Keeping the Flame

Oklahoma City alumni help UM accounting school continue to excel

UM Patterson School of Accountancy Dean Mark Wilder, left, and Ed Krei, right.

UM accountancy Dean Mark Wilder, left, and Ed Krei.

OXFORD, Miss. – For Ed and Barbara Krei, the University of Mississippi is the place where it all came together – friendship, networking, young love and, most importantly, lasting and valuable educations.

Longtime UM supporters, the couple established the Edward Krei Lectureship in Accountancy in 2009. This year, they have generously elevated their endowment to the chair level, with more than $1 million committed to sustaining and strengthening the Patterson School of Accountancy faculty.

“We received great educations here,” said Ed Krei, a 2015 Hall of Fame inductee and former gold medalist on the CPA exam. “Professors Gene Peery and Jimmy Davis – they had a big impact on me. This is my way to thank them and thank the institution for allowing them to have such a focus on teaching.”

Krei, who attended a public high school in Jackson, Tennessee, said he was lucky it had a small advanced placement program that prepared him for college. He received an Ole Miss band scholarship for his talent on the trumpet, which led him to meet Barbara, who played clarinet. Originally enrolled in the School of Engineering, Krei began to feel engineering wasn’t his true calling.

“I talked with my adviser, and he suggested I take Professor Peery’s class,” Krei said. “I really enjoyed it. I took more accounting courses and decided that was where I needed to be.”

The Kreis both graduated in 1973, later marrying in 1974. Barbara graduated from what is now the School of Applied Sciences and enjoyed a career as a speech pathologist in public schools. The couple has a daughter, Lauren, and son, Barrett, both successful graduates of Vanderbilt University who work in health care. Barbara is retired and enjoys traveling, most recently to Machu Picchu, Peru, and the Galapagos Islands, Ecuador.

Ed Krei said this endowment is meant to provide an eternal flame for what he felt in those years as a student.

“I think the Patterson School is a worthwhile investment because of the passion of the faculty,” Krei said. “Their passion is so evident, and it sounds corny, but they really excite students about their field. And now, with the speaking engagements I have, I find myself emulating what I learned from them.”

Krei is a managing director and board of directors member for the Baker Group, an institutional fixed income firm primarily servicing community banks, in Oklahoma City. For 21 years, he has represented the Baker Group helping client organizations develop strategies and plan for the future.

“My favorite part of the job is being with people,” he said. “I enjoy hearing what is happening in our industry on the ground level, in real time. It is worthwhile to hear our clients’ perspectives about how their institutions are being impacted and try to help them find solutions.”

Krei also serves on the faculty of two graduate banking schools: Southwestern Graduate School of Banking at Southern Methodist University, and the Graduate School of Banking at Colorado in Boulder.


The UM School of Accountancy receives exceptional rankings annually by Public Accounting Report, the independent newsletter of the accounting profession. UM’s undergraduate degree program has been ranked in the top 20 since 2008 and in the top 10 since 2011.

“We have been fairly high in the rankings for several years and this has brought in many more students,” said Dale Flesher, the Roland and Sheryl Burns Chair of Accountancy. “As a result, we definitely need more faculty. Endowed chairs provide needed funds for current faculty and will help in the future.”

“The secret is out about the strength of our program,” said Mark Wilder, the school’s dean. “Our students have employment opportunities across the United States and abroad. During spring 2015, the Patterson School placed interns in 17 different states, from coast to coast, and in London.”

Wilder also noted that “Ole Miss accountancy graduates like Ed Krei who have worked hard during their tenure here to get the most out of our degree programs have helped craft a national reputation for the Patterson School that is synonymous with success.”

Individuals and organizations interested in learning more about supporting faculty in the Patterson School of Accountancy can contact Brooke Barnes, development officer, at or 662-915-1993.

Memorial Scholarship Created by Papa John’s CEO and Archie Manning

Fund memorializes late UM student Fenton Kottkamp

Fenton (left), Harrison, Rush, Jane and Stephen Kottkamp gather in one of their favorite spots, the Grove at the University of Mississippi. Fenton Kottkamp’s spirit will live on at Ole Miss, where a scholarship has been created in his memory. His parents will accept his diploma at the May 9 Commencement. Courtesy photo.

Fenton (left), Harrison, Rush, Jane and Stephen Kottkamp gather in one of their favorite spots, the Grove at the University of Mississippi. Fenton Kottkamp’s spirit will live on at Ole Miss, where a scholarship has been created in his memory. His parents will accept his diploma at the May 9 Commencement. Courtesy photo.

OXFORD, Miss. – “In honor of Fenton, please love one another,” read the last line of the obituary for University of Mississippi senior John Fenton Kottkamp, a request added by his dad, Stephen Kottkamp of Louisville, Kentucky.

“Fenton would want everyone to love one another, and he would want all of us to go forward with our lives,” said the dad, describing his son as having a “huge heart with great love for his family and friends.”

And people likewise loved Fenton, as evidenced from the outpouring from around the country when he lost his life in a tragic Feb. 25 accident in Oxford. He and his identical twin brother, Rush, were slated to graduate May 9, both from UM’s Patterson School of Accountancy. Fenton’s parents will accept his diploma during Commencement exercises.

Fenton’s influence will continue on campus for generations to come through the Fenton Kottkamp Memorial Scholarship Endowment, created by John Schnatter, president and CEO of Papa John’s Pizza, and Archie Manning, businessman and Mississippi football icon.

The Kottkamp brothers chose Ole Miss because of its nationally recognized accountancy program and well-rounded college experience, along with the university’s size and tightknit community.

“Ole Miss gave us the best four years anyone could have wanted,” Rush Kottkamp said. “Fenton loved everything about Ole Miss and Oxford. He loved every single sporting event. No matter what time the football game started, Fenton was in the Grove as early as possible.”

Stephen Kottkamp recalls spending Thanksgiving 2014 in Oxford with wife Jane and youngest son Harrison, preparing dinner for the twins’ friends who lived too far from campus to go home for the holiday.

“We love Ole Miss for Ole Miss,” Stephen Kottkamp said. “Ole Miss became our happy place. As Rush said to Jane on the way home from Fenton’s visitation, ‘Fenton and I caught lightning in a bottle when we chose Ole Miss.’ Fenton and Rush hit their stride in the Ole Miss environment; they blossomed and excelled. Our family will strive to make Ole Miss our happy place again.”

Schnatter encourages others to honor Fenton by supporting the scholarship fund.

“My family and I have been deeply impacted by the tragic passing of Fenton Kottkamp, not only because of the fine young man that Fenton was, but also because of the relationship between the Kottkamp family and my family,” he said. “Over the years, my wife, Annette, and I have become close to Fenton’s mother and father, Jane and Steve. Fenton’s youngest brother, Harrison, can often be found at our home hanging out with our son, Beau.”

Fenton’s Ole Miss experience was not lost on his four-year journey in Mississippi, Schnatter said. “Fenton and his brother Rush both served as interns at Papa John’s headquarters not far from our Anchorage, Kentucky, homes. Ole Miss clearly had an impact on Fenton; he was bright and ambitious and welcomed the experience. He embodied all of the qualities we want from a young professional looking to make his place in the world.

“Working with Ole Miss alumnus Archie Manning to create the Fenton Kottkamp Memorial Scholarship Endowment was a way for my family and other donors to honor Fenton’s memory and highlight for the Kottkamp family how much affection and respect we hold for their son.”

Manning agreed, adding, “We are deeply saddened by the loss of Fenton, a beloved member of our Ole Miss family. Our hearts continue to be with the Kottkamp family during this difficult time. We hope others will join us in remembering this extraordinary young man by helping build this scholarship endowment to help others experience Ole Miss in Fenton’s name.”

The Kottkamps agree that Fenton would be pleased to have his name on a scholarship. “He probably would have been a little embarrassed, too, for all the attention – but very proud,” Jane Kottkamp said.

In addition to his great love of people, among other descriptions family and friends offer include “excellent student,” “fun and funny,” “welcoming and kind,” “compassionate” and “adventuresome.”

The scholarship committee will look for recipients who embody Fenton’s spirit, character and integrity. Those eligible for consideration are students in the Patterson School of Accountancy and the School of Business Administration. Recipients must maintain a minimum 3.0 grade-point average.

The scholarship is an appropriate means of remembering Fenton, said Mark Wilder, dean of the Patterson School.

“His life had such a positive impact on the faculty and students in our school, as well as other members of the Ole Miss family. Fenton was always friendly, cheerful, smiling and never in a bad mood. He was instantly likeable because of his good nature. Fenton worked very hard in school, and his determination showed. It was obvious that his parents had raised him right.”

Jane Kottkamp said she feels Fenton’s deep enjoyment of the university stemmed from his devotion to family, something she also sees in Ole Miss.

“Fenton was always happy and excited to come home and be close to his family and cousins in Kentucky, and then he would be eager to get back to his college home,” she said. “Ole Miss is the place where you develop lifelong friends – friends who are like family – and not just among students but also parents of students. We hope Fenton’s scholarship will make it possible for other young people to go to Ole Miss and also for them to be a part of this great tradition of developing great lasting relationships.”

Laura Johnson of Atlanta, a senior education major and close friend of Fenton, graduates in May and intends to carry forward his impact.

“Fenton was an all-around great guy,” Johnson said. “He was so inspirational in that he lived every day to the fullest. He was always down for a night out with friends and taking new adventures. I met Fenton at the freshman welcome picnic the day before classes started, and we had an instant friendship. He’s been my best friend for the past four years at Ole Miss.

“I want the individuals who receive this scholarship to know that Fenton always had a smile on his face and made any situation positive. To recipients, I encourage you to aspire to live your lives in a similar way – to live life to the fullest and to take chances. Fenton always took the extra step to make others happy and include everyone before even thinking about himself. I aspire to live my life like him and to be welcoming to everyone.”

A graduate of Anchorage Public School and DuPont Manual High School, Fenton planned to pursue a master’s degree in accountancy at Ole Miss beginning this fall.

His goal was a career in public accounting, but he recognized that his degree provided many career options. He was a member of St. Francis in the Fields Episcopal Church and Phi Kappa Psi fraternity, and an avid Rebels and Louisville Cardinals supporter.

In addition to his parents and brothers, Fenton is survived by his grandparents, Dr. Wayne and Eileen Kotcamp; and a large number of aunts, uncles and cousins. He also leaves his loyal dog, Biggs.

Individuals and organizations can make gifts to the Fenton Kottkamp Memorial Scholarship Endowment by sending a check with the fund noted in the memo line to the University of Mississippi Foundation, 406 University Ave., Oxford, MS 38655 or online at For more information, contact Brett Barefoot, director of development for Parents Leadership, at 662-915-2711 or

UM Enrollment Tops 23,000 Students for Fall Semester

State's flagship university sees improvement in freshman ACT scores, GPAs

Students gather for class outside of Holman and Connor Halls.

Students take advantage of beautiful weather by gathering for class outside Holman and Conner halls.

OXFORD, Miss. – Enrollment at the University of Mississippi surged this fall for the 20th consecutive year, making history with more than 23,000 students across all its campuses for the first time.

Preliminary enrollment figures show a total unduplicated headcount of 23,096, largest in the state. That’s up 805 students from last fall, or 3.6 percent. The figures include the largest freshman class ever for any Mississippi university, a class that sports the highest ACT scores and high school GPAs in Ole Miss history.

“We are very pleased that students and families across Mississippi and throughout America continue to recognize the quality education and outstanding college experience we offer at the University of Mississippi, all at a very competitive price,” Chancellor Dan Jones said. “Our faculty and staff work very hard to deliver the very best academic programs for students, and it’s truly rewarding to see those efforts being acknowledged with extraordinary interest in attending our university.”

The incoming freshman class swelled to 3,814 this fall, up 6.5 percent from 3,582 last year. Student retention also remains near record levels, with preliminary reports showing 84.6 percent of last year’s freshmen have returned to campus this fall, the second-highest retention rate in school history.

“While we’re very happy with the endorsement of so many new freshmen this fall, we’re particularly pleased with the success of the first-year programs we have in place to help freshmen adjust to the rigors of a world-class university,” Jones said. “Many of our students are the first in their families to attend college, so we try to give them all the tools they need to be successful during their time on campus and then as they launch their careers.”

Nearly two-thirds, 61.2 percent, of Ole Miss students are from Mississippi, including students from all the state’s 82 counties. The university also attracts students from across the nation and world. Overall, the student body includes representatives from every state, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico and 92 foreign countries.

Ole Miss By the Numbers.

Ole Miss by the Numbers.

This year’s freshmen are better prepared for college course work, with an average ACT score of 24.3, compared to an average of 24.1 last fall. Their high school GPA increased too, from 3.46 to 3.49. Both measures have increased every year since 2010.

This year’s freshman class includes 57 class valedictorians, 52 salutatorians, 73 student body presidents, 83 Eagle Scouts and 10 Girl Scouts who achieved the Gold Award, the highest honor in Girl Scouting.

“Student leaders are an important component of our campus community,” said Morris Stocks, UM provost. “The University of Mississippi has a long history of attracting top students with demonstrated leadership skills. We have the wonderful opportunity to provide a leadership training ground and to influence these young people for a short but important period of time. We are thrilled that this freshman class is filled with future leaders.”

Minority enrollment totaled 5,488 students, or 23.8 percent. African-American enrollment is 3,285 students, or 14.2 percent of overall enrollment.

The student body also is diverse in age and national origin, ranging from four 15-year-old students to an 87-year-old pursuing a bachelor’s degree in French. Two of the 15-year-olds are dually enrolled at Oxford High School and the university. One of the other students, from Vietnam, has not declared a major, and the other is an international studies major from Lee County. The youngest graduate student is an 18-year-old from China who is pursuing a Ph.D. in pharmaceutical sciences.

The university’s Sally McDonnell Barksdale Honors College continues to expand, enrolling 1,210 students this fall, a more than 15 percent increase since fall 2012. The acclaimed Honors College has a record 373 incoming freshmen, with 54 percent being Mississippi residents. This fall’s honors freshmen have an average ACT of 30.2 and an average high school GPA of 3.93. The college’s facility on Sorority Row is undergoing a major expansion and renovation to accommodate its larger student body.

The university’s undergraduate schools of Accountancy, Engineering, Nursing, and Journalism and New Media all enjoyed double-digit growth. The number of undergraduate students in accountancy hit a record of 962, up from 869 last fall, and enrollment in the School of Journalism and New Media topped 1,000 for the first time – 1,044 this fall, compared to 886 last year.

Students travel across campus in between classes.

Students travel across campus between classes.

In the School of Nursing, based on UM’s Medical Center campus in Jackson, enrollment is up by 18.4 percent this fall, from 685 to 811 students. That follows a 28 percent spike last year. The dramatic growth reflects the school’s emphasis on lifelong learning, from the undergraduate level through its doctoral programs, said Marcia Rachel, the school’s associate dean for academics.

“Faculty members in the School of Nursing have worked hard to make sure all programs are current and relevant, and that the classroom and clinical experiences are distinctive, dynamic and engaging,” Rachel said. “We have excellent pass rates on national licensure and certification exams, and our reputation in the community is solid.

“In short, we are committed to our mission – to develop nurse leaders and improve health through excellence in education, research, practice and service.”

After seven consecutive years of growth, the UM School of Engineering ranks as one of the nation’s fastest growing. The undergraduate enrollment, which topped 1,000 for the first time in 2012, is 1,419 this fall, up from 1,285 last year.

“The UM School of Engineering has always been somewhat of a hidden treasure with small classes and personable faculty,” said Alex Cheng, the school’s dean. “But lately, more and more students from across the country and around the world are discovering just what we have to offer: a first-rate engineering education with the added liberal arts element, preparing our students for leadership positions in their careers.”

The numbers of students majoring in mechanical engineering, geology and geological engineering, and chemical engineering have more than doubled in the past five years. During that time, the school renovated many classrooms and laboratories, and moved its administrative offices into the renovated Brevard Hall. The university also added the Center for Manufacturing Excellence to complement and enhance existing engineering programs.

Another area experiencing rapid growth is the university’s professional pharmacy program, which leads to a Pharm.D. degree and professional certification. The number of students pursuing their Pharm.D. after earning a bachelor’s degree in pharmaceutical sciences grew from 232 in 2013 to 290 this fall.

“The growth in our professional program is directly related to the quality pharmacy education that we provide,” pharmacy Dean David D. Allen said. “We’re proud of our program’s accessibility and affordability for both Mississippi students and out-of-state students. Not only do we have a tuition ranked in the country’s lowest 20 percent, but our graduates also have top scores for the national pharmacy licensure exam. I think students are additionally encouraged by our high job placement rate. Nearly 100 percent of our graduates are employed by the time they receive their degrees.”

To help accommodate the growing student population, the university has opened Rebel Market, a totally new dining facility in Johnson Commons, replacing the old cafeteria, as well as several satellite eateries across campus. Construction began this summer on a new residence hall in the Northgate area of campus, and Guess Hall is slated to be demolished soon to make way for two new five-story residence halls on that site.

Construction is continuing on a new facility for the School of Medicine, which will allow the university to increase class sizes, helping train more physicians to serve the state’s health care needs. A major expansion is underway at Coulter Hall, home of the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry, and a new water tower is nearly complete near Kinard Hall. Work to renovate and modernize locker rooms and other fitness facilities at the Turner Center should wrap up by the end of the fall semester. Also, a three-year project will begin soon to expand and modernize the Student Union.

For more information on enrollment and programs at UM, go to

KPMG Establishes Chair of Accountancy at UM

Big Four firm commits to top level of faculty support

Mark Wilder, dean of UM’s Patterson School of Accountancy, from left, visits with KPMG partners Tom Avent of Atlanta and Chuck Walker of Nashville, along with Morris Stocks, UM’s provost and vice chancellor for academic affairs. Big Four accounting firm KPMG has established a prestigious endowed a chair-level faculty position in the accountancy school.

Mark Wilder, dean of UM’s Patterson School of Accountancy, from left, visits with KPMG partners Tom Avent of Atlanta and Chuck Walker of Nashville, along with Morris Stocks, UM’s provost and vice chancellor for academic affairs. Big Four accounting firm KPMG has established a prestigious endowed a chair-level faculty position in the accountancy school.

OXFORD, Miss. – Big Four accounting firm KPMG LLP, through the KPMG Foundation, has elevated the KPMG Professorship in Accountancy at the University of Mississippi to the prestigious chair level that carries a $1.5 million commitment.

The new chair is the first established by an accounting firm at the nationally ranked Patterson School of Accountancy and the second new chair announced for the school in just under a year. UM Provost Morris Stocks has named Mark Wilder, dean and KPMG Professor in the school, as the holder of the KPMG Chair of Accountancy.

The major gift comes from a firm that has built a strong legacy of support at the university through contributions to undergird the Patterson School and through its recruitment of Ole Miss graduates. Several KPMG partners established a lectureship endowment in 2002 and later were joined by other colleagues to elevate the faculty position to the KPMG Professorship in 2008.

“We recognize that state funding for higher education has decreased across the country,” said Tom Avent of Atlanta, KPMG’s Southeast partner in charge of mergers and acquisitions-tax and a UM alumnus. “To maintain a world-class program at a public university, you’ve got to have private support. We are dedicated to helping strengthen Ole Miss and assisting the School of Accountancy in its continuing efforts to produce top-tier accounting graduates who can excel in any specialty or environment.

“As a top employer of Ole Miss accountancy students, we wanted to be the first firm to have a named chair-level faculty position there. The establishment of the KPMG Chair at Ole Miss is a dream come true for us and is attributable to the combined efforts and generosity of our partners, employees, alumni and, of course, the KPMG Foundation.”

Something “outstanding” has happened at the accountancy school in recent years, due in part to generous gifts from alumni and friends. All three of its programs are ranked nationally in the Top 10 by the Public Accounting Report. Recently, UM programs reached all-time highs with the undergraduate program at No. 4, graduate program at No. 5 and doctoral program at No. 8. This places all three programs at No. 1 in the Southeastern Conference.

“When we initially sat down with leadership to discuss the greatest need for the School of Accountancy, it was made clear that faculty support was very important,” said Chuck Walker, national partner in charge of alternative investments-tax at KPMG and a UM alumnus. “Today, we can see a direct correlation between the incredible faculty talent assembled, the quality of the students graduating and the school’s rapid climb in national rankings.”

Avent also praises the school’s rankings.

“We are proud of the national prominence the Patterson School has achieved,” he said. “It was certainly a compelling factor in making the case for directing private support to the Ole Miss accountancy program. I believe the best schools attract the best students, and the accountancy faculty members are always concerned about their students being prepared for great career opportunities. The professors have a love for their students, for the program and for the university.”

Audit, tax and advisory firm KPMG LLP is the U.S. member firm of KPMG International Cooperative. KPMG International’s member firms have 145,000 professionals, including more than 8,000 partners, in 152 countries.

Walker credits the faculty for the great number of successful graduates.

“We are all grateful for the legacy of excellence left by former professor Gene Peery, which has continued to be forged through Jimmy Davis, Dale and Tonya Flesher, and so many others,” he said. “I am very proud to be a graduate of the School of Accountancy at Ole Miss, and it is a privilege and pleasure to give back, hoping in some small way to continue that legacy.”

Avent agrees. “We feel Ole Miss graduates are very well-prepared for professional careers, from their technical accounting skills to their ability to develop relationships with clients, network with business colleagues and conduct themselves in social situations. Ole Miss is a school that imparts that type of individual development.”

UM Chancellor Dan Jones calls KPMG an important stakeholder.

“The University of Mississippi’s goal is to transform lives through exceptional educational opportunities, and providing the most outstanding professors to teach our students is absolutely critical to that goal,” Jones said. “Clearly, KPMG understands and appreciates this priority, as evidenced by its deep commitment to help provide our students with the best accounting education possible.”

Wilder says the firm’s support carries a powerful impact.

“We appreciate so much all that KPMG is doing for our students, faculty and program,” he said. “The remarkable thing is that the KPMG partners who are alumni of our program are leading by example by contributing to faculty support, but they also are ensuring all Ole Miss alumni in the organization understand that they also need to be part of the firm’s commitment. These partners have established a goal to have 100 percent of KPMG Ole Miss alumni giving to this endowment. The KPMG Foundation continues to be instrumental in providing generous matching funds for employees’ contributions.”

The Patterson School has six fully endowed faculty positions, and others are being expanded. Named and endowed chairs, scholars, professorships and other esteemed positions are usually held by faculty members whose accomplishments indicate national and international leadership in their field.

Wilder, who has taught at UM since 1993, is a certified public accountant whose primary teaching has been in financial accounting. He has conducted research in a variety of areas, including earnings forecasting, financial reporting and issues facing the profession. He has been instrumental in the development of the school’s highly successful internship program. Wilder has also been active in the Mississippi Society of CPAs, previously serving as president of the Northeast Chapter, as state treasurer, appointee to the Board of Governors and chair of the Awards, Education and Scholarships Committee.

The dean has received the top two campuswide faculty awards at Ole Miss: the prestigious Elsie M. Hood Outstanding Teacher Award in 2005 and the Faculty Achievement Award, an all-around faculty award recognizing outstanding teaching, research and service, in 2004. In 2006, Wilder was honored as the Mississippi Society of Certified Public Accountants’ Outstanding Educator and was also the university’s HEADWAE Faculty Honoree for 2006. He is also a two-time winner of the Patterson School’s top faculty honors, the Outstanding Teacher and Outstanding Researcher awards.

Individuals and organizations interested in learning more about supporting faculty in the Patterson School of Accountancy can contact Brooke Barnes, development officer, at or 662-915-1993.

Avent Legacy Honored at Ole Miss

Sons create scholarship endowment for first female accountancy grad

The late Louise Avent

The late Louise Avent

OXFORD, Miss – Louise Avent was known by many descriptions: first female accountancy graduate of the University of Mississippi, successful leader of a family business, dedicated champion of the Oxford-University community and for Mississippi, and spirited ambassador for all aspects of Ole Miss.

The 1947 graduate also became the first woman inducted into the Hall of Fame at the university’s Patterson School of Accountancy. Now her legacy will reach future generations of students through a scholarship bearing her name. Her sons, Tom Avent of Atlanta and Murray Avent of Oxford, have committed $250,000 to establish an endowment that will fund four annual accountancy scholarships.

“My mother was born ahead of her time and might have had a very different career if she had been born today” said Tom Avent, Southeast partner in charge of mergers and acquisitions-tax at accounting firm KPMG LLP. “She ran the family business and took care of her three boys – my father, my brother and myself – but she was also a brilliant student.

“I remember asking her once why she didn’t go to work for one of the Big Eight accounting firms after college. To my surprise, she explained that the Big Eight firms at that time didn’t hire women, so she started her professional career keeping books for a large steamship company in New Orleans and served as a Spanish interpreter.”

With the 10th anniversary of her passing approaching, the brothers wanted to do something to honor their mother’s legacy and passion for Ole Miss.

“To have her name on an endowment for accountancy scholarships is something truly special for Murray and me, and we know it would also have meant a great deal to Mother,” Tom Avent said. “Future scholarship recipients should know that she graduated in two-and-a-half years with a perfect grade-point average, taking as many as 24 hours in a semester, without ever making a B. We hope her scholarship recipients will emulate her work in the classroom and also give back to Ole Miss and to their communities as she did.”

Mrs. Avent had a “missionary zeal” about Ole Miss and Oxford and wanted everyone to feel the same, said Murray Avent, an Oxford developer who worked more than two decades in Washington, D.C., as an aide and legislative director to U.S. congressmen Jamie L. Whitten and G.V. “Sonny” Montgomery.

“Mother believed that an education from Ole Miss was as good as any education you could find in this great nation,” he said. “She truly believed that with an Ole Miss education and a work ethic you could accomplish anything you wanted in life. This endowment in her name and its future scholarship recipients will serve to validate that heartfelt belief on her part. Mother was truly exceptional and the School of Accountancy is exceptional, as evidenced by the national rankings.”

Fortunately, she witnessed her sons earning five degrees from Ole Miss: Tom received undergraduate, graduate and juris doctor degrees, as well as a master’s degree in law from New York University; and Murray earned undergraduate and graduate degrees.

The late Thomas Webb Avent and the former Louise Anderson Murray, members of two of the oldest families in Oxford and Lafayette County, began dating while she was working in New Orleans. After her husband’s death, she became president of Avent Dairy. She was named Citizen of the Year in 1995 by the Oxford-Lafayette County Chamber of Commerce and Economic Development Foundation, an honor paying tribute to her servant-leadership style.

Her longtime involvement included her service as a gubernatorial appointee to the Mississippi Institute of Arts Commission; chair of the Oxford Tourism Council, founding member and president of the Yoknapatawpha Arts Council; president of the Oxford-Lafayette County Chamber of Commerce, Ole Miss Business School Alumni, Fellowship of Christian Athletes and the Oxford Garden Club; vice president of the University High School Alumni Association; president of the House Corporation for Delta Delta Delta sorority; grand marshal of the Oxford-Lafayette County Fourth of July Parade; and tour guide for historical journeys through St. Peter’s Cemetery in Oxford.

She served on the boards of the Mississippi Blood Services, United Way, Ole Miss Alumni Association, Baptist Memorial Hospital-North Mississippi, Agricultural Extension Service and Merchants & Farmers Bank, and devoted time to the Ole Miss Campus Improvement and Oxford Tour Bus committees, First Baptist Church, Friends of the Museum and Rotary Club.

Tom Avent said that although his father was the fourth generation of the family to attend Ole Miss – making Murray and him the fifth generation – Mrs. Avent added the most enthusiastic voice to the chorus supporting the university and its programs. The “Ole Miss fanatic,” as her sons call her, enjoyed membership in the Ole Miss Quarterback, Bullpen and Tip-Off clubs and the Lady Rebel Roundballers. An early member of the Quarterback Club, she rallied local professionals and everyone else to join.

“Mother raised Tommy and me to be Ole Miss fanatics, too. I actually feel sorry for anyone who sits in close proximity to us or is within our orbit at Ole Miss athletic events – we’re loud,” Murray Avent said, laughing. “If an Ole Miss team had a game, Mother was always there in her seat, giving her full support, whether it was football, basketball, baseball, volleyball – you name it.”

Mark Wilder, dean of the Patterson School of Accountancy, points to her as a role model.

“Louise Avent was an extraordinary individual and remarkable Ole Miss alumna,” Wilder said. “We are deeply grateful to Tom and Murray Avent for establishing this scholarship endowment, which will help our school recruit top students and continually strengthen our nationally ranked programs. Both of these achievements will be a fitting tribute to their mother, who was the consummate ambassador for this university. She believed in Ole Miss and its place in the national spotlight.”

Tonya Flesher, Arthur Andersen Professor of Accountancy and former dean of the school, said a scholarship fits this alumna and pioneer.

“Mrs. Avent was one of the first female accountancy graduates, and she was also a successful businesswoman,” Flesher said. “It is very appropriate for her sons to honor her pioneering role in Mississippi with a scholarship for Ole Miss accountancy students. … The future recipients of the Louise Avent Scholarship in Accountancy will help pay tribute to the role that Mrs. Avent played in opening doors for women in accountancy.”

Individuals and organizations that wish to support the Louise M. Avent Memorial Scholarship Endowment in the Patterson School of Accountancy can send checks with the fund noted in the memo line to the University of Mississippi Foundation, P.O. Box 249, University, MS 38677; contact Brooke Barnes, development officer for accountancy, at or 662-915-1993; or visit online at

UM Accountancy Students Launch First Mississippi NABA Chapter

Chapter will provide professional development, networking opportunities for students


The University of Mississippi’s chapter of the National Association of Black Accountants

OXFORD, Miss. – Students in the University of Mississippi’s Patterson School of Accountancy have launched Mississippi’s first chapter of the National Association of Black Accountants. The chapter, which launched in 2013 and received its official charter earlier this year, has flourished.

Kyerra Moody, a senior accountancy major from Olive Branch, teamed with Nicole Barnes, a junior accountancy major from Marion, Ark., to co-found the Ole Miss chapter. The group met for the first time Sept. 9, 2013, and the national board approved its charter in February. Moody serves as president, and Barnes is vice president.

“As president of the chapter, words cannot express how excited and proud I am of the progress that Ole Miss NABA has made over the course of this year,” Moody said. “Starting from nothing, and against all odds, Nicole, the rest of the executive board and I have put in so much work and effort to become the first NABA chapter to be chartered in Mississippi.”

“I really hope this will increase the diversity in the accountancy school,” Barnes said. “Currently, we don’t have a lot of minority students or faculty. I hope this will help recruit students to the program and help them stay in the program.”

Barnes said she wanted to have a membership in a professional organization that would help her build professional skills and allow her to network more effectively. Although the school provides networking opportunities for students, she said she wanted a smaller, closer-knit group so they could improve together and grow their professional skills.

Barnes said one of her favorite things about the accountancy school is that the faculty really get to know their students.

“They’ve encouraged me to get involved in opportunities that got me in front of professionals early on,” she said. “I want all students to have that experience and those opportunities.”

Nationally, NABA started in December 1969, with nine African-Americans meeting in New York City to discuss the challenges and limited opportunities they faced in the profession. At that time, only 136 of the 100,000 Certified Public Accountants in the United States were black. NABA was born out of that meeting and has chapters across the country.

Apart from networking, the association provides other benefits. For instance, NABA helps members learn to dress for the professional world. Last year, the Ole Miss chapter organized a fashion show where working professionals offered advice on the dos and don’ts of dressing for a career.

“The biggest impact we’ve had so far is exposing students to professional development opportunities that they might not have had otherwise,” Barnes said. “Just in this school year, we’ve had national partners from KPMG and Ernst & Young meet with NABA members. They’ve also come to campus for Beta Alpha Psi presentations.”

NABA members get to participate in professional development workshops and networking activities with professionals from various firms, which creates excellent opportunities for them to start establishing connections and building relationships. In only the first year, the group has recruited more than 30 members and attended a regional student conference in Atlanta.

“This is only the beginning for the Ole Miss NABA chapter, and I see big and bright things in its future,” Moody said. “It is my hope that the current members will continue to build the chapter and keep the legacy going.”

“I would like to thank my fellow classmates in the School of Accountancy for being supportive of our organization,” Barnes said. “We have lots of things in store for the future.”

NABA meets at 4 p.m. the first Tuesday of every month in Connor Hall, Room 212. For more information or to get involved, email

University Honors Burns Family with Building Dedication

State-of-the-art residence hall, team meeting room named in honor of accountancy alumnus

Roland Burns with wife, Sheryl, son Derek, Ole Miss Accountancy Professor Jimmy Davis and son Tyler stand in front of the newly dedicated Burns Hall. Roland and Derek shared Davis as a professor while at Ole Miss, and youngest son, Tyler will be taking a class Davis is teaching this fall.

Roland Burns with wife, Sheryl, son Derek, Ole Miss Accountancy Professor Jimmy Davis and son Tyler stand in front of the newly dedicated Burns Hall. Roland and Derek shared Davis as a professor while at Ole Miss, and youngest son, Tyler will be taking a class Davis is teaching this fall.

OXFORD, Miss. – A crowd of nearly 100 students, faculty and staff participated in a ceremony hosted Friday (April 4) by the University of Mississippi to honor Sheryl and Roland Burns of Frisco, Texas, for their legacy of support with the naming of a premier campus residence hall and the new football team meeting room in the Manning Performance Center.

The Burnses have given generously to support both academic and athletics programs, with their recent $2 million gift elevating their lifetime giving to more than $5 million. Roland Burns, a 1982 graduate who earned undergraduate and graduate degrees in accountancy, says it is humbling to see his family’s name on the building.

“It is not anything I ever thought I would see,” Burns said. “It is a really attractive building and there is a lot of history here (on this campus). We are so proud to be associated with Ole Miss and the School of Accountancy; it has been such an outstanding program.”

The Public Accounting Report, the independent newsletter of the accounting profession, recently rated UM’s undergraduate accountancy program as No. 4 in the country (behind Texas, Illinois and Brigham Young) and the master’s and doctoral programs at Nos. 5 and 8, respectively. The accountancy programs are No. 1 in the Southeastern Conference.

Burns Hall, which has been temporarily known as Ridge South, stands on the site of the former Miller Hall. Burns Hall opened in August 2012 and is one of three new residence halls on that site. The four-story structure houses 272 students and provides a shared courtyard and many of the amenities requested by students, including private bathrooms, microwaves, refrigerators in each room, study rooms, community kitchens, laundry facilities and lounges with TVs on each floor.

“Today, the residence halls are an extension of the learning experience, and when we talk about the Ole Miss family, it’s important that we know our family comes home here every night,” said Brandi Hephner Labanc, UM vice chancellor of student affairs. “We see this as a wonderful extension of our academic environment, and we are grateful to the Burnses for being involved in the living learning experience here.”

With a growth in enrollment on the Oxford campus from 9,412 in the fall of 1982 to 18,423 in fall 2013, much has changed since Burns graduated. The former Kincannon Hall resident noted that the housing looks quite different than when he was a student here.

It was a visit from UM Provost Morris Stocks, who at the time was the new dean of the School of Accountancy, and Debbie Vaughn, senior executive director of development, that reinvigorated Burns’ connection to the university. They visited Burns in Texas, where he is president and chief financial officer of Comstock Resources Inc. Stocks asked Burns to create an intern program in his company’s financial reporting department that would provide opportunity for Ole Miss undergraduate students.

“Morris got us interested by showing us the success the (accountancy) program is having on the national level, and that gave us a deep sense of pride,” said Burns, who transferred from Mississippi State after his freshman year to join the then-new accountancy school in its first year of programs set apart from the School of Business Administration.

“Being a part of something new made all of us know we were part of something special. Giving back through the internship program and in other ways is really rewarding to us, and we are grateful to be included as part of the Ole Miss family.”

This was the second time in a year that a campus building has been named for a Patterson School alumnus. Another of the Ridge residence halls was named last spring for alumnus Lucian Minor.

“There is much to celebrate today, as we are so grateful to Roland and Sheryl for their continued dedication to the university,” said Chancellor Dan Jones. “They support us financially and today, they are lending us their name, and what a great thing for the university to be associated with their name.”

Stocks praised the Burnses for their holistic approach to support for the university.

“The Burnses have continued to support our school and our university in many ways, including the Burns Chair in Accountancy,” Stocks said. “Outside of the major public accounting firms, (Roland) has also recruited more accountancy students to our program and formed an internship program at his company that is critical to our program. The Burnses’ lend constant moral support to our efforts to transform lives. We are a better place because Roland chose to attend Ole Miss.”

During a ceremony held earlier in the day, Ole Miss Athletics honored the Burnses with the naming of the team meeting room. That naming took place in conjunction with the ribbon-cutting for the newly- renovated Indoor Practice Facility, now called the Olivia and Archie Manning Athletics Performance Center.

“Sheryl and Roland support excellence in academics and support academics in athletics equally, making sure that we move forward together,” Jones added. “They are making a big difference in the lives of students in their local community and here. We are so grateful to them.”

Along with family friends, the Burnses were joined by their sons Derek, an Ole Miss graduate student in accountancy who earned a bachelor’s degree here in 2013, and Tyler, an Ole Miss freshman majoring in biology with a minor in accountancy. Their daughter, Stephanie, is a graduate of Southern Methodist University.

Easing the Pain of Tax Time

Two programs offer free help to make filing taxes a bit easier

OXFORD, Miss. – It’s one of the things you can count on: taxes. As the time arrives to begin thinking about filing 2013 tax returns, two programs featuring University of Mississippi law and accountancy students are providing free assistance to the community.

Second- and third-year Ole Miss law students will provide full-service tax preparation for basic federal and state returns. Through April 8, students participating in the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance clinic will be available from 3:30 to 6:30 p.m. Tuesdays and Thursdays at the Oxford-Lafayette County Library, 401 Bramlett Blvd. Assistance is free for people whose combined annual household income is less than $52,000.

Last year, the clinic students donated more than 1, 000 volunteer hours and completed nearly 250 returns that generated nearly $250,000 in refunds. Both the community and the student volunteers benefit from the experience, said Adrea Watford, clinic site director and a third-year law student.Read the story …

Speaker’s Edge Competition Helps Hone Presentation Skills

Annual event challenges students to prepare, think and state their case before judges

Speaker's Edge graduate level winner, Phillip Clothiaux

OXFORD, Miss. – In today’s world, college graduates entering the workforce with well-developed speaking skills have a huge advantage. University of Mississippi students recently got an opportunity to hone their public speaking skills and vie for a championship during the 11th annual Speaker’s Edge Competition.

The program culminated in a two-day competition, where students present three different presentations before a panel of judges loaded with industry business leaders.

The program is open to graduate accountancy students enrolled in Accountancy 503, MBA students enrolled in MBA 603 and undergraduates in engineering, journalism and the Center for Manufacturing Excellence enrolled in Speech 105. In these courses, students spend a week-and-a-half working with communication coaches, who provide early preparation and a point person to answer questions and guide the students through the process.

Graduate student winners included Phillip Clothiaux, of Rogersville, Mo., who was named overall Speaker’s Edge champion; Julian Sanchez and Victoria Ragland, both of Jonesboro, Ark., who were first-place winners in the ethical dilemma and marketplace pitch categories, respectively; and Chris Conley, of Bradenton, Fla., who took first place in the informative category.

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UM Accountancy Alumni Find Success in International Tax Practice

Trio recently helped establish new London office for Butler Snow

Barry Cannada

OXFORD, Miss. – Three graduates from the Patterson School of Accountancy at the University of Mississippi are doing big things in the world of international tax law practice. They helped establish Butler Snow‘s first overseas office, which opened in London earlier this year.

Brad Westerfield, Samantha Moore and Kurt Rademacher are attorneys who also hold accountancy and tax degrees from UM, as well as LL.M. degrees in taxation from New York University and their law degrees. They are among four lawyers on the staff of Butler Snow UK LLP.

R. Barry Cannada, chairman of Butler, Snow, O’Mara, Stevens and Cannada’s business department, holds both accountancy and law degrees from UM. He said the new UK office has an impressive list of clients, including billionaires from around the world who trust Westerfield, Moore and Rademacher.

“They are as good as anyone in the world at what they do,” Cannada said.

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