scientist, F.A.P. Barnard Distinguished Professor of Pharmacognosy and University of Mississippi administrative leader, has been named the 2017 recipient of the Distinguished Research and Creative Achievement Award.

The announcement of the prestigious honor, which includes $7,500 and a personal plaque, was made during the university’s 164th Commencement ceremonies in the Grove.

Clark, a member of the Ole Miss community for more than 40 years, serves as vice chancellor for university relations. Previously, serving as vice chancellor for research and sponsored programs, Clark played a pivotal role in shaping the university’s research enterprise.

“Alice has had a tremendous impact on this institution – from a stellar student to a noted and accomplished researcher to director of a renowned national center and, for the last 17 years, as an outstanding member of our leadership team,” Chancellor Jeffrey Vitter said. “At every step, she has fostered innovative and energetic approaches, been a model of dedication and has played a key role in helping our university reach new heights of excellence.

“I am grateful to count her as my colleague, trusted adviser and friend. This award is a well-deserved recognition for Alice.”

The growth achieved during her tenure allowed the university to attain R1: Highest Research Activity designation by the Carnegie Classification of Institutions of Higher Education, the definitive honor for doctoral research institutions, representing only 2.5 percent of universities nationwide.

“I am exceedingly moved to receive this award,” Clark said. “My time as vice chancellor for research afforded me the honor of learning about the wonderful and highly impressive research, creativity and scholarly achievement that occurs every day on our campus. It is humbling to be selected among such an outstanding group of people.”

Josh Gladden, UM interim vice chancellor for research and sponsored programs, praised Clark’s distinguished career.

“I know I join many faculty members and administrators in being inspired by Alice’s career,” Gladden said. “As a scientist, she has made many groundbreaking discoveries, secured a great deal of competitive funding and won the admiration of her peers and several prestigious societies. As an administrator, she shaped the university and established a thriving research culture.”

Clark earned both her master’s and doctoral degrees in pharmacognosy at UM and joined the university as a research associate and faculty member in 1979.

During her time as vice chancellor for research, Clark found support for the creation and development of several research centers and institutes on campus. She oversaw and championed many university economic development efforts, including the creation of Insight Park, the university’s research park, and the Innovation Hub at Insight Park.

In her role as vice chancellor for university relations, she continues to oversee the university’s economic development efforts as well as communications, public events, federal relations and development.

Before becoming vice chancellor for research, Clark served as the director of the university’s National Center for Natural Products Research. Under her leadership and as a result of her strategic efforts, NCNPR grew from a small unit to an international leader in natural products drug discovery.

“Having known Alice for decades, I am extremely happy to see her receive this recognition,” said Larry Walker, director emeritus of NCNPR and professor of pharmacology. “Alice is a visionary leader with a sharp intellect and a knack for getting people to work together effectively to create progress.

“This was true at NCNPR, and it continues to be true in her role as vice chancellor for university relations.”

As a scientist, Clark has published extensively on the discovery of novel biologically active natural products and pharmaceuticals, authoring and co-authoring more than 100 original research articles, reviews and book chapters. She has presented more than 100 contributed papers at scientific meetings and given 19 invited symposia, seminars and workshop presentations in her field of expertise.

As principal investigator, she received continuous peer-reviewed NIH funding from 1984 to 2014 to conduct research related to the discovery and development of new drugs for opportunistic infections.

Clark has served in several leadership positions in national and international professional associations, including president of the American Society of Pharmacognosy and chair of the Pharmaceutical Sciences Section of the American Association for the Advancement of Science.

Her numerous honors and awards include the 2010 Marcy Speer Outstanding Reviewer Award, the preeminent honor for commitment to peer review given by the National Institute of Health’s Center for Scientific Review. She was the 1996 Rho Chi National Lecturer and is a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science and the American Association of Pharmaceutical Scientists.

Clark shares much of her success with husband and longtime collaborator Charles D. Hufford.

In 1984, they received a half-million dollars from the National Institutes of Health’s National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases to screen compounds for activity against opportunistic infections threatening the lives of AIDS patients. The grant allowed them to discover a class of potent antifungal drugs called sampangines.

Clark and Hufford continued to work together throughout their careers and shared many research successes, including a $1 million contract renewal in 1987 and a $372,000 grant from NIAID in 1989. That grant, which was renewed four times and became one of the longest continually funded antifungal research programs in NIH history, brought $7.4 million to UM and led to the identification of many new natural products.

“I’m grateful to have worked with Charlie and many other outstanding faculty members and researchers at the University of Mississippi,” Clark said. “Success is ultimately built on relationships and working with others.

“The University of Mississippi has many wonderful qualities, and perhaps chief among them is the quality of our people, who have a strong record of working together, working hard and achieving great heights through collaboration, resourcefulness and bold, innovative thinking.”

This year marks the 10th anniversary of the Distinguished Research and Creative Achievement Award, which is sponsored by Syed Abidi, a UM alumnus and CEO of Pharmaceutics International Inc. It was initiated during Clark’s time as vice chancellor for research.

The annual honor recognizes a faculty member who has shown outstanding accomplishment in research, scholarship and creative activity. Previous winners are Sam Wang, Larry Walker, Charles Reagan Wilson, Dale Flesher, Atef Elsherbeni, Mahmoud ElSohly, Robert Van Ness, Charles Hussey and Ikhlas Khan.

Jon Meacham Challenges UM Graduates to Change Nation and World

Renowned intellectual delivered keynote address at 164th commencement Saturday

Chancellor Jeffrey S. Vitter addresses graduates at the University of Mississippi’s 164th Commencement ceremony. Photo by Robert Jordan/Ole Miss Communications

OXFORD, Miss. – Acknowledging national and global challenges, Pulitzer Prize-winning author and presidential historian Jon Meacham urged University of Mississippi graduating seniors Saturday (May 13) to remain engaged, improve themselves and their communities, and shoulder responsibilities.

“As Americans, we face fundamental economic, political and moral challenges,” Meacham said during his address at the university’s 164th Commencement in the Grove.

“At its best, Ole Miss has armed you for what Oliver Wendell Holmes called the passion and action of the times. Your weapons are the elements that form this school’s sure foundation: grace and strength and love.”

A former editor of Newsweek and a contributor to Time and The New York Times Book Review, Meacham is also a regular guest on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe.”

“I’d argue that graduates of Ole Miss are especially well-equipped to lead in epic times,” Meacham said. “You are graduating at a promising hour for our region: old barriers are falling away, new opportunities are opening up and, if we listen very closely, we can hear the music of Lincoln’s ‘better angels of our nature.’ Ole Miss has taught you how to hear those better angels.”

Chancellor Jeffrey S. Vitter introduced Meacham as “a celebrated writer, historian, editor, journalist and media figure.”

“At Ole Miss we have an impressive and long-standing tradition of bringing nationally and internationally renowned figures to campus for our commencement addresses,” Vitter said. “And this year is certainly no exception. Whether through his journalism, television appearances or by writing definitive historical biographies, Mr. Meacham consistently provides a clear and authoritative voice in national discussions.”

Underneath cloudy skies and amid cool breezes, thousands gathered for the occasion. Individual school ceremonies were slated for later in the day in The Pavilion at Ole Miss, Circle, Grove and other locations across campus.

Author and historian Jon Meacham delivers the address for the University of Mississippi’s 164th Commencement ceremony. Photo by Robert Jordan/Ole Miss Communications

Before Meacham’s speech, Saxon Nelson of Gulfport, a political science major and president of the 2017 senior class, announced his classmates have collected more than $8,100 as a donation to their alma mater.

“Over the past four years, I’ve witnessed many amazing things among us,” Nelson said. “All of these make me extremely optimistic about our future. Let’s hope for the best, prepare for the worst and enjoy what lies ahead.”

Referencing historical figures such as William Faulkner, William James and Abraham Lincoln, Meacham acknowledged the progress that has been made in human equality and envisioned future evolution in societal attitudes.

“To know what has come before, and to know how to think about seemingly disparate and distant events in relation to one’s own time and own complications is to be armed against despair,” Meacham said. “If men and women of the past, with all their flaws and limitations and ambitions and appetites, could press on through ignorance and superstition, racism and sexism, selfishness and greed to form a more perfect union, then perhaps we can, too.”

Meacham urged graduates to be questioning, be vigilant and to remember that the republic is only as good as the sum of all its people.

“Life is not a reality show, so pay attention,” he said. “And always remember, a life well-lived is not measured by the bottom line, but by the big picture.”

2017 University of Mississippi Commencement speaker Jon Meacham signs senior Austin Powell’s program following the ceremony on Saturday, May 13. Photo by Robert Jordan/Ole Miss Communications.

This year’s graduating class included some 5,000 applicants for undergraduate and graduate degrees.

Attendees included Bill and Laurie Robinson of Raymond, who came to watch their oldest daughter, Meagan, graduate with a bachelor’s degree in liberal arts.

“It’s been my dream forever for both our daughters to earn degrees from Ole Miss,” said Laurie Robinson, a nurse practitioner who graduated from the UM Medical Center. “Meagan’s sister, Mallory (a junior communicative disorders and sciences major), will graduate next year. We’re all extremely proud.”

Eugene Melvin of Brandon said it is “a proud moment” to see his wife, Arias, graduate with a specialist’s degree in educational leadership.

“She has always been in education,” said Melvin, who was in Oxford with other family members. “This degree will elevate her career and opportunities to a whole new level.”

Members of Corbin Tipton’s family came from Alfreda and Monroe, Georgia and from Kansas City, Missouri, to see her receive her degree in business administration.

“I’m so very proud of all of them,” said Charlotte Frary, Tipton’s grandmother. “Corbin’s the last of one of the four grands to complete her degree. She already has a job waiting, so this is great.”

Following the general ceremony, the College of Liberal Arts and the Oxford campus’ eight schools held separate ceremonies to present baccalaureate, master’s, Doctor of Pharmacy and law diplomas.

Carlton Reeves, U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Mississippi, was the speaker for the School of Law. Retired advertising executive Steve Davis addressed the Meek School of Journalism and New Media.

Recipients of doctoral degrees were honored at a hooding ceremony Friday evening in the Gertrude C. Ford Center for the Performing Arts, where three awards were presented by the Graduate School. The Group Award for Excellence in Promoting Inclusiveness in Graduate Education went to the Department of Modern Languages. Cecille Labuda, assistant professor of physics and astronomy, received the Individual Award for Excellence in Promoting Inclusiveness in Graduate Education. Kelly Wilson, professor of psychology, was presented the Award for Excellence in Graduate Teaching and Mentoring.

During Saturday’s ceremony, John Rimoldi, professor of medicinal chemistry, was honored as the recipient of the 2017 Elise M. Hood Outstanding Teacher of the Year Award, presented annually to the campuswide outstanding teacher.

Alice M. Clark, vice chancellor of university relations, was named the recipient of the university’s 10th Distinguished Research and Creative Achievement Award. Josh Gladden, interim vice chancellor of research and sponsored programs, accepted the award on her behalf.

The university also recognized the winners of this year’s Frist Student Service Awards: Robert Brown, professor of political science; Donald Dyer, associate dean of the College of Liberal Arts and co-director of the Chinese Language Flagship Program; and Whitman Smith, director of admissions.

Three Receive UM College of Liberal Arts Teaching Honors

Faculty members lauded for excellence in challenging and guiding students

Lee Cohen (second from left), dean of the UM College of Liberal Arts, congratulates (from left) Matt Long, Carey Bernini Dowling and Steven Davis on their teaching honors announced Friday. Photo by Thomas Graning/Ole Miss Communications

OXFORD, Miss. – The College of Liberal Arts at the University of Mississippi recognized three faculty members Friday (May 13) for their excellence in teaching.

The Liberal Arts Outstanding Teacher of the Year award went to Matt Long, associate professor of art. Steven Davis, professor of chemistry and biochemistry, was given the Cora Lee Graham Award for Outstanding Teaching of Freshmen. The Liberal Arts Outstanding Instructor of the Year honor was presented to Carey Bernini Dowling, instructional assistant professor of psychology.

The recipients were recognized at the university’s spring faculty meeting. They also will be honored Saturday at the university’s 164th Commencement. They each receive a plaque and $1,000, and their names are added to award plaques in the dean’s office.

“The recipients of this year’s outstanding teaching awards join the cadre of past honorees recognized as the best and most accomplished faculty within the University of Mississippi,” said Lee Cohen, dean of liberal arts. “We commend each of them for dedication, excellence and service to our students and their educational pursuits.”

Each recipient reflected upon the meaning of his selection for the prestigious honors.

“Clearly, I was more than flattered to be even nominated for such an award,” said Long, who completed his Master of Fine Arts at Ohio University. “What a wonderful feeling to be told by your colleagues and students that what your doing is worthy of recognition. I am honored!”

Long, who has worked at UM for 12 years, received the University Award for Excellence in Graduate Teaching and Mentoring last year.

Davis said he is pleased and honored that his students and the college have chosen to recognize his commitment to teaching.

“It is a great honor to be included in the list of awardees,” said Davis, who received his doctorate from the University of Virginia and has been on the UM faculty for 28 years. “I really enjoy working with freshman students as they adjust to college and begin their academic training here.

“Ultimately, I hope my students view my class as gaining skills to be used throughout their careers, not just as a grade to move onto the next class in their majors.”

Winning the teaching award makes Dowling, who joined the faculty five years ago, feel gratified.

“It is difficult to express how much this nomination and award mean to me,” said Dowling, who earned her doctorate from Stony Brook University of State University of New York. “To receive recognition for something I care so deeply about is truly an honor.”

Criteria for Teacher and Instructor of the Year awards include excellence of class instruction, intellectual stimulation of students and concern for students’ welfare.

Established 30 years ago by Cora Lee Graham of Union City, Tennessee, the Graham award aims to help retain better professors who teach freshman classes in the College of Liberal Arts. Criteria for this annual award also include excellence of class instruction, intellectual stimulation of students, and concern for students’ welfare.

Administrators said all the honorees are worthy of the recognition.

“Matt is one of those teachers that makes such an impression, students take one class with him and then change their major,” said Virginia Rougon Chavis, chair and professor of art. “He is one of those teachers who is informative in the classroom and raises the bar without the students realizing they are working.

“He is recognized at the top of his field by his contemporaries with celebrity-like status and is sought after by institutions across the country to have him lecture or give a workshop.”

Greg Tschumper, chair and professor of chemistry and biochemistry, said Davis is one of the most enthusiastic and dedicated teachers he’s ever worked with.

“He has become one of the department’s most effective instructors for our first-year general chemistry sequence, aka Freshman Chemistry,” Tschumper said.

“This course is the source of much anxiety for many freshman students. Yet Dr. Davis has consistently been able to maintain a perfect balance between maintaining high standards and still making some challenging material very accessible to the university’s newest family members.”

Similar praises for Dowling came from Rebekah Smith, chair and professor of psychology.

“Dr. Dowling provides intellectual challenges and meaningful contributions to supporting student success in the classroom and beyond,” Smith said. “Dr. Dowling is an ideal instructor who takes teaching very seriously and is always exploring ways to build upon her already superior performance.”

UM Students Sweep Public Relations Association of Mississippi Awards

Ole Miss group dominates state competition

UM public relations students winning awards at the recent Public Relations Association of Mississippi Prism competition include (front row, from left) Rachel Anderson, Christina Triggs, Emma Arnold and Hannah Pickett, and (back row) Alex Hicks, Sarah Cascone and Cassidy Nessen. Photo courtesy Stan O’Dell

OXFORD, Miss. – University of Mississippi public relations students have won every award presented in the Public Relations Association of Mississippi student competition, and one student was named the best public relations college student in the state.

Rachel Anderson, a journalism and Spanish major from Chesapeake, Virginia, was named PRAM’s 2017 Student of the Year, competing against nominees from five other universities in the state.

“Rachel was selected for her impressive record of excellence and drive in all areas such as her academic honors, PR-related organizations and experience, and for her activities on campus and in the community,” said Kylie Boring, PRAM’s director of student services. “She has acquired a skill set of talents that will help propel her into the public relations industry, and I am confident she will represent this industry to the highest standard.”

Anderson also won an award for her student work, as did five other Ole Miss students and one alumna. The awards were presented at the PRAM state conference in Hattiesburg.

The students entered public relations campaigns they produced in senior lecturer Robin Street’s advanced public relations class. Each campaign required multimedia skills, including writing news and feature articles, shooting video and photos, creating digital media, planning creative events and conducting research.

“I was so proud that every student award presented went to one of our students,” Street said. “Our students demonstrated that they excel in the diverse set of skills needed in PR. That is a tribute to the preparation they received from all the faculty members at the Meek School.”

Awards were given at three levels, based on the number of points judges award each entry. The top award is the Prism, followed by the Excellence and Merit awards. Multiple students can win in the same category if they earn the required number of points.

Hannah Pickett, an integrated marketing communications major from Houston, Texas, won a Prism.

“Students from the University of Mississippi once again proved their knowledge and understanding of the public relations practice through their entries in the Prism Awards,” said Amanda Parker, PRAM’s vice president for awards. “The judges praised Prism Award winner Hannah Pickett for having an extremely creative and well-planned project, making it an excellent campaign all around.

Excellence winners were Anderson; Emma Arnold, a journalism major from McKenzie, Tennessee; and Christina Triggs, a marketing and corporate relations major from Sugarland, Texas.

Merit winners were Sarah Cascone, a journalism major from Thomasville, Georgia; Cassidy Nessen, an IMC major from Katy, Texas; Alex Hicks, an IMC major from Meridian; and Maggie McDaniel, a journalism graduate from Columbus, Georgia, who works as an account manager at Communications 21 in Atlanta.

For more information on the Meek School of Journalism and New Media, visit or email

Six Inaugural Stamps Scholars Reflect Upon UM Experience

Grateful recipients ready for graduation and chance to change the world

The university’s inaugural Stamps Scholars recently gathered to re-create their class photo from four years ago. They are (front, from left) Madeleine Achgill, Kate Prendergast and Eloise Tyner, and (back, from left) Dylan Ritter, Kathryn James and Ben Branson. Photo by Bill Dabney

OXFORD, Miss. – Four seniors graduating Saturday (May 13) from the University of Mississippi have the distinction of being among the first six UM students to have benefitted from the prestigious Stamps Scholars program.

Funded by the Stamps Family Charitable Foundation, the awards are the university’s most comprehensive, full scholarship packages for in-state and out-of-state students. Each package covers the full cost of attendance, along with a generous stipend for unique educational pursuits, including study abroad, research internships and academic conferences.

Inaugural Stamps Scholars graduating this weekend are Madeleine Elena Achgill, a Mandarin Chinese and international studies major from Indianapolis; Kathryn Elsa James, a public policy leadership, economics and Southern studies major from Mandeville, Louisiana; Dylan James Ritter, a chemistry major from Somerset, New Jersey; and Eloise Wright Tyner, a public policy leadership and Arabic major from Oxford.

The two other inaugural Stamps Scholars will receive UM degrees at later dates. They are Kate Louise Prendergast, a psychology and theater arts major from Luling, Louisiana, on track to graduate in December; and Benjamin Carter Branson, a mechanical engineering major from Madison scheduled to graduate in spring 2018. All six are members of the Sally McDonnell Barksdale Honors College.

“Our first generation of Stamps Scholars has set a high bar with their scholastic achievements and their ethic of excellence,” said Douglass Sullivan-Gonzalez, dean of the Honors College. “They created a spirit of collegiality and they pushed each other to excel, to imagine and to push through to the conclusion. We could not be luckier to have landed such an outstanding group for our first cohort of Stamps Scholars.”

UM Chancellor Jeffrey S. Vitter also praised the exceptional seniors.

“With the graduation of our inaugural cohort of Stamps Scholars, we are so pleased to be seeing the first fruition of our tremendous partnership with the Stamps Family Charitable Foundation,” Vitter said. “These gifted, talented students have spent the last four years leaving their mark of excellence on our campus and in our community.

“We are proud to call them Ole Miss Rebels and send them out into the world so that they can continue to impact lives and communities, from across the street to around the globe.”

Grateful and optimistic, each of the scholars reflected upon his/her most memorable experience and shared future plans.

Achgill came to UM to become fluent in two foreign languages by the time she graduated college. Her Spanish and Chinese scores show that she is highly professionally proficient in both languages.

The university’s 18th David L. Boren Scholar, Achgill will attend Nanjing University in China this fall, followed by an internship in a Tier 1 city next spring. Due to Capstone and Boren requirements that she remain a degree-seeking student until the completion of her China program, Achgill will not receive her diploma until August 2018.

“Because of my interests in China and Latin America relations, I’m hoping to intern with a Chinese company with business, cultural or research ties to Latin America,” she said. “After the year in China, I hope to fulfill the Boren federal government service requirement through a job that combines my interests, perhaps through the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs.”

The inaugural cohort of Stamps Scholars at UM entered as 2013 freshmen. They are (from left) Madeline Achgill, Dylan Ritter, Kate Prendergast, Kathryn James, Eloise Tyner and Benjamin Branson. Photo by Kevin Bain/Ole Miss Communications

James said she found her niche in education working with Mississippi First, a nonprofit organization specializing in education policy research and advocacy, during her freshman year. Her commitment was reaffirmed while teaching with the Sunflower County Freedom Project in the Mississippi Delta after her junior year.

Her plans are to ultimately work in education policy, deconstructing opportunity gaps so that all students are equipped to achieve.

“My most transformative moments in college – working for Mississippi First, Mississippi’s leading education advocacy group, teaching at a nonprofit in the Delta, experiencing public conceptions of religion in Europe and traveling through eastern and southeastern Asia – have all been supported by the Stamps enrichment fund,” said James, who will join the Mississippi Teachers Corps this fall to begin work on a UM master’s degree in curriculum and instruction.

“Attending Ole Miss, and having the flexibility Stamps provides, has been absolutely pivotal to my career path. I came to UM planning to work in international development, but quickly learned about the educational inequity present in Mississippi, which led me to learn about opportunity and achievement gaps in this and every state.”

Since enrolling at Ole Miss, Ritter has spent summers conducting research at both Texas A&M University and in Ireland for five weeks at a pharmaceutical lab, where his performance earned an opportunity to perform independent research for the multinational company. He worked last summer in a lab associated with the University of California at Davis that integrated his earlier research from Texas A&M.

“Getting to travel to Texas A&M during my freshman and sophomore summers gave me a great chance to see a new career path in the sciences,” he said. “During those summers, I realized how much I enjoyed research.

“The experience was so rewarding and fulfilling that it shifted my post-undergraduate plans from medical school to graduate school.”

Ritter’s post-graduation plans include going to Ireland to visit a host family from high school and to travel around.

“The Stamps Scholarship has given me the financial freedom to plan trips like this in order to see new perspectives in the world and learn about different ways of living,” he said. “Long term, I will be going to Vanderbilt University for a Ph.D. in the biomedical sciences as part of their interdisciplinary graduate program.”

Tyner’s service projects have included a Cherokee mission trip and work with the Oxford Food Pantry and Operation Christmas Child.

“I spent four months in Amman, Jordan, working on proficiency in Arabic and returned for an action-packed summer with the Sunflower County Freedom Project in Mississippi,” Tyner said. “My time abroad and work in the state enabled me to pursue my thesis interest in racial reconciliation.”

Prendergast said her most fulfilling experience as a Stamps Scholar has been serving on the leadership team at the Ole Miss Wesley Foundation, the campus ministry of the United Methodist Church.

“The Stamps Scholarship has afforded me the opportunity to engage in clinical psychology research at Ole Miss, focusing generally on the mechanisms of anxiety and disgust reduction, and the presentation of psychiatric symptoms in pregnant women,” she said. “These experiences have led to my passion and excitement to work in this field and tap into the resources it offers for improving mental health care.”

Prendergast’s short-term plans include conducting research with a clinical psychologist at the University of Hawaii this summer, working at a mental health clinic and applying for doctoral programs in clinical psychology. Her long-term plan is to complete a Ph.D. and work in a university medical center where she can research, teach and see patients.

A student in the Haley Barbour Center for Manufacturing Excellence, Branson led a Capstone design team throughout the year designing, prototyping and manufacturing wooden sunglasses. He continued his work with Outward Bound during a January expedition in the Florida Keys.

“This summer, I will be leading sailing expeditions in coastal Maine for (Hurricane Island Outward Bound School) and performing thesis research there as well,” Branson said. “For my thesis, I’m thinking of taking what we learn in the CME about efficiency and manufacturing and organization and applying it to the sailing base, to see if I can’t make it more efficient and easier to understand.”

The partnership with the Stamps Family Charitable Foundation was established in 2012, when Ole Miss alumnus William Dunlap of McLean, Virginia, brought his alma mater to the Stamps family’s attention. After reviewing a proposal, the foundation chose to partner with the university.

For 2016-17, 12 incoming UM freshmen were selected as Stamps scholars, making the university one of only four to award more than 10 Stamps Scholarships to incoming students.

“We couldn’t be more proud of our first class of graduating Stamps Scholars at Ole Miss,” said Roe Stamps, founder of the Stamps Family Charitable Foundation. “These amazing young men and women have proven to be well-equipped to continue making a positive impact in their communities and abroad, and I am confident they will achieve true greatness as Stamps Scholar alumni.”

The foundation supports more than 400 Stamps Scholars through partnerships at more than 40 outstanding universities and colleges. As one of the country’s most prestigious awards for high school seniors, the Stamps Scholarship typically provides four years of generous support, with additional funding available for enrichment experiences.

The awards are made on the basis of leadership, scholarship, perseverance, innovation and service.

For more information about the Stamps Scholars program at Ole Miss, visit To learn more about the Stamps Foundation, visit