skip to main content
College of Liberal Arts
University of Mississippi

College of Liberal Arts Alumni Association Advisory Board

The University of Mississippi College of Liberal Arts Alumni Association Advisory Board: Marilyn Mulherin (left on first row), Torie Marion, Gail Russell, Nikki Neely Davis, Frances Smith, Kathryn Black, Dean Lee M. Cohen, Sanford Thomas, Dr. Steven Blake (second row), Steve McKinney, Dr. Mark Craig, Robert Harper, John Jacobson, Phillip Wiggins, Dr. Wayne Alexander, Dr. Clarke Holmes, Johnny McRight, Ron Wilson, Denson Hollis. Not pictured: Dr. Mike Edmonds, Missy Edwards, Russell Hensley, Ken Lackey, Dr. Alan Partin, Leah Thomson, Dr. Jesse White, Al Williams

The University of Mississippi College of Liberal Arts Alumni Association Advisory Board: Marilyn Mulherin (left on first row), Torie Marion, Gail Russell, Nikki Neely Davis, Frances Smith, Kathryn Black, Dean Lee M. Cohen, Sanford Thomas, Dr. Steven Blake (second row), Steve McKinney, Dr. Mark Craig, Robert Harper, John Jacobson, Phillip Wiggins, Dr. Wayne Alexander, Dr. Clarke Holmes, Johnny McRight, Ron Wilson, Denson Hollis. Not pictured: Dr. Mike Edmonds, Russell Hensley, Ken Lackey, Dr. Alan Partin, Leah Thomson, Dr. Jesse White, Al Williams


The College of Liberal Arts Alumni Association Advisory Board was reestablished in 2016–17 to connect the College leadership to some of our most successful alumni.  The board helps network the College with other alumni across the country, while also learning about the strong academic programs and innovative research/creative activities happening in the College.



The R. Bruce Logue Professor of Medicine Emeritus and Chair of the Department of Medicine at Emory from 1999-2013, Dr. Alexander was Vice President of Research and on the Board of Directors for the American Heart Association. A senior editor of the cardiology textbook, Hurst’s the Heart, he has been on the editorial boards of numerous publications.

Dr. Alexander’s major research interests are in the biology of blood vessels and in the treatment and prevention of cardiovascular diseases. His lab is interested in the molecular mechanisms which control the cells in the blood vessel wall, in particular, the chemical pathways that are controlled by the generation of reactive oxygen species. Reactive oxygen species, including oxygen free radicals, are key mediators of many pathologic processes including diseases as diverse atherosclerosis and dementia. Lab studies have led not only to new understanding of the pathogenesis of human diseases but have led to the development of new drugs that are undergoing evaluation in clinical trials. Many of the 30-plus trainees from Dr. Alexander’s labs are now leaders of academic medicine in the United States and elsewhere in the world. Dr. Alexander also has a broad interest in health maintenance and preventive medicine.

He received his doctorate in physiology from Emory University, medical degree from Duke University School of Medicine, and completed both his residency and cardiology fellowship training at Duke University. During his medical training, Dr. Alexander served as a staff associate at the National Heart and Lung Institute from 1971 to 1973. Prior to joining Emory as Bruce Logue Professor and Chief of Cardiology, he was an Associate Professor of Medicine at Harvard and Brigham and Women’s Hospital.


Born in Greenwood, Mississippi, Kathryn Black graduated with honors from the University of Mississippi in 1962 with a B.A. in English, and a double minor in history and Spanish. Upon graduation, her academic achievements were recognized with the Phi Kappa Phi award.

Mrs. Black has generously supported academics and athletics over many years at Ole Miss. She enjoys serving as a board member for the Tau Chapter of the Chi Omega house corporation here in Oxford. Throughout her life, Kathryn has lived in several cities and states, Greenwood and Oxford, then in Collierville, Tennessee, and finally back to Oxford. Kathryn invested her adult life as a homemaker and mother, and considers her greatest life-legacy to be her family. She has one daughter, Liza, who is married to Steve Upshaw and lives in Greenwood. Steve and Liza have a daughter Kitty who is married to Drew Pinkston; the Pinkstons have a son, James. Liza and Steve’s son, Brewer Upshaw lives in Dallas, Texas.

Kathryn is pleased to have served as a Founding Board Member for the Ole Miss Women’s Council for Philanthropy, and is an 1848 Society member.


Born and raised in Mississippi, Dr. J. Steven Blake is a graduate of the University of Mississippi (bachelor degrees in chemistry and zoology 1980) and completed medical school at the Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine (PCOM). Both his residency in Internal Medicine and his fellowship in Gastroenterology were completed at the hospital of PCOM. His GI fellowship was completed in 1994. He completed The Osteopathic Heritage Health Policy Fellowship through Ohio University and New York Institute of Technology in 2001. He is a graduate of Leadership Philadelphia (a premiere leadership development program) class of 2004.

He completed the building of a new medical office building in July 2005. It houses both the medical gastroenterology practice and the state of the art Mt. Airy Ambulatory Endoscopy Surgery Center. He sits on the Board of Trustees of the Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine (PCOM). He served on the Alumni Board of Directors for PCOM. He is a fellow of the American College of Osteopathic Internists. He is a fellow of the Osteopathic Heritage Health Policy Institute. He is an assistant clinical professor in the department of medicine at PCOM, lecturing in the sub specialty of gastroenterology and chairman of minority scholarship committee at PCOM. Dr. Blake is active in a number of organizations. A member of the National Medical Association and the National Osteopathic Medical Association (past national president 1998 – 2003); a member of American Osteopathic Assoc; a member of the Pennsylvania Osteopathic Assoc; a member of Pennsylvania Gastroenterology Association; and a member of the Philadelphia County and Pennsylvania Medical Society. He is also a member of Mt. Airy Business Association and the Philadelphia Chamber of Commerce. He is a faithful member of Grace Baptist Church of Germantown.

He is the President/CEO of Blake Gastroenterology Associates, LLC and the President/CEO & Medical Director of The Mt. Airy Ambulatory Endoscopy Surgery Center. He currently holds a staff position at Albert Einstein Medical Center. He is board certified in Internal Medicine and Gastroenterology.


A partner at Direct Management Group, an interna­tionally successful music management company, which offers artistic and business services to a very select roster of artists, Bradford graduated from the University of Mississippi in 1996 with a major in English and a minor in business. He moved to Los Angeles for the summer prior to his final semester at Ole Miss to intern at William Morris Agency.

After a a short stint in the family farming operation in Tunica, Mississippi, Bradford was hired at Los Angeles’ Direct Management Group in June 1998, where he began managing The B-52’s. Just a few years later, he signed the Go-Go’s to the company roster, and in 2004, he met and immediately signed Katy Perry.

Bradford is now a full partner at Direct Management Group, and has received many accolades, including recognition on Billboard’s 40 under 40 list in 2013, and Billboard’s Power 100 list the last two years.


A board certified plastic surgeon, Dr. Craig has been practicing plastic surgery for over 19 years and is the owner of Accent Plastic & Reconstructive Surgery in Tupelo, Mississippi.

Originally from Natchez, he is a cum laude graduate in physics from the University of Mississippi and also from University of Mississippi Medical School in Jackson and completed his fellowship in plastic surgery at the Medical College of Georgia in Augusta, Georgia. Dr. Craig has served as Chief of Staff and Chief of Surgery at North Mississippi Medical Center.

He is married to Dianne Young Craig. The Craigs are very involved in community events. In 2013 they were awarded the Jack Reed Sr. Advocate for Education Award by the Association for Excellence in Education in Mississippi. They have three children Shelby, Chandler and Landon. The Craigs’ are members of First United Methodist Church.


Dean of Students/Vice President of Student Life at Colorado College for 25 years, Dean Edmonds is also an Executive in Residence in the Economics and Business Department.

He holds a B.A. (speech and theatre ’84), M.A. (higher education and student personnel), and Ph.D. (education) from the University of Mississippi, and was inducted as a Hall of Fame graduate in 1984. He has completed a post-graduate institute at Harvard Universi­ty, and is a graduate of the Center for Creative Leadership. He frequently judges for the National Speech and Debate Association. Dean Edmonds is a member of the North Central Institution Action Committee of the Higher Learning Commission, and serves as a peer reviewer for accredita­tion visits. At Colorado College, he has been recognized with the Colorado College Center for Service and Learning Award; the Victor Nelson Cisneros Diversity Award, which was present­ed at the 2010 Colorado College Honors Convocation; and the 2011 Gresham Riley Award, which recognizes faculty and staff of the College who have made a significant difference to the Colorado College community through outstanding service, commitment and accomplishment.

Nationally, Dr. Edmonds is a member of the Lott Institute Trustees at the University of Missis­sippi and the College of Liberal Arts Alumni Chapter at Ole Miss. He is treasurer of the Delta Sigma Rho-Tau Kappa Alpha forensics honorary. Regionally, Mike is a past chair of the Board of Trustees for Memorial Health System, past chair of United Way for the Pikes Peak Region, a member of the Tocqueville Society United Way and on the Board of Trustees of the Colorado Springs School. He is past chair and current member of the Board of Directors of the Cheyenne Mountain Zoo, president-elect of the Great West American Cancer Society Board of Directors, and past member of the Colorado Springs Chamber of Commerce Board. He was appointed by Governor Bill Owens to serve on the Fourth District Judicial Commission of Colorado and served as chair of the Colorado Springs Municipal Airport Commission. Dr. Edmonds holds a professional membership in Delta Sigma Rho-Tau Kappa Alpha and is a silver lifetime member of the NAACP. Dean Edmonds has been honored with the Educator of the Year Award from the Urban League of the Pikes Peak Region; the national St. George Award from the American Cancer Society; the inaugural Lifetime Achievement Award from the National Forensic League; the MLK award from James Logan High school in Union City, CA; the Delores Taylor Arthur Award from Holy Cross High School in New Orleans; the Men of Achievement award from Delta Sigma Theta; and the Citizen of the Year Award from Omega Psi Phi. He was the recipient and awardee of the Uplift Community Foundation’s support in 2015. For his work in speech and forensics, he has been recognized with the National Speech and Debate Association’s Lifetime Achievement Award, and inducted into the Gold Key Society at Emory University.


Currently engaged in growing grain crops and timber on his farm near Tillatoba, Mississippi, prior to farming, Bob Harper practiced law primarily in insurance and corporate defense litigation for almost 25 years.

He is licensed to practice law in Mississippi and Tennessee. Bob served in the U. S. Marine Corps as a Judge Advocate prior to civilian practice and lived in Japan for over two years while on active duty. He was discharged from the Marine Corps with the rank of Captain.Bob is an active member of the Ole Miss Alumni Association and a member of the Ole Miss Athletics Foundation. He is an organic farming enthusiast, who also enjoys travel, scuba diving, hunting, salt water fishing, Ole Miss football, and Memphis Grizzlies basketball.

Bob received his undergraduate degree from the University of Mississippi in 1977 with a major in English and his law degree in 1980. He and his wife, Lee, have one daughter.


An attorney with Evans Petree P.C. Law Firm and the CEO of The Hartwell Foundation, Russell J. Hensley graduated in 1978 from the University of Mississippi with a Bachelor of Arts degree in political science, in 1982 he graduated from the University of Memphis School of Law. His law practice includes advising individuals and corporate entities on domestic and international transactions including raising of venture capital and structure issues, acquisitions, joint ventures and the issues which arise from such transactions. His clients include domestic and international companies, solely owned businesses and privately held companies ranging from entrepreneurial startups lo mature multi-national corporations.

Mr. Hensley for over 10 years was the Staff Attorney for the City of Memphis advising the Mayor and his Directors regarding real estate transactions for Housing and Community De­velopment, the structure and development of single family housing and multi-family housing under Federal Regulations; acquisition of properties and governance for certain government facilities. He oversaw and advised WONDERS: The Memphis International Cultural Series which negotiated with various international museums and governments for the display of certain pieces of arts and artifacts in the City of Memphis. Mr. Hensley for a number of years was an Adjunct Professor in the Master Program at Chris­tian Brothers University teaching course work regarding negotiation of contracts, intellectual property laws, and environmental issues. Mr. Hensley is listed in “The Best Lawyers in America” and “Super Lawyers”.

Mr. Hensley is on the Board of Directors of a number of non-profit entities which include The Hartwell Foundation, a non-profit private foundation distributing over $10 million a year to researchers doing research for children’s diseases throughout the United States; Memphis Athletic Ministries, a non-profit having a significant impact upon children in the City of Mem­phis by establishment of private community centers in at-risk neighborhoods; and the Victory Ranch, a non-profit camp in Bolivar, Tennessee providing at-risk children and others the ability to go to camp throughout the year. Mr. Hensley is also on the Board of Trustees for Christian Brothers University.


A board-certified sports medicine physician from Nashville, Dr. Clarke Holmes graduated from the University of Mississippi summa cum laude with a degree in biological science in 1994 and was named “Marshall” of the College of Liberal Arts. He subsequent­ly graduated magna cum Laude from the University of Mississippi School of Medicine in 1998.

After stints of practicing medicine in academic centers at the University Medical Center in Jackson and then at Georgetown University in Washington, DC, Dr. Holmes moved to Nashville to join a private orthopedic practice. He opened his own practice, Impact Sports Medicine and Orthopedics, in 2012.

He lives in Southwest Nashville with his wife of 14 years, Christie, and his children Alex (12) and Ella Kate (10). He is a 5th generation Ole Miss Rebel!


A philosophy and English major who received a Bachelor of Arts degree in 1987 from the University of Mississippi,  John Jacobson obtained his Juris Doctor degree from the University of Tennessee College of Law in 1990.

John has practiced law in Nashville since graduating from law school and was a founding partner of the law firm Riley Warnock & Jacobson, where he has practiced since 1995. His practice is focused on litigation and dispute resolution and John represents a wide array of clients in the entertainment, health care and financial services industries. He is also counsel to the Ensworth School’s Board of Trustees.

John has been recognized by his peers in Best LawyersSuper Lawyers and Chambers & Partners. John is a fellow of Litigation Counsel of America and a member of the American Board of Trial Advocates. John is also an alum of the Leadership Music program in Nashville. John and his wife, Dee, have been married for 26 years. They have 3 children: Sara Jordan (senior at Ole Miss), Jake (freshman at Ole Miss) and Sophie (6th grader at Brentwood Acad­emy). The Jacobsons are members of West End United Methodist Church. John serves on the board of Cutting Edge International, a non-profit that created an international coalition of more than 2,000 ministries and pastors.


Ken Lackey is chairman of the board and the former chief executive officer and president of The NORDAM Group, which is headquartered in Tulsa, Oklahoma, and has offices throughout the United States, Mexico, United Kingdom, and Singapore. The NORDAM Group provides a range of aerospace components, manufacturing and repair services for private, commercial and military aircraft.

Prior to joining NORDAM, Lackey served as president of The University of Oklahoma-Tulsa and senior vice president of the OU System from July 1999 to July 2001 and was a member of Governor Frank Keating’s administration, serving as his chief of staff from February 1997 to July 1999. From 1995 to 1997, he served as the Oklahoma Cabinet secretary of health and human services. Before University of Oklahoma-Tulsa and senior vice president of the OU System from July 1999 to July 2001 and was a member of Governor Frank Keating’s administration, serving as his chief of staff from February 1997 to July 1999. From 1995 to 1997, he served as the Oklahoma Cabinet secretary of health and human services. Before his service in state government, Lackey held the position of president of Flint Industries, a privately-owned, international company with interests in oil and gas services, manufacturing and commercial construction. Earlier, he held management positions with Skelly Oil (NYSE) and Kin-Ark Corporation (ASE). He a director and chairman of the compensation committee for Matrix Services Company (NASD), an advisory director for Commerce Bancshares, a director of the Community Hospitals Authority, a director of the Tulsa Community College Foundation, and as a director and member of the audit committee for AAON, Inc. (NASD). He is a past chairman of the Metropolitan Tulsa Chamber of Commerce.

A graduate of the University of Mississippi with a Bachelor of Science in mathematics, Lackey earned his Master of Business Administration from the University of Texas at Austin. He served in the U.S. Army as an artillery officer from 1967-1969. Mr. Lackey is married and has one daughter.


A native of Zion, Illinois, (a suburb of Chicago), Steven McKinney is a 1976 graduate of the University of Mississippi with a B.A. in political science and economics and a minor in English. He was an instrumental member of the Ole Miss Band and met his wife, Diane (Walker) McKinney of Memphis, a Rebelette, on a band bus traveling back from the November 1, 1975 Ole Miss victory over LSU in Jackson. Clearly, he outkicked his coverage in that area.

Steve graduated from the University of Illinois College of Law in May, 1979 and joined immediately the Birmingham law firm of Balch & Bingham, practicing public utility law. Soon, the enactment of major federal environmental laws created a need for lawyers focused in this area. Being low man on the pole, Steve became the firm’s first environmental lawyer. As the needs grew, so too did the firm’s commitment to that area of law practice. Today, the Environment & Natural Resources Section of Balch includes 24 lawyers devoted full-time to the practice of environmental law in Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia, and the District of Columbia.

Steve has been active in the American Bar Association Section on Environment, Energy & Re­sources, including being elected Chair of the 10,000-lawyer group in the 2010-2011 ABA year. He was inducted into the American College of Environmental Lawyers in 2012 and serves on the Board of Regents and the Executive Committee for the college. Steve and Diane have four adult daughters with one Ole Miss graduate, two Furman graduates, and one Wheaton College graduate, all in liberal arts. Two grandchildren (both boys) are enroute at this writing. Ole Miss has influenced heavily and all for the good the most important aspects of Steve’s life and continues to be a very important priority for Steve and Diane. Seeing young people have the opportunity to earn a first class education in an environment that emphasizes and teaches being a first class person is a goal worth the investment.


In 1976, Johnny (BS  biology and chemistry ’73 MA biology ’75) and Renee McRight moved home to Greenville and founded McRight Soil Testing, Inc. Johnny provided soil sampling and testing services. Shortly thereafter, he opened a private soil testing laboratory to process his own samples. Later he added plant tissue testing, crop monitoring and nutrient consuiting services. By 1979 McRight had moved into its current location. Between 1979 and 1990, Johnny introduced poly-pipe to the Mississippi Delta, co-founded Delta Crop Insurance Agency, Inc. and had introduced the concept of biostimulants and the McRight product line to the growers of the Ark-La-Miss Delta. At the time all business was retail to growers. By 1998 McRight Services, LLC had been converted to 100% wholesale product sales through major agricultural distributors.

Currently we operate as McRight Services, LLC and all products are labeled under the Delt­Ag Formulations name brand. Our product line is registered and distributed in 48 states, Canada and several other countries overseas. Our staff consists of 24 people with 12 in support at our home office and 12 sales reps who work primarily across the Southeast, lower Midwest and Texas. ln other parts of the country, our products are represented by sales reps working for our distributors. At our location in Greenville we formulate, manufacture, label, package and ship all of the DeltAg products to our distributors. We also provide product and crop nutrition training sem­inars annually to our dealers. These seminars include educational information on the fourteen DeltAg products along with basic crop nutrition. Our focus with these seminars is to show our dealer reps how they can utilize the DeltAg products to lake their growers to the next genera­tion of crop nutrition.

Married to Renee Henderson McRight since 1972 with one daughter and four grandsons, Johnny McRight is a Member, Trustee and Deacon of First Baptist-Greenville, Current Vice-Chair, Washington County Economic Alliance. Mississippi Community College Board of Trustees, and Delta Region-State Workforce Development Board.


Marilyn H. Mulherin (BA English ’78) is an artist known for her impressionist still-life and landscape paintings. She lives in Dallas with her husband, Harbert Mulherin. The couple also enjoys being at their farm in Tennessee.

She has renewed interest in Ole Miss since both children, Helen (international studies and Spanish ’06) and Harbert (BBA banking and finance ’08) attended.


Alan W. Partin, M.D., Ph.D., is the author or co-author of more than 500 scientific articles, serves on numerous editorial boards and is editor-in-chief of Urology Case Reports and editor of the Campbell­Walsh urology text. He has been honored with many awards, including the Hopkins Young Investigators Award, the Pfizer Scholars in Urology Award in 1996, and the “Gold-Cystoscope” award in 2001. In 2004, Dr. Partin was named director of the Department of Urology at the Brady Urological Institute and urologist-in-chief of The Johns Hopkins Hospital.

He is an expert in assessing prognosis and making predictions for men with prostate cancer. The creation of The Partin Tables, which can predict with 95 percent accuracy a man’s likelihood of being cured by treatment, made his research famous. Dr. Partin’s laboratories and clinical and surgical interests focus on developing and testing new and existing methods for predicting the aggressiveness of prostate cancers so that rational treatment decisions can be made by both patients and physicians. His laboratories have investigated many new “PSA-like” serum tests, some of which are soon to become available for the diagnosis of prostate cancer as well as basic science investigation of new proteins-which may help in detection-and staging of prostate cancer. In addition, Dr. Partin has an academic and clinical interest in treatment of benign prostatic hyperplasia with an emphasis on minimally invasive techniques for treatment of this common disease in men.

Dr. Partin received his undergraduate degree in chemistry from the University of Mississippi where he was an Academic All-American football player. He received his medical degree and his Ph.D. in pharmacology and molecular sciences from Johns Hopkins University where he continued his post-doctoral training.


After graduating from the University of Mississippi with highest distinction (BA political science ’76), Gail Russell obtained her law degree from the University of Kentucky College of Law and practiced law in mid-sized firms in Louisville for many years before joining Governor Bevin’s administra­tion. Gail presently serves as Deputy Secretary of the Public Protection Cabinet and has just completed a temporary assignment as Alcohol Beverage Commissioner.

She has been very active in Republican politics and served as Interim State Party Chairman and as a member of the Republican National Committee. Governor Fletcher appointed Gail as a Special Justice to the Kentucky Supreme Court and to the Ken­tucky Arts Council. She is currently serving as a Commissioner on the Uniform Law Commis­sion.

Gail is married to Ken Polish, a retired banker. They enjoy spending time with grandchildren and great grandchildren when not attending Ole Miss games.


A native of Greenville and Gulfport, Smith graduated from the University of Mississippi in 1974 with a  degree in sociology and minors in psychology and English. Her first job was as an Admissions Counselor for Ole Miss. Other work background includes public information positions at the Central MS Planning and Development District, Pearl River Basin Development District, and the Lieutenant Governor’s office. After working as a High Volume Marketing Representative for Xerox Corporation, she went back into public relations in the cable industry.

She was Vice President of Public Affairs and Communications for the Time Warner Cable division office, and later Director of External Affairs for Comcast. In these positions she was responsible for government relations and franchise negotiations, media relations, special events, community relations, and foundation grants in MS, LA, and south AL. She retired in 2013 after 31 years of service.

Smith was twice named Communicator of the Year by IABC/MS, selected for the first class of Leadership Jackson and Top 50 Businesswomen in Mississippi, inducted into the cable industry’s Tower Club for outstanding service, and received the Virgil Evans Lifetime Achievement Award from the LA Cable Telecommunications Association. She has served as President of IABC/MS, Friends of the Jackson Zoo, Hinds County Economic Development District, The Madison County Chamber of Commerce and the MS Cable Telecommunications Association. She currently serves on the Board of Directors of the MS Center for Non-Profits.


A financial services professional who works in a family private equity business which includes the management of two “fund of funds” hedge funds, Sanford C. Thomas also serves on the following boards: Hutchison School, Presbyterian Day School, College of Liberal Arts Advisory Board at the University of Mississippi, Investment Committee for Ignite Fund II in Walnut Creek, CA, and Goose Creek Racquet Club and Fitness Center in Oxford.

Some of his past leadership positions include the stewardship committees of the Chapel of the Cross Episcopal Church in Madison, Mississippi, and St. Peters Episcopal Church in Oxford. More recently, he has served on the board of Oxford University School.

Mr. Thomas earned a Bachelor of Arts in psychology from the University of Mississippi in 1978 and Doctor of Jurisprudence from Mississippi College School of Law in 1982. He and his wife, Susan, have three children and reside in Memphis.


To Leah Lindsey Thomson, service is very important. She is the Fundraising and Event Chairperson for the Fayette Humane Society where her duties include the planning and implementation of activities throughout the year that benefit this organization including the Fayette Humane Society Christmas Tour of Homes. She is also involved in public relations and marketing for this group. She was the past Vice-Chairman for the Peachtree City Recreation and Special Events Advisory Board, and she currently serves on the board of AVPRIDE.

She has been through the Mentor/Leadership Training for the Fayette County school system, and has served as the president of the McIntosh High School soccer booster club. She graduated from the University of Mississippi with an English degree, and went on to obtain a paralegal degree from the National Center for Paralegal Training in Atlanta, Georgia. Her company, TDL Investments, LLC owns and manages property in the area.

Mrs. Thomson has passed the importance of service on to her children as her daughters have volunteered for the Peace Corps, and mission work in Africa, and her son, with various youth organizations. She resides with her husband in Peachtree City and they enjoy being empty nesters with their three dogs.


An Adjunct Professor in the School of Government and the Department of City and Regional Planning at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill., Dr. Jesse L. White, Jr. retired in 2011 as Director of the university’s Office of Economic and Business Development, which he founded in the spring of 2004. Prior to coming to UNC-Chapel Hill in January 2003, he served for almost nine years as Federal Co-Chairman of the Appalachian Regional Commission, a position to which he was appointed by President Clinton and confirmed by the Senate.

From 1990-1994, Dr. White was a consultant, lecturer, and writer in the field of economic development and strategic planning. In the spring semester of 1990 he was a Fellow at the Institute of Politics at Harvard University. From 1982-1990, he led the Southern Growth Policies Board as its executive director; and prior to that he was chief policy planner in the newly created United States Department of Education and a staff assistant to U.S. Senator John C. Stennis. From 1972-1976 he was Secretary of the Mississippi Senate. Dr. White, a native Mississippian, received his B.A., summa cum laude, at the University of Mississippi in political science and history. He was Mississippi’s first Marshall Scholar, receiving his master’s degree in international relations from the University of Sussex. He was awarded the Ph.D. degree in political science from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1979. Dr. White is a nationally recognized authority on regional economic developmenl. He is Fellow of the National Academy of Public Administration, recipient of the Phillips Medal for Public Service from Ohio University, and serves on the boards of the NC Justice Center and his local food bank.


Phillip Wiggins has over 30 years of experience in land investment and brokerage. He began his real estate career in 1980 as a land broker. In 1983, he co-founded The Stratford Group, the first of several entities involved in real estate activities related to land. Since 1980, Wiggins and his associates have brokered in excess of $1.5 billion of land. In 1998, Mr. Wiggins was the sole founder of The Stratford Company (now known as Stratford Land), a land investment company, and in 2006, he was the sole founder of Stratford Realty Capital, a hard asset lender. He has raised in excess of $960 million of equity for these companies through a series of real estate funds. Currently, Stratford Land has three offices located in the southern and western portions of the United States.

Mr. Wiggins was born and raised in Dallas, Texas. He attended the University of Mississippi on a tennis scholarship and received his B .A. in 1977 with honors in political science and sociology.

He worked for Burroughs Corporation (1977-1979) in Memphis, Tennessee and won the company’s Legion of Honor award for outstanding sales performance. In 1979, he left Burroughs to take a Rotary Fellowship to study economics in Geneva, Switzerland.


A graduate of the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, with a double major in economics and Asian studies, Al Williams completed his Masters of Arts degree in economics in 1990 from the University of Mississippi. During this time, Al also published a highly cited article “Public School Performance and Private School Enrollment” in the professional journal, Public Choice. Al accepted his first job offer with Bryan Foods, division of Sara Lee, as a financial analyst in 1990. In 1997 he joined Bush Brothers & Company where he has worked in several capacities including Director of Procurement, Logistics & Supply Chain; and Vice President of Human Resources. In his current role as Senior Vice President and Chief Financial Officer, Al is responsible for Human Resources, Information Technology, Accounting & Financial Operations, and New Products.

Al and his wife of 25 years, LeaAnne, reside in Knoxville, Tennessee. They have two beautiful children, Mary Frances and Harrison. Al is an active member of Church Street United Methodist church where he serves as trustee and serves as President of the Board of Directors of Big Brothers Big Sisters (BBBS) of the Tennessee Valley. He published his first children’s book, A Friend Indeed, as a fundraiser for BBBS. Al serves on the Dean’s Advisory Board for Liberal Arts and the department advisory boards for economics and finance at the University of Tennessee in Knoxville. He enjoys many sporting activities, especially golf and tennis.