College of Liberal Arts

University of Mississippi

Two UM Professors to Receive Mississippi Humanities Council Honors

Patrick Alexander and Marc Lerner will be lauded in Jackson for teaching, service


Patrick Alexander talks about his best-selling book ‘From Slave Ship to Super Max’ during a panel discussion at the Overby Center for Journalism and Southern Politics. Photo by Marlee Crawford/Ole Miss Communications

Patrick Alexander talks about his best-selling book ‘From Slave Ship to Super Max’ during a panel discussion at the Overby Center for Journalism and Southern Politics. Photo by Marlee Crawford/Ole Miss Communications

Two University of Mississippi professors are among those being honored Feb. 16 in Jackson by the Mississippi Humanities Council.

Patrick Alexander, assistant professor of English and African American Studies, will receive the Humanities Educator Award and Marc Lerner, an associate professor of history, will be recognized as a Humanities Teacher of the Year during the council’s 2018 Public Humanities Awards program.

The agency recognizes outstanding contributions by Mississippians to the study and understanding of the humanities.

“I was both surprised and deeply moved upon receiving notification that the Prison-To-College Pipeline Program was the recipient of the MHC Humanities Educator award,” said Alexander, who will accept the award with Otis Pickett (PhD history ’15), assistant professor of history at Mississippi College. The two men are the co-founders and co-directors of the PTCPP.

“That a college-in-prison program we designed to address the need expressed by an often-overlooked group of learners to have access to higher education opportunities and meaningful human community has been honored by the MHC reflects, to me, a genuine commitment to expand our state and world’s vision of what the gift of humanity is, and what the work of the humanities is all about.”

The PTCPP is a credit-granting college-in-prison program based at two state prisons. It is in its fourth full year of operation for men imprisoned at the Mississippi State Penitentiary at Parchman, where six PTCPP courses have been, and in its second year of operation for women at Central Mississippi Correctional Facility, where four PTCPP courses have been taught.

“I was deeply moved because I know how much Otis and I both value every opportunity that we have to share our love of learning with any and every learning community we can find,” Alexander said. “I was surprised because I am aware of how relatively young the PTCPP is.”

Lerner expressed similar surprise at his award.

“I am deeply touched that the committee thought I was worthy of the honor,” Lerner said. “Teachers rarely get recognized, so I am very appreciative of the rare honor. I am especially honored to be recognized alongside the incredibly important work that Patrick Alexander and Otis Pickett are doing with the prison-to-college pipeline.”

He regularly teaches courses on the Enlightenment, the French Revolution, the Age of Revolution and on nationalism. His research focuses on revolutionary Europe in a comparative perspective, republicanism and the shift to a modern political world.

Lerner is working on a book titled “The International William Tell: A republican symbol in the age of revolution.”

“My idea is that I am using the cultural productions of the William Tell story to write a transnational, cultural history of the age of revolution, 1750-1850,” he said.

UM administrators congratulated Alexander and Lerner upon their honors.

“The College of Liberal Arts is fortunate to have excellent faculty who make a difference by inspiring the students they have the privilege to work with,” said Lee M. Cohen, dean of the College of Liberal Arts. “I am so pleased that the Mississippi Humanities Council is recognizing Drs. Alexander and Lerner for their significant efforts to transform lives through education.”

Lerner has been a star teacher for many years, said Donald Dyer, the College’s associate dean for faculty and academic affairs.

Marc Lerner, associate professor of history, will deliver the UM 2017 Humanities Teacher of the Year lecture on Swiss folk hero William Tell at 7 p.m. Nov. 6 in the Bondurant Hall auditorium. Photo by Thomas Graning/Ole Miss Communications

Marc Lerner was selected MHC Humanities Teacher of the Year in 2017. Photo by Thomas Graining/Ole Miss Communications

“He is very deserving of the recognition,” Dyer said. “His colleagues and his students agree that he is a compassionate, caring and engaging teacher of history and other topics. He has been teaching classes in the Honors College for several years as well.

“The college is proud of his skills and his teaching acumen, and he is highly deserving of the Mississippi Humanities Council Award.”

Alexander joined the faculty in 2012. A native of Youngstown, Ohio, he earned his bachelor’s degree in English and creative writing from Miami University and a doctorate in English from Duke University.

Alexander previously received the Lafayette-Oxford-University Volunteer Award in 2016 for co-founding the PTCPP, serving as its founding UM instructor and serving as co-organizer of two national Rethinking Mass Incarceration in the South conferences hosted at UM.

Lerner has taught at UM since 2005. A native of New York City, he received his bachelor’s degree in history from the University of Chicago and a doctorate in history from Columbia University. He was selected as the university’s 2017 Humanities Teacher of the Year for his compassionate, caring and engaging teaching of history and other topics.

Other MHC honorees and their awards are Leslie-Burl McLemore of Jackson, Cora Norman Award; Visit Mississippi of Jackson, Preserver of Mississippi Culture Award; Rethink Mississippi of Jackson, Humanities Partner Award; and Marc Galen Francis of Jackson, Humanities Scholar Award.

Twenty-eight other recipients of the 2017 Humanities Teacher Awards will also be honored at the event. A ceremony and reception is scheduled to begin at 5:30 p.m. at the Old Capitol Museum in Jackson.

Tickets for the MHC Public Humanities Awards ceremony are $50 each and may be purchased by sending a check to the Mississippi Humanities Council, 3825 Ridgewood Road, Room 317, Jackson, MS 39211, or online at

For more information about the UM Department of African American Studies, visit For more about the Department of English, visit For more about the Arch Dalrymple III Department of History, go to