The 172nd year of our university has been like no other. And yet, amid a head-spinning turn of events throughout 2020, the University of Mississippi extended its longstanding record of excellence in celebrating numerous extraordinary accomplishments and successes delivered by our people. I’m pleased to share this “Year in Review” as the December issue of the @ The Flagship newsletter. The points of pride outlined below represent the remarkable talent, resilience, excellence and compassion that are hallmarks of the Ole Miss community.
- Excelling in Every Aspect of Student Life
- Giving Generously to Support Others
- Serving the Children of Mississippi
- Honoring Long Legacies
- Achieving Historic Results
- Leading Healthcare Front Lines
- Rising in National Rankings
- Winning the Grade and Graduation Game
- Offering a Must-See Experience
- Making a Difference in Everyday Life
- Recognizing Talent and Teamwork at a Great Place to Work
- Strengthening Our Literary Leadership
- Expanding Expertise and Capabilities
- Providing Professional and Scientific Leadership
- Improving Communities Across the State and Around the Globe
- Advocating for Truth and Justice
- Building a Booming Partnership
- Celebrating a Book of the Year
- Wishing Fond Farewells
- Flipping Clipboards and Winning Trophies
Year in and year out, our students reach incredible heights of success and 2020 was no exception. We celebrated as Jax Dallas and William Meador were named the university’s 15th and 16th Goldwater Scholars, Joshua Mannery was named a finalist for the Truman Scholarship, William Hayes received a Fulbright Scholarship, Londyn Lorenz competed on the Jeopardy! College Championship, Aysa Branch became Miss USA, Megan Steis was selected as a Navy Federal Credit Union Air Force ROTC All-American, Gabe Menchaca and Caleb Ray were the university’s latest winners of David L. Boren Scholarships, and Charlotte Armistead was named the university’s first recipient of a prestigious Rangel Graduate Fellowship.
Gifts to the university in fiscal year 20 totaled more than $127 million – a 26 percent increase over FY19! For the ninth consecutive year, private support exceeded $100 million, signaling that our generous and committed alumni and friends believe our students and programs are worthy of major investments. Among the many, inspiring gifts for FY20 include the $26 million naming gift for our new Science Technology Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) building by business leaders and brothers Thomas and Jim Duff.
We rejoiced a major milestone with the official opening of the University of Mississippi Medical Center’s (UMMC) seven-story Kathy and Joe Sanderson Tower at Children’s of Mississippi. This new tower more than doubles the square footage of the state’s only children’s hospital and signals the beginning of a new era of pediatric care in the state that will save countless lives among our state’s children and help train the next generation of pediatricians and physicians.
Two buildings on our campus reached heightened prominence with new names in 2020 including the newly named The Gertrude C. Ford Ole Miss Student Union and the renamed Martindale-Cole Student Services Center. These namings honor the enduring contributions and considerable legacies of Gertrude C. Ford and Dr. Donald Cole to our campus community.
In a jaw-dropping achievement, six students from our Patterson School of Accountancy won the most prestigious CPA exam award given worldwide, the Elijah Watt Sells Award. Less than two-tenths of one percent in the world received the award in 2020 — that’s 137 out of more than 75,000 candidates who took the test! Ole Miss ranks first in the SEC and second in the nation for the number of Sells recipients this year.
From expertly treating patients to innovatively designing and building ventilators to quickly developing and performing in-house testing, our Medical Center has heroically helped our state manage the pandemic. The University of Mississippi Medical Center’s reach is vast, and we’re so grateful for all healthcare workers — they are selfless and remarkable!
The 2020 fall season saw a number of Ole Miss teams rise up the national rankings, including No. 1 Rifle, No. 2 Women’s Golf, No. 14 Women’s Soccer, No. 17 Men’s Cross Country and No. 17 Men’s Golf. In addition, the Rebel baseball squad is ranked fourth in the 2021 preseason polls. Hotty Toddy!
Ole Miss student-athletes turned in a historic 2019–20 academic year with each team earning at least a 3.0 team GPA for the first time in recorded history. Rebel Athletics recorded a department record 3.45 GPA for the spring semester. In the NCAA’s latest Graduation Success Rate, a program record seven Ole Miss teams sported a perfect 100 percent rate. It marked the 12th straight year that the women’s golf team posted a perfect GSR, as well as the seventh in a row for the rifle squad.
Rowan Oak, the home of legendary author and Mississippi native William Faulkner, recently was named as the “Best Historic Site 2020” in Mississippi Magazine’s annual Best of Mississippi awards. We are incredibly proud how the home and property offer a distinctive glimpse into the life of Faulkner, one of the most celebrated and studied authors in the world.
As research funding surpassed $150 million — marking a nine-year high — we continue to witness the tremendous impact of our research on Mississippians, the nation and people around the world. Projects like a team of researchers from the schools of Pharmacy and Medicine developing a nasal spray treatment that could be effective at preventing COVID-19; faculty and student researchers in the Department of Communication Sciences and Disorders investigating ways to improve stuttering; and a group of professors working with communities to address water quality challenges.
Making it an even dozen (years in row), our campus was named one of the best colleges in the nation to work for, according to a new survey published by The Chronicle of Higher Education. Ole Miss is among the 54 four-year institutions selected nationwide out of 221 institutions surveyed. So grateful to our colleagues for all their contributions and strong commitment to our success!
Ole Miss is now home to the celebrated Willie Morris Awards for Southern Writing thanks to a generous $3M endowment from Reba White Williams and Dave Williams. Our university is honored to oversee these prestigious awards created in memory of the legendary Mississippi native and author Willie Morris. Excited to see how this gift will strengthen our expertise and exceptional reputation in the literary arts.
In 2020, we saw the establishment of the $10.5M Glycoscience Center of Research Excellence (GlyCORE) and the creation of the Institute for Data Science (IDS) to help educate the next generation of data scientists. Additionally, the Center for Telehealth at UMMC is using a $1 million federal grant to speed expansion of services to meet the changing needs of patients during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Our university has a deep and storied history of professional and scientific leadership at the national level. This year, we saw that legacy furthered with John Bentley named to the board of directors of the American Foundation for Pharmaceutical Education; Sandra Spiroff appointed as program director in the Division of Mathematical Sciences for the National Science Foundation; Stuart Haines installed as president-elect of the American Association College of Pharmacy; Josh Gladden elected as vice president-elect of the Acoustical Society of America; and Amy Wells Dolan named Council of Delegates chair for the Carnegie Project on the Education Doctorate.
We started 2020 with national recognition as one of 243 institutions selected for the Elective Carnegie Community Engagement Classification by the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching. This designation is great affirmation of our efforts to support dynamic and noteworthy engagement to address a wide array of community challenges.
The Southern Center for Human Rights awarded the Curtis Flowers defense team, which includes the George C. Cochran Innocence Project at the School of Law, the 2020 Frederick Douglass Human Rights Award. The award recognizes and celebrates individuals and organizations that have made significant contributions to the enhancement of human rights in the justice system.
Our relationship with the City of Oxford was praised by Heartland Forward, a Bentonville, Arkansas-based institute focused on economic renewal in the nation’s midsection. We all benefit from the Ole Miss-Oxford entrepreneurial ecosystem that fosters strong growth for long-term economic success.
English professor Aimee Nezhukumatathil attracted waves of critical acclaim for her first non-fiction work, “World of Wonders: In Praise of Fireflies, Whale Sharks, and Other Astonishments.” When naming it the 2020 Book of the Year, Barnes & Noble described it as “a stunning celebration of the natural world by way of memoir” and “filled with tender illustrations and meditations on nature.” It was also named to year-end best book lists published by BookPage, Esquire, NPR and The Wall Street Journal among others. Earlier in the year, Prof. Nezhukumatathil was among 175 awardees chosen from a group of approximately 3,000 applicants named a 2020 Guggenheim Fellow by the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation.
As 2020 comes to a close, we are experiencing a range of emotions about retirements including Larry Sparks, Sue Keiser, Chuck Hussey, Linda Spargo and Curtis Wilkie. We wish them well-deserved and restful retirements and thank them for their decades of steadfast service to Ole Miss. Each of them leaves a significant legacy and big shoes to fill!
And, last, but certainly not least, we get to celebrate the return of the Egg Bowl trophy to Oxford!
As we all look optimistically to 2021, I want to share my heartfelt gratitude for the countless and incredible contributions by our students, faculty, staff and alumni to this extraordinary university. Best wishes to you and your family for a joyful and healthy holiday season.
Glenn F. Boyce