Top Ole Miss News Stories of 2020

Year-end review showcases highlights, achievements across UM

OXFORD, Miss. – What a year.

As 2020 draws to a close, we’re taking a look back at some of the top, fun and engaging University of Mississippi news stories from a year that was unlike any other.

For 10th Year, UM Ranks Among Top Public Universities Nationally

The University of Mississippi ranked in the top 100 of public universities across the nation for the last decade, according to U.S. News & World Report. Ole Miss ranked No. 77 among public universities in the 2021 U.S. News Best Colleges released in September. The ranking places UM as the highest-ranked university in Mississippi. UM was also recognized as a top Best Value School – No. 34 among public universities.

Duffs Make $26 Million Gift to UM

Business leaders and brothers Jim and Thomas Duff, of Hattiesburg committed $26 million to the construction of a state-of-the-art science, technology, engineering and mathematics facility at the University of Mississippi. Chancellor Glenn F. Boyce announced the top gift in February for the 202,000-square-foot building, which will be the largest single construction project in Oxford campus history, with a $160 million total project budget. The Jim and Thomas Duff Center for Science and Technology Innovation is projected to be one of the nation’s leading student-centered learning environments for STEM education.

Ole Miss Dining Introduces Starship Delivery Robots

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UM students, faculty and staff started 2020 with some new friends on campus – a fleet of 30 autonomous delivery robots. Starship Technologies, the world’s leading autonomous delivery service, launched robot food delivery services at the university, the first in the Southeastern Conference to have autonomous delivery robots.

UM Announces Return to Campus Plan for Fall 2020

In July, UM released its official “Campus Ready” plan outlining campus operations and modified academic parameters for the fall 2020 semester. To help prevent the spread of COVID-19 while returning to in-person operations, the university implemented new protocols and expectations for everyone on campus, a modified academic calendar, forms of in-person and remote course delivery, mandatory training for employees and students, daily symptom checks and COVID-19 testing and tracing.

White House Official Visits UM to Discuss COVID-19 Response Efforts

As part of a series of visits to select universities across the country, Dr. Deborah Birx – the coronavirus response coordinator for the White House Coronavirus Task Force – toured the UM campus in September to learn more about the university’s COVID-19 protocols and procedures. Dr. Birx spent the day touring several locations and facilities on campus, as well as meeting with university, state and local leaders to understand UM’s efforts to prevent the spread of the virus and safeguard the campus and surrounding community. She applauded the planning efforts the university had undertaken to put protocols and procedures in place to stop the spread of the virus on campus and the students’ active engagement in stopping the spread of the virus on campus.

Asya Branch Continues Making Mississippi History

In November, Asya Branch, 22, an Ole Miss senior became the first from Mississippi and first African American Mississippian to win the coveted title of Miss USA. The integrated marketing communications major in the School of Journalism and New Media was the first African American to win the Miss Mississippi pageant, a preliminary to the Miss USA contest, a year ago.

UM Researchers Working on Nasal Spray to Block COVID-19

A team of researchers, including faculty from the University of Mississippi schools of Pharmacy and Medicine, announced in September they were developing a treatment that could be effective at preventing COVID-19. The treatment would take the form of a nasal spray that could be prescribed by a doctor and self-administered. A daily dose of this spray could make those taking it more resistant to COVID-19.

Student Services Center Renamed to Honor Donald Cole

UM announced it would be renaming a major campus building in honor of Donald R. Cole, a former student activist who returned to Ole Miss as a caring mentor and administrator for decades. The Mississippi Institutions of Higher Learning board voted unanimously in October to rename the Martindale Student Services Center as the Martindale-Cole Student Services Center. The change was requested by Larry Martindale, former Ole Miss basketball player and longtime university supporter.

Ole Miss Student Advances to Semis in ‘Jeopardy!’ Competition

UM sophomore Londyn Lorenz skated through the first round of the Jeopardy! College Championship in April, securing her spot in the semifinals and $10,000 in prize money. Although she didn’t win the competition, Lorenz represented Ole Miss and the state of Mississippi incredibly well on the national stage.

Ribbon cut on Kathy And Joe Sanderson Tower at Children’s of Mississippi

The snip of a ribbon adorned with the colorful Children’s of Mississippi logo signaled the beginning of a new era of pediatric care in the state. The ribbon-cutting ceremony, held in October, celebrated the completion of the Kathy and Joe Sanderson Tower at Children’s of Mississippi on the campus of the University of Mississippi Medical Center.

The Trophy Returns: Rebels Take Egg Bowl, 31-24

The Golden Egg will be sitting in the Manning Athletics Performance Center for the next 365 days. The Rebels (4-4 SEC) started fast and did enough defensively in a 31-24 victory over the Mississippi State Bulldogs in the 117th edition of the rivalry at Vaught-Hemingway Stadium in November.

UM Named Best in State for Job Placement

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For the fourth year in a row, UM students were named the state’s best at finding employment and keeping it, according to data from the U.S. Department of Education compiled in a new ranking from The ranking, released in August, took into account 10 years’ worth of data, which shows that after 10 years, 91 percent of Ole Miss graduates are still employed.

A Year in Pictures and Achievements

Want even more Ole Miss 2020 moments? Take a stroll down memory lane with our university photographers as they highlight the best photos from the year in the Ole Miss Year in Review: 2020 or visit the chancellor’s “20 for ‘20 Year in Review.”