The University of Mississippi School of Education recently inducted seven Mississippians into the fourth class of its Alumni Hall of Fame.
Collectively, this year’s inductees have committed more than 240 years to improving education from preschool through college in Mississippi and across the nation.
The 2018 inductees include: Kathleen Grisby of Jackson, Thomas C. Meredith of Oxford, Ellen Shelton of Oxford, Pamela Smith of Jackson and the late Dorothy Henderson of Oxford. Tupelo residents Bob and Sylvia Ferguson, co-winners of the School’s Outstanding Service Award, were also honored during the ceremony on campus in May.
The School of Education Alumni Advisory Board selected honorees from nominations submitted earlier this year.
“Each of our Hall of Fame recipients is a model for our current students and
alumni to emulate,” said David Rock, UM education dean. “With over two centuries of dedicated service among them, they represent the vast impact that educators can make over the course of their careers.”
Grisby, the youngest person to be inducted into UM’s Education Alumni Hall of Fame with 20 years of service, received both her bachelor’s degree in education from UM in 1998 and her master’s in 1999.
She is currently the principal of Barack Obama IB Elementary School, formerly known as Davis Magnet IB Elementary School in Jackson, Mississippi. The A-rated International Baccalaureate Elementary School was the top-ranked elementary school in all of Mississippi in 2017.
“I still can’t articulate how much being inducted into the Hall of Fame means to me,” Grisby said. “I’m grateful and thankful to everyone who selected me to be honored.”
Grisby has a track record of transforming low-performing schools. She previously led Marshall Elementary School in Jackson from an F-rated school to a C-rated school in three years as principal.
Meredith, who has served more than 46 years in higher education, earned his doctorate from the School of Education in 1971.
Meredith progressed in roles throughout his career including: high school teacher, high school principal, professor, vice chancellor of the University of Mississippi, president of Western Kentucky University, chancellor of the University of Alabama system, chancellor of the University of Georgia system and commissioner of higher education for Mississippi’s eight universities.
“It’s a great honor,” Meredith said. “It is special to be honored by this school, but I’m more honored to just be recognized by this place because is so special to me.”
Shelton, who is currently the director of pre-college programming within the UM Division of Outreach at Ole Miss, received a master’s degree in 1994 and a doctorate in 2000 from the School of Education.
Shelton is the administrator of the online, University of Mississippi High School, which has grown from 60 to 1,500 students in recent years. She has also served as an instructor at both high school and collegiate levels in last 26 years. In her role at UM, she has also mentored hundreds of K-12 Mississippi teachers through the UM Writing Project.
“I’m overwhelmed by this incredible honor,” Shelton said. “I hope I’m giving back a fraction of what I have been given by the School of Education.”
Smith, a longtime member of UM’s Education Alumni Advisory Board, earned her doctorate in higher education from UM in 2001. In 2004, she led the Mississippi Council on Economic Education as president for six years, increasing funding by more than 400 percent and teacher training by more than 250 percent.
She also served in several roles with the Board of Trustees of the Mississippi State Institutions of Higher Learning, including their chief public affairs officer.
Her husband, Jerome Smith, was inducted into the charter class of the Alumni Hall of Fame in 2015.
“I’m extremely humbled to be inducted into the Hall of Fame,” Smith said. “I’m so thankful for this award. I hope to continue to do my part for the School of Education.”
Henderson, who passed away in 2015, is being inducted posthumously by special provision. She was the first full-time African-American to serve as a faculty member in the history of the UM School of Education.
She became a UM faculty member in 1978 and retired in 1998. With 43 years in public education, she began her career as a grade school teacher in Mississippi and Tennessee before settling down in Oxford. Henderson’s family accepted the award at the ceremony on her behalf.
“It is an honor to have my mother inducted into the Hall of Fame,” said Deborah McKinney, Henderson’s daughter. “It’s an accumulation of everything my family has stood for. We’re very thankful and very grateful that she is being honored.”
The Fergusons, who have collectively dedicated more than 66 years to public education as teachers, coaches, principals and superintendents, received the Outstanding Service Award, which is a special recognition allowing UM to honor non-education alumni.
After retiring in 1997, the couple established the Tri-County Educational Foundation in 2000, which is funded by charitable bingo operations in the northeast corner of the state. The foundation has donated almost $12 million—providing scholarships to 3,000 students at 33 different schools and almost $2 million to around 114 Ole Miss students.
“I’m so flattered to be honored with this award, especially considering all of the people we are being honored alongside,” Sylvia said.
“In my career, I have always been the one honoring people and acknowledging their success, so this is a little different for me to be the one being honored,” Bob said. “We do appreciate the recognition though, even though that’s not what we do it for, but it certainly is appreciated.”
The previous Alumni Hall of Fame inductees include: Suzie Adcock, Jahnae Barnett, Cecil Brown, Thomas Burke, Robert Depro, Laura Dun Jolly, Robert Khayat, Milton Kuykendall, Carole Lynn Meadows, Judith Reynolds, Jean Shaw, Jerome Smith, Cathy Stewart and Theopolis Vinson.
By Kathleen Murphy