Music Professor Receives Prestigious International Fellowship

Carnegie African Diaspora Fellowship supports George Dor's work with Nigerian university

UM music professor George Worlasi Kwasi Dor will travel to Nigeria in summer 2019 to collaborate with colleagues at the University of Port Harcourt as part of the Carnegie African Diaspora Fellowship Program. Photo by Kevin Bain/Ole Miss Digital Imaging Services

OXFORD, Miss. – George Worlasi Kwasi Dor, a music professor at the University of Mississippi, has been awarded a fellowship by the Carnegie African Diaspora Fellowship Program to work with professors at the University of Port Harcourt in Nigeria.

Dor, a native of Ghana who holds the McDonnell-Barksdale Chair of Ethnomusicology at UM, will travel to Nigeria in the summer of 2019 to collaborate with Adeoluwa Okunade and Marie Agatha Ozah on field research in ethnomusicology, curriculum development, and mentoring of graduate assistants and assistant lecturers.

“The research portion of the project will consider the ways indigenous knowledge in traditional ethnic music stays relevant to contemporary communities in Ghana and Nigeria,” Dor said. “This will build on research Dr. Ozah and I have collaborated on before, and we look forward to using the opportunity to train graduate students in ethnographic field research methods.

“I’ll also be in conversation with Dr. Okunade and the faculty as they refine and develop their ethnomusicology curriculum. Because of my experience in this field, I hope to be a resource for them, but I expect to learn a great deal that could benefit our program, as well.”

Dor’s selection is well-deserved, said Robert Riggs, chair of the UM Department of Music.

“The receipt of this Carnegie fellowship further validates Dr. Dor’s well-established reputation as a leading researcher in the field of ethnomusicology,” Riggs said. “I am confident that both he and his colleagues in Nigeria will benefit greatly from this exciting opportunity to pursue joint scholarly projects.”

Dor’s fellowship is part of a broader initiative that will pair 51 scholars with one of 43 higher education institutions and partners in Ghana, Kenya, Nigeria, South Africa, Tanzania and Uganda to work together on curriculum co-development, research, graduate teaching, training and mentoring activities.

“Dr. Dor’s collaborative approach to pedagogy, research and performance with Dr. Adeoluwa Okunade and colleagues at the University of Port Harcourt and the University of Mississippi serves as a beacon for others in academe who facilitate understanding of musical traditions within the wider African diaspora,” said Gail Simpson, an Ole Miss doctoral candidate in music education.

Dor’s fellowship was the only one awarded in the area of music. Other visiting fellows will work with their hosts on a wide range of projects that include controlling malaria, strengthening peace and conflict studies, training and mentoring graduate students in criminal justice, archiving African indigenous knowledge, creating low-cost water treatment technologies, building capacity in microbiology and pathogen genomics, and developing a forensic accounting curriculum.

The Carnegie African Diaspora Fellowship Program, in its sixth year, is designed to increase the movement of skill and talent to benefit African nations, build capacity at host institutions and develop long-term, mutually beneficial collaborations between universities in Africa and the United States and Canada.

Some 385 African Diaspora Fellowships have been awarded for scholars to travel to Africa since the program’s inception in 2013.

University Recognized for Student Veteran Services, Treatment

Rankings place Ole Miss in top 5 percent nationally for military services

Andrew Newby (left), UM assistant director for veteran and military services, speaks with guests at the opening of the Veterans Resource Center. Newby has implemented several new services that have helped Ole Miss rise in the rankings among public institutions for supporting military veteran students. Photo by Thomas Graning/Ole Miss Digital Imaging Services

OXFORD, Miss. – The University of Mississippi has been recognized as a top institution for military veteran students for 2019 by both Military Times and College Factual.

Military Times ranked Ole Miss among the leaders in student veteran treatment in its annual rankings, with the university coming in at No. 85 nationally among all public institutions.

Ole Miss also finished in the top 5 percent of schools nationally – No. 65 among public universities – for “veteran friendliness” in College Factual’s Best for Vets category for 2019. It is the second straight year that the university has been the best school for veterans in Mississippi on the College Factual list.

“(The rankings) are huge for the university, because we essentially are a new office,” said Andrew Newby, assistant director of veteran and military services. “In 2013, (the university) really began the initiative of putting a priority on veterans. So, we went basically from nonexistence to now being recognized in multiple publications.”

The rankings consider a variety of factors, including veteran affordability, veteran support services and available resources, that combine to form the best educational experience for student veterans. The goal, according to College Factual, is to “help veterans identify colleges that are likely to be supportive of them and their unique needs.”

This approach is important because student veterans face different challenges than traditional students, Newby said.

“This gives us the ability to say to these veterans, ‘If you want a good college experience and you want somebody who understands all the facets of you as a veteran, then this is where you go in Mississippi,'” he said. “We are putting faces and names to that invisible identity of ‘a veteran.'”

The university’s highest categorical ranking was second nationwide for student veterans seeking degrees in health professions, College Factual said.

UM student veterans gather at the opening of the Veterans Resource Center in February. The resource center is among several new services provided to student veterans at Ole Miss that have helped the university improve its ranking among universities in the category of student veteran support. Photo by Thomas Graning/Ole Miss Digital Imaging Services

Ole Miss has instituted programs that allow student veterans to have their voices heard and to allow individual issues to be addressed, said Evan Ciocci, Student Veterans Association president.

“It is eye-opening to see how much the student veterans program has grown in my time here,” he said. “We’ve improved immensely to change the atmosphere surrounding student veterans in higher education.

“With the Veterans Resource Center and Veteran Treatment Team, resources have been more accessible ranging from academic success to health care.”

The Veterans Resource Center opened in February in the E.F. Yerby Conference Center. The center provides the university’s 1,400 military-connected students with academic resources, test materials and a place to gather and connect.

The Veterans Treatment Team brings together a collection of health care professionals, social workers and academic resources on campus to provide student veterans with a holistic plan to achieve their educational and personal goals.

That hands-on approach with each individual veteran allows the university to separate itself from its peers, Newby said.

“At the end of the day, we are making happy alumni who are successful in the workforce,” he said. “When you come to Ole Miss, I’m going to make sure you can get a job, that you’re going to enjoy your time and that you’re going to have good memories of being an Ole Miss Rebel.”

The needs of veterans are evolving and often, the old traditions of only providing a place for student veterans to gather and trade war stories are not enough for the younger generation of military students, Newby said.

“That’s what today’s vet does not want,” he said. “So, what we went out from there to do was to give them a sense of purpose.

“They all have servant’s hearts. That’s why they joined the military. So why not make the SVA a service organization that actually does things you want to be a part of?”

Newby and others did this by implementing a variety of community and campus service opportunities for student veterans to get involved, including the Ole Miss Wish, a philanthropic effort that works with military families to give children an unforgettable Ole Miss experience.

The Office of Veteran and Military Services staff does not plan to rest on its laurels, and new programs are in the works on campus.

“We are actively working toward more resources to help transition veterans and set them up for success in higher education and into their career fields,” Ciocci said. “I see a bright future for veterans’ services as we continue to grow.”

College Factual provides data analytics to compare more than 2,500 colleges and universities across the nation in a variety of categories. Military Times covers topics relevant to service members at home and abroad.

For more information on UM’s Office of Veteran and Military Services, visit

Books and Bears Bids Farewell to Its Father Christmas

Retiring administrator Donald Cole attends his 21st and final toy distribution for employee families

Donald Cole smiles as he takes photographs on his personal camera Friday at the Books and Bears distribution of toys for employees’ families. Cole, who co-founded the event and has emceed for the past 20 years, is retiring in January 2019. Photo by Megan Wolfe / Ole Miss Digital Imaging Services

OXFORD, Miss. – Twenty-one years ago, Donald Cole volunteered to emcee the first Books and Bears program at the University of Mississippi. Each second Friday in December since, the associate provost and associate professor of mathematics has been “Father Christmas” to Facilities Management Department employees gathered to collect free gifts for their children and grandchildren.

The occasion was joyous, as usual, but smiles mingled with tears Friday (Dec. 14) as Cole, who retires Jan. 15, 2019, attended the event for his last time.

Underneath festive lighting and with seasonal music playing in the background, UM employees gathered in Fulton Chapel for the distribution. The floor area in front of the stage was filled with books to the left, bears to the right and toys front and center.

“Standing before this distinguished crowd gives me great pleasure, because they consist of friends and colleagues of a lifetime,” Cole said.

Sponsored by the campus Black Faculty and Staff Organization, the charitable event annually distributes hundreds of new teddy bears, children’s books and toys donated by Ole Miss faculty, staff, students and alumni during the last three weeks of the fall semester. This year, the number of presents donated reached a new record.

Without a doubt, there has been a number of most fulfilling times,” Cole said. “They have occurred when so many others joined the Book and Bears team to make this event happen. They have occurred when a department or unit accepted the challenge to optimize their giving far beyond the normal expectations.

A Black Faculty and Staff Organization volunteer passed dolls to two happy Books and Bears recipients. Photo by Megan Wolfe / Ole Miss Digital Imaging Services

“It occurs every time I sit back and watch the final set-up of thousands of dollars of gifts donated in love by hundreds of individuals – many of whom could easily use the gifts themselves.”

Cole, along with Janice Murray, associate dean of liberal arts and professor of art, organized the first Books and Bears in 1997 in response to what they saw as a need to help custodial staff provide Christmas gifts to their children. Spread by word-of-mouth only, the initial response to the call for donations was overwhelming.

“We wanted the staff’s children to have the books for literary development and the bears for nurturing purposes,” Murray said. “People have been responding generously ever since. Somehow, there’s always been enough so no one left empty-handed. It’s truly amazing.”

Cole agreed.

“There has not been one single year in the 20-plus years of Books and Bears there have not been ample gifts donated to accommodate every single attendee of the program,” he said.

Black Faculty and Staff Organization members expressed their appreciation to Cole for his continuing leadership and assistance in obtaining toys and books for the children.

“Dr. Cole has aided the building of generations,” said Jacqueline Certion, assistant director of the FASTrack Program in the College of Liberal Arts. “I cannot thank him enough for his guidance as a professional at the university and as to how to as help better mankind.

“He is the truest example of a servant leader. I thank him for taking me under wings and then trusting me to fly.”

Cole summed up his experience with the program.

“Books and Bears is more than an event – it’s a spirit,” Cole said. “A spirit that will continue long beyond you and me. Its characters will change. Its format will vary. Perhaps its name might be altered, but its spirit will remain.”

The stage in front of Fulton Chapel was loaded with book, bears and toys awaiting new owners during the 21st annual Books and Bears event. Photo by Megan Wolfe / Ole Miss Digital Imaging Services

UM Faculty Travel across Southeast for Collaborations

Ten faculty members participate in SEC Faculty Travel Program

OXFORD, Miss. – Ten University of Mississippi faculty members are taking part in the SEC Faculty Travel Program this academic year, joining more than 100 fellow faculty members from other Southeastern Conference institutions.

Established in 2012 by the SEC provosts, the program provides financial assistance from the SEC office that bolters intra-SEC collaboration. Participants travel to other SEC universities to exchange ideas, develop grant proposals, conduct research and deliver lectures or performances. Areas of interest for this year’s Ole Miss class include music, engineering, anthropology and African American studies.

Travel of the UM faculty is made possible partly through a $10,000 award from the SEC.

“Being a member of the SEC means more than being in an athletic conference,” UM Provost Noel Wilkin said. “This faculty travel program brings together faculty from across the SEC to explore collaborative projects that might otherwise be difficult to initiate or fund.

“We value our SEC partners and our collaborations with other SEC universities.”

Participants from UM for the 2018-19 academic year are:

  • Graham Bodie, professor of integrated marketing communication, visiting Auburn University
  • Elizabeth Ervin, associate professor of civil engineering, visiting the University of Arkansas
  • Micah Everett, associate professor of music, visiting the University of South Carolina
  • Selim Giray, assistant professor of music and orchestra director, visiting the University of Tennessee
  • Samuel Lisi, assistant professor of mathematics, visiting the University of Arkansas
  • Maureen Meyers, assistant professor of anthropology, visiting the University of Tennessee
  • Adrienne Park, instructor in music, visiting the University of Tennessee
  • Charles Ross, director of African American studies and professor of history, visiting the University of Alabama
  • Michael Rowlett, associate professor of music, visiting the University of Tennessee
  • Hakan Yasarer, assistant professor of civil engineering, visiting Auburn University

The SEC Faculty Travel Program is one of several academic endeavors designed to support the teaching, research, service and economic development focus of the SEC’s 14 member universities. Past program participants have been invited to present their research at conferences, been awarded competitive grants and secured publications in leading journals.

“The SEC Faculty Travel Program provides faculty at all SEC universities the opportunity to broaden their network of scholars and professionals,” UM Associate Provost Donna Strum said. “This opportunity often leads to collaboration on intercollegiate teaching and research projects, which advance our mission. We appreciate the SECs support and look forward to the 2018-19 program.”

Several additional Ole Miss faculty members also completed trips to SEC institutions earlier this year:

  • Shennette Monique Garrett-Scott, assistant professor of history and African American studies, visited the University of Tennessee
  • Robert Cummings, executive director of academic innovation and associate professor of writing and rhetoric, visited the University of Georgia
  • Dinorah Sapp, lecturer in intensive English, visited the University of Kentucky.

Military Student Works with Nonprofit to Raise Money for UM Veterans

Walkers for Warriors group gives back to Ole Miss through 'Walking Dead' cosplay enterprise

Nicholas Roylance is a theatre arts major at the University of Mississippi, a disabled military veteran and a member of Walkers for Warriors, a nonprofit organization that raises money for military veteran students at Ole Miss. Photo by Kevin Bain/Ole Miss Digital Imaging Services

OXFORD, Miss. – Four years ago, University of Mississippi student Nicholas Roylance was injured in training exercises during his time as an active duty member of the United States Army. That accident during drills left Roylance wounded, angry and searching for his path in life.

Roylance eventually found his place at Ole Miss, pursuing a career in acting while using his talents, in partnership with a start-up nonprofit, to help raise money for veterans like himself.

“I signed up for the military because I wanted to do my part for the country, but I also wanted to live after that,” Roylance said. “I found my (outlet) in my art: acting. I want to change the stigma surrounding veterans, that they can be seen as humans and seen as artists.”

Roylance, originally from San Francisco, generally sports long black hair, usually topped by a black baseball cap. He often carries a smattering of facial hair and wears a black leather jacket.

Fans of the AMC series “Walking Dead” can paint a perfect mental image of Roylance by picturing the character Daryl Dixon.

Nicholas Roylance (left) and Gene Russell (right) have a photo taken with a fan at a ‘Walking Dead’ cosplay convention. Roylance, a UM theatre arts major, and Russell are members of Walkers for Warriors, a nonprofit that raises money for military veteran causes. Submitted photo

Roylance is one of the “team leaders” of Walkers for Warriors, a nonprofit that raises money at “Walking Dead” cosplay conventions to help fund services that benefit veterans at the university. The Walker Stalker cosplay conventions are hosted in cities around the world to give fans opportunities to interact with cast members as well as costume experts, such as Roylance, who are adept at portraying characters from the acclaimed show.

Walkers for Warriors’ first major donation to the university was for last month’s Ole Miss Wish. The organization gave $7,500 to the family of Ole Miss Wish Kid Benjamin Clark to go to Disney World.

Clark, son of Mississippi Air National Guard 172nd Airlift Wing chaplain Maj. Caleb Clark, is in remission from B-cell acute lymphoblastic leukemia.

Roylance’s story does not include a trip overseas and a return home with medals signifying valor in combat.

“My service is very tragic,” he said. “I got hurt and a lot of people had to take over and deploy for me.”

Roylance’s consideration of soldiers and their lives after service led to his eventual involvement with Walkers for Warriors, an organization that allows him to give back to fellow veterans while taking advantage of his natural appearance and his acting ability.

But Roylance didn’t set out to be a cosplay star; instead, he wished to become a TV and film actor. That dream started when he was young, but it grew intense as an adult as he tried to find an outlet for his post-service frustrations.

“When I came out of the military, I was angry at everybody,” he said. “I had nothing to do and no one to yell at, and then acting and cosplay gave me a purpose.”

Roylance, who has appeared in a couple of movies, is majoring in theatre arts at Ole Miss. Acting created a natural outlet for Roylance to get into cosplay, he said.

“I love acting because I get to be somebody else,” Roylance said. “Cosplay was a cheap and easy way to start acting while putting smiles on people’s faces.

“As an actor, I want people to enjoy my work, but if you’re telling me I can just dress up in costume and make someone smile? Sign me up.”

It was at a “Walking Dead” cosplay convention in Atlanta in February 2018 where fate would have Roylance meet his future Walkers for Warriors partner Gene Russell.

Roylance, who portrays Daryl Dixon, and Russell, who is a spitting image of character Negan, had both wrapped up appearances as their respective characters when they happened to share a table and start talking. They began working together at conventions, and Russell told Roylance that he had created a nonprofit for wounded veterans, but it had never really gotten off the ground.

“The idea sat dormant, but when Nick and I first met, he explained that he was a disabled veteran,” said Russell, an insurance adjuster from Atlanta. “I said, ‘I have this nonprofit for disabled veterans; why don’t we start gearing (cosplay) for the benefit of veterans?'”

“The fact that we even found each other and said, ‘hello’ is remarkable,” Roylance said.

Gene Russell (left) and Nicholas Roylance raise money for the nonprofit Walkers for Warriors by portraying ‘Walking Dead’ characters Negan and Daryl Dixon, respectively. Roylance is an Ole Miss student majoring in theatre arts. Photo by David Yerby

Roylance and Russell felt that veterans organizations around the country could do more to directly help those they serve.

The two began working with Mary Loveland, director of Walkers for Warriors, and daughter Grace Loveland, president. The nonprofit gives money it raises to veterans services, with the sole beneficiary being Ole Miss.

The group raises money through interaction with fans, who come to meet the celebrity look-a-likes, have photos taken and purchase prints and other merchandise.

The partnership between Walkers for Warriors and the university allows services to be provided to student veterans on the “ground floor,” said Andrew Newby, UM assistant director of veteran and military services.

“Walkers for Warriors does wonderful things that deliver tangible results immediately, as opposed to other larger groups that provide things for nameless, faceless veterans,” Newby said. “Walkers for Warriors benefits real veterans in our community, on our campus and in the Ole Miss family.”

The link between the nonprofit and Ole Miss was an obvious one, according to its founders.

“The partnership with the University of Mississippi seemed like a perfect fit,” Mary Loveland said. “Nicholas, being a student veteran, was clearly the impetus for the relationship and has continued to work diligently to develop and enhance the partnership.

“The SVA program at University of Mississippi is extraordinary and, in my opinion, should be emulated throughout the university level in this country.”

Eventually, Walkers for Warriors may expand its benefactors to other universities or organizations, but for now, its sights are set on even bigger impacts for Ole Miss, Roylance said.

“Right now, we are working on compiling thousands of dollars, because the next donation we want to be super-substantial,” Roylance said. “We want to give Andrew enough money to say, ‘Wow, I can do anything I need.'”

Newby said he already has plans in mind.

“We are hopeful that as we gain more space on campus in the future, we will be able to partner with Walkers for Warriors in outfitting a dedicated one-stop-shop for our military-connected students,” he said. “As we see growth in terms of veterans coming to campus, we will need more space and personnel to accommodate these wonderful students, and the partnership with Walkers for Warriors will make this vision a reality.”

For Roylance himself, the goal remains an acting career. He hopes to continue his studies at Ole Miss and eventually move back to his home state of California to pursue a serious film and television career.

Anyone interested in supporting Walkers for Warriors can visit There, guests can contact members of the nonprofit to find information on cosplay convention schedules or donate.

Don Cole Retires after Storied History at Ole Miss

Longtime mathematics professor, administrator credited with leaving lasting legacy at UM

Don Cole retires from the University of Mississippi and his longtime responsibilities in the Lyceum on Jan. 15. Photo by Robert Jordan/Ole Miss Digital Imaging Services

OXFORD, Miss. – When Donald Cole was a graduate student at the University of Mississippi in the 1980s, he and a faculty member would walk over to the Union to get coffee together. Cole would walk so fast, his companion would have to hold onto his shoulder to keep up.

As a champion of education, Cole has outpaced others ever since, but he’s retiring officially Jan. 15, and the many people who love and admire him are feeling the loss. A retirement reception will be hosted from 3 to 5 p.m. Dec. 12 in the Gertrude C. Ford Ballroom at The Inn at Ole Miss.

“He’s retiring, and it’s hitting home,” said Demetria Hereford, associate director of the Ronald E. McNair Program, who has worked with the assistant provost and associate professor of mathematics for 21 years. “Dr. Cole’s voice is one that people listen to because he’s fair to all people. People respect and appreciate fairness and compromise, thus gravitate towards him.”

The 68-year-young Cole has tried to help all students as a math professor or mentor, but he likely has done more than anyone at the university to help underrepresented students achieve academically through leading such initiatives as the Louis Stokes Mississippi Alliance for Minority Participation’s IMAGE, or Increasing Minority Access to Graduate Education, and summer Bridge STEM programs and the McNair program, which recruits 29 low-income, first-generation and underrepresented students each year and prepares them for doctoral studies.

“Dr. Cole is the most giving and kind person,” said Andie Cooper, who has worked as Cole’s executive assistant for the past three years. “His smile is contagious, and his faith is visible through his actions as he works diligently on many committees throughout campus. He truly has the heart of a servant.”

While giving a campus tour to visitors, Don Cole stops by the James Meredith statue situated between the Lyceum and the J.D. Williams Library. Photo by Kevin Bain/Ole Miss Digital Imaging Services

Always ready to laugh but thoughtful when he speaks, Cole reflects on the prospect of retiring after a history with the university that goes back to 1968.

“It’s going to be the people and places that I miss,” Cole said. “I’ll be coming up on weekends and looking around, so the building part I can do something about.

“Some of the people I’ll naturally run into in the community. But I’m going to miss a lot of aspects because I put my life off into it.”

Besides his roles as program director, grant writer, mentor and mathematics professor, Cole is also an administrator. Under Robert Khayat, chancellor from 1995 to 2009, he was named assistant to the chancellor for multicultural affairs.

He chaired the Chancellor’s Standing Committee on Sensitivity and Respect until last year; co-chaired the Extended Sensitivity and Respect Committee in 2013, which was initiated after a post-election incident on campus in 2012; and co-chaired the Chancellor’s Advisory Committee on History and Context the last couple of years.

Cole said he believes the university has come a long way in becoming a welcoming place for all.

“I’m always the half-full guy,” Cole said. “And so I see that the university has come a tremendous way. I remember getting here as a freshman (in 1968). I remember how uncomfortable I was, and I remember some of the incidents that made me uncomfortable. And the university’s just a far cry from that today.

“Yes, we have a long ways to go. Sometimes when we ‘fix something,’ we need to be reminded that it doesn’t stay fixed, that as new groups of students, faculty and staff come in (every year), that we have to be vigilant, we have to be conscious and not rest on any laurels. We have to cover some of the same ground, remembering that we’re covering the same ground with different people.”

Cole’s colleagues attest to the powerful effect of his presence on the university.

“From the outset, it was clear that he would be a team player but would never compromise his values and beliefs,” Khayat said. “He was loyal to the university, to his students, his colleagues and his faith.”

Provost Noel Wilkin added, “The advice and guidance that Don has provided around issues of race and diversity have been incredibly valuable. These are grounded in his steadfast pursuit of affording all students who come to our university an opportunity to be successful.”

There and Back Again

Cole grew up in Jackson, living with his parents and seven siblings, and entered Ole Miss as a freshman engineering major in 1968. He was a member of the Black Student Union, which presented the UM administration with a list of demands, asking for an end to overt racism, more opportunities for black students and staff, and the hiring of black faculty.

In 1970, Cole took part in a protest at an Up with People concert on campus and was expelled from the university along with seven other students. He spent two nights in the Oxford jail.

“Virtually every one of the 27 demands have been made a reality on this campus,” said Charles Ross, UM professor of history and director of the African American studies program, which he said exists only because of the courage Cole and others displayed as students. “Today, many individuals on our campus take for granted the opportunities that were created by the sacrifice made by Don and others.”

James Donald (left), Lawrence Anderson, Donald Cole, Edwin Scott and Kenneth Mayfield catch up at a UM Black Student Reunion. Submitted photo

Kenneth Mayfield is another of the students who were expelled in 1970. He and Cole have been best friends since, and Cole even introduced him to his wife. Mayfield did not return to Ole Miss, but he persuaded his daughter, Dominique, to enroll there.

“My daughter graduated from Ole Miss (with a degree in political science),” said Mayfield, senior attorney at the Mayfield Law Firm in Tupelo. “I really wanted her to finish there because I was unable to finish there, and it would give me some sense of completion.”

Cole arranged it so that he would present his best friend’s daughter with her degree.

“It was like I finally got to graduate from there,” Mayfield said. “She’s practicing law with me now.” 

After unsuccessfully trying to re-enter Ole Miss a year after their expulsion, Cole and Mayfield were accepted to Tougaloo College, where they received their bachelor’s degrees.

Mayfield went on to receive a law degree from the University of Michigan. Cole earned master’s degrees in mathematics from both the State University of New York and the University of Michigan, and returned to Ole Miss and completed a Ph.D. in mathematics in 1985.

After graduating from Ole Miss, Cole worked in Fort Worth, Texas, in the aerospace industry. He later accepted an offer to work as a mathematics professor at Florida A&M, and then was asked to join Ole Miss as assistant dean in the Graduate School and associate professor of mathematics. He returned in 1993.

So, why did Cole return to Ole Miss after being kicked out as an undergraduate?

“I’m often asked that question, and I have never been able to truly give a good answer, even to myself,” he said. “I had not truly failed at anything, and I had come here to get a degree and I had failed to get a degree.

“I had left in disgrace, left with a jail certificate, and I had come here, not by myself, but come here representing so many others, and I suspect that I had feelings about letting so many other folk down, and maybe this gave me another shot at redeeming myself, and that’s the nearest that I can answer.”

Don Cole has helped carry on what James Meredith (left) accomplished when he became the first black student to enroll at Ole Miss in 1962. Submitted photo

Returning to the university after the way he was treated is probably one of the biggest contributions Cole could make, said Brandi Hephner LaBanc, UM vice chancellor for student affairs.

“I feel like he truly is a role model,” Hephner LaBanc said. “He was able to forgive what happened to him, not forget.

“There have been many others he’s linked arms with, but I think he was the forerunner. He allowed us to come behind him and be brave.”

Cole has helped carry on what James Meredith accomplished when he became the first black student to enroll at Ole Miss, said Judy Meredith, a retired assistant professor at Jackson State University and wife of James Meredith.

“James Meredith opened that door, and God put Don Cole there to keep that door open,” she said.

The Merediths said Cole has always made them feel welcome during their visits to campus.

“I’ve been to Ole Miss a lot of times. Nobody has done more and better for me than Dr. Donald Cole,” James Meredith said. “I’ve never known anyone in education that I’ve had greater respect for, and I’ve known a lot of people in education who have helped me through the years.”

Teacher and Mentor

Cole has taught one math course, ranging from geometry to calculus, every semester since he’s been at Ole Miss. His interest in mathematics started in elementary school.

“I loved me some Caroline Sue,” said Cole, referencing a grade school classmate. “I devised a great scheme to get Caroline Sue to like me. She wasn’t good in math, so I took our math workbook and did the whole workbook, so that whenever Caroline Sue had a question, I had the answer right there.

“The instructor was impressed because they kind of used my book as a key. I didn’t care about that; I cared about Caroline Sue. She ended up dating my friend.”

Over the years, Cole has helped hundreds of Ole Miss students understand math, even those who thought they never could, such as Scott Coopwood, of Cleveland, Mississippi.

“I had one last class to take in order to graduate in August of ’84, and I was worried that I might not pass it because math has never been one of my strong points,” said Coopwood, founder and owner of Coopwood Communications, which includes Delta Magazine and the Delta Business Journal.

Don Cole and IHL President Shane Hooper celebrate UM Commencement in 2016. Photo by Robert Jordan/Ole Miss Digital Imaging Services

“The class was Statistics, and the first day I walked into the room I saw a young guy sitting on the edge of his desk looking through some papers, and it was Don. As everyone was pouring into the room, I walked up to him and said, ‘I’m awful at math and I’m concerned that I might not be able to pass this class, and if I don’t, I won’t graduate.’

“Don put his hand on my shoulder and in a very positive manner, he said, ‘Don’t worry, regardless of your math skills, if it comes to it, I’ll work with you after class every day, and I don’t care how long it takes. … You’re going to pass this course, and you’re going to graduate on time.’ He hadn’t known me more than two minutes.

“Don was a great teacher in every way. He went slow and explained everything extremely well. I spent a lot of time with him when I was taking that course. I can’t recall many teachers who had faith in me or in fact even encouraged me. But Don certainly did. Thirty-four years later and I have never forgotten the impact he had on my life in the summer of 1984.”

Other students sing Cole’s praises as a mentor, as well.

“As a freshman majoring in mathematics, I knew that he would be someone who could serve as a resource and mentor throughout my undergraduate tenure,” said Skylyn Irby, who met Cole during the summer before her freshman year and participated in the Bridge STEM program, which serves underrepresented incoming freshman STEM majors, and McNair program.

“He was someone who overcame the adversities that many underrepresented people of color encounter in STEM-related career fields. More specifically, he was a mathematician and someone who gave me the confidence to pursue a degree in mathematics.”

Cole has had a profound impact on undergraduate and graduate education at the university, said James Reid, UM chair and professor of mathematics.

“It was noted in that June/July 2009 issue of the Notices of the American Mathematical Society that over one-third of the African-Americans who received Ph.D.s nationally that year had graduated from this university in 2006,” Reid said. “Dr. Cole was an essential contributor to this effort and recruited and mentored many of these students. He is a remarkable member of the Ole Miss family.”

Cole, who won the university’s Frist Student Service Award in 2001 and Award for Excellence in Promoting Inclusiveness in Graduate Education in 2004, said the LSMAMP IMAGE and summer Bridge STEM programs and McNair program are dear to his heart.

“They have been pivotal programs that have absolutely changed the lives of many, many individuals who have participated,” Cole said. “They have been programs that have highlighted us as an institution far beyond our walls and borders.”

Family Man

So, with all the work Cole has done for the university, has he had time to be a caring husband and father and all-around good person? The answer is yes, said Marcia Cole, his wife of 38 years and UM lecturer of applied gerontology.

The Cole family at home: Donald II (left), Marcia, Donald Sr., Mariah and William. Submitted photo

“I think he is the kindest, most patient, caring individual that I know,” she said. “He just genuinely cares about people, and he will do everything within his power and use any resource available to him to be of some help, even to his detriment.”

The Coles have three grown children: Don II, 35; Mariah, 32; and William, 31. Marcia Cole said her husband wanted to be a father from day one. He watched his children play sports and taught them how to swim and build a fire. He made sure his daughter knew how to bass fish, catch a ball, change a tire, do yardwork and fix the plumbing.

“He’s a big kid at heart,” Marcia Cole said. “At the house, if I heard something happen, I wasn’t calling the kids. I called him.”

Upon retirement, Don Cole said he’ll continue to devote time to his favorite hobby, photography, and around the house he plans to set up a couple of aquariums, garden and “fix” things. In addition, he’ll continue serving his community through work with civic and humanitarian organizations such as Habitat for Humanity and at New Hope Missionary Baptist Church.

From faculty to students to administrators, Cole’s impact at the university and across the state will be felt for generations to come.

“Cole is a selfless, supporting role model,” said Victoria Robinson, who participated in the Bridge STEM program, IMAGE and the McNair program. “Without him, I would not be as successful as I have been in my undergraduate career. I’ll miss him more than he knows.”

Don Cole plays on the swings during an Oxford Housing Authority community project to rebuild a playground. Photo by Patrick Perry

Student’s Photos are Picture-Perfect

Yasmine Malone among 22 female photographers featured in The New York Times

UM sophomore Yasmine Malone uses her iPhone to take photos that have appeared in The New York Times. Photo by Kevin Bain/Ole Miss Digital Imaging Services

OXFORD, Miss. – Yasmine Malone definitely has an eye for photography.

The University of Mississippi student was among 22 young female photographers selected to participate in a recent New York Times feature project. The newspaper asked the women to take photos for “This is 18,” which explores daily life for girls around the world who are becoming adults this year.

The attention Malone has gained from her national exposure has put her on the path to joining the ranks of such renowned women photographers as Annie Liebovitz and Sally Mann.

“I was honored and humbled to be selected for such a unique opportunity,” said Malone, a 20-year-old sophomore English and public policy leadership major from Clarksdale. “Although I think I was deserving of it, I never saw it coming. It was truly a miracle.”

Ironically, Malone, who is minoring in political science and journalism, discovered her interest in photography almost by accident.

While in high school, Malone was selected to participate in Blue Magnolia Films’ “Celebrating Storytellers” project last year.

Commemorating Mississippi’s bicentennial, 100 voices from 13 cities were trained by film company staff in the craft of photography and storytelling during a full-immersion workshop. The resulting images have graced the covers of newspapers across the state, as well as The New York Times.

“I took pictures on my iPhone7 for the Mississippi bicentennial project,” she said. “I never thought that my high school experience would lead to something like this.

“I got to highlight a bright spot in our community. That’s how I ended up being chosen by The New York Times for the ‘This is 18’ project.”

Tieryaa Metcalf, of Clarksdale, Malone’s aunt and seventh-grade honors English teacher, said she noticed her niece was well-spoken and saw her gift of “gab” as potential for future success. To that end, Metcalf urged Malone to write a piece for the Mississippi Public Broadcasting National Writing Project.

Throughout Malone’s high school years, Metcalf encouraged her niece to enter several oratorical contests as well.

“She informed me that I was the first teacher to push and challenge her to think deeper into the context of the different readings and writings that were taught in my class,” Metcalf said. “I am both excited, yet humbled, by her success. I know that she will do great things with her ability to write, speak and be an activist for voices unheard.”

While the New York Times experiences have definitely been a highlight in her life, Malone said she hopes to work as a student photographer for The Daily Mississippian, the Ole Miss campus newspaper. If she joins the staff, it will be in addition to her standing involvements with the Black Student Union and the Associated Student Body Freshman Forum.

“This experience has inspired me to commit myself 100 percent to everything I do,” she said. “I know that as I do that, nothing but good things will eventually come my way.”

To view Malone’s photos and story, visit

National Chemical Journal Features UM Professors’ Paper

Research explores new class of solvents called ionic liquids

OXFORD, Miss. – A trio of University of Mississippi chemistry and biochemistry professors are cover stars, with their paper landing on the front of the latest issue of The Journal of Physical Chemistry C.

The professors are Nathan Hammer, associate professor of chemistry and biochemistry; Charles Hussey, associate dean for research and graduate education in the College of Liberal Arts and professor of chemistry and biochemistry; and Greg Tschumper, professor and chair of the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry. Joining them as authors of the paper are Charley Hutchison, who was a student at St. Andrew’s Episcopal School in Ridgeland at the time the research was conducted; Chad Williams, a UM Summer Research Experiences for Undergraduates student from Central Alabama Community College; and Sarah Johnson, an Ole Miss graduate student in chemistry.

The paper, “Hydration of Ionic Liquid Induces Vibrational Frequency Shifts to Higher Energy,” is the cover feature of the Dec. 6, Volume 122, No. 48 issue of the journal, which is published weekly by the American Chemical Society.

“In this work, we show how water molecules affect the physical properties of an important new class of solvents called ionic liquids,” Hammer said. “Ionic liquids are salts that are actually liquid at room temperature and that have important uses in a number of applications, including nuclear waste disposal.”

Understanding how water affects the properties of ionic liquids will help the professors and students identify potential hazards and considerations for their use, Hammer said. It also will help them better engineer future ionic liquid mixtures that take advantage of predictable and designer properties.

“This work will also help computational chemists identify the best computational methods and practices for the accurate modeling of similar systems,” he said.

The professors all specialize in different areas, with Hammer concentrating on molecular spectroscopy, Hussey on ionic liquids and Tschumper on computational chemistry.

Hutchison conceived of and started the project during a summer research experience at UM, and Williams worked on the project during a summer. Johnson took what the younger students had started and completed it at a high level, Hammer said.

The cover spot highlights the research to funding agencies – both those that funded the work and also those that might be solicited for future funding, Hammer said. And it “gives us media resources to use in recruiting high-quality graduate students to our department and individual research groups.”

The cover also brings attention to research being done across campus.

“Whenever a paper or other scholarly work is featured on the cover of a prominent journal, it helps raise the national and international awareness of the important and outstanding research being performed at the University of Mississippi,” Tschumper said.

UM Group, Community Members Visit Lynching Memorial

UM faculty and students, Oxford high school students and community members – visit the Equal Justice Museum and Memorial Park in Montgomery, Alabama. Photo by Dason Pettit

OXFORD, Miss. – A group of more than 50 people – including University of Mississippi faculty and students, Oxford high school students and community members – recently visited the Equal Justice Museum and Memorial Park in Montgomery, Alabama.

A student takes in exhibits at the Equal Justice Museum and Memorial Park. Photo by Dason Pettit

The trip, which took place Nov. 3 and was organized by the UM Slavery Research Group, allowed participants to visit the new museum that examines the history of lynching in America.

The trip was organized to take place one week after the dedication of the Elwood Higginbottom memorial in Lafayette County. More importantly, it allowed older community members to discuss historical information about Oxford and Lafayette County with high school students.

The creation of the Equal Justice Museum and Memorial Park was driven by the Equal Justice Initiative, founded by Bryan Stevenson. The best-selling author and social justice activist delivered the keynote address during the university’s Fall Convocation in 2017.

Past Meets Future with UM Research into Greek Plaques

Classics, engineering professors team up to explore ancient history

Brad Cook, UM associate professor of classics, balances an ancient Greek inscription over an X-ray fluorescence spectrometer as Lance Yarbrough, assistant professor of geology and geological engineering, and Melanie Munns Antonelli, collections manager for the University Museum, watch. Photo by Kevin Bain/Ole Miss Digital Imaging Services

OXFORD, Miss. – It is a delicate balancing act Brad Cook performs as he places a more-than-2,000-year-old golden Greek artifact atop a high-energy X-ray fluorescence spectrometer. In position, the wafer-thin ancient article soon will be beamed with billions of photons, all to unlock its age.

Cook, an associate professor of classics at the University of Mississippi, is working in a back room of the University Museum on an October morning alongside Lance Yarbrough, UM assistant professor of geology and geological engineering, and Melanie Munns Antonelli, the museum’s collections manager.

Today meets a yesterday of centuries ago as the trio is using the spectrometer to peer into a gold, and then a bronze, inscription to discover the elemental compositions of the Greek relics. The results will offer a clue whether the inscriptions – both part of the museum’s David M. Robinson Memorial Collection of Greek and Roman Antiquities – are ancient or modern.

Because it is undetermined where the inscriptions were originally found and because the survival of metal inscriptions is so rare – they were commonly melted down, even in antiquity, and “recycled” – there is doubt as to whether the inscriptions are ancient or more modern. While the scans cannot prove the plaques are ancient beyond a doubt, they can reveal the absence of anything that would signal modern manufacturing.

After scanning, the gold inscription is found to contain 99.8 percent gold, with the remaining 0.2 percent being below the detection limit of the device. The bronze inscription’s makeup is 82.2 percent copper and 17.8 percent tin. The percentages are definitive.

“The results of the scans for the two metal inscriptions show that there is nothing modern about the composition of the metals,” Cook said. “These scans, then, provide an answer that is one of many answers that collectively build a case that argues for the antiquity of both inscriptions.

“Without these scans, there would always be a ‘what if?’ hanging around the room. In the broadest terms, every artifact has a story to tell, and these artifacts in the museum have, I suspect, a unique story to tell.”

The research into the composition of the inscriptions continues Cook’s work from earlier this year, when he received a $21,000 National Endowment for the Humanities fellowship to study the two inscriptions, including five months of work based at the American School of Classical Studies at Athens in Greece.

While other parts of the roughly 2,000-piece Robinson collection have been the subject of published works, these inscriptions – both about the size of an index card – have not been.

A gold Greek inscription, an artifact at the University Museum, records the essence of a defensive treaty between Philip V, king of Macedon from 221 to 179 B.C., and the city of Lysimachia. Photo by Kevin Bain/Ole Miss Digital Imaging Services

The gold inscription records the essence of a defensive treaty between Philip V, king of Macedon from 221 to 179 B.C., and the city of Lysimachia, a strategic town on the Dardanelles between the Aegean and Black seas. The bronze inscription records the freeing of a slave woman named Philista in northwestern Greece about the same time.

“A ‘mini’ version of a treaty on gold is, however, unparalleled, so much of my research is trying to finding comparanda for such things so I can answer … what is the purpose of a gold epitome of a treaty,” Cook said.

Classics and engineering might seem like strange research partners, but Cook has a friend, Scott Pike, an archaeological geologist at Willamette University in Oregon, who uses a spectrometer. Witnessing the usefulness of the instrument in that line of work and how it might aid him, Cook asked Pike where to find such an instrument. He told Cook: Ask your geology department.

“Brad sought us out,” Yarbrough said. “He emailed my chair, Dr. Gregg Davidson, hoping we had an XRF device. I only recently purchased the device in the spring of 2017, so it was good timing.

“One of the most useful aspects of (X-ray fluorescence) is that it is nondestructive. Many other methods of elemental analysis require you to destroy or consume a portion of the item.”

The spectrometer, a Bruker Tracer housed at the UM School of Engineering, is an apparatus that knocks electrons loose from their atomic orbital positions via an X-ray beam. The resulting burst of energy yields an elemental fingerprint that the instrument categorizes by element.

During the course of all this knocking, yielding and categorizing, the instrument ejects a minimal dose of radiation right above its “eye.” It is a “really safe” level, Yarbrough said. Still, he wears a radiation badge dosimeter just as a precaution.

His advice? Don’t stand over the spectrometer while it is beaming.

While handling the relics, Antonelli and Cook have their own safety precautions, wearing either white cotton gloves or blue industrial nitrile gloves when carefully positioning the articles over the “eye” of the spectrometer. Once the instrument starts lighting up yellow to red, everyone stands back and awaits the elemental composition percentages to calculate on Yarbrough’s laptop.

A scan takes a minute or two from positioning to final percentages.

Having answered the questions about the elemental composition of the two inscriptions, Antonelli, Cook and Yarbrough soon get curious about the composition of other museum artifacts, including ancient arrowheads, a jug and a ladle, which is found to be a surprising 67 percent silver.

The trio is having fun with its work, letting scientific inquisitiveness run wild for a while, but what they are uncovering is also valuable information to be used by future researchers.

“Understanding the composition of the artifacts helps us determine whether it may be modern or ancient since it is harder to visually date metal artifacts,” Antonelli said. “As the University of Mississippi Museum, we strive to be accessible for all scholarly research and to educate the public about our collection with the most accurate information possible. Any new information aids in this mission.

“So much of the antiquities collection could benefit from further scientific study. In the past, doing this kind of testing would have necessitated sending the artifact to another university. It’s wonderful that we have this technology on campus, and that Lance has been such a collegial partner readily willing to help Brad with his research.”