Gift Helps Provide a Welcome Table

Fellowship fund furthers foodways research for UM graduate students

UM graduate students Carlynn Crosby (left) and Olivia Terenzio chat during a break in the Southern Foodways Alliance office. The two students have been named the inaugural fellows benefiting from a gift from SFA advisory board president Jay Oglesby. Photo by Thomas Graning/Ole Miss Digital Imaging Services

OXFORD, Miss. – The work of the Southern Foodways Alliance at the University of Mississippi sets a welcome table where all may gather to consider the history and future of the South with respect and reconciliation.

The work pursued by the SFA, a member-supported organization housed in the Center for the Study of Southern Culture, inspired longtime supporter and SFA advisory board president Jay Oglesby to establish the Jacqueline and Jay Oglesby SFA Graduate Fellowship Fund with a gift of $50,000.

“The opportunity to be in a university environment where one can devote time to explore history and issues is a luxury; there is a cost to it, but it shouldn’t be preserved only for people with wealth,” said Jay Oglesby, who lives with his wife, Jackie, in Birmingham, Alabama.

“By bringing in new and diverse voices to the discipline, it becomes more powerful. Jackie and I thought this fund was a way to do that.”

Born in Columbus, Oglesby spent his childhood in Florida, Kentucky and, eventually, Texas. He returned to Mississippi after high school to attend Ole Miss.

“Oxford is like Shangri-La to me with the amount of culture that swims through this relatively small town,” said Oglesby, who graduated with a bachelor’s degree in liberal arts in 1991. “It inspires us to slow down, spend more time at table enjoying meals and meandering conversations with friends.”

Regular Sunday suppers at Jay’s grandparents’ included homegrown vegetables and cornbread as the base of what such descendants of Scots-Irish immigrants grew up thinking of as “Southern.” As a child in Chicago, Jackie loved the fideo, tortillas and beans her maternal grandmother brought from her northeastern Mexico homeland, as well as the home-fermented sauerkraut and more typical “Midwestern” food her German maternal grandmother would serve.

“When we eat the food central to another culture, we can begin to understand more of that culture,” Jay Oglesby said. “Thinking about what we eat and consider our own also tells us a lot about historical influences on culture and its evolution as influences change.

“Being at a table together requires a baseline of trust and respect that lets us talk of complicated or possibly divisive things we tend to bury. But, understanding our own complicated preconceptions and how they differ from other folks perceptions almost always brings us closer together.”

The Oglesby SFA Fellowship Fund will further the mission of the organization with recipients being full-time graduate students in Southern studies with a focus on foodways.

“As a graduate of this university, Jay knows what engaged students can accomplish while studying here,” said John T. Edge, director of the SFA.

“Jackie and Jay’s investment in the next generation of Southern Foodways Alliance graduate students is bold and selfless and transformative. It’s an investment in curiosity, and it’s an investment in the future of the South. We’re deeply appreciative.”

The inaugural fellows benefiting from the Oglesby gift are Carlynn Crosby, of St. Petersburg, Florida, and Olivia Terenzio, of Jackson, both pursuing master’s degrees in Southern studies.

“As a member of the SFA, I was fascinated by the way that food opened up conversations about class, race, gender, labor and place,” Crosby said. “The SFA played a key role in getting me to start thinking about food as a lens through which to explore society and culture.”

Terenzio agreed that the fellowship is a tremendous privilege.

“The fellowship allows me to support and learn from a team I admire, and to explore and champion new scholars and areas of study within foodways,” she said. “It also lets me engage with this smart and energetic community working to rethink and reshape the South through a myriad of creative avenues.”

Through films, scholarship, visual art and performance, SFA amplifies the lives of people who grow, prepare and serve food, Oglesby said. Doing this, SFA starts cultural conversations that matter.

“Sharing a meal gives you time to pause and think about each other’s experiences,” Oglesby said. “It builds empathy and allows one to gain an appreciation for the complexity of the South. And I think, hope for its future.”

The Jacqueline and Jay Oglesby SFA Graduate Fellowship Fund accepts gifts from individuals and organizations. To contribute, mail a check, with the scholarship’s name in the memo line, to the University of Mississippi Foundation, 406 University Ave., Oxford, MS 38655; or give online at

Individuals and organizations interested in learning more about supporting the work of the SFA can contact Nikki Neely Davis, executive director of development, at or 662-915-6678.