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Ole Miss Alumni Association Names Distinguished Alumni for 2022

By Jim Urbanek

University of Mississippi

The Ole Miss Alumni Association will recognize 10 distinguished alumni with its highest annual awards as part of Homecoming 2022. 

Inductees to the University of Mississippi Alumni Hall of Fame for 2022 are: Teri G. Fontenot (BBA 79), of Baton Rouge, Louisiana; Dr. Dan Jones (MD 75), of Hazlehurst; Don Kessinger (BBA 65), of Oxford; James Mattox Reed (BPA 76), of Grayson, Georgia; and Curtis Wilkie (BSJ 63), of Oxford.

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

Edith Hickonbotton Kelly-Green (BBA 73), of Memphis, will receive the Alumni Service Award for service to the university and the Alumni Association over an extended period. 

Nicole Tisdale (BA 06, JD 09), of Washington, D.C., will receive the Outstanding Young Alumni Award, which honors graduates who have shown exemplary leadership throughout their first 15 years of alumni status in both their careers and dedication to Ole Miss. 

Robert Dorsey, of Tucson, Arizona; William B. Rayburn, of Oxford; and Dennis S. Tosh, of Oxford, each will receive the Honorary Alumni Award, which recognizes individuals who, though not graduates of the university, 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 association’s missions, reputation or prestige.

“We are excited to have the opportunity to recognize and honor some of the university’s most successful and notable alumni and friends,” said Kirk Purdom, the association’s CEO. “This is the largest group of inductees we’ve ever had, and they have all made Ole Miss proud with their accomplishments in their careers and their service to Ole Miss and their communities.”

The association will host a gala for the honorees Sept. 29 in the Gertrude C. Ford Ballroom at The Inn at Ole Miss. Anyone interested in attending must register in advance by calling the Alumni Association office at 662-915-7375. 

Fontenot is a Mississippi native and first-generation college graduate. She retired in 2019 as president and CEO of Woman’s Hospital in Baton Rouge, a women’s and infants’ tertiary health care system that became a national leader in women’s health. 

During her 23-year tenure, assets grew five-fold through diversifying revenue, transforming underperforming assets and building a dominant position with 80% market share and employee, patient and physician engagement above the 95th percentiles. The flagship facility was moved to a new $350 million campus in 2012 and services were expanded throughout Louisiana. 

The hospital team also evacuated and cared for hospitalized obstetric patients and 122 infants in NICUs in five flooded New Orleans hospitals following Hurricane Katrina. 

Fontenot guides companies as a board director and strategic adviser. She serves on two publicly traded boards and is a member of the audit, nominating and governance, risk, corporate development, and clinical quality committees. 

She is a recipient of the Distinguished Service Award, the highest honor bestowed by the American Hospital Association. She was named by Modern Healthcare magazine to its inaugural list of the “Top 25 Women in Healthcare” and twice selected as one of the “Top 100 Most Influential People in Healthcare.” She is also the recipient of the inaugural Healthcare Hero award from the Louisiana Department of Health and was named the Baton Rouge Businessperson of the Year.

Fontenot has two daughters and four grandchildren. She recently lost her husband of 40 years, Gerald, who attended LSU but became an Ole Miss supporter. 

A Biloxi native, Fontenot grew up in Clinton and commuted from Tupelo while pursuing her accounting degree. She credits the university for challenging her and providing the skills and courage to be an independent thinker and confident leader. 

The university’s 16th chancellor, Jones guided UM from 2009 to 2015. Before that, he was vice chancellor for health affairs and dean of the UM School of Medicine. 

Under his leadership, the university undertook a major initiative to promote diversity and experienced a construction boom, including new academic, residential and athletics facilities. One of Jones’ passions is volunteer service, and he led Ole Miss faculty, staff and students to contribute thousands of hours to causes across the Oxford community and around the world.

A native Mississippian, Jones graduated from Mississippi College in 1971. After earning his M.D. and completing his residency in internal medicine at the UM Medical Center, he had a private practice in Laurel before moving his family in 1985 to South Korea, where he served seven years as a medical missionary. 

His research activities focused on prevention of cardiovascular disease and racial and economic disparities in health outcomes. He was the first principal investigator for the landmark Jackson Heart Study, a National Institutes of Health-sponsored study focused on identifying causes of disparate rates of heart disease in African Americans.

Active in the American Heart Association, Jones was the 2007-08 national president and for years has served as a national spokesperson on high blood pressure. 

He 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.

His work in racial reconciliation, including service as chair of the board for the William Winter Institute for Racial Reconciliation, was recognized with the Mississippi Center for Justice 2015 Champions of Justice Award and as one of two honorees at the 2016 Jackson Friendship Ball. He is married to the former Lydia Channell, of Jackson, and has two children and six grandchildren. 

Kessinger, a native of Forrest City, Arkansas, was an All-State and All-America athlete for the Forest City Mustangs. He came to Ole Miss in 1960 and went on to earn All-Conference, All-SEC and All-American honors in both basketball and baseball. He was signed by the Chicago Cubs as an amateur free agent in 1964, after which he married Carolyn Crawley, also from Forrest City. 

During his time with the Cubs, Kessinger was named the starting shortstop for the National League All Stars six times between 1968 and 1974, won two Gold Gloves and set a major league fielding record for shortstops in 1969 with his 54th-straight errorless game. Before Kessinger retired in 1979, he went on to play for the St. Louis Cardinals and was a player/manager for the Chicago White Sox. 

More than 30,000 fans in Chicago came together at Comiskey Park on Sept. 8, 1978, to celebrate Don Kessinger Day. 

Kessinger returned to Ole Miss as head baseball coach in 1990, bringing national recognition to the program with its first 40-win season in 1995. In 1996, he moved into an administrative role as associate athletics director. He retired from the university in 2000 and joined the family business, Kessinger Real Estate, as president until his retirement in 2020. 

“D.K.” has received multiple honors, including receiving the Danny Thomas Memorial Award for exemplary Christian Spirit in Major League Baseball, the Fellowship of Christian Athletes Night of Tribute and being named an SEC Legend for basketball and baseball. He was inducted into the Chicago Sports Hall of Fame, Chicago Cubs Hall of Fame, Arkansas Sports Hall of Fame, National High School Sports Hall of Fame, Mississippi Sports Hall of Fame and Ole Miss Sports Hall of Fame. 

Ole Miss retired Kessigner’s number 11 baseball jersey during the 2021 season. 

“I still love watching my cherished Rebels play and am honored to be named to the Alumni Association Hall of Fame,” he said.

The Kessingers have two sons, Keith (BBA 89) and Kevin (BSHEC 92), and four grandchildren. 

Reed graduated from Meridian High School in 1972 and attended UM on an athletics scholarship, where he and the late Robert “Gentle Ben” Williams were the first African American athletes to play football for the Ole Miss Rebels. 

Reed graduated from the university in 1976 with a degree in public administration and law enforcement and minors in political science and sociology. He was drafted in the spring of 1976 by the Cleveland Browns. 

After a brief stint with the Browns, he returned to Mississippi and began a 36-year career in law enforcement, starting in 1976 with the Mississippi Attorney General’s Office as an analyst and investigator in the Organized Crime and Consumer Affairs sections. In March 1979, Reed was hired as a probation and parole officer by the Mississippi Department of Corrections in the 10th Judicial Circuit Court District.

In 1985, he was hired as a special agent with the Naval Criminal Investigative Service. During his 26-year NCIS career, Reed served as a criminal, counterintelligence and counterterrorism investigator at NCIS field offices across the U.S. and internationally. 

Reed also conducted numerous high-profile temporary duty assignments throughout the U.S. and abroad, including Australia, Bangladesh, Guam, Italy, Japan, Malta, Okinawa, Thailand, Singapore, Sigonella, Sri Lanka and Crete. He retired from the government in 2011 at NCIS Camp Lejeune, North Carolina.

From 2012 to 2013, Reed served as the chief of the Meridian Police Department. An ordained deacon, he also served as assistant superintendent and superintendent of the New Hope Baptist Church’s youth and adult Sunday School departments. 

Reed and his wife, Melinda, have two children, Bradley J. Reed and Ashley N. Reed. He is also a member of the Eta Zeta Chapter of Omega Psi Phi Fraternity Inc.

Wilkie began his newspaper career at the Clarksdale Press Register shortly after getting a journalism degree from Ole Miss in 1963. The Summit native discovered that his local news assignments would include the civil rights movement – the biggest story in the country. 

The challenge of reporting almost daily on the clash of protesting Blacks and segregationist whites in the Delta became a frame of reference for the rest of his life.

He moved to Washington, D.C., in 1969, after receiving a Congressional Fellowship from the American Political Science Association. He worked two years on Capitol Hill, then joined the staff of the News-Journal papers in Wilmington, Delaware.

Wilkie joined the Boston Globe in 1975. He covered eight presidential campaigns and served as a White House correspondent before he began concentrating on conflicts overseas. He established the Globe’s Middle East bureau in Jerusalem, lived there for several years and reported on events in the region from the Israeli invasion of Lebanon in 1982 to the first Gulf War in 1991.

After returning to the U.S. and enduring a couple of punishing winters in New England, Wilkie persuaded the Globe to let him move to New Orleans and use the South as a base for national reporting.

He retired in 2000 and began writing books, publishing six to date. He also agreed to teach journalism classes for one semester at his alma mater. That “one semester” ballooned into 18 years on the Ole Miss faculty, with Wilkie rising to associate professor. 

When the Overby Center for Southern Journalism and Politics was founded, he was named its first fellow, a position he held for 14 years. He retired at the end of 2020.

“My experience in Oxford has been my happiest: finding a lasting home, renewing old friendships and reconnecting with the university,” Wilkie said.

He has two children, Carter Wilkie, of Boston, and Leighton McCool, of Oxford, as well as six grandchildren. 

Outstanding Young Alumni Award

Tisdale has more than a dozen years of civic participation and national security experience at the White House, U.S. Congress, 2020 presidential transition team and Mississippi Innocence Project. She most recently served as a key senior adviser on the President’s National Security Council and previously on the House Committee on Homeland Security. 

As director of legislative affairs at the NSC, she led the White House’s legislative and oversight portfolios on issues of cybersecurity, intelligence, disinformation, counterterrorism, election security and foreign policy developments for the Western Hemisphere. 

As a congressional staffer, Tisdale actively created, managed and assisted the homeland security committee with more than 96 congressional hearings and the passage of 354 bills through the House of Representatives. She also represented the U.S. on official delegations to more than 35 nations to discuss and negotiate a range of policy issues. 

In 2019, after a decade on Capitol Hill, she founded Advocacy Blueprint, where she worked with individuals and organizations to accelerate policy issues and increase advocacy efforts to create changes in their communities. To help advance civic education and participation, Tisdale wrote and published a book, “Right to Petition,” to help others exercise their First Amendment right to advocate. 

Before her time in Congress, the Nettleton native served in a number of bipartisan and nonpartisan policy and political fellowships and internships. She is also one of the founding board members of the Washington, D.C., Ole Miss Club. 

A former government and social studies substitute teacher and liberal arts tutor, Nicole continues to volunteer with advocacy and education groups. 

After completing her time in the Biden-Harris administration in April 2020, Tisdale returned to Advocacy Blueprints, where she is focused on scaling and building civic participation workshops and national security awareness campaigns related to disinformation and cybersecurity.

Alumni Service Award

Demonstrating an affinity for numbers at an early age, Oxford native Kelly-Green gravitated to accounting at Ole Miss. In 1974 she became the youngest Black person – and one of the first Black women – to pass the CPA exam in Tennessee. This led to a position at Touche Ross, now Deloitte, one of the big-eight accounting firms of the day, where she was the first African American on the professional staff. 

After she became a senior auditor in 1977, an opportunity arose that was the beginning of an almost 30-year career with FedEx, where she served in many roles. She was the first African American female vice president at Fedex and received three Five Star Awards during her tenure, the company’s highest performance award. 

Kelly-Green retired in 2003 and in 2005 started the KGR Group, whose primary investments are Lenny’s Grill & Subs franchises and Wimpy’s Burger and Fries restaurants in the Memphis area. Her first Lenny’s store was in Oxford, and the KGR Group expanded from one location in 2005 to 13 Lenny’s stores in Memphis, Nashville and northern Mississippi. The KGR Group still has the largest number of Lenny’s locations (five) in the 90-unit system. 

She serves on the boards of directors of MAA and Sanderson Farms Inc., as well as Methodist Le Bonheur Healthcare and the Hattiloo Theatre. Kelly-Green was the founding chairman of the UM Women’s Council for Philanthropy and has endowed multiple scholarships at Ole Miss for African American females in accounting, including the Christine Mitchell Hickonbottom Scholarship in Accountancy, named after the grandmother who instilled the values of hard work and education on her. 

Kelly-Green is a member the Patterson School of Accountancy Hall of Fame and the Ole Miss Alumni Hall of Fame. She is a Leadership Memphis graduate and member of The Links Inc. and Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority.

Kelly-Green’s family includes her son, James M. Kelly Jr., her daughter, Dr. Jayna M. Kelly-Pearson, five grandsons and one granddaughter. 

Honorary Alumni Awards

Former Ole Miss professors Dorsey, Rayburn and Tosh founded FNC Inc., an Oxford-based mortgage technology company that pioneered real estate collateral information for financial institutions.

Two numbers are required to originate a mortgage: a credit rating on the applicant and a collateral number, or appraisal, on the property. FNC developed a way to open an appraisal and score it, very similar to how credit is scored. The company achieved a dominant market position in the U.S. financial technology market.

The company employed 250 people at its headquarters in Oxford and at locations throughout the U.S. FNC was purchased by CoreLogic in 2016.

Dorsey was born in Atlanta, but his asthma led the family to move to Tucson when he was 7. He earned a degree in physics at the University of Arizona and worked as a nuclear physicist at the U.S. Army Electronic Proving Grounds, as a mining engineer at Magma Copper Co. and various positions at the University of Arizona, including risk manager and assistant to the executive vice president for business. 

When he was 35, Dorsey and his wife, Carol, spent a year touring Europe before returning to pursue a doctorate in economics. Upon graduation, he took a faculty position in the UM Department of Economics. After 10 years he joined Rayburn and Tosh to build FNC, where he served first as chief operations officer and then as chief analytics officer. 

During this time, the Dorseys’ son died, and they adopted his 18-month-old daughter. When she was in middle school, they hosted seven female exchange students for their junior year of high school. They then hosted four of the girls who returned after high school to attend and graduate from Ole Miss. 

After FNC was sold, Dorsey and his wife moved back to Tucson. He serves on the board of MortgageTrade.

Rayburn, who was CEO and chairman of FNC, focuses on innovation in financial technology or fintech. He founded MTrade and serves as chairman and CEO with responsibility for strategy, vision and culture. 

With offices in New York and Oxford, MTrade is building the online trading platform for mortgages and other types of whole loans. 

Rayburn and some former members of the FNC management team purchased assets – technologies used to process whole loans – from FNC in the sale. The new team focuses on taking these assets and building out a mortgage trading platform, taking a market focused on relationships and transitioning it to be transaction-based.

A former UM finance professor, Rayburn holds a doctorate in finance from the University of Memphis. He has written numerous academic publications and textbooks and is a chartered financial analyst.

Tosh was born and grew up in Nashville. He earned his bachelor’s degree in banking and finance from Baylor University and his master’s in economics from Middle Tennessee State University. Tosh completed his Ph.D. at Georgia State University with an emphasis in real estate and land economics. 

During that time, he was a faculty member at LaGrange College and the University of Baltimore.

Since moving to Oxford in 1980, Tosh held the chair of real estate in the UM School of Business Administration and then co-founded a consulting firm that ultimately evolved into FNC. 

Tosh and his wife, Beth, are the parents of three children, all Ole Miss graduates, and five grandchildren, two of whom are Ole Miss Rebels. He and his family are members of Oxford-University United Methodist Church.

Adam Brown
Adam Brown
Sports Editor

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