Dear faculty, staff and students,
As we close the 172nd year of our university, I think we can agree its ending has been unforgettable. Words like “uncertain,” “disruptive” and “unprecedented” have been used to try to capture the upheaval to our lives and our society. While we grapple with the implications of COVID-19 — personally and professionally — there really aren’t words to fully describe the seismic changes that we couldn’t have imagined just a few weeks ago.
In keeping with the character of Ole Miss, our staff, faculty, students and alumni responded to the pandemic with extraordinary capability, confidence and compassion. From transitioning operations to a mission-critical status … to pivoting classes to online and remote formats … to securing support for the immediate needs of our students and more, I’m extremely proud of how quickly and effectively our university community responded.
To our students: You are why we are here. You make campus come alive, and it hasn’t been the same without your vitality. Your successes are our successes, and we remain fully committed to helping you achieve greatness in every endeavor you take on as an Ole Miss Rebel. We can’t wait to see how you’ll continue to build your legacy and move the world forward.
To our faculty: Your efforts are the backbone of the university’s success. You continue to demonstrate extraordinary resolve in serving our students. We are grateful for how you inspire our students, and for your significant commitment to paving the paths to their bright futures.
To our staff: You are the glue that allows us to stay connected to each other and maintain the standards of care and nurture that makes this university such a special place. I’m inspired by your tenacity, resolve and generosity. You go above and beyond in service to our university, and your energy and positivity buoy the entire university family.
I know we all look forward to this fall when we will welcome our students back to campus for in-person instruction. Your return will restore our campus to the energetic, vibrant place we all love so much. An incredible amount of planning is underway to ensure that we can make that happen safely. I’m grateful to the faculty, staff and administrators who are working tirelessly, day in and day out, on every aspect of preparation for Fall 2020 – keeping the safety, health and well-being of our university community as our top priority in our decision-making.
I’d like to share some of the good news that has transpired in spite of these unusual and uncertain times. COVID-19 cannot stop our students and faculty from reaching incredible achievements like two juniors in the Sally McDonnell Barksdale Honors College — Jax Dallas, a physical chemistry and math major from Caledonia, and William Meador, a chemistry major from Carbondale, Illinois — becoming the university’s 15th and 16th Goldwater Scholars.
For the fifth straight year, the university was recognized by Phi Theta Kappa honor society for creating ways to support community college transfer students. And we cheered on Londyn Lorenz — a sophomore Arabic and International Studies major from Perryville, Missouri — when she became the first Ole Miss student to participate in the annual Jeopardy! College Championship.
Our outstanding faculty continued their legacy of national prominence when Aimee Nezhukumatathil, professor of English in the university’s Master of Fine Arts program in creative writing, won a 2020 Guggenheim Foundation Fellowship. She was one of 175 writers, scholars, artists, and scientists, and the sole awardee in Mississippi. Tamar Goulet, professor of biology, is having her body 3D-printed as a statue for a massive display of more than 125 successful women working in science, technology, engineering and mathematics in hopes of encouraging girls to consider STEM careers.
Once again, our School of Pharmacy ranked in the top 25 nationally in the 2020 U.S. News and World Report survey of best pharmacy schools. We started the spring semester with the remarkable announcement that brothers Jim and Thomas Duff of Hattiesburg committed $26 million to the construction of our 202,000-square-foot, state-of-the-art science, technology, engineering and mathematics facility.
During the spring, we typically honor many of our exceptional faculty and staff with a few highly coveted university-wide awards. While this spring has been anything but typical, it does not diminish the work and achievements that these awards recognize. On behalf of the entire university community, congratulations to these remarkable faculty and staff:
- 2020 Elsie M. Hood Outstanding Teacher Award: Matthew Reysen, Associate Professor of Psychology
- Distinguished Research and Creative Achievement Award: Michael Repka, chair and Distinguished Professor of pharmaceutics and drug delivery and director of the Pii Center for Pharmaceutical Technology.
- Distinguished Professors: Arunachalam Rajendran, chair and professor of mechanical engineering and Ron Rychlak, professor of law and Jamie L. Whitten Chair of Law and Government.
- Thomas Frist Student Service Awards: Carmen Riggan, pre-law program adviser and assistant to the dean in the College of Liberal Arts; Sovent Taylor, director of the Health Professions Advising Office; and Stefan Schulenberg, professor of psychology and director of the Clinical-Disaster Research Center.
- UM’s SEC Faculty Achievement Award: Alan Jones, chair and professor of emergency medicine at the University of Mississippi Medical Center
Tomorrow, May 9, marks what is normally the grandest day of our academic year, Commencement. We have extraordinary students, and I’ve been inspired reading their Journey to Commencement stories. And while we look forward to honoring our graduates in a live, virtual celebratory event, it is not a replacement for an in-person Commencement ceremony. We remain committed to holding an in-person ceremony for the Class of 2020 at a later date. Once we know when it will be safe to host large events, we will announce the new date for an in-person Commencement.
Thanks to each and every one of you for being part of our amazing university community. “See you soon” has never meant more. Until then, stay well. Hotty Toddy!
Glenn F. Boyce