College of Liberal Arts

University of Mississippi

Mississippi Institute of Arts and Letters Awards

The Mississippi Institute of Arts and Letters celebration in June highlighted a UM theatre arts production, a history faculty member, the founding director of the Center for the Study of Southern Culture, and an alumna.

A University of Mississippi theatre arts presentation is being recognized June 5 by the Mississippi Institute of Arts and Letters. The institute plans to present a rare Special Achievement Award for “The Passions of Walter Anderson: A Dramatic Celebration of the Mississippi Gulf Coast Artist” at the institute’s 31st annual awards gala, which begins at 6:30 p.m. at the Mississippi Museum of Art in Jackson.

This is such a huge honor,” said Rhona Justice-Malloy, chair and professor of theatre arts who collaborated in and produced the Anderson tribute. “Ours is one of only three performances the institute has recognized in 31 years. To be given such an award is truly exciting for the university, the department, all the collaborators, artists and students who made it possible.”

Joining Justice-Malloy in receiving the honor are her husband, Kevin, director and speech instructor at UM; their daughter, Amanda, who acted in the play and created publicity; Alex Mauney, who adapted the letters and journals of Anderson and his wife into a script; Jimmyle Listenbee, choreographer and professional dance instructor; Jared Spears, artist, musician and UM production technical director; and Michael Barnett, UM assistant professor of sound and lighting design.

“Everyone who saw this production loved it so much,” said Ann Abadie, associate director of the UM Center for the Study of Southern Culture and MIAL past president. “Like Walter Anderson, it brought together the visual and performing arts in a fabulous way for all to enjoy. I’m certainly happy that an organization I care about is honoring an artist that I care about because of the work of a university that I care about.”

The tribute to Anderson, which combined drama, art, music and dance, was first performed at the 2009 Oxford Conference for the Book. Anderson’s son, John, provided the original materials that were transformed into the piece. JoAnne Prichard Morris of Jackson, author and widow of Mississippi author Willie Morris, said she enjoyed the spectacle so much that she felt compelled to nominate it for an MIAL recognition.

“I was very pleased to see them do such a great job of portraying Mama and Daddy,” Anderson said. “The dialogue was very accurate to the letters.”

Three other people with UM ties are also to receive MIAL awards. Charles Eagles, the university’s William F. Winter Professor of History, is being presented the nonfiction award for his book “The Price of Defiance: James Meredith and the Integration of Ole Miss” (UNC Press, 2009). William “Bill” Ferris, founding director of the Center for the Study of Southern Culture, is being given the Lifetime Achievement Award, and alumna Caroline Herring is to be honored with the music composition award (contemporary/popular) for her “Golden Apples of the Sun” CD.

Eagles’ meticulously researched book focuses on the events and circumstances surrounding Meredith’s admission to UM in 1962. Previously, he won the 1993 Lillian Smith Award in nonfiction for “Outside Agitator: Jon Daniels and the Movement in Alabama” (UNC Press, 1993).

Ferris is the Joel R. Williamson Eminent Professor of History and senior associate director of the Center for the Study of the American South at the University of North Carolina. A Vicksburg native, he served on the UM faculty 18 years, during which time he co-edited The Encyclopedia of South Culture (UNC Press, 1989) with Charles Reagan Wilson. Ferris is also a former chairman of the National Endowment for the Humanities.

A Canton native, Herring resides in Atlanta. She has appeared on National Public Radio’s “Prairie Home Companion” program, where she sang with Garrison Keillor.

“In an age when everyone, everywhere is cutting funding and recognition for all arts, I am so grateful to my home state for supporting the arts so marvelously,” Herring said. “Mississippi is a true leader in the U.S. in her support for the arts, and I am so grateful to be honored in this way.”

Each year the institute recognizes winners for works first published or shown in the previous year. Categories include poetry, fiction, nonfiction, visual arts, photography, music composition (classical/concert) and music composition (contemporary/popular). Award winners are chosen in a juried competition by out-of-state judges and must have significant ties to Mississippi.

For more information about the UM Department of Theatre Arts, go to or call 662-915-5816. For more information about the MIAL Awards Gala, go to