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University Names Top Alumni of 2019

The Ole Miss Alumni Association is honoring eight recipients for its Distinguished Alumni Awards in 2019 in recognition of their service and accomplishments.

Inductees into the Alumni Hall of Fame are: Kimsey O’Neal Bailey (BSPh 94), of Aberdeen; Donald R. Cole (PhD 85), of Oxford; Jake Gibbs (BSPHE 61), of Oxford; Duncan M. Gray III (BA 71), of Oxford; and Richard C. Howorth (BA 72), of Oxford.

Created in 1974, the Hall of Fame honors select alumni who have made an outstanding contribution to their country, state or the University of Mississippi through good deeds, services or contributions that have perpetuated the good name of Ole Miss.

David Orris McCormick (BA 77, JD 80), of Pascagoula, will receive the Alumni Service Award for service to the university and the Alumni Association over an extended period.

Sly Lee (BSPSC 10, MS 12), of Los Angeles, will receive the Outstanding Young Alumni Award, which recognizes alumni who have shown exemplary leadership throughout their first 15 years of alumni status in both their careers and dedication to Ole Miss.

Vaughn L. Grisham, of Oxford, will receive the Honorary Alumni Award, which honors individuals who, though not UM graduates, have consistently demonstrated extraordinary commitment, support, dedication, loyalty, leadership or service that has enriched the substance of and contributed to the advancement of the university’s or Alumni Association’s missions, reputation or prestige.

“We are excited for this opportunity to celebrate some of the university’s most successful and notable alumni and friends,” said Kirk Purdom, Alumni Association executive director.

“These inductees stand out both with their accomplishments in their careers and with their service to Ole Miss and their communities. We look forward to hosting them on campus at Homecoming to show our appreciation.”

The Alumni Association will host a reception for the honorees at 6 p.m. Oct. 4 in the Gertrude C. Ford Ballroom at The Inn at Ole Miss. A ticketed dinner for the award recipients will follow the reception at 7 p.m. Those interested in attending the dinner should register in advance by calling the Alumni Association office at 662-915-7375.

Individual seats are $100 per person while space is available. Reserved tables of 10 are available for $1,200. $25 from the sale of each individual seat, and $250 from the sale of each reserved table will go toward the Herb Dewees Alumni Association Scholarship.


Kimsey O’Neal Bailey

Bailey, a 1994 graduate of the UM School of Pharmacy, has been practicing for more than 25 years. She is a past president of the Mississippi Pharmacist Association and past and ex officio member of the Ole Miss Pharmacy board of directors. She has been a pharmacy supervisor for two Fortune 50 retail chains for more than 16 years, overseeing pharmacy operations from 18 to 36 stores.

At Ole Miss, she was a standout basketball player, achieving All-Southeastern Conference honors for four years, Freshman of the Year of the SEC and SEC Great. She also is listed in the university athletics record books with 1,480 points scored and 692 rebounds. She was voted Miss Ole Miss and was the first African American to hold the title at the university.

Bailey was voted to the Ole Miss women’s program’s Mt. Rushmore along with Peggie Gillom-Granderson (BSW 80), Jennifer Gillom (BAR 87) and Jackie Martin-Glass (BSHPE 92). She is a 2003 inductee into the UM Athletics Hall of Fame. Bailey has served on the Ole Miss Alumni Association board of directors, including roles with both the Executive and Athletics committees.

A member of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority Inc., Bailey was on the board of directors for Leake County Boys and Girls Club and was an East Central Community College board of trustees member for more than 15 years. She is married to Ronald Bailey and has two children, Kobe and Kimsey.


Donald R. Cole

Cole, a Jackson native, graduated from the then-segregated Brinkley High School and entered UM in 1968, six years after it had been integrated. Within a year, he found himself protesting vestiges of discrimination still lingering within the university, and within another year, he, along with seven other students, was suspended for participating in a demonstration on campus.

Cole completed his bachelor’s degree at Tougaloo College and obtained master’s degrees from the University of Michigan and the State University of New York at Buffalo before returning to UM to complete his Ph.D. in mathematics.

After several years of working in the aerospace industry and teaching, he was invited back to Ole Miss to be an associate professor of mathematics and assistant dean of the Graduate School. He advanced to assistant provost and assistant to the chancellor for multicultural affairs, where he spent 25 years working under three chancellors and two interim chancellors to distinguish his alma mater as a national leader in race relations.

Cole is known for his unique approach in reconciling voices of dissent and promoting diversity and inclusion among faculty, staff, students and the community. As a national spokesman for the institution, he helped transform the university into a respected 21st-century institution.

Cole and his wife, Marcia (Cert 82, BA 88, MSS 00), a minister of the gospel, have three children: Donald (03), Mariah (BA 08) and William (BS 10).


Jake Gibbs

Gibbs, a two-sport All-American at Ole Miss, was selected by Sports Illustrated in 1991 as the eighth-best collegiate quarterback in history. He was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 1995.

In 1960, as co-captain and quarterback, he finished third in the Heisman Trophy race when he led the Rebels to the Football Writers’ national championship while earning All-American and All-Southeastern Conference honors. Gibbs was voted SEC Back of the Year and SEC Player of the Year in 1960. He was selected the Most Outstanding Player of the 1961 Sugar Bowl.

Following his senior football season, Gibbs was drafted by the NFL Cleveland Browns and the AFL Houston Oilers, but chose to concentrate full time on baseball and signed with the New York Yankees.

As a third baseman at Ole Miss, Gibbs also helped the Rebels claim SEC baseball titles in 1959 and 1960. He was All-America in 1960 and 1961. His .384 career batting average still rates as the third-best in Ole Miss baseball history. A member of Omicron Delta Kappa, Gibbs was selected by the student body as Colonel Rebel in 1961 and also was named to the Ole Miss student Hall of Fame.        

Gibbs’ major league career with the Yankees spanned 10 years. He retired from baseball following the 1971 season and returned to Ole Miss as head baseball coach in 1972. He compiled a 486-389-9 overall record in 19 seasons, which made him the all-time winningest coach in Rebel baseball history, a record that stood until 2013. He led his squads to a pair of SEC titles, three SEC Western Division pennants and two appearances in the NCAA Tournament, including the 1972 NCAA College World Series.

He was inducted into the National Football Foundation College Hall of Fame in 1995, the Mississippi Sports Hall of Fame in 1976 and the Ole Miss M-Club Athletics Hall of Fame in 1989. Additional honors came in 2006, when he was named a SEC Football Legend, and in 2014, when he was selected as an SEC Baseball Legend. He also was selected to the Chick-Fil-A Southeastern Conference Football Players of the Millennium team.

Gibbs was recognized in 2017 with the ribbon-cutting ceremony of the Jake Gibbs Letterwinners Walk at Ole Miss, which serves as the culmination of the Walk of Champions as well as the front door to Vaught-Hemingway Stadium.

A native of Grenada, Gibbs was married 51 years to the late Patricia Monteith, of Oakland. They have three children – Dean (BPA 85), Monte (BBA 88) and Frank – and seven grandchildren.


Duncan M. Gray III

Gray was born in Canton. He enrolled in the UM College of Liberal Arts in 1967 and completed a degree in English and political science in 1971. As an undergraduate, Gray was a member of Sigma Chi Fraternity and was selected for membership in both Phi Kappa Psi and Omicron Delta Kappa honoraries. He was listed in the Who’s Who of American Colleges and Universities, served as president of the campus senate and was chosen as a member of the Ole Miss Hall of Fame in 1971.

After graduation, he enrolled in Virginia Theological Seminary in 1971, spent 18 months on the staff of Sen. Mark Hatfield and graduated with a Master of Divinity in 1975. After ordination as deacon and priest in the Episcopal Church, he served congregations in Greenville, New Orleans, Memphis and Oxford.

In 2000, Gray was elected bishop of the Episcopal Dioceses of Mississippi, a position he held until his retirement in 2015. His tenure as bishop was marked by an emphasis on leadership development, initiatives in racial reconciliation, rebuilding from Hurricane Katrina and navigating the cultural shifts in sexual norms. He was involved in work in Honduras and Panama, established new models of partnerships in Uganda and South Sudan, and served in numerous national and international leadership positions.

He and his wife, Kathy, have been married 45 years. They have three children – Duncan IV (MA 04), Peter and Tabitha – and eight grandchildren. He lives in Oxford and continues to work on clergy leadership development worldwide while serving in a variety of roles at St. Peter’s Episcopal Church.


Richard C. Howorth

Howorth was born in Marks and majored in English and sociology at UM. His family moved to Oxford, his mother’s home, in 1963, where his father practiced surgery.

Forebears on both sides of the family were connected to the university, the earliest being William Barksdale, Class of 1855. Richard’s grandfather taught Shakespeare for 50 years; a great-grandfather was chancellor; a great-great-grandfather was dean of the law school; and Howorth is named for an uncle who was the university’s second Rhodes Scholar.

After years of considering the feasibility of an Oxford bookstore, Richard and his wife, Lisa (BA 76, MA 84), learned the business by working in one in the Georgetown neighborhood of Washington, D.C., returning home two years later to open Square Books in 1979.

Square Books gradually expanded to become four stores in three buildings, barely 100 feet apart on the historic Oxford Square. In 1989 Howorth joined the board of directors of the American Booksellers Association, serving two years as president and board chairman, an experience that helped him decide to run for mayor of Oxford and serve two terms from 2001 to 2009.

In 2011, and again in 2015, he was appointed to the board of directors of the Tennessee Valley Authority, including two years as board chair.

In 2008 Howorth received the Authors Guild Award for Distinguished Service to the Literary Community, one of only two booksellers to receive the designation. Square Books was named Publishers Weekly Bookstore of the Year in 2013, and Square Books recently was recognized with a Citation of Merit from the Mississippi Institute of Arts and Letters.

The Howorths have three children – Claire, Beckett and Bebe – and two grandchildren.


Sly Lee

Lee is a first-generation American entrepreneur and scientist who is passionate about creating positive global impact leveraging exponential technologies. He is co-founder and CEO of Emerge, which is redefining the concept of “teleportation” with a first product that transmits our sense of touch from a distance through immersive computing.

Emerge’s vision is to connect people’s emotions and feelings, on the path to ultimately “teleporting” human presence.

Lee is also an adviser to the board/former co-founder of The Hydrous, a 501(c)3 nonprofit on a mission to create open access oceans. Their team pioneered a method to 3D-capture coral reefs in high resolution using photogrammetry for scientific monitoring, data visualization and educational experiences. Their work has been featured at the Skoll World Forum, Wired magazine, Fast Company and TED. 

Lee is an Oxford native of Singaporean immigrants and a second-generation Ole Miss alumnus who graduated with a Bachelor of Science in Pharmaceutical Sciences and a master’s degree in environmental toxicology. He hopes to inspire the next generation of Southern entrepreneurs and investors to pursue technology-focused endeavors, which he believes are necessary to spur innovation in his home state. 

Lee is a Forbes 30 Under 30 recipient, alumnus of Singularity University Global Solutions Program 2015, World Economic Forum Global Shaper and an avid surfer and scuba diver. He remains close to his two brothers, Dexter and Nicholas, and their parents, Maria and Peng. Lee resides in Los Angeles with his wife, Britney Spencer Lee. 


David Orris McCormick

McCormick was born at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, and lives in Pascagoula. He grew up in Long Beach and attended Ole Miss, where he received his Bachelor of Business Administration in 1977 and his Juris Doctor in 1980.

He was admitted to the Mississippi Bar that year and joined Cumbest, Cumbest, Hunter & McCormick as an associate.

In 1991, McCormick became managing partner of the firm, which was established in 1970. He is a member of the Mississippi Bar Foundation and was inducted as a fellow in 2007; the Mississippi Bar Association, where he served as a commissioner in 2007-10; and the Jackson County Bar Association, where he served as president from 1988 to ’89.

McCormick’s practice is primarily in civil litigation, representing plaintiffs with an emphasis on personal injury and asbestos-related diseases. Along with other attorneys, he assisted Attorney General Mike Moore in pursuit of the historic tobacco lawsuit and settlement on behalf of the state of Mississippi.

McCormick has served in numerous positions on behalf of Ole Miss, including the Jackson-George County Ole Miss Alumni Club (president, 1992-94); Ole Miss Law Alumni (president, 2003-04); The Inn at Ole Miss Steering Committee (2004-08); member of the Momentum Financial Campaign for Ole Miss (2006-08); member of the UM Foundation board (2006-09); and the Ole Miss Alumni Association (president, 2007-08).

He and his wife, Susan Cumbest McCormick (MM 80), attend Eastlawn United Methodist Church, where he serves on the administrative board and Staff-Parish Relations Committee and also leads an adult Sunday School class. The McCormicks have two children, Sarah Kathryn Hickman (BBA 03, MBA 05) and Caroline L. Stevens (BAccy 11, MAccy 12), and have one grandson, William McCormick Hickman.


Vaughn L. Grisham

Grisham joined the Ole Miss faculty in 1961. Four years later, he enrolled in doctoral studies in sociology and history at the University of North Carolina. While taking his coursework at UNC, Grisham was hired to teach full time at North Carolina State University, where he was identified as a master teacher.

Armed with his Ph.D., Grisham returned to UM in 1968, where he taught more than 20,000 students in the Department of Sociology and the Sally McDonnell Barksdale Honors College before retiring in 2016. He was selected as the university’s Outstanding Teacher and presented him with the Frist Award for service to students.

The American Sociological Association named Grisham one of the top 25 outstanding sociology professors in higher education. He was president of the Ole Miss Faculty Senate for two terms. In addition, faculty from the eight Mississippi universities elected him as State Faculty Senate president for two terms. He has authored six books.

Grisham served as scholar-in-residence at the Southern Growth Policies Board and as an associate at the Kettering Foundation, Annie E. Casey Foundation, Winthrop Rockefeller Institute and the Brushy Fork Institute at Berea College.

Grisham established the McLean Institute for Community Development at UM in 1984. He has assisted communities in 33 states and two Canadian provinces, and his work has been taken to both Siberia and South Africa.

He has been married to Sandy Hopper Grisham for 37 years. They have four children, nine grandchildren and three great-grandchildren.

By Jim Urbanek

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