Collectorâ€™s Edition Vol. 1, Number 1
Circle & Square Vol. 1, Number 1 | Winter 2019
IF I WERE IF I WERE
Ole Miss Chancellor Jeffrey Vitter and Oxford Mayor Robyn Tannehill on the relationship between TOWN & GOWN
A Man Named Bill Why I Love Oxford Why I Love Ole Miss A Resting Place College Hill Cemetery
AN EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW
PHOTO BY MARLEE CRAWFORD
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Winter 2019 3 4-5 6-13
Welcome Meet the Staff Why I Love Oxford & Why I love Ole Miss
An Exclusive Interview with Oxford Mayor & Ole Miss Chancellor
A Man Named Bill
Oxford: Then & Now
Sage Advice from James Autry
Mississippi Made Student Athletes
Doors of Oxford & Ole Miss
A Resting Place
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& Circle & Square
Circle & Square
or newcomers to Oxford, Miss. and the University of Mississippi, the phrase Circle & Square may simply mean what it does to many people who aren’t from the area, just two distinguishing shapes. However, once you get to know both – it will definitely have a more connective meaning. And just like our namesakes, we here at the magazine are also looking for that same connective engagement. The “Circle” in front of the Lyceum, an administrative building on campus that houses
PHOTO | SARAH SMITH
Oxford Mayor Robyn Tannehill with Ole Miss Chancellor Jeffrey Vitter (left) and Dr. Samir “Mr. Magazine™” Husni (right).
the offices of the Chancellor, and the “Square” in downtown Oxford, where residents and students alike rub elbows to shop, dine and simply enjoy our hamlet’s small town charm, are two of the most significant locations in Lafayette County. And the Square is also the home of our city government and where Oxford’s honorable mayor presides over the business of running our fair city. Circle & Square magazine was born out of the Magazine Innovation Center and the students of the service journalism program at the School of Journalism and New Media at the University of Mississippi. It is an outlet where these talented and creative minds can collaborate together to bring forth a piece of journalistic excellence. And with this our first issue, we bring you an exclusive interview with the University of Mississippi’s Chancellor Jeffrey Vitter and Oxford’s Mayor Robyn Tannehill. The two came together in the classroom in a conversation between themselves and the students, responding to questions from the students openly, freely and with honest answers. The entire, only lightly edited interview is here in our first issue for your reading pleasure. And pleasure is what we hope we bring you with Circle & Square, along with insightful information and intriguing things you may or may not know about the two historically-linked entities known as Oxford and Ole Miss. So, without further ado, we give you the premier issue of Circle & Square. Enjoy!
Samir “Mr. Magazine™” Husni Director and Founder Magazine Innovation Center
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STAFF PHOTOS | MACKENZIE ROSS DESIGN | TARA HAWKINS
“It’s hard to pinpoint one thing I love the most about Oxford, but I can sum it up with summertime. There’s nothing like walking the Square after the sun sets.”
“I love Oxford and Ole Miss because of the encouraging community through both the school and community as one.” - Ainsley Cullum, Designer & Editor
- Abby Vance, Writer & Editor
“The city of Oxford reminds me of home. I love how nice everybody is, how the community gets together, and I adore the Square.”
“I love the Ole Miss community, they encourage me to be myself and strive for success in all opportunities.”
“I love Ole Miss because it has brought me some of the best friends I will have forever and has given me memories I will never forget.”
“I love this community –– both the university and the town –– because of the sincere and intentional people here.”
- Audrey Muse, Designer
- Cameron Sadler, Writer, Photographer & Editor
“Oxford is the most charming Southern town with a combination of culture and history — and the people are the epitome of hospitality.”
“I love that Oxford is one of kind and that no matter where you go you can usually find someone who shares that love for this town.”
“I love Ole Miss because of the people it’s brought me. I have been surrounded by some of the most genuine, loving and fun people.”
- Devna Bose, Editor
- Dotsie Stevens, Writer
- Kathryn Abernathy, Writer
- Anne Merrill Jones, Designer & Editor
- Anna Kelly, Designer
“I love Oxford because of its small town southern charm.” - Caroline Stewart, Writer & Photographer
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“What I love most about Oxford is that it has a small-town feel with a big-time college.”
“I love Ole Miss because it has given me lifelong friends and prepared me for life both academically and socially.”
“The quaint, historic feel of the Square and the people I share with Oxford are what makes the city home to me.”
“Oxford has been my home my whole life and can’t imagine anything else. The people and the experience are why I love Oxford & Ole Miss.”
- Laura Ellis Royal, Designer & Photographer
- Lee Catherine Collins, Writer & Illustrator
- Mackenzie Ross, Designer & Writer
“I love that Oxford is such a small town that you feel like you are able to get to know people and make it a home away from home.”
“I love Ole Miss because of its game day traditions, and how the Grove can manage to stay so beautiful even during a tailgate.”
“I love Ole Miss because it does not just feel like a school– it feels like a family. I feel like I am a part of so much more.”
- Madison McGrath, Editor
- Olivia Russo, Editor
- Price Waltman, Designer
“I love how quaint Oxford is. The Square, the campus and the people are all so inviting. It’s hard to visit Oxford and not fall in love with it.”
“I love Ole Miss because the professors who teach us get to tell us about their academic and professional experiences.”
- Sarah Henderson, Writer
- Sarah Smith, Photographer & Writer
“It’s true what they say about Ole Miss! If you don’t want to come here, don’t take a visit. I love it, I don’t think any other school has that kind of impact on people.
- Kennedy Pope, Writer
“I love Oxford for its small-town charm. Oxford has something special that’s hard to replicate elsewhere.” - Maddie McGee, Writer & Designer
- Tara Hawkins, Designer
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WHY I LOVE OLE MISS DESIGN | PRICE WALTMAN, AUDREY MUSE, LAURA ELLIS ROYAL, AINSLEY CULLUM
“I love Ole Miss “Ole Miss is about more because my older sister went here, so than just academics. throughout high school It’s about friendships, I visited a bunch. I relationships, memories love the generosity and traditions, both of the people at Ole old and new. Ole Miss Miss, the fun football is a place where the heart is firmly planted games, and the diversity among students. With and opportunities so much diversity, spring forth for future “I think the college finding your place in generations. Where it’s students bring a lot clubs, friendships,and studying all night with more business to the organizations is town, as well as expand friends in JD Williams trouble-free. Ole Miss Oxford as a community. or 6:00 on a Saturday gave me a home away night in the Vaught, I’m at Northwestern from home, lifelong Ole Miss is where right now, but I would relationships, and a futures are made. It is like to go to Ole Miss more than a university, phenomenal education to finish my degree that will last a lifetime.” Ole Miss is home. in education.” Alexa Baker
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“My favorite thing about Ole Miss is the diversity. My daughter came to Ole Miss “I think the community in 2008, and they of students at Ole embraced her as a Miss meshes very well student. As a parent, I with the community always felt welcome and of Oxford. I think still feel welcome on the people in the the Ole Miss campus. community are very Stay focused and give kind and welcoming it your all, and you’ll to the students, they’re be a top scholar here. very inviting and It’s special how you willing to help us. come from a different It’s small enough so environment and meet that wherever you go different people and you see someone you all come together. Ole know. We are all very Miss brings people well integrated with together. Plus they feed one another, and it’s me food at the Grove!” a very loving place.” Angela Bird
“Ole Miss is an exciting and vibrant place to work because it’s filled with a diverse set of people who are all working toward the same goal, and that is to make Mississippi superior in higher education. So I really appreciate the energy and enthusiasm of everybody working together for the same common good.”
“My love for Ole Miss was passed down from my family. It’s also the place I met my wife and fell in love. I’m thankful for the impact it had on my life and its help of getting me to where I am today.”
Dr. Felice Coles
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WHY I LOVE OLE MISS
“I love how [the] campus is big enough to always meet “I appreciate the natural beauty of the campus, someone new, but small enough to run into and I also love the someone you know artistic culture that on the way to class.” surrounds Ole Miss.” Richard Bradley
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“I am a resident of Oxford. I’ve been here my whole life. My favorite part of the University of Mississippi would be have to be the Pavilion. I’ve been living here my whole life. I was here before a lot of those new buildings, and growing up, one of my favorite things was swimming pool and the gym.”
“I think it’s a nice melting pot, because you get lots of different cultures since it’s a college town. There’s also just a lot of culture since there’s William Faulkner, amongst other things, here, which is nationally going to draw people toward Ole Miss and give you a nice variety of people. It’s pretty. I just think it’s really pretty architecturally, and all the plant life. A lot of other universities don’t have any plant life or it’s not kept up. I’ve spent summers at other colleges and they’re fine but definitely not as pretty as Ole Miss.”
Alice Gallion Amsamo
“There are a lot of things I really love about being here. I’ve been here for a long time, and it’s been a great place to have colleagues. I love the beauty of this campus and how it changes with the seasons and how it keeps us aware of nature. It’s very soothing when school gets hectic. You can go for a walk and hear the birds and see squirrels. And of course, I love the students. We get to work closely with our students.” Jan Murray
“I love Ole Miss because my whole entire family went there “I went to school here, I starting in the ‘30s. My grew up here, I’ve been dad played football, here all my life. When baseball, and basketball. I was going through We actually have a school it was one of street named after our my favorite teams. I’ve family on campus, always had love for Ole Poole Drive. My loyalty Miss and I love Oxford just runs deep.” — it’s my hometown.” Patti Sanders
“I really like the campus, I think it is a beautiful place and it is nice.” Brian Sanchez
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WHY I LOVE OXFORD
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“I love Oxford because I’ve been able to find true community that appreciates me for who I am and not for who anyone else wants me to be!”
“I love the feeling of a tight-knit community, and I really respect how every single person I meet who is a nonstudent at Ole Miss just welcomes you with open arms and immediately makes you feel like family.”
“The people in the community are very nice and welcoming to the students even though we invade their space. They’re here 12 months of the year and we’re here 8 months. They’re receptive to us and know that the city of Oxford revolves around us and what we do on campus. It’s a unique town because Ole Miss is here and there are so many students here from all over the country and the world that make this place unique and special.”
“Oxford has broadened my perspectives of different things like culture as far as stepping out. Because I’m from the Mississippi Delta and I can say it’s restricted to things like culture. One thing I love about Oxford is it’s unique in its diversity of things. Why I love Oxford is because is not just for all the stuff but for people. The people are just amazing. I think that’s one of the first things I fell in love with when I first
came to Oxford.”
“My favorite thing about being from Oxford and going to Ole Miss is that Oxford still feels like home, but going to Ole Miss feels like a whole new experience and a whole new world. It’s a completely different experience than just growing up here, and you really get to see all of the different sides of the town and the campus.”
Reed Ashton Kevin
“I like the food a lot. You would never think a small town in Mississippi would have such diverse food options. The smalltown feel is so welcoming coming 1300 miles away from home. The people here are nothing “I’ve traveled around compared to Boston. I the world but Oxford also like how the square is where I’ve found my can feel like a different lifelong friends and I world on a Saturday.” will always call it home.” Sarah Clancy
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WHY I LOVE OXFORD
“Oxford isn’t like any “My favorite thing other college town. about Oxford is having It’s more of a home, the best of both worlds, family feel. I grew up in a small-town feel paired Starkville, Mississippi, with everything the so I grew up in another “I love Oxford because university brings to college town and it felt of the community and town. The Square is so disconnected from its ability to get to know, such a special place, and the University. But here welcome, and work you can’t beat Oxford’s in Oxford you see so with students from all food and shopping.” much of the University” over the country.” Lyle Lawson
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“The thing I like most about Oxford is, you know, it is just a little college town and I think that is the best part about it. You know everyone around you is your same age and everyone is so friendly around here. It is a great place to live in. The game days are of course awesome, the square is the best place to be on the weekends and there is great food here, so why would you not like Oxford.” Meghan Patel
“I love the small town atmosphere and that everyone is so welcoming. Even though it’s really different to Germany it is easy to feel at home here. I also love that most of the people in Oxford are students and that they are the ones that create the culture here.”
“Oxford is my home away from home. It’s my place with my people and my favorite restaurants. I cannot imagine the last four years anywhere else other than in this town and at this University.
“My favorite thing about the city of Oxford is how homey it feels here. I never feel homesick as a student. Everybody is welcome in Oxford.”
“I like Oxford because it has a lot to offer the students both on and off the campus while still having a small and homey feel to it.”
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PHOTO | MARLEE CRAWFORD
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PHOTO | CLAY PATRICK
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A CIRCLE & SQUARE EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW:
Ole Miss Chancellor Jeffrey Vitter And Oxford Mayor Robyn Tannehill on the Relationship between Town and Gown
INTRODUCTION | Lee Catherine Collins INTERVIEW | Magazine Service Journalism 401 Class
ed brick signs and concrete columns, surrounded by neatly-trimmed flowers, lit by a single spotlight. “The University of Mississippi” stands out in those crisp, black letters, a welcoming sight to students, friends, and alumni. Some may see the low, long signs as a wall, or a sort of fence, separating the grounds of Ole Miss from its town. However, if you look closely, you will see that there is no fence at all – no barrier keeping what is Ole Miss from spilling into Oxford. Nothing keeps Oxford out; nothing holds Ole Miss in. The two entities complement, blend, and collaborate in every way they can. Their relationship is direct – when one prospers, so does the other. Because of the way Oxford and Ole Miss overlap and complement one another, they each require complementary, collaborative leadership teams. At the helm of it all stands a man and a woman. Chancellor Jeffrey Vitter and Mayor Robyn Tannehill work closely to ensure that The University of Mississippi and Oxford can be their best for residents, whether they are temporary or permanent. What follows is an exclusive interview with Chancellor Vitter and Mayor Tannehill, one that was both exceptionally honest and entertaining. Magazine students in the Service Journalism program asked each leader fair, yet intriguing questions that they faced head on and without hesitation and we hope that you enjoy the conversation.
ILLUSTRATION | LEE CATHERINE COLLINS DESIGN | MACKENZIE ROSS
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PHOTO | SARAH SMITH
Samir Husni: First, we will give Mayor Robyn Tannehill and Chancellor Jeffrey Vitter a moment to each make an introductory statement before the questions begin. Chancellor Vitter: First, I’d like to thank you for the opportunity to come here with Mayor Tannehill. We really value the town and gown relationship. Oxford, I believe, was started in 1837 and was named after the town in England in the hopes of attracting a major flagship university for the town. And actually by only one vote, the University of Mississippi was set here in Oxford. The town that lost that close vote was Mississippi City, which is right between Biloxi and Gulfport. Can you imagine Ole Miss being anywhere else than Oxford? Since then Oxford has become a quintessential college town and it’s written a lot about, and I think a lot of that has to do with the great relationship between the University of Mississippi and Oxford itself. And the relationship is better than ever. I’m really pleased to have this opportunity to join Mayor Tannehill. She’s a great member of the community and partner in this town-and gown relationship, and I couldn’t be happier. We have challenges to deal with, but having leaders like Mayor Tannehill and her team make all the difference in the world. Mayor Tannehill: And I appreciate that very much. And we do have a very unique relationship. A lot of college towns and where the universities are placed in relation to the cities are more separate. And here, it’s the doughnut hole in the middle of the doughnut. And so, it is very closely tied in every aspect. You can’t leave campus without going through the city. We have some interesting challenges, but as I look back, for a period of time, I think when the relationship between the city and the university was
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perhaps not at its strongest, people sort of ascribed to the belief that you were either an Oxford person or you were an Ole Miss person. And it was almost a loyalty to one or the other and certainly you couldn’t have both. I grew up in Florence, Alabama and I came here in 1988 as a freshman. And I loved every minute of my time at Ole Miss, which I guess is clear since 30 years later I’m still here. But I served on the board of directors of the Alumni Board and I have served on numerous University committees as well as my first job out of school was in public relations here on campus, but then I went on to become the assistant director of the Chamber of Commerce. So, I felt that I was selling the city and the university at the same time, which is a real blessing. And I think we have gotten to a place where we’re both Oxford and we’re both Ole Miss, instead of being Ole Miss and Oxford, which I think makes a real difference in how you perceive things. As an alum and as someone who loves the University of Mississippi, it’s so important for me to see the university succeed. And if the university succeeds, then Oxford succeeds. And if Oxford succeeds, then the university succeeds. So, it’s a beautiful relationship and one that, as the Chancellor said, is probably in the best shape it’s ever been in. Samir Husni: Thank you both and now we’ll begin the students’ questions.
REFLECTING ON OXFORD & OLE MISS
Caroline Stewart: Mayor Tannehill, since seeing Oxford as an Ole Miss student, a city employee, parent, small business owner, and now mayor, which one do you feel gives you the most experience when you reflect on the university and Oxford as a whole?
Mayor Tannehill: It’s hard to separate all of those. I think each of those builds on each other and gives me the backpack of experiences that I come at this job with. But probably a community volunteer is what shaped my leadership style the most. And I don’t know if the Chancellor would agree, but consensus-building is probably one of the most difficult, but most important things that we do in these positions. Chancellor Vitter: Yes. Mayor Tannehill: We try to bring people together, analyze things from lots of different angles and figure out, based on a consensus, what is the best way to move forward. And so serving on different boards, whether that was different PTAs, different chamber of commerce boards, or arts councils, those kinds of board experiences probably helped me be in tune with the community and hone my leadership skills and consensus-building abilities as well. Caroline Stewart: And how do you think Oxford can help Ole Miss and vice versa as both the city and university continue to grow each year? Mayor Tannehill: Well, we do continue to grow. The first thing is we have monthly conversations. And we started this about two years ago. We have conversations so that the right hand and the left hand know what each other is doing. Communication is really the key. It’s not necessarily seeking permission from one another, but it’s just a conversation so that we know. And I feel like years before, those conversations didn’t happen until something exploded, until there was just some crisis. And then everybody came together and tried to pick up all of the pieces. So, we’re trying to be able to foresee these things. I think the most important thing as we move forward is for us to be respectful of each other’s growth and to be supportive of each other. It’s critical to me for the university to see our zoning and our planning and respect those as the university grows past its initial land grant area. And the university needs to have more property and they need to have room to grow. We have recently annexed Oxford. We have been 16 sq. miles and we just annexed an additional 10.2 sq. miles, so that allows us both some elbow room as we spread our wings. It allows us both room to grow. I think it’s important to respectfully have these discussions about growth. People sometimes think of growth as being negative and it can be if you’re just reacting to it, but I think the Chancellor and I are both very proactive in directing our growth. And I think that’s critical. Chancellor Vitter: I think the fate and prosperity of both are very closely linked. Oxford is a growing community and when you step back and look at our communities around the SEC or around the nation, it’s still a smaller community, but it’s very distinctive. And we have some incredible strengths. What the university brings and what Oxford provides are perfectly matched. For example, the Walton Family Foundation is starting a new effort focusing on what they call the “Heartland.” You have the entrepreneurial centers at Silicon Valley and the research parks in North Carolina and the Loop around Boston; the Coasts are very vibrant with very large cities. However, more and more people are not necessarily wanting to live in overcrowded cities; they’re looking for places where they can raise families and environments that allow extremely high productivity along with a wealth of opportunities for activities, restaurants, and cultural things to do. We were rated as one of the top micropolitan areas in the country. There’s a conference coming up called the “Heartland Summit” that Mayor Tannehill and I were invited to, but unfortunately it conflicts with some major events here. We are featured as one of the top places in the country in the micropolitan model. And what that means from our point of view is we’re working to take our ideas that our faculty, students and staff have and help them develop new companies and new technologies or license their ideas so that we can
On what she feels gave her the most experience preparing for her career (Mayor Tannehill): Probably a community volunteer is what shaped my leadership style the most. I don’t know if the Chancellor would agree, but consensus-building is probably one of the most difficult, but most important things that we do in these positions.
On how Ole Miss can help Oxford (Chancellor Vitter): I think the fate and prosperity of both are very closely linked. Oxford is a growing community and when you step back and look at our communities around the SEC or around the nation, it’s still a smaller community, but it’s very distinctive. And we have some incredible strengths. What the university brings and what Oxford provides are perfectly matched.
On the relationship between Oxford and Ole Miss (Mayor Tannehill): I think we have gotten to a place where we’re both Oxford and we’re both Ole Miss, instead of being Ole Miss and Oxford, which I think makes a real difference in how you perceive things.
On the relationship between Oxford and Ole Miss (Chancellor Vitter): We really value the town and gown relationship.
On the challenges the city budget presents (Mayor Tannehill): We just finished our budget and probably the most challenging part is seeing the important and real needs of our departments and knowing there is simply not enough money to do it all.
On how the University and Oxford as a whole has changed since he has been in his position (Chancellor Vitter): Our students now have the highest ever retention rate; we’re around 86 percent retention, working on the graduate rate. We’re the 12th fastest growing university in the country.
On what leadership skills Chancellor Vitter admires about Mayor Tannehill (Chancellor Vitter): I think Mayor Tannehill has brought a fresh perspective to the mayor’s office and a willingness to consider projects or opportunities or ideas that were perhaps rejected in the past, maybe not appropriate in the past, but are now ways that we can go forward together as a community.
On what leadership skills Mayor Tannehill admires about Chancellor Vitter (Mayor Tannehill): I would say that he is very deliberate in his leadership style. He is very deliberate and he’s also a great delegator and has surrounded himself with people who are so brilliant and who I have had the opportunity to work with on a regular basis.
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enter the marketplace and make the world a better place. And at the same time that process creates jobs for Mississippians. Those activities are a key part of what we’re doing at the university — creating a real economic engine that draws people to Oxford and makes Oxford a really compelling place to be. It’s not just scientists or engineers that other scientists and engineers want to be around. They want to be around lively places that challenge the mind with the arts, the humanities and the social sciences. And vice versa. People in the arts want to be around a place that is comprehensive and has all of these different aspects. So, that’s what we bring to the community and I think it helps to make Oxford a real magnet. You see people wanting to come and live here. A lot of retirees come here because it’s such a special place. We really value our town-gown relationship, and we couldn’t be what we are without Oxford and vice versa.
ROLE IN LEADERSHIP
Maddie McGee: Mayor Tannehill, what aspect of Chancellor Vitter’s leadership style do you admire the most and how could you incorporate that quality in the way you lead the city of Oxford? Mayor Tannehill: I could learn a lot from him, and I have learned a lot from him. I would say that he is very deliberate in his leadership style. I tend to be pretty passionate about things, is that a positive way to say I go from here to here? (Laughs) He is very deliberate and he’s also a great
delegator and has surrounded himself with people who are so brilliant who I have had the opportunity to work with on a regular basis. And one of the things that I see the Chancellor do so well and the University do so well is to meet the ever-changing needs of a changing population. In the larger city of Oxford, our population and out citizen base is the same. It doesn’t change very often. So, we can work long-term on some things because we don’t have the quick changes that they have in population on campus. So, although we try to incorporate new voices and obviously faculty, staff and students into our conversations, I think there’s some consortium-building that the Chancellor is so good at and some conversations that he’s great at pulling in lots of different people that certainly I could learn from. There is always room for improvement there. Maddie McGee: And Chancellor Vitter, what aspect of Mayor Tannehill’s leadership style do you admire the most and how could you incorporate that quality in the way you lead the university? Chancellor Vitter: I think Mayor Tannehill has brought a fresh perspective to the mayor’s office and a willingness to consider projects or opportunities or ideas that were perhaps rejected in the past, maybe not appropriate in the past, but now represent ways that we can go forward together as a community. And that’s something I personally value a lot because one of my core values is trying to be entrepreneurial. We use that word a lot, but it’s much more than having an idea and just creating a company; entrepreneurial means thinking outside of the box and trying to adapt good ideas, wherever they are, because you often get inspiration for ideas from totally different sectors. That’s why a lot of what we do at the university is getting people together from journalism, engineering, business, and the medical center to brainstorm about different things. And we have these Flagship Constellations that are attacking some of our biggest problems in society by bringing people together to find solutions. And it’s those perspectives that give you new ideas. I think Mayor Tannehill is now looking around and incorporating ideas that maybe just weren’t traditional before, but give opportunities to go forward. We’re all concerned about the environment in the city and safety, whether it’s game day or just in general. And we’re working together and thinking outside the box to ensure that we can have a safe and welcoming environment for everyone as this university and city continue to grow and move forward.
PHOTO | SARAH SMITH
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Kennedy Pope: This question is for both of you. In your opinion, does being a “Deep South State” propose social challenges or do you consider the value of “Southern Hospitality” an asset in the future of Oxford and Ole Miss? Mayor Tannehill: That’s a great question and an interesting question about Mississippi. I think Mississippi is known both for hospitality and for prejudice, which is the exact opposite of hospitality. It makes me think about how William Faulkner had so many rich topics to write about in this little postage stamp of native
soil, because of those very reasons. I’m not sure that the social challenges that we deal with are real different than other places in the country. However, we have a very colored past that I do think we have to deal with, but I believe in dealing with that we’re trying to figure out ways to move our state forward from an economic development perspective. But I do believe that Mississippi is a place that is very hospitable and unfortunately both of those things can coexist sometimes. Chancellor Vitter: I would agree. I grew up in New Orleans, which is around 300 miles due south from here, so that really is the Deep South. We live within the context of our history, and I often say that we don’t hide from, nor do we hide, the problems of our past. We’re really focused on going forward and creating a lot of opportunities for everyone, creating those economic opportunities for our citizens to give them new lives. And when you think about it, nothing is more important to the future of our state and our society in general than higher education, because there’s nothing that provides more opportunity for people to help themselves and to create rewarding lives for their children and grandchildren. So, the more that we can break the cycle of poverty through opportunities through higher education, it is going to create a lasting effect in our country. So, I’m very passionate about the transformational power of higher education. That guides everything that we do. It’s in our strategic plan, and our strategic plan is our basis for action. I’m so passionate about the strategic plan; I literally carry a copy everywhere I go. I highly recommend it! The strategic plan is all about moving forward, and we recognize the problems of our past, but we’re really committed to making a difference so that our future generations will be successful and vibrant. And we see that effect in Oxford. I think we need to build more opportunities across the state. That’s where I think we have a big positive opportunity to go forth. Mayor Tannehill: I think that Oxford and the University of Mississippi are poised to be able to show the rest of the PHOTO | SARAH SMITH world how great Mississippi can be. This community has the greatest opportunity to demonstrate that to the rest of the world. as quiet and small-feeling as a Mayberry. So, where do you see Oxford in Chancellor Vitter: The hospitality is really something; 5 years? it’s tangible. People who visit here find out that the reality is very different Mayor Tannehill: We do love summer here, but we love you students from the negative national image Mississippi sometimes has. And too. And what makes this such a great community is that we get three unfortunately there is an image nationally, so we have to work hard to or four thousand excited 18-19 year olds every year. And with that kind combat that image and to bring people to Mississippi. We have a saying of energy, it’s one of the things that makes this such an incredibly fun and Coach Luke has adopted it. His version is: “If you don’t want to come to Ole Miss, don’t take a visit.” If you come visit the university, you’re community. going to fall in love with it. You’re going to come here as a student or as You said that you think that most people would like for Oxford to stay a a faculty member or a staff member; we need to get that word out more small town, but when I think small town, I think numbers and population. and show that positive image of our state, of our university, because that’s And I don’t think that a lot of people would say that they want Oxford to going to make a difference going forward. stay a small town meaning in population. As city leaders what we have to do is to protect the characteristics and the quality of life that we all enjoy, in spite of a rising population. Abby Vance: For the Mayor, I know Oxford is a rapidly growing town. And so we’ve done a lot of things to combat that. The first is we’ve Knowing that, and also knowing that most of the people in the Oxford created a comprehensive plan that we refer to as “Vision 2037.” It was community want it to stay a “small town,” almost like a Mayberry, how adopted about a year ago and was developed with hundreds of hours of are you going to try to keep it that way while also accommodating to the MORE ON PAGE 26 ever-growing size? I know when I stayed once through the summer, it was
CHANGE: THE ONLY CONSTANT
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PHOTO | SARAH SMITH
Chancellor Jeffrey Vitter seated at Mayor Tannehill’s desk at City Hall.
If I were...
MAYOR Sharon and I have lived in a number of great university communities over the last 38 years — Oxford and Ole Miss are in a class above the rest! And if I had the privilege and honor to serve as Mayor of Oxford, among my top priorities would be fortifying and strengthening an already extraordinary bond with the university. I would establish a quarterly Oxford/Ole Miss forum to bring together members of our community — residents, business owners, government leaders, students, faculty, staff — offering a collaborative venue for listening, brainstorming, and community building. I would also initiate a formal internship program for Ole Miss students with city employees through all layers of leadership. This program would result in terrific mentoring opportunities, increase the understanding and
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appreciation of the functioning of city government, and shape our next generation of civic leaders. Another priority would be to reinforce our role as a regional economic powerhouse. I would capitalize on how more and more people are not necessarily wanting to live in overcrowded cities; how they’re looking for places where they can raise families and environments that allow extremely high productivity along with a wealth of opportunities for activities, restaurants, and cultural things to do, in addition to excellent schools and first-class healthcare. Oxford’s desirable living environment matched with the university’s tremendous learning atmosphere create a real economic engine that makes Oxford a compelling place to live and work.
PHOTO | CAROLINE STEWART
Mayor Robyn Tannehill seated at Chancellor Vitter’s desk in the Lyceum.
If I were...
CHANCELLOR As this City’s most enthusiastic cheerleader, sometimes it’s hard for me to view issues from the University’s perspective. Because my City “hat” always stays on my head, I think the decisions I would make if I were Chancellor would aim for “mutual benefit,” instead of promoting the agenda of just one of the two partners in the Town and Gown relationship. The City of Oxford and the University of Mississippi share such a unique relationship that when one succeeds, we both do. When one struggles, we both do. It is critically important that the University and City leadership communicate and consider the consequences, both intentional and unintentional, of our decisions. If I were Chancellor these are the issues that would take priority: Infrastructure -- The University and City share the majority of our infrastructure. With a tax base of 25,000 and a daily population including students of approximately 60,000, and special event weekend population of more than 150,000, the City finds it difficult to fund needed infrastructure projects to accommodate a growing population that benefits both Oxford and the University. If I were Chancellor, I would help with the funding of needed infrastructure by adding $1 to every ticket for University sporting events, to be utilized for road projects that would benefit all of us.
Traffic and Transportation -- Each decision made regarding roads and traffic flow on campus greatly affects traffic on all City streets and highways. The closure of Whirlpool Drive and of All American Way have had the unintended consequences of adding thousands of cars a day to already crowded Old Taylor Road and Jackson Avenue West, making travel difficult for University students and Oxford citizens alike. I would open these thoroughfares to reinstate a direct traffic flow from one side of campus to the other, so folks don’t have to leave campus or utilize City streets to get from one part of campus to another. Town and Gown Nightlife -- University leadership has taken steps to encourage fewer fraternity and sorority functions on campus. This has resulted in an influx of fraternity parties in our already crowded downtown entertainment area. In my opinion, this only shifts the policing and responsibility of students to the City. We love the student population in this town, but if I were Chancellor, I would keep policies in place on campus that remind students of civic responsibilities when they are off-campus, and encourage them to respect local laws and drink responsibly and legally when they are out on the town.
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PHOTO | SARAH SMITH
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community input. We had a consulting team that worked with different groups and with our planning staff and our Board for several years. And one of the things that we’re doing that I think will protect that is that we are encouraging smaller neighborhoods in more locations that have mixed use development with those housing developments, so that everybody in Lafayette County does not have to go to West Jackson or to University Avenue to get toilet paper. If you can change some traffic patterns and some habits, you can maintain that quality of life and feel, and all of that kind of thing. We also have recently done an annexation, and we’re trying to give more room to grow, more room to spread out and hopefully develop some affordable housing in the process. Those are the things that we’re doing. You can’t react and protect the things that you treasure about your community. You have to plan ahead and that’s one of the reasons that I ran for mayor; I wanted to be sure that we weren’t just reacting to this growth. We have seen enormous growth. We have been a community of 22,000 people in our 16 sq. miles and annexing the additional 10.2 sq. miles, we only added about 3,500 residents. We have very deliberately annexed undeveloped areas in hopes that will give us some room to grow. And we as a Board are very focused on protecting the parts of Oxford that we treasure and love. And we want the student population to continue to grow and we want our community to continue to grow. I think that people make the mistake of thinking that they don’t want Oxford to change and that they want everything to stay the same, but that’s just not realistic, it’s just not. So, we have to put plans in place to protect the Oxford that we love. Abby Vance: And for the Chancellor, how has the University, and Oxford as a whole, changed since you’ve been Chancellor? Chancellor Vitter: The university is really a national public research university. It’s our flagship in Mississippi, so as of two years ago we are now ranked by the Carnegie Foundation as an “R1 highest research activity university.” That puts us in the top two and a half percent of colleges and universities in the entire nation. There’s just a lot of excitement about Ole Miss and the brand across the country that draws people here. For example, our students now have the highest-ever retention rate; we’re around 86 percent retention, and we are working on the graduation rate. We’re the 12th fastest growing university in the country. In fact, we’ve been now working over years to dampen down and put the brakes on enrollment because we were growing too fast, so that we could let our infrastructure catch up. I think we tapped the brakes maybe a little too much this year, and our enrollment is actually down, but we’re going to go forward and try to grow at a steady rate, so that we can sustain the growth and also fuel the things that we need to do at the university. We have one of the smallest state appropriations, but also one of the lowest tuitions among our peer group, and we make up for that by being very efficient and by being entrepreneurial. We’re looking for new ways
that we can reach out and bring resources to the university. We have launched a really exciting project called M Partner. And recently we had a student community day for M partner where we had three bus loads, each with about 50 students, that went to our three pilot communities of New Albany, Charleston, and Lexington. It’s one of our initial efforts, to start working with those communities to make a real difference. A lot of student projects will be done in those communities, as well as work with faculty, to make a sustainable difference in those communities for years to come. These projects have just recently started and have gained traction and are making a difference. I’m excited about what’s happening at our university and that’s why having a great partner in Mayor Tannehill and the city of Oxford makes such a difference.
On what it is like working with the Ole Miss Student Activities Association to plan the Double Decker music and arts festival (Mayor Tannehill): One of the reasons it has been so successful is because of that partnership. We have appreciated the financial assistance and it has helped us step up the level of entertainment that we see. I think it’s great for the students to have input on a band. It is a community festival, but the students are very much a part of that community.
CHALLENGES & OPPORTUNITIES
On how being a “Deep South State” might propose social challenge (Chancellor Vitter): We
of budgeting for you?
live within the context of our history and I often say that we
Laura Ellis Royal: Mayor Tannehill, what is the most challenging part Mayor Tannehill: We just finished our budget and probably the most
challenging part is seeing the important and real needs of our departments and knowing there is simply not enough money to do it all. I don’t think many people understand that we are a tax-paying base of 22,000 and we just added 3.5, so about 25,000 taxpayers, but we won’t receive taxes from the newly annexed for two years. So, 22,000 taxpayers, and most days we have at least that many, students, faculty and staff that come into town and are utilizing city services and buildings and roads and businesses, so most days we’re servicing around 50,000 people. And on an off weekend, close to a 100,000 people. And on an Alabama weekend, closer to 200,000. And it’s just hard to make those numbers work with 22,000 taxpayers, especially in light of the fact that online shopping has become so popular. And wealthier communities are doing more of that. We’ve seen a sales tax increase of between 5 and 9 percent every year for 10 years. This past year we declined one percent. It’s just unheard of for us. And that’s what has allowed us not to raise taxes every year is that we have seen a steady growth in our sales tax. But the state legislature is figuring out a way to divert the online sales taxes, but again we won’t see any of that money for a couple of years. So, we don’t have enough money and we voted to raise taxes this year, one mil. And one mil translates into $390,000 for us. And we’re leveraging that money with a bond so we can turn that into a lot more money. It’s really a balancing act. Laura Ellis Royal: Chancellor, how do you plan and prioritize your work? Chancellor Vitter: When it comes down to it, strategic plans at many universities, and businesses too for that matter, are often marketing devices but do not go beyond that, and they often sit on the shelf and collect dust. But here at the university, we look to this plan on a regular basis. This plan is what’s guiding some pretty aspirational initiatives for us. And that to me is my guiding force. So, what I do is really support those four pillars of the strategic plan. The first two are academic excellence and building healthy and vibrant communities. We also have two other pillars that are enablers and help us be successful: Our people, places, and resources guide a lot of what we do. Our donors are very generous, and for seven years now we’ve raised $100 million or more to move forward special programs that we have. And our fourth pillar is athletic excellence, because it’s our front door to the university. It helps us reach out and capture the hearts and passions of people across the world and encourage them to come visit Oxford and the university, where they can experience the full richness that our comprehensive flagship university offers. So, the strategic plan literally guides a lot of what we do.
don’t hide from, nor do we hide the problems of our past. But we’re really focused on going forward and creating a lot of opportunities for everyone. And to create those economic opportunities for our citizens to give them new lives.
On lessening violence on the Square, especially on game day (Chancellor Vitter): We’re starting these conversations. We participated in the discussions around the ordinance that Mayor Tannehill mentioned so that we could be both responsive to all members of the population because we are an inclusive community, but at the same time achieve the goals to combat real problems, such as when violence breaks out.
On what they would change about game day (Mayor Tannehill): Each game day presents a unique set of circumstances based on number of people, game time; there are so many moving points. I think we have refined what that looks like over the years. Transportation and parking are probably two of the largest issues that the city and the university work together on. And it’s always evolving and changing. But I think it’s moving in the right direction.
On where they each go to take a break from their respective leadership roles (Chancellor Vitter): We have in our backyard a Par 3 golf hole, so I go out with a bunch of golf balls and practice. It’s fun. And when we have student leadership picnics in the backyard, I get some clubs out and every student has a chance, and the one who hits the ball closest to the hole gets to ride and use my golf cart for a day.
On where they each go to take a break from their respective leadership roles (Mayor Tannehill): My safe place is my back porch. I have three kids: Maggie, 18, Jack, 16, and Molly Kat is 14. And Maggie is a freshman in college and 9th and 10th grade for the other two, and my husband is my best friend. My favorite thing to do is to sit on my back porch and drink coffee or wine with my husband. (Laughs) I’m a pretty simple girl.
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Ainsley Cullum: This question is for both of you; is there anything in particular that you would change about game day? Chancellor Vitter: I would want to win all of our games. (Laughs) I think game day, because of the numbers involved, just stretches the capacity of what we can do here. That’s the biggest challenge. We are inundated with people. Preserving the hospitality of the University and the Grove, the Circle, and being able to accommodate large numbers, that’s a big challenge. And we’re working with the City in that regard and it will continue to be a challenge, but we are moving forward and the City is working very hard, and we’re in very close communication along those lines. Mayor Tannehill: For years we really have refined our relationship and what game day looks like and it’s just kind of a moving target. Former Governor Haley Barbour used to say this in staff meetings a lot and someone relayed it to me and I think game day is the perfect example of when we use this phrase: there are some problems to be managed and not solved. It gives you permission to understand that you don’t have a solution for every problem, but game day is a problem to be managed. Each game day presents a unique set of circumstances based on number of people, game time; there are so many moving parts. But I think we have refined what that looks like over the years. Transportation and parking are probably two of the largest issues that the city and university work together on. And it’s always evolving and changing. But I think it’s moving in the right direction. If I had a magic wand, I would change on game day that we had all fraternity parties on campus. It might make it a little crazy on campus, but it allows it to be a bit more spread out than in a three block area on the Square. Chancellor Vitter: And one thing that has been done lately is that the rules related to the so-called “two strikes and you’re out” policy has been modified, because I think what happened is that people who maybe received very minor infractions were facing disciplinary sanctions, whereas very serious offenses perhaps did not get to the second strike. We’re trying to be more intentional to really emphasize prevention and education and
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partnering with people so that students do not get into bad situations. But also when people do not act well, the university should take actions that are appropriate to what really happened. Frankly, we have to dampen down the alcohol culture because it is out of control and we’re working to do that with the City. And that relates as well and feeds upon the real problem of sexual harassment and sexual assault, which is a terrible situation nationally, not just at any particular university. We take that very seriously, especially in preventing such incidents from happening.
Cameron Sadler: Mayor Tannehill, I recently joined the Student Activities Association and I look forward every year to Double Decker. It’s my understanding that our association pairs with the city to help pick out a headliner. What is it like working with an on-campus organization, especially students, in planning what is our community’s largest annual event? Mayor Tannehill: That’s a great question and I am very passionate about the Double Decker Arts Festival. I am not so involved with the planning anymore, so I’m not involved in those conversations about choosing headliners, but I’ll say that I think it’s a beautiful partnership. The Festival has seen a lot of changes since 1995 when we had our first one. We had no money for our first one, so I got people who drove 18-wheelers to park their rigs on the Square and I spent all night long stapling burlap around, so you couldn’t see the tires. (Laughs) So, those were our stages then and that tells you a little about where we’ve come from. And I got a lot of bands to play in 1995 with the promise of being paid the next year if they would come back. So, it has come a long way since then. And one of the reasons it has been so successful is because of that partnership. We have appreciated the financial assistance and it has helped us step up the level of entertainment that we see. I think it’s great for the students to have input on a band. It is a community festival, but the students are very much a part of that community. Sarah Henderson: For Mayor Tannehill, over the Alabama weekend the Square was the scene of multiple bar fights, leaving one male seriously
injured. How effective do you think the new alcohol and safety ordinance will be in preventing this kind of violence in the future? Mayor Tannehill: We have an incredible Oxford police chief, Joey East is his name. And I’ll repeat what he said on Monday following that weekend, for sure, every SEC home game for us is a challenge, based on number of people and the space that we have to put them in. But the Alabama game in particular was kind of a perfect storm with a 6:00 p.m. game that we were not doing our best in. And beginning with the first quarter there was a huge exit from the stadium, which put a very large crowd on the Square very early in the evening. There has been a lot of drinking all day long. In addition to that, we had some private parties that didn’t have appropriate security to manage the crowds that were inside, so when a fight breaks out at one of the venues it’s all pushed into the street where we have an estimate of about nine or 10,000 people standing in the street with every venue at capacity, so a fight of 30 people inside turns into a fight of 200 people outside. It’s the perfect storm. It’s not a new problem and it’s not specific to one weekend or to one venue or to one crowd of people or to anything other than it’s the same problem people are dealing with all over the country in college towns. It has to do with growing crowds and a growing consumption of alcohol. And that’s what this problem centers around is alcohol; a lot of underage drinkers and a lot of people involved in the fight. The person that was severely injured, several others were in there with fake IDs. So, how will the ordinance help? Will it fix everything, absolutely not. There is no silver bullet to fix all of the alcohol and behavioral issues that exist, but I think the ordinance will do a couple of things. One, it will require our restaurant and bar owners to think and be deliberate about their security measures, they have to have sufficient security and they have to have trained security. And that will be a plus in managing events. And they will have to monitor their lines. We have restaurants and bars utilizing city streets and sidewalks to kind of queue up their line to go inside, which is where a lot of the arguments and fights start. So, they will monitor their lines. We will also have ID scanners in hopes of deterring and eliminating a lot of underage admittance. People can still go in at 18, but they will go in at 18 with their own ID instead of the fake ID. And according to statistics, a lot of the rise in crime that we’ve seen has been underage people who are consuming. We really hope we’re building a great partnership. Our restaurant and bar owners have been meeting with our Oxford police. We have a downtown district now, so that we have the same folks policing downtown to form some better relationships with bouncers and bar owners and restaurant managers. But again, this isn’t new. This is a college town problem that we have dealt with for many years and as crowds grow and alcohol consumption grows, it just intensifies. The Alabama weekend was a terrible event, but it’s not different or more violent than any other, it was just more publicized and more videoed.
Sarah Henderson: Chancellor, how do you think Ole Miss and Oxford could team up to lessen violence on the Square, particularly during game weekends? Chancellor Vitter: We’re starting these conversations. We participated in the discussions around the ordinance that Mayor Tannehill mentioned so that we could be both responsive to all members of the population because we are an inclusive community, but at the same time achieve the goals to combat real problems, such as when violence breaks out. The policy that I mentioned, replacing the so-called two strike policy, is also a collaboration, in terms of trying to make for a safer environment. And the Mayor has ideas to help the influx of people that get pushed out
into the street at closing time so that we can be more responsive in helping those people get home via Uber or taxis or whatever, and also to mitigate the magnitude of what happens at that time, spread it out so that it’s a little more gradual and then we can handle things without bad things happening. There are a lot of discussions that go on between the city and the university to help with all of these issues. And I think communication is the key to all of that. Mayor Tannehill: The Chancellor is referring to closing time, which is our hardest time to manage. We are a town of 22,000 people and we have 73 police officers that aren’t all on duty at the same time, obviously. And game weekends we partner greatly with UPD and reserve officers and Highway Patrol and others, but one of our biggest issues every night is in that three to four block area of our downtown when the bars all close at the same time, we push between three and eight thousand people out into the street. And that’s a whole lot of folks that get pushed out at the exact same time almost every night. And people say we need more police up there, but we could have the National Guard in that area and at certain times you’ve pushed such a mass of people out at the exact same time that it would still be difficult to manage. Our mounted patrol is very helpful with that. We are going to ask the Alcohol Beverage Control this year to see a difference between consumption and sales. Right now it just reads that alcohol can be sold until 1:00 a.m. We’re asking them to still enforce the 1:00 a.m. sales time, but to allow consumption for another hour so that if someone has bought a drink at 12:50, they can stand there until 1:15 and drink it or whenever, so that it allows more of a trickle-out effect and everyone is not pushed out at the exact same time. And that’s one thing that the Chancellor and I have discussed to help alleviate this problem. Anna Kelly: Mayor, have you ever felt challenged to achieve your dreams as a female? Mayor Tannehill: No, I haven’t. But people have asked me to speak on the females who have mentored me. And I have not had many. I have found that females in the workplace tend to really judge each other more, be more threatening to each other and not supportive. Most of the mentors that I would refer to in my career path have been men. And I think that’s unfortunate, so I am determined to do it differently. I am starting a girls leadership program for 5th graders all the way through mentoring college students through internships in my office. And to be sure I offer as much support as I can to females I serve with on boards and in other capacities. Someone asked me what it’s like to be a female mayor and I said, well it’s the only kind I’ve ever been. (Laughs)
Anna Kelly: As mayor and an Alumni of Ole Miss, how do you propose that we preserve tailgating in the Grove to be the best in the nation? Mayor Tannehill: There’s a level of decorum and manners and responsibility that has to be maintained. I was criticized recently about bad behavior in the Grove and my response to them was that we can write ordinances and change laws, but the way to make a difference is to change people’s hearts and minds. And we have to demand that level of decorum and manners and responsibility, and I don’t think that’s asking too much. We have the greatest fan base and the greatest student population; a community that embraces our university and that loves to celebrate and is full of Southern hospitality, and has mastered the tailgating experience. It just takes everyone buying into the way to protect this is just to protect this. Chancellor Vitter: That goes toward what I think is an important effort that is underway and that we will certainly step up here at the university. It’s around one of the core tenants of our UM Creed which is respect, fairness and civility. We do not want to emulate what we see every
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day on national TV, in Washington, where things are so fractured and so politicized. I think we have an opportunity as a flagship university to set a new tone and to create leaders for the future who are interested in actual communicating and understanding.
SCHOOLS, SCHOOLS, SCHOOLS
MacKenzie Ross: Mayor, could you talk about your involvement with the Oxford school system? You’re really a part of it, whether it’s picking a student to be “Mayor for the Day” or the building of the new Oxford High School. How did you get involved? Mayor Tannehill: I got involved with the schools because of my children. And I have been involved since they started Pre-K. I majored in art at Ole Miss and in my kids’ third grade classrooms, I taught art for free. And they each had the same third grade teacher who allowed me to do that once a week and I planned an art curriculum around whatever their subject matter was that week. And I worked with the different PTOs over the years, but I chaired the $30 million bond referendum that was to build the new high school and it was successful. And I feel like that is really one of the things that set our school system apart in the state and that was to build that world class facility. I started thinking about ways in this job that I could utilize my position to influence some good relationship building and some conversations. And listening to understand. And I decided I wanted to do a girls leadership class. We have an application process where we take 16 girls and they are girls who a teacher has seen something special in. And the application asks them things like what is the most important leadership skill, and kindness is a leadership skill. What’s the best thing about 5th grade, what’s the hardest thing? So, we have built these relationships with this leadership class and I am very passionate about it. I also do a 4th grade “Mayor for the Day” and Dr. Husni’s grandson was one of my mayors for the day last year. He’s also a super-sharp young person whose eyes were opened to what all being mayor means as far as how many people it takes to keep the city running smoothly. I am very passionate about working with kids and opening their eyes to opportunities and career paths and to leadership styles. And I tell my girls that this leadership class isn’t about them running for class president; it’s about them having the self-confidence to ask someone to sit with them at lunch who maybe doesn’t have anyone to eat with. And if we build these skills while they’re young, it will hopefully stay with them.
MY ESCAPE ROUTE
Dotsie Stevens: This is for both the Chancellor and the Mayor, where do you go in Oxford or on campus to take a break from being the Mayor or the Chancellor? Chancellor Vitter: We’re fortunate to have a really close family. My wife Sharon is an incredible ambassador for the University. She’s everywhere and she’s such an open, warm, caring person, and she’s connected all over the community. She helps me just immeasurably. And we have three great kids who are all very successful and living in different parts of the country, but fortunately come and visit a fair amount. And I get to see them and we’re just so proud of what they do. They’re just real pillars for me because my family is my support structure and that’s my world. We do a lot of things together. We’re all big sports fans and we love the arts. It’s fortunate too that we like to do things that really help me in my role as chancellor: going to athletic events, performances at the Ford Center, getting to hear faculty and visitors speak on topics of the day. This is such an exciting environment, being around the university. There’s no better place to be. If you read the work of Richard Florida, he traces the most successful parts of the country, the most vibrant parts, to
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the fact that they are centered around a comprehensive major university. And that’s what excites me about Ole Miss and being chancellor. Mayor Tannehill: My safe place is my back porch. I have three kids: Maggie, 18, Jack, 16, and Molly Kat is 14. And Maggie is a freshman in college and 9th and 10th grade for the other two, and my husband is my best friend. My favorite thing to do is to sit on my back porch and drink coffee or wine with my husband. (Laughs) I’m a pretty simple girl. It’s hard to unplug. One of my goals as mayor was to be very accessible. There are days where I think I should have been less accessible, because everywhere I go somebody needs to tell me, even if it’s a compliment, but there’s something that they need to tell me. About their trash; there are leaves on this road, just whatever. So really there’s not a place in Oxford probably that is available to me. But I do get a lot of energy from that, so I love that too. But my back porch. Chancellor Vitter: And we have in our backyard a Par 3 golf hole, so I go out with a bunch of golf balls and practice. It’s fun. And when we have student leadership picnics in the backyard, I get some clubs out and every student has a chance, and the one who hits the ball closest to the hole gets to ride and use my golf cart for a day. (Laughs) So, we’re out on the porch as well.
STAYING UP AT NIGHT
Samir Husni: Here’s a question that I ask every person I interview, whether it’s a CEO of a major media company or an editor of a magazine: what keeps you up at night? Chancellor Vitter: Fortunately, I am good at sleeping. (Laughs) But I think the challenge in higher education, given how important it is for the future of our society, especially our state and our nation, is that we are challenged financially and we have to do more with less. It’s a challenge that I take to motivate a lot of what I do, but it is difficult. And the other aspect is to the special circumstances of being at Ole Miss with the history of segregation and our rising above that, but always being cognizant of that past. Our nation always looks to us whenever incidents happen, and we want to be sure that we truly create that open, welcoming, diverse community and then move forward to create opportunities for all. No matter how much you plan and do pro-actively, there’s always something happening and problems arise, but fortunately we have a great team to deal with things. Being Chancellor is a big responsibility. There are always things to be concerned about. Mayor Tannehill: Unlike the Chancellor, without Unisom I’m a terrible sleeper. (Laughs) The things that keep me up at night is that I can’t separate a lot of work things from the mom in me. And I get accused a lot of thinking that I’m the mom of the town instead of the mayor. And I really can’t help but operate that way. So, a lot of the things that keep me up at night involve me wanting to leave this better than the way I found it so badly. And am I doing that. And public safety issues are probably what keep me up at night. I have an 18-year-old, I know the issues that students are dealing with and I know the positions that people put themselves in, and I want to fix it. So, that’s what keeps me up a night. Hoping that the things I’m doing are leaving it better than I found it and praying over our town. I pray a hedge of protection over this town every single day. And I pray for our police officers at red lights and I pray for our firemen at the next red light; I hit two red lights on my way to work and that’s what I do on my way to work. Chancellor Vitter: Am I the third red light? Mayor Tannehill: Well, maybe I’ll add you. (Laughs) You may be the stop sign. I’m a praying person and I am very concerned about the protection of all of you and of all of our citizens. And that’s the kind of stuff that keeps this mom up at night. Samir Husni: Thank you both.
THE CHANCELLOR & THE MAYOR
Dr. Jeffery Vitter, Robyn Tannehill The University of Mississippi’s 17th Chancellor, was born and raised in New Orleans, Louisiana. He graduated with a bachelor’s of science in mathematics from the University of Notre Dame, a Ph.D. in computer science from Stanford University and a masters of business administration from Duke University.
Before his time as the University of Mississippi’s Chancellor, Dr. Vitter served as both the provost and executive vice chancellor at the University of Kansas and Texas A&M University, as well as the Dean of the College of Science at Purdue University. As a result of Dr. Vitter’s dedication to Ole Miss and its students, the university has attained the Carnegie R1 highest research activity designation, placing Ole Miss in the top 2.5 percent of the nation’s colleges and universities. His passion for higher education and its ability to transform lives has allowed Dr. Vitter to continue Ole Miss’s legacy of academic excellence. As the Chancellor, Dr. Vitter enjoys getting to know the community of Oxford. On any given weekend, Dr. Vitter and his wife Sharon can be found in the Grove or at a restaurant on the Square speaking with students. Dr. Vitter is also an avid sports fan, and a patron of the arts. In his spare time, he enjoys attending sporting events and performances at the Ford Center. He especially enjoys the time he gets to spend with his three children, Jillian, Scott and Audrey. In his opinion, there is no better place to be than Ole Miss. He loves the atmosphere of the university and the town that surrounds it. “Jeff’s fun fact that his family likes to kid him about is that he recalls events during his childhood like weddings, vacations, sports events, etc... by what he had to eat at the event,” says wife Sharon Vitter. “He also has an eclectic list of meal preferences, like cassoulet, ful medames, sweetbreads, osso buco, aligot, zha jiang mian, palak paneer, eggs sardou, oyster loaves, and vanilla, coffee, or peppermint malts.”
is a former University of Mississippi student, sorority sister, and community activist who is now the current mayor of Oxford. After her years at the university, she loved Oxford so much that she never left. While a student, she met her future husband, Rhea Tannehill, who, between the two of them, was the one interested in politics. In fact, he actually served as the Associated Body Student president while at the university. After graduation, she worked in public relations for the university, then eventually ventured into city affairs as she worked for the Chamber of Commerce and later became the director of tourism. While the director of tourism, she developed the Double Decker Music Arts Festival. After its successful launch, she opened her own business called Tannehill Agency, which she eventually sold to be a stay-at-home-mom. During this time, she continued to volunteer in the community which fostered conversations and built relationships that led her to run for Mayor. She is currently serving her first term. “Most people do not know that Robyn is a phenomenal cook,” says husband Rhea Tannehill. “She loves to cook and she calls cooking her “therapy.” She makes wonderful homemade dishes like squash casserole, dressing, potato salad, cabbage soup, cakes, desserts... you name it. Robyn loves cooking, but especially loves cooking for a big group on holidays. We went on a mission trip to Guatemala in 2016 and Robyn spent all day cooking a Thanksgiving feast for American missionaries that we worked with there. She took ingredients for recipes and even had some ingredients shipped. I guarantee you those missionaries will remember that Thanksgiving meal the rest of their lives.”
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A Man Named Bill STORY | MacKenzie Ross
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PHOTO COURTESY | COFIELD COLLECTION DESIGN | MACKENZIE ROSS
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cross the rolling hills of Lafayette County, tales of William Faulkner pass down from generation to generation. Whether it is a copy of his book on the shelf at Square Books, a t-shirt hanging in JCG Apparel with reference to his words or driving past his grave at St. Peter’s Cemetery, odes to the writer and Nobel Prize winner fill Oxford. Locals share stories of days gone by, nostalgic reflections of a simpler time, and many of them reference Faulkner, the beloved storyteller. Of the many stories passed down about his life, where lies the line between fact and fiction? I grew up in Oxford, lived down the street from Faulkner’s statue, went to Square Books with wide eyes, carefully turning pages and begging for my next book. I grew up hearing the coffee-shop gossip, the handeddown depictions of days long ago. I have watched this town celebrate the man they believed they knew, a man made famous for a talent that he so often downplayed. I have watched Faulkner’s memory, the character we adapted and the man he really was, melt into one. His likeness, artwork, and most notably, his words play a special part in the nuances that make Oxford unique.
William ‘Bill’ Faulkner was born 44 miles down the road in New Albany in 1897. He is widely known for his poems and novels set in the American South, frequently in his fabricated Yoknapatawpha County. If you were probably wondering where that term came from, you can thank Bill. Throughout his life, William Clark Falkner (notice the name change over the years) worked as a railroad financier, politician, soldier, farmer, businessman and lawyer. He also took up drawing in his younger years before dropping out of high school and working in carpentry and as a clerk at his grandfather’s bank. During this time, Faulkner met Estelle Oldham. He was beat to the punch when Cornell Franklin proposed to her before Faulkner did. Franklin was commissioned as a major in the Hawaiian Territorial Forces and was leaving soon to report for duty. As I toured Rowan Oak, Faulkner’s home, as a second grader, a fictional love story that ended with a battle between a soldier and civilian over a bride was told, names not included. Faulkner began writing poetry and worked at the Winchester
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PHOTO COURTESY | COFIELD COLLECTION
Repeating Arms Company. He joined the British Royal Flying Corps in 1918 and trained as a pilot in the first Royal Canadian Air Force. Many stories are told about why he changed the spelling of his last name including enlisting in the Royal Air Force. Faulkner lied, changing his birthplace and surname from Falkner to Faulkner in hopes to appear more British.
THE WORK BEGINS
By 1919, Faulkner had enrolled at the University of Mississippi, a surprise to many since he dropped out of high school. He added The Mississippian, the school’s student-run newspaper, to his resume where he published his first poem and other short works. He later dropped out of Ole Miss, moving to New York City as a bookseller’s assistant and then back to Oxford as the University’s postmaster.
PHOTO COURTESY | PHIL MULLEN COLLECTION
William Faulkner sits with daughter Jill (right) and her classmates during a party held for her graduating class from University High School at Rowan Oak. With the help of friend Phil Stone, Faulkner’s poems were published in The Marble Faun. He moved to New Orleans, feeling inspired and continued to write. He also hopped across the pond, living in Paris for a few months. His first published works focused on a bigger picture, but then American writer Sherwood Anderson suggested writing about Mississippi, and the rest was history. Faulkner began writing about the places and people of his childhood, creating unique characters based on real people he had grown up with or heard about. For his famous 1929 novel, The Sound and the Fury, he developed the fictional Yoknapatawpha County—a place nearly identical to Lafayette County. A year later, in 1930, Faulkner released As I Lay Dying. Along with Mississippi, Faulkner brought up controversial topics including slavery, the “good old boys” club and Southern aristocracy. In 1931, Faulkner published Sanctuary, a story about the rape and kidnapping of a young woman at Ole Miss.
THE BIG LEAGUES
He later returned to Oxford, married the love of his life, Estelle, and started a family. In 1948, Faulkner published Intruder in the Dust, the tale of a black man falsely accused of murder. He was able to sell the film rights to MGM for $50,000. The movie theater turned music venue, The Lyric Oxford on the Square hosted the world premiere of the movie. The press, members of the Faulkner family, Hollywood executives, Ole Miss students and the regular citizens of the town filled the streets as they waited on the arrival of Faulkner.
Jill had such a childhood and she wasn’t happy here. He was a mean drunk. I don’t know what it was. And he followed with his wife and they just had an unhappy home. There are a couple of girls in town who are 85 year old women now who say they spent the night with Jill and she was a little girl and her parents were yelling at each other downstairs. But there are others that say that their parents wouldn’t let their daughters go over there to be exposed to that. John Cofield
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The Wedding Details
PHOTO | LAURA ELLIS ROYAL
Sidney Johnson speaks to Dr. Samir Husni on the marriage of William and Estelle Faulkner on the front porch of College Hill Presbyterian Church, the location of the wedding in 1929. Today, celebrity weddings are either highly publicized, live-streamed television or secretive ceremonies with no leaked photos, no press coverage. For a world-renown author, you might imagine one of those highly publicized events, an impenetrable wall of cameras flashing as the happy couple slips into a sleek getaway car. For a small-town, Southern man, you might expect a pretty church ceremony, surrounded by family and friends. For William Faulkner’s wedding day, neither of these scenarios quite fit. June 20, 1929. The porch at College Hill Presbyterian Church. William Faulkner and Estelle Oldham were married. Not inside, with an organ or flower arrangements.
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According to Oxford native and the church’s historian, Sidney Johnson explains the unique situation. “I don’t know that there’s any record of it. I just know that my granddad was clerk concession at that point. He would not approve them marrying in the church and sanctuary, but he did approve them marrying here on the front porch because that was somewhat removed from the church.” Estelle Oldham had been divorced from Cornell Franklin, a lawyer she had married in 1918. According to Johnson, the Faulkner family’s only connection to College Hill Presbyterian Church was the wedding, as they were not members and were never buried at the cemetery behind the church.
In 1950, with his daughter Jill sitting in the front row, Faulkner was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature. This attention brought him more awards, including the National Book Award for Fiction for Collected Stories and the Legion of Honor in New Orleans. He also won the 1951 National Book Award for The Collected Stories of William Faulkner. A few years later, Faulkner was awarded the 1955 Pulitzer Prize in Fiction along with another National Book Award for his novel A Fable, set in France during WWI. Growing up with William as a father, Jill had reservations. She was nervous about bringing friends over due to her parents’ drinking. Before graduating from University High School, a party for her graduating class was hosted at Rowan Oak. “Jill had such a childhood, and she wasn’t happy here,” said Oxford historian John Cofield. “He was a mean drunk. I don’t know what it was. And he followed with his wife, and they just had an unhappy home. There are a couple of girls in town who are 85-year-old women now who say they spent the night with Jill and she was a little girl and her parents were yelling at each other downstairs. But there are others that say that their parents wouldn’t let their daughters go over there to be exposed to that.” After winning his Nobel Prize, Faulkner would be seen walking around the streets of Oxford, looking disheveled. His clothes, wrinkled and his hair messed up. He looked hungover. Cofield tells stories of the writer, including Faulkner’s friendship with his grandfather Jack ‘Colonel’ Cofield.
ILLUSTRATION | LEE CATHERINE COLLINS
“After my grandmother died, my grandfather Cofield began drinking more,” Cofield said. “Faulkner was drinking and he’d leave Rowan Oak without telling Estelle, walking down Jackson Avenue until he reached my grandfather’s studio where the Corner Bar is now. [Estelle] had her own drinking problems. Granddaddy would sit up there all night with Faulkner, drinking all night and finally be drunk and go home and pass out.” Sometimes, Faulkner would not make it home. Instead, he’d fall asleep on the small bed in the Cofield studio, returning home the next morning. On July 6, 1962, William Faulkner died of a heart attack. He was awarded his second Pulitzer in 1963 for The Reivers. Sometimes Oxford, a town brimming with college students, retirees, and suburban families, seems an unlikely hometown for a worldrenowned writer. The rising population and growth of the city has changed things, new businesses popping up all along Jackson Avenue every time you turn around. But, if you look beneath Oxford’s college town surface, it is not difficult to find its charm. The same streets that are littered with barcrawlers today were once walked by Faulkner, who had an affinity for the same drink. The place we attend concerts and have wedding receptions was home to a 1950s movie premiere. Perhaps these similarities explain the draw people feel when they encounter this place. Maybe it is the imperfections, the little places where nostalgia and charm seep into the identity of Oxford that make it the perfect home for us all.
PHOTO | MACKENZIE ROSS DESIGN | LEE CATHERINE COLLINS
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Faulkner in Magazines STORY | Lee Catherine Collins he December 1958 issue of Esquire magazine features a unique interview, one you might not expect from a men’s fashion trade publication. The now slightly yellowed pages pressed with black ink relay the conversation between a Japanese interviewer and William Faulkner. Topics range from religion and racism, weaving together the way Faulkner’s own novels seem to just unfold. In the article, Faulkner answers a question about his process for writing, “I was so busy writing, I wrote so seriously, that I didn’t have time to stop and think: ‘Who will read this? Will he like it, or won’t he like it?’ Because I was so busy trying to write something that would please me, that would suit me, that would be in my estimation the best. Each time it was not, and I had no time to stop and think who will read this, what will they think, because at that time I was furiously engaged in writing the next one, hoping that would be the one that would suit me completely, knowing it wouldn’t and I would probably have to write another one as soon as that was done.” Perhaps this explains Faulkner’s varied, lengthy list of works, ranging from essays and short stories to plays, poetry, and novels. For such a gifted writer, Faulkner identified differently than would be expected. “I’m a countryman. My life is farmland and horses and the raising of grain and feed. I took up writing simply because I liked it – it was something very fine, and so I have no plans; I look after my farm and my horses and then when there is time I write.” You might find it strange, reading such an intensive interview about a famous novelist in an entertainment magazine. But, the truth is that appearances by Faulkner in magazines was hardly uncommon. During his early years of writing, Faulkner often submitted his short stories to magazines for publication simply to make money. Even as some of his novels were gaining popularity and being picked up by publishers, Faulkner would still crank out a few short stories for the content-hungry magazines to help support his family. Faulkner’s work in magazines was a hit for the same reason he was a hit on the shelves – no one knew what he was going to say until he said it. His work sold, his novels made history. He always had a story to tell.
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A Closer Look
The October 9, 1965 issue of The Saturday Evening Post features Faulkner’s short story, “Mr. Icarus.” Until this issue, the story remained unpublished, although it is believed to have been completed in February 1953.
This 1942 issue of Story magazine features Faulkner’s short story, “Delta Autumn,” which was the sixth story in his collection, “Go Down Moses.” Other stories included in the collection are “Was,” “The Fire and the Hearth,” “Pantaloon in Black,” “The Old People,” “The Bear,” and “Go Down, Moses.”
This copy of Scribner’s magazine contains Faulkner’s novella, “Spotted Horses,” which tells the story of Flem Snopes as he sells untamed ponies with a Texan friend. 38 Circle & Square
A Look Inside
“THE MAGAZINE STORY OF THE YEAR” With great pride Holiday presents a memorable article about his native state by the Nobel Prizewinning author, William Faulkner. Here is William Faulkner’s own account of his own South, his people and his country; a moving tribute by one who has loved his land and has written about it more brilliantly than any other living American. The story is introduced by the distinguished critic, Malcolm Cowley.”
Published only a month before his death, this copy of Saturday Review contains a review of Faulkner’s novel “The Reivers,” which was published by Random House. According to the article, the novel was sold for $4.95 per copy. The book reviewer, Granville Hicks, commends Faulkner for the style, humor and excitement in “The Reivers,” but notes that the novel is less appealing than some of his more famous work. Circle & Square 39
Sheila and Taylor McGlawn in 1979, the same year they were married in Memphis, Tennessee. Both Sheila and Taylor graduated from Ole Miss.
The couple (2016) still live in Oxford and run a family business, Midsouth Green LLC. In their free time, Sheila and Taylor like to attend church, watch their grandchildrenâ€™s athletic and school events, go out to eat and go fishing.
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THEN & NOW STORY | Kennedy Pope & Abby Vance DESIGN | TARA HAWKINS
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oester Brassell, better known as “Mama Jo,” still remembers what it was like being looked at differently on the Square. Not only was this normal in the 1960s, but it is also still prevalent today. The small town of Oxford, Mississippi has seen conflicts over the years, from the Civil War to the Ole Miss riots, and two longtime residents, Brassell (Mama Jo) and Taylor McGlawn, have watched Oxford also change physically and culturally over their 70 years in town. “I do feel like we still have stores on the Square that do not welcome black people in their stores,” Mama Jo said. “I guess they think that black people do not have money when my dollar is the same as their dollar.” Growing up in the 1950s, Mama Jo shared how she was taught by her parents to interpret the stores on the Square in her childhood. “Neilson’s was there when I was a little girl, but I never went until I was grown,” Mama Jo said. “When your parents tell you not to be on the Square, you just do not go.” Mama Jo said that her mom even gave her a “whoopin’” one day when she went into a store she knew she wasn’t supposed to go in. “When the older people who owned the stores died, their children went to school with me and inherited the store, things got to where it did not matter if you were black or white,” Mama Jo said. Mama Jo said that she has been able to go to the Square freely for 20 years. “However, when I go in a certain boutique on the Square, they look at me real funny and ask if I am paying cash,” Mama Jo said. “I respond, ‘No ma’am, I am paying in credit card, thank you.’” Mama Jo grew up going to Taylor Wing’s Elementary School, which was the segregated school at the time. When she was 12, Mama Jo began attending the integrated school in Lafayette. “It was hard at first, getting used to new friends,” she said. “Even though some of my friends came with me, it was hard getting used to going to school with new people.” While she was at Lafayette, Mama Jo remembers when blacks and whites started to date each other and the controversy that followed. “I remember one time my [white] friend’s mama and daddy tried to kill that black boy because they did not buy that,” she said. “They told her she was not allowed to date boys like that.” While she was attending school, Mama Jo said that she did receive some opposition from a few students; however, she did have one best friend, Donna, who was white. “We were two peas in a pod and it did not matter the skin color,” Mama Jo said. “As time went on everyone blended in as one and growing and learning to be friends with each other.” Mama Jo and her now husband, Bo, have been together since preschool. Even though they were off-and-on throughout their childhood, they managed to always stay in touch. They remember going on dates to “The Cream Cup,” which was located on University Ave. near present-day Walgreen’s. “I worked hard to take her out,” Brassell said. The couple split during Mama Jo’s college years but rekindled their relationship when she returned and got married in 1980. They have three children and are proud grandparents.
Longtime residents reflect on racial changes within the community
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Bo Brassell and JoEster “Mama Jo” Brassell in front of Mama Jo’s Country Cookin’ in Oxford. The restaurant has been catering to Oxford residents since 2008. They specialize in comfort food, small plates and a quick bite.
PHOTO | ABBY VANCE
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DESIGN | MADDIE MCGEE
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Sage Advice from
JAMES AUTRY After a long career in magazines, 1955 Ole Miss alumnus James Autry returns to campus to reflect on his university experiences and lessons he learned as a student. STORY | Maddie McGee
any of the things that people consider staples of the Ole Miss experience weren’t here some sixty years ago. There was no Grove dotted with tents and mimosa fountains on game day and the shops on the Square trended more towards hardware stores and pharmacies than upscale boutiques and high-end restaurants. Despite these changes from the Oxford of yesteryear, something about our quaint little Mississippi town and campus keeps alumni coming back to relive those fond memories. James Autry, a 1955 Ole Miss alumnus, is a prime example of this. Born in Memphis and raised in Mississippi, Autry has flown fighter jets in France, lived and worked as a magazine editor in New Orleans, split time between Des Moines, Iowa, and New York City as the former president of Meredith Corporation Magazine Group, and now works as an author, speaker and advocate for disability rights in Des Moines. Despite having seen it all, there’s something about Ole Miss and Mississippi that keeps calling him home. It’s evident in his writing, with his new poetry collection, aptly titled James Mississippi. It’s ever present at the Magazine Innovation Center, with Autry and Meredith Corp. allotting funds to kickstart the program. During a recent trip to Oxford, Autry sat down with the staff of Circle & Square to reflect on his time as a student at Ole Miss and how it led him to a lifelong career in magazines and publishing. Autry’s Ole Miss education prepared him for a life in newspapers, which was his dream as a young student.
“I came out being ready to go to work for newspapers, as a reporter or a weekly editor,” he said. “At the time, I never considered magazine writing and editing.” One of Autry’s greatest Ole Miss memories came from a reporting assignment during his freshman year in 1951. There was a push on campus to join the National Students Association, a group that supported integration, and Autry was to cover the student senate debate about it. “One student stood up and read a letter that turned out to be nothing but blank paper, all about why we should go into the twentieth century and become an integrated university,” he said. “Fights broke out on campus and in my dormitory. There was one with a guy who was very small in stature named Eugie Fowler. He was for joining and another guy was not, so Eugie gave him a big uppercut and knocked him out.” Autry rushed to include the violence in his coverage for the Mississippian. “When it came out, it was above the name of the paper and said ‘by Jimmy Autry’. All of a Autry sudden, I was a newspaper man.” Autry’s time on campus was also marked by his role as drum major of the university band. “It paid 100 dollars a month and I would have done anything for 100 dollars a month,” he said. “I wore a big fuzzy hat and tight pants. It was funny because all of the kids along the parade routes would try to knock that hat off with rocks. I was in jeopardy constantly.”
“I found the things that Ole Miss had prepared me for was one, good writing and editing and, two, a really good work ethic and the realization that the way to get things done was to put your head down and do them.”
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Much like today, Oxford and Ole Miss had a close bond during Autry’s time on campus. “The town was pretty supportive, because the businessmen were selling a lot of their stuff to students,” he said. “The Oxford Eagle printed our newspaper, so we had that relationship too.” However, the high school students and college students had trouble getting along. “When you got down to the high school level there was competition,” he said. “The high school kids resented the college kids, because we were taking all their girls!” After graduation, Autry spent four years in the Air Force, flying jet fighters in France during the Cold War. The strength of the Ole Miss alumni base and the bonds he made on campus helped him secure a job in the magazine field when he returned, something he did not expect. “It’s a funny story,” he said. “Just before I got out of the Air Force, I wrote to everyone I knew from Ole Miss who had a job in journalism.” After connecting with Mary Lynn Booth, a fellow alumnus, Autry learned about a job as a book salesman for Meredith Corporation. Even though it wasn’t exactly what he envisioned as a James post-grad career, he quickly began to move up the ranks at Meredith, becoming a copy editor for Better Homes and Gardens. “The day I got to Better Homes and Gardens, the copy editor resigned to move back to New York, so, boom! They gave me that job.” While Autry’s newspaper education didn’t encompass all of the aspects of a life in magazines, he said he learned valuable tools as a student that have long proved beneficial throughout his career. “I found the things that Ole Miss had prepared me for was one, good writing and editing and, two, a really good work ethic and the realization
that the way to get things done was to put your head down and do them,” he said. “It’s never going to get done for you. You have to have a commitment to doing things well, to excellence. Doing things halfway doesn’t work.” Despite the fact that Autry often ascribes his career luck to being at the right place at the right time, he made a splash within Meredith before his thirtieth birthday. “I became managing editor at 29, the youngest managing editor in their history. Part of that was once again that I was in the right place at the right time,” he said. “There were a lot of shifts at the top, and I think by default, they offered me the job. I was all of a sudden, managing editor and, of course, I learned a lot fast in that job.” He moved from Meredith to explore life in New Orleans and helped found New Orleans Magazine. “I quickly found out it was mainly about changing the toilet paper rolls and making the coffee and keeping the office and in the spare time, getting a magazine out the door,” he said. While Autry’s experience in New Orleans didn’t pan out, he received both an additional education in magazine publishing and a wake-up call for what he truly wanted to accomplish in the Autry magazine business. He became the director of Meredith’s editorial group, where he put together annual collections of highlights from the company’s portfolio to great success. That success led to Autry becoming editor in chief of Better Homes and Gardens, where he boosted newsstand sales and refined the practices of making tough decisions like choosing the magazine’s cover shot. “They asked me to be editor in chief of Better Homes and Gardens, something I never wanted to be,” he said. “All of the other writers and
“Having been down there and been treated for years as sort of the country bumpkin or the stepchild of the magazine business, it’s really something to see Meredith emerge the way it is, having been a part of it.”
Autry’s Ole Miss:
Landmark events that took place during James Autry’s years as an Ole Miss student
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Ole Miss holds a ribbon cutting ceremony for a brand new library, now known as the J.D. Williams Library.
The Ole Miss Rebel football team goes to their first Sugar Bowl, where they are defeated by Georgia Tech.
designers referred to Better Homes and Gardens as the Golden Millstone. It made all the money but it hung around your neck and all the higher ups in the company paid constant attention to it.” Autry transitioned to be head of the magazine group, working to develop new magazines for the brand. “When I took the magazine group, we had four magazines, and when I left, we had 17,” he said. “That was all through good people working on a volunteer basis to start those magazines. I had to take that money out of my budget, but it worked very well for Meredith. To have done that and to now look what they’re doing and their success is an awesome feeling for me.” Autry still takes note of Meredith’s successes and is proud of how far the company has come. “Meredith, which used to be the sleepy little Midwest company publishing your mother’s magazine is now probably one of the top, if not the top magazine company in the country,” he said. “Having been down there and been treated for years as sort of the country bumpkin or the stepchild of the magazine business, it’s really something to see Meredith emerge the way it is, having been a part of it.”
James Autry served as the 1954 managing editor of the Mississippian, the student-run newspaper. According to the 1954 Ole Miss yearbook, he was known as Jimmy “Punchline” Autry and wrote columns about “women’s clothes, women’s makeup and a sensational report on the “General Behavior of the Ole Miss Female.” PHOTO COURTESY | THE OLE MISS YEARBOOK
1953 Renovations on the Lafayette County courthouse on the Square were completed. The courthouse has long been the center of Oxford’s Square.
1954 Brown v. Board of Education rules segregation in public education illegal. Ole Miss would not integrate until James Meredith’s 1962 enrollment.
1955 Ole Miss expands to Jackson with the opening of the University of Mississippi Medical Center, the state’s first four-year medical school.
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MISSISSIPPI MADE STORY | Kathryn Abernathy
PHOTOS COURTESY | OLE MISS ATHLETICS DESIGN | MACKENZIE ROSS
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ttending college is a rite-of-passage many young adults go through. However, many don’t attend college in their own hometown. As for Grae Kessinger, Alley Houghton, Grace Anne Jones and James Burnett, staying in their hometown of Oxford and going to Ole Miss to pursue their athletic dreams was an easy decision. I got the chance to interview these four and discuss their views and personal relationships with Oxford and Ole Miss and ultimately why they decided to stay in Oxford.
WHY DID YOU DECIDE TO COME TO OLE MISS?
Kessinger: I decided to come to Ole Miss because I grew up a Rebel fan. I grew up going to all the games, and the atmosphere of this town is something special. Being a fan and knowing what it’s like to be a part of that from the outside, I could only imagine how awesome it would be to be on the inside of that, and being able to be that guy bringing joy to other kids. Also it’s home — Oxford is great. It’s just where I wanted to be, and I knew that very early on. Burnett: I decided to come back home for a couple reasons. I wanted to be back with my family and friends. I also knew a couple guys on the team already, and I knew I would be a good addition and we would be pretty solid. Even from running track here in high school I knew I had a great support system. That’s one of the big reasons I chose to come back home. I get unconditional love and support from everyone. Plus, I really wanted to come back and run for my hometown and make the team better. Houghton: I decided to come to Ole Miss, because it’s my hometown and I wanted to play where I grew up and show what Oxford has to offer. I did not have any other offers, because you have to go on visits in order to get them and Ole Miss was my first one. I did have coaches contact my coach saying they were interested in me. I always wanted to play college soccer, so that was the plan. Jones: I always knew that I wanted to play tennis in college and had always dreamed of playing at Ole Miss. I had other offers and opportunities elsewhere but in the end, I considered the University of Houston and Creighton University before deciding to come here.
WHY NOT BRANCH OUT?
Grae Kessinger Sport: Baseball Position: IF Class: Junior Major: Managerial Finance
Kessinger: It’s hard to explain if you’re not from Oxford. They think it’s such a small town and not a whole lot to do. You’ve grown up here, and you’ve done everything your whole life. It’s just different. You don’t feel like you’re doing the same old thing everyday. Especially being an athlete — you’re so busy — you don’t have a lot of free time to go do whatever. For me, it was still a new phase in my life. It doesn’t feel the same, which is hard for people who aren’t from Oxford to see because they just come to Oxford and it’s a small town, and there isn’t a whole lot to do besides college stuff so it’s harder to explain.
HOW DO YOU VIEW THE TOWN?
Jones: I have always viewed Oxford as a small town that sits away from the madness of large cities. I still have the same feelings about Oxford now that I previously had although I recognize how it is blended with the University more now that I am more a part of the University side of Oxford. Kessinger: Definitely going to school in Oxford and coming to Ole Miss, some people, if you’re not from Oxford, you’d think it’s really similar, but it’s actually not. There’s a different side of Oxford that you get to experience. So much of Oxford is the campus and the school, and being able to be on that side of it is definitely different and it opens up. You don’t feel like you’re at home. You feel like you’re still getting that high-school experience, and you’re on your own. It’s great to go get my clothes washed at home if my mom is there. You’re still on your own and getting that side of college. That was something I wasn’t sure about, but I had cousins who went to school here from Oxford, and they assured me, ‘Hey you’re not at home, you’re doing your own thing,’ and that’s been true since I’ve been here.
Alley Houghton Sport: Soccer Position: F Class: Junior Major: Exercise Science
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Burnett: I’ve always loved oxford because it’s a small town and everyone knows everyone. But being a student here is way different but in a good way. I always told myself I wasn’t going to school here but being a student here is a different life than just living here. Houghton: I view Oxford as my home, since I am from Oxford. Now I view Oxford the same except I have learned a lot more about the culture of Ole Miss, since I have been apart of the team. I think I’ll stay in Oxford for a little while since it’s my home, but I do believe I will eventually venture off and experience new places once I begin to get my life figured out.
HOW DO YOU THINK THE TOWN VIEWS YOU?
James Burnett Sport: Track & Field Position: Sprints Class: Junior Major: General Studies
Houghton: I think the town views me as hope for future athletes of Oxford. Before me and my sister, no one had gone D1 for soccer, so I believe it motivates other little athletes that they can do anything they set their mind to. Jones: I don’t necessarily think the town views me any differently. I think the tennis community was very excited to see a local come to Ole Miss. Kessinger: In high school, with my family being here, I feel like my last name is known in the city, just with as many Kessingers that are here, but I feel like since I’ve been at Ole Miss coming from the athletic side, as Grae Kessinger, I have made more of my own name than just Kessinger. Which it’s a blessing to be a part of something so special with my family and their legacy, but to be able to be here writing my own chapter is really neat and something most people don’t get to experience, so I’m thankful.
ARE OXFORD AND OLE MISS THE SAME OR DIFFERENT?
Jones: I view the town of Oxford and the school, Ole Miss, as two separate things, but they are uniquely connected. This makes Ole Miss so much more special than many other universities. Burnett: I think the town and university are one-in-the-same. Both on campus and in the town, you get the same at-home feeling and great hospitality. I think Oxford/Ole Miss does a great job of that. Kessinger: Living in Oxford and not going to school here is definitely different than going to school and living here, but the culture that Ole Miss brings to Oxford I feel like no matter who you are, you can feel that when you’re living here Houghton: I view Oxford and Ole Miss as very different. Before I came to school here, I did not really understand Ole Miss’ culture, but Ole Miss feels like its own town inside a town.
COMING BACK TO OXFORD?
Grace Anne Jones Sport: Tennis Class: Freshman Major: Accounting
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Kessinger: I definitely think one day when I’m done playing baseball, this is the town I want to be in. For all the reasons anyone else goes to school here and lives here. The culture is great, people are great and the food is great. It’s just home. Houghton: I think I’ll stay in Oxford for a little while since it’s my home, but I do believe I will eventually venture off and experience new places once I begin to get my life figured out. Jones: I am sure I will come back to Oxford, especially if my family still lives here, but I do want to start my career in a bigger city. My major is accounting. Burnett: After growing up here and now attending college here, I think I’m finally ready to venture out after I graduate and settle down elsewhere. But I’ll always come back.
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Circle & Square is a publication of the Magazine Innovation Center Magazine Coach: Samir “Mr. Magazine™” Husni Design Coach: Darren Sanefski School of Journalism and New Media The University of Mississippi
Circle & Square
114 Farley Hall P.O. Box 1848 University, MS 38677-1848
of Oxford & Ole Miss
STORY & PHOTOS | Sarah Smith & Cameron Sadler
The Lyceum The Lyceum building is the sole survivor of the original five buildings on the Ole Miss
campus. The Lyceum bell is believed to be the oldest college bell in America. Completed in 1848, the Lyceum was the entire University of Mississippi which housed all classrooms, administrative offices, laboratories, and even the library offices. During the Civil War, the Lyceum served as a hospital for both Union and Confederate soldiers. It now houses the Universityâ€™s senior leadership team including the offices of the Chancellor and Provost. DESIGN | TARA HAWKINS
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Walk of Champions The Walk of Champions began with Billy
Brewer’s 1983 football team. The Walk of Champions begins at Kinard Hall, extends through the Grove, and ends at VaughtHemingway Stadium. The archway of the Walk of Champions serves as the doorway to the Grove.
Neilson’s Opening in 1839, Neilson’s is one of the oldest
department stores in Oxford. Neilson’s is a beautiful store for the Rebel shopper. This door is a reflection of the store inside: class and clean.
Square Books Jr. Kids first saw Square Books Jr.’s opening when one of the Harry Potter books released years ago. Years later, it’s still a favorite for its intended junior audience in the community.
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Rowan Oak What was originally known as “The Bailey
Place,” Rowan Oak was the home of William Faulkner and his family. Faulkner renamed the home “Rowan Oak” after the rowan tree which serves as a symbol of security and peace.
Square Books Ice cream parlor turned bookstore with an
upstairs café, this Oxford staple is three levels of genres ranging from pop culture to obscure.
St. Peter’s Episcopal Church This cathedral was founded in 1851 and its congregation, past and present, includes notable people from both Oxford and the University, including former Ole Miss Chancellor Frederick Barnard who would later become President of Columbia University.
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Secret Grilled Cheese Ever in need of a killer grilled cheese? Go
down Faulkner Alley and find the medieval door that the Secret Bar is housed in. There you shall find what you’re looking for.
Ajax Diner Known for being “The Manning family’s
favorite,” Ajax is a classic southern diner with friendly faces and welcoming aromas.
Ventress Hall Ventress Hall was constructed in 1889 and named for James A. Ventress, the author of the bill to charter the University. The building originally housed the University library, and it currently functions as the School of Liberal Arts. Above its main staircase is a Tiffany stained glass window donated by Delta Gamma sorority in the 1890s.
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PHOTO | SARAH SMITH DESIGN | MADDIE MCGEE
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A Resting Place Centuries of Oxonians past call College Hill Presbyterian Church and Cemetery their home. Janie Frierson, caretaker of the cemetery shares stories dating back to the early 1830s. STORY | Caroline Stewart, Sarah Smith, Dotsie Stevens and Laura Ellis Royal
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PHOTO | SARAH SMITH
Janie Frierson, caretaker of College Hill Presbyterian Church Cemetery, reflects on memories from years of work at the cemetery. estled under cedar trees with an abundance of rich history rests one of the oldest buildings in the Oxford area. Located a few miles away from Jackson Avenue is a quiet community just on the outskirts of Oxford known as College Hill. This area is home to the College Hill Presbyterian Church and Cemetery. Founded in 1835, this is the oldest Presbyterian Church in north Mississippi. It is home to the unknown number of people buried here. Just a few feet behind the church are graves that date back to the mid-to-late 1830s. Some graves belong to people who died as young as a-year-old, while others lived to be 105-years-old. The College Hill Cemetery paints a picture of family and tradition in life and death. Many felt they never had enough time with their loved ones, but they all rest together in their family plots at College Hill, representing a community of the living and the dead. “We still honor the family plots,” said Janie Frierson, caretaker of the cemetery. “Occasionally, we will get a call from Texas or California or somewhere saying, ‘Uncle John’s last request was to be buried in College Hill.’”
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There are stories of people from sisters who died as old maids together or a couple buried with their dog, according to Frierson. Thanks to College Hill, there’s a connection to life that will never die. In the sunny and gated cemetery, graves date back to the Civil War, where many veterans of the Civil War still lie unmarked. Many of the faces of the gravestones are undecipherable, but they still stand on the grounds. Since becoming caretaker of the College Hill Cemetery, Frierson has learned a thing or two about the lives of those who came before. “When I plotted this cemetery, one of the surprising things was how many children did not live past the age of twelve,” Frierson said. According to Frierson, there is an entire Frierson family that barely any of their children made it past sixteen or seventeen. Throughout history, many loved ones were lost young in life due to illness and improper treatment that led to low mortality rates in children and women. “She [Sarah Goforth] had a horse she rode every day,” Frierson said. “She loved the horse. And she died, and everybody came up here for
her funeral, and somebody had the horse and was riding on horseback and on the way home, the horse died the same day. So you find stories like that.” In the quiet, gated field with wildflowers sprouting around the tombstones, Frierson finds happiness in her work as caretaker of the cemetery. “They’re the easiest people in the church to work with,” Frierson said. “You can come out here and talk to them – tell them anything you want to – and they do not repeat it.” Frierson recounted her best Civil War story about College Hill. “This is Tankersley, one of the first families in College Hill,” Frierson said. “When the Civil War broke out, Mr. Tankersley was not very fond of fighting, and he had a friend in town who was the blacksmith, and he didn’t like fighting either.” Frierson explained that when the Civil War broke out, there was a lot of pressure to get involved. Tankersley and his friend decided they were going to help the cause by driving a supply wagon to Holly Springs where Confederates were going to attack. “Well, they drove their wagon up there with the supplies in it, and they stopped on a hillside way away from the action,” Frierson said. “The blacksmith looked down in the little valley below him and he saw another wagon. And they kept watching it, wasn’t anybody around it, so he went down to see what it was, and it was a wagon load of uncut Union currency.”
“We’d come out here and there’d be a tombstone in the Frierson lot that wasn’t a Frierson, so my husband said, ‘If we don’t put our stones down, we won’t have a lot.” Janie Frierson
PHOTO | SARAH SMITH
Family plots of past Oxonians dot College Hill’s cemetery.
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“One Sunday I was at church and a lady said, ‘Oh Janie, I’m so glad This uncut currency, Frierson said, was probably meant to pay the to see you,’” Frierson said. “I didn’t really know her that well, and I Union troops. thought, ‘Hmm, yeah I bet.’ Anyway, she said, ‘I was out in the cemetery “So he came back and unhitched one horse or mule from the wagon and I saw your name out there and I thought you were dead!’ I said, they were driving,” she said.“He went down there and he put the uncut ‘Naw, I’m still kickin’. Don’t throw any dirt on me yet!’” currency over the horse like a saddle and he rode it back to Oxford.” But the most colorful of stories here seem almost legendary. Frierson said the blacksmith made four trips and buried the money, Frierson said one day a man arrived in a only taking out little bits of money at a time so big black SUV and a cowboy hat looking for that no one would notice. a Sarah, she showed him the way. She said “He started the Mechanics Bank on the she’d learned that he was the nephew of Sarah, Square, and he helped rebuild the Square a Hardin, like Sarah’s brother John Wesley because it had been burned,” she said. “He Hardin, an outlaw. thought it only nice to do that, because the “He (John Wesley Hardin) was a man so Union had burned it, they certainly should pay mean he shot a man for snoring,” Frierson said. for putting it back up.” But the man who came to visit told her a Many plan their future in the plots at story. College Hill with their family. In the cemetery “His little boy came home crying one day there’s plots blocked off for families. Janie Frierson and he said, ‘what’s wrong with you?’” Frierson “Another thing is you’ll see my name out said. “He said, ‘I look just like an outlaw, they showed the picture at there, but I’m not out there yet,” Frierson said. “My husband insisted on school today and I look just like him.’” that because the of lots. We’d come out here and there’d be a tombstone The little boy was informed by his father that man was his kin. in the Frierson lot that wasn’t a Frierson, so my husband said, ‘If we “That’s what history will teach us,” Frierson said. “You can say what don’t put our stones down, we won’t have a lot.’” you want to, and put on a plaque what you want to. But you do not After that the Frierson’s found their place in the cemetery and placed change history.” their stones down.
“We still honor the family plots. Occasionally, we will get a call from Texas or California somewhere saying, ‘Uncle John’s last wish was to be buried in College Hill.”
PHOTO | SARAH SMITH
PHOTO | SARAH SMITH
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PHOTO |STEWART CAROLINE STEWART PHOTO | CAROLINE
PHOTO | CAROLINE STEWART
Far Top Left: Flowers dot the gate leading to the Church. Inside, Frierson has marked unknown graves on a plot. Different colored circles represent the grave sites of U.S. veterans, Confederate veterans, and ministers. Far Bottom Left: A
tombstone is marked with a Bible verse. Left: A peek inside the College Hill Presbyterian Church. Top: Autumn leaves fall outside of the College Hill Presbyterian Church. Bottom: A marker signals the entrance to the Old Slave Cemetery.
PHOTO | CAROLINE STEWART
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PHOTO | CAROLINE STEWART
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PHOTO | SARAH SMITH
PHOTO | SARAH SMITH
College Hill is home to many shared tombstones and family plots.
Bright flowers dot intricate tombstones.
“You can say what you want to, and put on a plaque what you want to. But you do not change history.” Janie Frierson
PHOTO | LAURA ELLIS ROYAL
Frierson shares stories of Oxonians past.
PHOTO | SARAH SMITH
Flowers fill a vase signifying a marriage.
PHOTO | SARAH SMITH
Tucked among vegetation is a tombstone from 1892.
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64 Circle & Square PHOTO | CLAY PATRICK
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Circle & Square 114 Farley Hall School of Journalism and New Media The University of Mississippi P.O. Box 1848 University, MS 38677-1848 Magazine Innovation Center Founder and Director Samir “Mr. Magazine™” Husni Associate Director Darren Sanefski Administrative Assistant Angela Rogalski
Circle & Square
Vol. 1, Number 1 | Winter 2019
Circle & Square magazine was born out of the Magazine Innovation Center and the students of the service journalism program at the School of...
Published on Feb 8, 2019
Circle & Square magazine was born out of the Magazine Innovation Center and the students of the service journalism program at the School of...