Alumni Association to Honor Seven at Homecoming for Achievement, Service

OXFORD, Miss. – The University of Mississippi Alumni Association honors seven alumni with its highest annual recognition during Homecoming weekend Nov. 5-6.

Inductees into the Alumni Hall of Fame are John H. Geary of Jackson, Jennifer Gillom of Phoenix, Trent Lott of Washington, Ray Mabus of Ridgeland and Debra L. Starnes of Spicewood, Texas. William L. Freeman Jr. of Flowood is to receive the Alumni Service Award for service to the university and the Alumni Association, and Maj. Sheldon Morris of Killeen, Texas, will receive the Outstanding Young Alumni Award.

The Alumni Association hosts a reception for the honorees at 6 p.m. Nov. 5 in the Gertrude C. Ford Ballroom at The Inn at Ole Miss. A dinner for the awards recipients follows the reception, and tickets with advance registration by Oct. 22 are required.

Tickets are $50 per person or $450 for a table of 10. Call 662-915-7375.

The honorees will be introduced Nov. 6 at Vaught-Hemingway Stadium before the Homecoming game kickoff against the University of Louisiana at Lafayette.

– Geary, a Vicksburg native, is a 1952 graduate of the UM School of Business Administration. As a student, he was president of the student body and Kappa Alpha Order, and was inducted into Omicron Delta Kappa and the student Hall of Fame. A former president of the UM Alumni Association and the UM Foundation, Geary also co-chaired the university’s first major gifts campaign in 1984 and served on the Joint Committee on University Investments and the business school’s advisory board.

After two years as a first lieutenant in the U.S. Air Force, he worked for Mississippi Power & Light Co. in Jackson, then joined Equitable Securities Corp., where he was a director and senior vice president. He opened the Southeast’s first Paine Webber office, and in 1978 he opened his own firm, which merged with Morgan Keegan in 1998. He retired as a managing director of Morgan Keegan.

An officer and director of several business, political, educational and religious organizations, Geary helped reorganize and revitalize the Mississippi Republican Party in the late 1950s and early ’60s. He also was the founding president of the Catholic Foundation of the Diocese of Jackson and was a member of its executive and investment committees for more than 30 years. He and his wife, Shirley, have four children and 12 grandchildren.

– Gillom is head coach of the Los Angeles Sparks and was inducted into the Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame on her 45th birthday in 2009. She was an assistant coach for the WNBA’s Minnesota Lynx during the 2008 season and was named interim head coach three days before the 2009 season began. She began her coaching career in 2004 at Xavier College Preparatory in Phoenix. As head coach there, she compiled a 130-25 record in six years.

Gillom played seven seasons in the WNBA, six with the Phoenix Mercury and her last with the Sparks. She led the Mercury to playoff berths in 1997, 1998 and 2000, and played in the 1998 WNBA Finals. In 2003, she retired from the WNBA with career averages of 13.4 points and 4.5 rebounds per game. Recipient of the WNBA’s 2002 Kim Perrot Sportsmanship Award, Gillom was named to the 1999 All-Star team, the 1997 All-WNBA first team and 1998 All-WNBA second team. She collected six gold medals, including one at the 1988 Olympics, and one silver medal as a member of USA Basketball, and was named one of Arizona’s top athletes of the 20th century.

While playing for Ole Miss, Gillom was the 1986 Southeastern Conference Female Athlete of the Year and a Kodak All-American. A four-time All-SEC first-team selection, she led the Lady Rebels in scoring her last three seasons and finished as UM’s second all-time leading scorer (2,186 points), behind her sister Peggie. The UM Gillom Sports Center is named for her and her sister.

– After graduating from the UM School of Law in 1967, Lott returned to his hometown of Pascagoula to practice law. A year later, he went to Washington to work for U.S. Rep. William M. Colmer. In 1972, he was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives, where he served eight of 16 years as the Republican whip. In 1988, he was elected to the U.S. Senate, where he was twice elected Republican whip. Lott is the only person to be Republican whip in both houses of Congress.

In 1999, Lott helped raise funds to create the UM Lott Leadership Institute, an accredited degree-granting program in leadership and public policy that promotes leadership skills in high school and college students. After retiring from the Senate in 2007, he and former Sen. John Breaux (D-La.) founded the Breaux Lott Leadership Group, a strategic consulting and lobbying firm combining nearly 70 years of congressional experience from two parties.

As a UM student, Lott was president of Sigma Nu fraternity and a Rebel cheerleader. He and his wife, Patrica, have two children and four grandchildren.

– As the 75th U.S. Secretary of the Navy, Mabus oversees a $150 billion annual budget and almost 900,000 people. He is responsible for all U.S. Navy and Marine Corps affairs, such as recruiting, training, equipping and mobilizing staff. He also oversees the construction, outfitting and repair of naval ships and facilities, and is responsible for formulating and implementing policies and programs consistent with the president’s and secretary of defense’s national security objectives.

Elected Mississippi governor in 1988, Mabus signed one of the nation’s most comprehensive education reform acts and was named one of Fortune Magazine’s top 10 education governors. He was appointed ambassador to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia by President Bill Clinton in 1994. The former Foamex CEO also served as a naval officer aboard the cruiser USS Little Rock and state auditor.

A native of Ackerman, Mabus received a master’s degree from Johns Hopkins University and a law degree from Harvard. His honors include the U.S. Department of Defense Distinguished Public Service Award, U.S. Army’s Distinguished Civilian Service Award, Martin Luther King Social Responsibility Award, National Wildlife Federation Conservation Achievement Award, King Abdul Aziz Award from Saudi Arabia, and Mississippi Association of Educators’ Friend of Education Award.

– Starnes majored in chemical engineering at Ole Miss and was active in AIChE and Tau Beta Pi. After earning her bachelor’s degree in 1975, she became a process engineer at Atlantic Richfield in Houston, Texas. She earned an MBA from Southern Illinois University and became the aromatics business manager for Lyondell Petrochemical Co., a division of ARCO. She was promoted and transferred to Los Angeles as ARCO’s strategic planning manager for its integrated oil production, transportation and refining businesses.

She returned to Houston in 1989 to join Lyondell Chemical, a spin-off company holding ARCO’s commodity chemical and refining assets. Before retiring from Lyondell in 2001, she served in various strategic planning, business management and merger/acquisition roles and had led a companywide business reorganization.

Starnes represented the chemical industry on the MTBE Blue Ribbon Panel, which was created to advise and counsel the Environmental Protection Agency on policy issues. She is on the board of Parker Hannifin Corp., and Envera, and was a member of UM’s Engineering Advisory Board. She and her husband, David Lindsay, have one daughter and two grandchildren.

– As adjutant general for Mississippi, Freeman is commanding general of the Mississippi Army and Air National Guard. Following completion of Officer Candidate School at the Mississippi Military Academy, he was commissioned in 1969 as an artillery officer. Having commanded on battalion and brigade levels, he was promoted to brigadier general in 1996 and appointed adjutant general by Gov. Haley R. Barbour in 2008.

With almost 40 years in the banking industry, Freeman retired in 2008 as senior vice president and COO of Newton County Bank. He was mayor of Newton for more than seven years and an alderman for three years.

Freeman’s numerous military honors include the Legion of Merit for exceptionally meritorious service and achievements. The former East Mississippi Ole Miss Alumni Club president has been a board member and treasurer of the Newton County chapter for many years and was a key contact for the Alumni Association for over a decade. He and his wife, Karen, have two children and six grandchildren.

– Morris is assistant operation officer for the 1st Cavalry Division’s 3rd Heavy Brigade Combat Team. The Jacksonville, Fla., native was a wide receiver at Ole Miss for three years, two while on an ROTC scholarship and another on a football scholarship. He was a member of Phi Beta Sigma fraternity.

Morris attended Infantry Officer Basic Course, Airborne School, Bradley Leaders Course and Ranger School at Fort Benning, Ga., before moving to Fort Hood, Texas, where he was assigned to 3rd Heavy Brigade Combat Team. He served as a rifle platoon leader, scout platoon leader and company executive officer before being deployed to Iraq in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom II. He deployed to Iraq for his second tour in 2006, and his third tour in December 2008. Stationed at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas for schooling, he plans to return to Fort Hood before his next deployment to Afghanistan.

In 2000, Morris was commissioned as a second lieutenant in the infantry. His military honors include a Bronze Star Medal, Meritorious Service Medal, Army Commendation Medal, Army Achievement Medal, Valorous Unit Award and Meritorious Unit Citation. He and his wife, Chelsea, have one daughter.

For assistance related to a disability, call 662-915-7375.