George F. Holmes
A native of British Guiana, the university’s first president taught in Quebec, Virginia, Georgia and South Caroline before being appointed to lead Mississippi’s first state university at the age of 28. He returned to Virginia less than a year later when his daughter became ill, and he later taught at the University of Virginia for 40 years.
Augustus Baldwin Longstreet
A lawyer and Methodist minister, A.B. Longstreet served in the state Legislature in his native Georgia and was president of both Emory College and Centenary College before being named the second president of the University of Mississippi. His tenure included the institution of entrance exams, strengthening of the honor code and strict discipline. After his resignation, he served as president of the University of South Carolina.
Frederick Augustus Porter Barnard
Widely regarded as the university’s most influential leader, Massachusetts native Frederick A.P. Barnard was a professor of mathematics and natural philosophy at the University of Alabama for 16 years before joining the UM faculty to teach mathematics, physics and civil engineering. After he became president, he lobbied for more money to add faculty and buy equipment, and the title of president was changed to chancellor. His vision was to turn UM into one of the nation’s great scientific institutions, and he amassed a huge collection of scientific instruments and built an observatory to house the world’s largest telescope. The Civil War interrupted his plan, though, and Barnard left after the university closed during the war. He became president of Columbia University in 1864 and was recognized around the world for his scholarship and educational leadership.
John Newton Waddel
A charter member of the university’s board of trustees, John Newton Waddell resigned his position when the university opened to become one of the first four faculty members, teaching ancient languages. A Presbyterian minister, he was passed over as chancellor when Barnard was appointed and left to lead LaGrange Tennessee Presbyterian Synodical College. He returned when the university reopened after the war.
Alexander P. Stewart
A graduate of the U.S. Military Academy, Alexander P. Stewart taught mathematics at Cumberland University and the University of Nashville before serving as a Confederate general during the Civil War. He guided UM through Reconstruction and is credited with increasing enrollment, reinstating the law program and leading the movement to admit women.
Hinds County native Edward Mayes was the first native Mississippian and UM alumnus to lead the university. Enrolling in the university after the Civil War, he earned a baccalaureate degree in 1869 and a law degree in 1869. He joined the faculty in 1877 and became chairman of the faculty (the title of chancellor was abolished in 1886) and then chancellor when the title was restored in 1889. After leaving UM, he worked as an attorney for the Illinois Central Railroad and a law professor at Millsaps College.
Robert Burwell Fulton
The second alumnus to lead his alma mater, Robert Burwell Fulton earned his bachelor’s degree with highest honors in 1869. He taught in Alabama and Louisiana before returning to Oxford in 1871 as a tutor in physics and astronomy. After earning his master’s degree, he became a full professor. Under his leadership, the UM campus expanded dramatically and modern conveniences such as steam heat, running water, telephones and a sewer system were added. He also oversaw the creation of the schools of Engineering, Education and Medicine.
Andrew Armstrong Kincannon
Effective in dealing with the state Legislature, Andrew Armstrong Kincannon secured the university’s largest state appropriations to date, using the funds to build new academic buildings, a new power plant, a laundry, a student infirmary and a large men’s dormitory. Before coming to UM, he was president of the Industrial Institute and College (now Mississippi University for Women). After leaving Oxford, he was school superintendent in Memphis for 10 years before becoming president of West Tennessee Normal College (now University of Memphis), In 1929, he was hired as a history professor at what is now the University of Southern Mississippi.
Joseph Neely Powers
Mississippi’s state superintendent of education from 1907 to 1914, Joseph Neely Powers is credited with establishing many of the state’s agricultural high schools and starting home economics programs for female high school students. He advocated using “normal colleges” to train teachers and was influential in the founding in 1912 of what became the University of Southern Mississippi. His tenure at UM was marked by financial and political controversy, though, and Gov. Henry Whitfield cast the deciding vote to remove him from office in 1924. He was brought back to campus in 1930 for two more years as chancellor after Gov. Theodore Bilbo fired Powers’ successor, Alfred Hume.
1924-1930, 1932-1935, 1942-1943
Alfred Hume joined the faculty in 1890 as a professor of mathematics and later also taught civil engineering. He became dean of the College of Liberal Arts in 1905 and served concurrently as vice chancellor until becoming chancellor in 1924. Enrollment grew rapidly during his tenure, and campus was expanded to accommodate the growing student body, with the addition of new gymnasium, dormitories, a football stadium, a new building for the School of Law and a high school. Gov. Theodore Bilbo fired him in 1930. He taught at Southwestern at Memphis before returning as chancellor in 1932. He served again as acting chancellor in 1942-1943 while Chancellor Butts was on military service. Still teaching at the time of his death, he served the university for 58 years.
Alfred Benjamin Butts
A visionary leader, Alfred Benjamin Butts guided the university through the problems of the Depression and World War II and then helped cope with enrollment that more than doubled in one year after the war. Butts came to UM from Mississippi A&M, where he was a faculty member and vice president. During his tenure at UM, the athletics teams were christened the Rebels. After leaving the university, Butts worked in Washington, D.C., to help direct the post-graduate work of army officers at universities nationwide.
John Davis Williams
President of Marshall University before coming to UM, John Davis Williams moved swiftly to help the university deal with the post-WWII enrollment boom by constructing many new academic and housing buildings and dramatically increasing the faculty. He also helped steer the university through the tumultuous time of integration. A member of Phi Kappa Phi and Omicron Delta Kappa, he also helped lift the university’s academic prestige by serving on the executive committee of the American Council on Education, as vice president of the Southern Regional Education Board and as president of the National Association of State Universities, State Universities Association, the Southeastern Athletic Conference, the Southern University Conference and the Southern Association of Land-Grant Colleges and State Universities.
Porter Lee Fortune Jr.
The university made strides as a cultural center under the leadership of Porter Fortune, who came to UM after serving as executive secretary of the National Exchange Club and professor of history and dean of the graduate school at the University of Southern Mississippi. During his tenure, the university purchased Rowan Oak, William Faulkner’s home, and the Stark Young house and constructed the Skipwith Museum. Fortune also oversaw the creation of the Center for the Study of Southern Culture, the Sarah Isom Center for Women’s Studies, the School of Accountancy in Oxford and the schools of Dentistry and Health-Related Professions at the Medical Center. He also helped launch the annual Faulkner Conference, which continues to attract scholars from around the world each summer.
Texas native Gerald Turner had served as an administrator at Pepperdine University and the University of Oklahoma before being named chancellor. He used his inauguration to launch a campaign to raise $25 million for academics, the first private fundraising campaign in UM history. Under his leadership, the university’s endowment grew from $8 million to $64 million, six national centers for research and service were established with federal funding and externally funded research increased more than 300 percent. He resigned after 11 years in office to become president of Southern Methodist University.
Robert C. Khayat
One of the most popular and successful UM chancellors ever, Robert Khayat set high goals for his alma mater and then achieved them. Under his watch, the university boosted faculty salaries, renovated dozens of building across campus, established a world-class honors college and achieved a long-sought goal of sheltering a chapter of Phi Beta Kappa. He launched a massive private fundraising drive, the Commitment to Excellence campaign, that raised $525.9 million. The university attracted widespread attention for its growing academic stature and hosted the 2008 presidential debate between then-Sen. Barack Obama and Sen. John McCain. An outstanding baseball and football player, he was a kicker for Coach johnny Vaught and later played for the NFL Washington Redskins. He earned his bachelor’s degree in education and J.D. from Ole Miss and his L.L.M. from Yale University. Since retiring as chancellor, he has continued to help raise private support for the University Foundation.
Daniel W. Jones
Under Dr. Daniel W. Jones’ leadership, the University of Mississippi undertook a major initiative to promote diversity across all its campuses and launched an unprecedented construction boom, including new academic, residential and athletics facilities. Enrollment surged nearly 26 percent, and donations to the university also hit record highs. One of Jones’ passions is volunteer service, and he led UM faculty, staff and students to contribute thousands of hours to causes across the community, the state and around the world. Before his appointment as UM chancellor, Jones was vice chancellor for health affairs, dean of the School of Medicine and Herbert G. Langford Professor of Medicine at the University of Mississippi Medical Center. Designated as a specialist in clinical hypertension by the American Society of Hypertension, Jones was named one of the “Best Doctors in America” from 1996 to 2008 and is a member of Alpha Omega Alpha national honor medical society. A native Mississippian, he earned his M.D. at UMMC. He has rejoined UMMC to help lead obesity research there.
Jeffrey S. Vitter
Under the leadership of Jeffrey S. Vitter, who came to Ole Miss after serving as provost at the University of Kansas, the university developed a dynamic strategic plan Flagship Forward to go from great to greater. The university earned and reaffirmed its Carnegie R1 very high research activity designation, worked to tackle societal problems through multidisciplinary research networks, and hosted annual Technology Summits to position UM as a leader in STEM education. Under Vitter’s direction, UM pursued a $1 billion construction program with new spaces for academics, athletics, student activities, healthcare and essential services; collaborated with Mississippi communities through the M Partner initiative; and advocated successfully for passage of the Healthcare Collaboration Act. The Chancellor’s Advisory Committee on History and Context gained international acclaim for its open and honest dialog about the university’s history, with the goal of making campus more welcoming for all. A recognized expert in big data and data science, Vitter returned to the faculty following his tenure as chancellor as a distinguished professor of computer and information science.