Point in Time Count 2014

By | General, VISTA | No Comments

The AmeriCorps*VISTA program at Delta State University’s Center for Community and Economic Development, the American Red Cross Northwest Mississippi Office, Gulf Coast Veterans Advocacy Council, Inc. and local service providers joined efforts in honor of Martin Luther King Day to prepare personal hygiene bags that will be distributed during the National Point in Time Count of People Experiencing Homelessness.

The count is mandated by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development for communities across the country to receive funding. The annual count is an important effort to make sure the voices of people experiencing homelessness in our communities are heard, and efforts are made to provide appropriate services. It also helps communities develop more effective plans and measure progress toward ending homelessness.

The VISTA program hosted a donation drive from Nov. 25, 2013 through Jan. 20, 2014 to collect items such as socks, blankets, travel size hygiene products, first-aid kits, small snacks, nabs, snack crackers, hand sanitizer, Clorox wipes, flash lights and coats. More than 2,300 items valued at more than $2,600 were received during the donation drive. Supporters included 11 VISTAs, three Red Cross volunteers and eight community members who were Drum Majors for Service by dedicating 118 hours sorting and preparing 202 personal hygiene bags.

The VISTA program has partnered with Ledger Parker, program director for Mississippi United To End Homelessness in Jackson and Joseph Herring with Gulf Coast Veterans Advocacy Council, Inc in Mound Bayou. These partnerships ensure the bags and other donations will be distributed to homeless veterans and homeless populations living in emergency shelters, transitional housing and domestic violence shelters.


Khayat featured as 2014’s first Colloquia Series speaker

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The Delta State University Distinguished Speakers Lecture Series kicks off 2014 with an impressive leader — Dr. Robert Khayat, former Chancellor of the University of Mississippi.
Khayat’s speech, titled “The Education of a Lifetime,” will begin at 6 p.m. on Wed., Jan. 29 in Jobe Hall Auditorium on campus. The event will be followed with a book signing and reception.
His speech will cover topics from his recent memoir, also titled “The Education of a Lifetime,” which will be available for purchase. The book was ranked 29th on the New York Times Top 75 Best-Selling Education Books of 2013.
Those unable to attend the event can view the livestream speech online through the university’s official uStream channel:
LaForge established the Delta State University Colloquia program when taking office in 2013. The platform is an ongoing series of top-flight lectures and addresses featuring prominent speakers. Former Mississippi governor William F. Winter was honored as the first speaker.
Khayat served as the 15th chancellor of the University of Mississippi from 1995-2009. He is also a former college football all-star, an Academic All American football and baseball player, all-pro kicker for the Washington Redskins, law professor and president of the NCAA Foundation.
His memoir covers a number of topics from his noteworthy career, including the 1962 riot at Ole Miss with the admission of James Meredith. At the time, Khayat was kicking for the newly integrated Washington Redskins in the National Football League. More than 35 years later he was leading the university through its controversial association with the Confederate flag.
LaForge, now following in his footsteps as a university president, has long shared a professional friendship with Khayat. They originally met at Ole Miss during LaForge’s first year in law school.
“We’ve stayed in touch through the years and I consider him a friend, advisor and mentor,” said LaForge. “He was there to support me in my candidacy for president and has continued to support me since taking office.
“We share similar backgrounds in the areas of law and education — it’s a pleasure and honor to welcome him to Delta State. The audience will get to hear about the significance of education in Mississippi, along with other topics such as leadership and community involvement.”
Following the reception, Khayat and LaForge will be doing a little “pick up play” at the Delta Music Institute, as they both share a passion for musical performance.
Khayat will remain on campus Thursday and meet with students to speak during classes, focusing on the areas of leadership principals and networking.
LaForge said the Colloquia program is another commitment toward bringing excellence to Delta State.
“As a university, we need to make available to Delta State and the community marquee speakers from across the country and the world,” said LaForge. “Great universities have great programs, and this is another step in the right direction. This is one of the hallmark items of what we’re trying to do here.
“This is a university-wide program that will continue to bring a unique and diverse array of people — from judges, former government officials, lawyers and business people. These are all folks our students can look up to.”
Learn more about the series at

Art gallery to showcase realism

By | College of Arts and Sciences, General | No Comments

The Wright Art Center Gallery at Delta State University will open a new exhibition, Reflecting Realism, on Jan. 19 with a public reception for the artists from 2-4 p.m. Featured artists include sculptor William Beckwith and painters Charles Carraway, Laurin McCracken, Richard Kelso, Margaret Munz-Losch and Jerrod Partridge.
The style of Realism has remained a steady and beloved approach by many artists and patrons despite new movements in the art world at large. This is particularly true in America, which has always favored and valued Realism from the earliest days of the country. In this exhibition six artists present their individuality within the genre — some work naturalistically in painting style and subject matter, while others paint or sculpt naturalistically as the subject matter derives partially from the imagination.
William “Bill” Beckwith, a native of Taylor, Miss., began his career in sculpture by working in the studio of Leon Z. Koury in Greenville in the ’60s. He later received a BFA and MFA in sculpture from the University of Mississippi. After graduating, Beckwith opened Vulcan Studios, Mississippi’s first commercial fine arts foundry. He continues to operate his studio and also teaches sculpture at the University of Mississippi. Small, gestural female figures as allegorical references to youth will be shown in the Wright Gallery.
Terry, Miss. native Charles Carraway, chair of the Jackson State University Art Department, has exhibited his paintings in numerous venues since the early ‘80s and most recently was awarded a Visual Arts Fellowship by the Mississippi Arts Commission in 2013. Carraway’s paintings of interiors have a Vermeer mystery and sense of silence, which implies a person has just stepped away from the scene or is about to enter the space and break its tranquility.
Laurin McCracken is a realist watercolorist whose work is largely influenced by the Dutch and Flemish Still Life painters of the 16th and 17th centuries. From a training standpoint, as an architect and later as a photographer, he brings a natural inclination to detail and refinement to the subjects of his painting. Those subjects tend to be the beautiful objects life offers, such as flowers, crystal and silverware, clouds, toys or anything which attracts his eye and attention. McCracken currently lives in Ft. Worth, Texas where he maintains his art studio.
Richard Kelso, from Cleveland, lives and works in his studio in Jackson, where he has lived since 1987. He attended Delta State University and was a student of Sammy Britt. He earned a MFA in painting from the University of Mississippi and has taught at Millsaps and Meridian Community College. As many artists who practice, he keeps a regular daily schedule of painting in his Fondren studio, which results in a disciplined and extensive body of work. Represented by Fisher Gallery in Jackson, Kelso will show genre scenes and still life paintings.
Margaret Munz-Losch ‘s work reflects a deep fascination with mystery and adventure. Her vivid compositions observe complex, and sometimes uneasy, relationships between the natural world, art and identity which result often in surrealistic dreamscapes which marry the mundane and the fantastical. As an emerging artist, she exhibited her work in Los Angeles. She also became the director of a mural company during her time there before moving to Tennessee. Munz-Losch’s work has appeared in group and solo shows and most recently she was awarded winner of the No Dead Artists competition at the Jonathan Ferrara Gallery in New Orleans.
Jerrod Partridge is a fulltime artist and drawing instructor living and working in the Fondren neighborhood of Jackson. He earned his undergraduate degree from Mississippi College and a MFA from the New York Academy of Art. The majority of his work is done in oils on his own handmade paper, a process which forces him to approach the piece with more awareness and care of painting’s materiality. As the father of three young children, his focus has been on domestic scenes of familiarity which are often overlooked, like overflowing closets, dirty dishes or children playing with weapons. Painting is how Partridge finds organization and tranquility in this world. His works are intended to represent and possibly question the domestic American culture as a whole.
Reflecting Realism will be available for viewing from Jan. 19-Feb. 21. The gallery is open Monday-Thursday from 8 a.m.-8:30 p.m. and on Friday from 8 a.m.–4:30 p.m. For more information, please contact the Art Department at 662-846-4720.

Kyle Educational Trust offers $50,000 matching gift

By | Alumni, Foundation, General, Uncategorized | No Comments

In an effort to increase funding for deserving students at Delta State, the S. H. and Dorothy W. Kyle Educational Trust has delivered a $50,000 matching gift grant to provide a major boost to students from Coahoma, Panola, Quitman and Tallahatchie counties.

The grant from the Kyle Trust will match contributions from other donors who elect to create annual or endowed scholarships benefiting students in the four designated counties. Gifts will also be matched to any existing scholarships specifically benefiting students in these counties.

The match will be on a dollar-to-dollar basis to the scholarship, thus promoting a spirit of philanthropy through individuals, corporations and other foundations who care about local students and who aspire to assist these students as they pursue a degree from Delta State.

The Kyle Educational Trust was established in 1964 in memory of S.H. and Dorothy W. Kyle. The Kyles were philanthropists in the Mississippi Delta who believed every man and woman should have the opportunity to pursue an education.

Amanda Borgognoni ‘82, a member of the Delta State University Foundation Board, is the granddaughter of the Kyles and is proud to see the family’s educational contributions continue. She also serves on the trust’s board of directors.

“This grant is an extension of the philanthropy my grandfather started,” Borgognoni said. “We want to continue his legacy and help people in the area receive the education they need to make their dreams a reality.”

The Kyles were a farming family from the Clarksdale area who wanted to support students by assisting them with their educational goals, believing that any student who dreams of a future deserves the opportunity to be successful in life.

The Kyle Educational Trust has successfully partnered with many students over the past three decades in making their educational dreams a reality. Thankfully, family members have long ties to Delta State.

Borgognoni’s husband, brother and mother also attended the institution.

“We’re excited because working with Delta State on the matching grant will allow us to tap into more resources,” said Borgognoni. “I love how Delta Sate is encouraging others to give and get involved. It’s allowing us to help other partners who know their gifts will be matched.”

Hal and Harvey Fiser of Clarksdale have been close with the Kyle family for years, and they quickly took advantage of the matching opportunity. The Fisers heard about the grant from Keith Fulcher, Delta State University Foundation Executive Director, and decided to endow a scholarship utilizing the match in honor of their son Ross.

Ross passed away nearly seven years ago after a battle with kidney cancer. The Fisers, who have also been previous donors to the Delta State University Foundation, felt that the matching grant was a perfect reason to establish the Ross W. Fiser Educational Trust in their son’s honor.

“We’ve been considering something like this for a while, and when we heard about the matching funds, my wife and I agreed this would be a great time to help promote educational growth in our area,” said Fiser.

“This is a way to honor our son, but hopefully it was also lead other people to take advantage of this matching opportunity,” he added. “My wife and I feel really good about this — and we hope it brings in more gifts of this nature.

“The Kyles were such marvelous citizens. They were community people that did a lot for the Delta — particularly Clarksdale and Coahoma County. We’re thrilled to be associated with them.”

Debbie Heslep, Dean of Enrollment Management, said the university would benefit greatly from the matching gift.

“The opportunity the Kyle family is providing for a matching gift of $50,000 is wonderful news to the students from these four counties,” said Heslep. “In essence, we will be able to serve twice as many students as we could before the match.

“The efforts of the Kyle family are particularly notable when looking at the median household income and the percent of the population living below the poverty line for the counties served by this scholarship, as compared to the state of Mississippi. The average median income for these four counties is $22,997 with 31.57 percent living below the poverty line. The Mississippi median household income is $36,919 with 22 percent living below the poverty line.”

The future looks very bright for students from Coahoma, Panola, Quitman and Tallahatchie counties. The matching grant will help increase the number of Kyle Scholarship recipients from the current number of 35.

Fulcher said this is another act by the Kyle Educational Trust that the university is extremely thankful for.

“We’d like for our alumni and donors to take advantage of this opportunity to support scholarships in Coahoma, Panola, Quitman and Tallahatchie counties and take advantage of the $50,000 match,” said Fulcher.

To take part in the Kyle Trust Scholarship Matching Gift, call the Delta State University Foundation at 662-846-4704 or email and discuss your scholarship gift.

To learn about the impact the Kyle Trust is making on those receiving the scholarships, visit



Alums lead Bolivar County

By | Alumni, General | No Comments

Walk into Bolivar County Administrator Will Hooker’s office, and he and his staff will proudly profess their passion for the Statesmen and Fighting Okra.

The office of three is composed completely of Delta State alumni — Hooker ‘94 and ‘04; administrative assistant Sharon Johnson Hurns ‘83; and executive assistant Deja Carter ‘08 and ‘12.

Hooker, a chemistry undergrad major and a Master of Business Administration student while at Delta State, has held the county administrator title since 2008. He takes great pride in knowing his alma mater has prepared his entire office for a role in county government.

“Our office shows the result of the product Delta State yields,” said Hooker. “We are walking proof of the product because of our direct correlation to the university. I don’t think any of us would be where we are without Delta State.”

As county administrator, he is responsible for organizing all county affairs falling under the control of the Bolivar County Board of Supervisors. These duties include: budget planning, work projections, purchasing acquisition, cost control, personnel management goals and more.

Johnson Hurns, a Cleveland native and business administration student at Delta State, said the institution is a common ground that has helped the staff mesh well as a team.

“There is a special connection because we all went there,” said Johnson Hurns. “Even though we attended at different times, it’s something that keeps us bonded every day — something that’s common for all of us.”

Carter, a former business and MBA student, said the university equipped her in numerous ways for her current role.

“The classes I took provided the skills I use every day,” said Carter. “The course work was very helpful in the advancement of my career. It’s also unique because there are so many people working in the community that have ties to Delta State.

“There are people I work with or interact with throughout the county on a daily basis that went to Delta State. It’s a great sense of community when I come across former classmates.”

And Hooker said the green and white pride found in his office is representative of the special relationship Bolivar County shares with the university.

“We are very lucky to have a quality school like Delta State in our county,” said Hooker. “I was educated in Bolivar County, reared and retained — because of Delta State.

“We have close ties with the new administration under the leadership of President LaForge. We have partnerships in the making and want to continue to utilize the resources at Delta State to better serve the citizens of Bolivar County. We have every intention in my office to support LaForge’s initiatives. It’s a two-way street.”

The office agreed sharing the Delta State bond, internally and with county citizens, is something that never grows old.

“We appreciate having the university so close,” said Carter. “They provide a lot of activities for the community to partake in, and it’s great having them right at our back door.”

To learn more about the responsibilities of Hooker’s office, visit