The Mississippi Geographic Alliance at the University of Mississippi will honor former Gov. William Winter and business mogul Leland Speed in September for their efforts to connect the state to the global economy.
The annual MGA Geographic Visionary Awards ceremony is set for 6 p.m. Sept. 20 at the Mississippi Museum of Art in Jackson. The award honors a Mississippi business or civic leader who recognizes the importance of global understanding and awareness for Mississippians and/or promotes understanding about Mississippi in other parts of the world.
Previous recipients include Ambassador John Palmer (2013), George Schloegel (2014) and U.S. Sen. Thad Cochran (2015).
“I have a special interest in and appreciation for the work of the Mississippi Geographic Alliance and feel greatly honored to be the recipient of this award,” Winter said. “From my earliest experiences as a schoolboy, I developed a deep affection for the study of geography and was fascinated by the wonders of the world that I read about.
“I have since had my life enriched by the travels I have enjoyed to so many different places, including some 36 countries and all 50 states. Because this award is about geography, it has great significance for me.”
MGA officials said Winter is most deserving of the honor.
“William Winter is a role model and moral leader for those seeking to improve education in the state,” said Carley Lovorn, MGA assistant director. “Gov. Winter served in the United States Army during World War II and the Korean War, and he was also a member of the Mississippi National Guard.
“He has served Mississippi in the state Legislature, as state treasurer, as lieutenant governor and as governor of the state. Thanks to his visionary leadership, the 1982 Mississippi Education Reform Act was passed, establishing public kindergartens and other improvements to state education.”
Winter was also a member of President Clinton’s Advisory Board on Race and is a recipient of numerous awards, including the Mississippi Bar’s Lifetime Achievement Award.
“There is no one in the state of Mississippi more deserving of this award than Gov. William Winter,” said Andy Mullins, UM chief of staff to the chancellor emeritus and an MGA board member. “Considering his many contributions to education over the length of his legendary career, it is most appropriate for him to join the list of previous Visionary Award recipients.”
Speed has worked to position Mississippi to thrive in the global economy through state-level business leadership in both the private and public sectors, Lovorn said.
Being honored with the former governor took Speed by surprise.
“At the tender age of 84, you don’t expect things like this,” Speed said. “It is truly an honor having my name associated with a Mississippi icon like William Winter.”
Speed grew Mississippi-based real estate businesses to national proportions and kept that business right in Mississippi.
“He is in the Mississippi Business Hall of Fame and was the 2008 recipient of NAREIT’s Industry Leadership Award,” Lovorn said. “Mr. Speed has twice served his state as executive director of the Mississippi Development Authority and has served as chairman of Metro Jackson Chamber of Commerce and Goodwill Industries, as well as other organizations.”
Speed is dedicated to improving education in Mississippi and has served as chairman of the Jackson State University Development Foundation.
The Jess McKee Award for Distinguished Service to Geography Education will also be presented at a noon luncheon to Barbara Boone of Petal. Top sponsors of the event include National Geographic Society and Southern Pipe and Supply.
“Barbara Boone spent decades in the classroom and countless hours outside of the classroom with groups like 4-H and the Boy Scouts of America,” Lovorn said. “Over the past five years, Ms. Boone has dedicated her considerable talents to improving geography education at the state level.”
Among her contributions, Boone has served as a teacher consultant for the Mississippi Geographic Alliance, a member of the MGA Steering Committee, an alumnus of the Geo-literacy Leadership Institute, faculty member of MGA’s Pre-Service Conferences and program director of the MGA Giant Traveling Map program.
She also develops materials for elementary classrooms and created a summer enrichment program for at-risk students.
Mississippians export billions of dollars in products to more than 100 different countries each year. The MGA at UM, part of National Geographic Society’s Alliance Network, helps prepare Mississippians to interact with the world around them by increasing geographic literacy through geography education services, including outreach to civic leaders and policymakers, awareness raising among the general public and professional development for K-12 educators.
All proceeds from the MGA Geographic Visionary Luncheon will help fund MGA programs in the state, including giant map programs for students and professional development for teachers.