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Barksdale Honors College celebrates 25 years
A March 4 Silver Gala is planned to continue the 25th anniversary celebration of the Sally McDonnell Barksdale Honors College at the University of Mississippi. At the fall Honors Convocation, benefactors Donna and Jim Barksdale, second and third from right, visited with Honors College students, from left, DeShauna Lee Vaughn of McCalla, Alabama; Sepp Cecil of Olive Branch, Mississippi; and Jorge “Andy” Flores of Ocean Springs, Mississippi. Tickets and sponsorships are available for the Silver Gala dinner and program.

The Sally McDonnell Barksdale Honors College at the University of Mississippi is celebrating its 25th anniversary this academic year, with a Silver Gala planned March 4 on campus.

Tickets to the event can be purchased for $125 per person or $1,250 per table of 10, with a portion of the proceeds from each seat being directed to the Sally McDonnell Barksdale Honors College Endowment. Event sponsorships with benefits are available at the following levels: $10,000 (presenting), $5,000 (platinum), $2,500 (gold), $1,000 (silver) and $500 (bronze).

Doors will open at 5:30 p.m. for the 6 p.m. dinner in the Gertrude C. Ford Ballroom at The Inn at Ole Miss. Plans for the program feature a special presentation to the Jim Barksdale family for its generosity in supporting the Honors College, a video on the history of the Honors College and comments by three accomplished alumni.

“The Honors College has helped us recruit some of the brightest minds from across the world,” said Ethel Young Scurlock, the college’s dean. “We have been able to provide a space for students to advance their critical-thinking skills, learn in small classrooms that encourage creativity and independent thought and financially support student research and travel.

“The Honors College is helping our students gain the experiences they need to be accepted into top graduate and professional programs. As we celebrate our 25th anniversary, we also remain wholly committed to our mission of preparing citizen scholars so they can make a difference in their communities.”

Jim Barksdale and the now late Sally Barksdale worked with Chancellor Emeritus Robert Khayat and now late Provost Carolyn Ellis Staton to establish the Honors College in 1997 with their largest philanthropic gift ever to the university. When Sally Barksdale died in 2003, the Honors College was renamed in her memory.

Jim Barksdale’s gifts to the Honors College total more than $37 million. He also has provided support for numerous other programs on campus and at the UM Medical Center.

The Office of National Scholarship Advisement housed in the Honors College helps students apply for nationally prestigious scholarships. Honors College students have won Fulbright, Truman, Goldwater and Rhodes scholarships in the last three years, putting UM on par with the nation’s best institutions.

Brady Bramlett, associate director of development for the Honors College, said the Silver Gala will be memorable.

“We have much to be grateful for and celebrate over our 25 years, including private support, enrollment and scholarship growth,” he said. “This evening will be a time to come together and reflect on the amazing achievements we have realized while we recommit ourselves to continually strengthening the Honors College for future generations.”

The Honors College offers an increasing number of in-depth courses, opportunities for experiential learning in the U.S. and abroad and avenues for effective engagement with community concerns.

The 2022-2023 academic year saw 1,636 students accepted in the Honors College. This number includes 463 freshmen, 270 (or 58%) of which are Mississippi residents. The current freshman class posted an average ACT of 30.5 and an average high school GPA of 3.97.

Students in the Honors College come from 38 states and represent 84 majors that span the university’s academic offerings. The most popular majors among Honors College students are biology, accountancy, international studies, chemistry – including biochemistry and forensic chemistry – and public policy leadership.

The Honors College awarded over 20 scholarships to its entering freshmen for the 2022-2023 academic year, continuing a 25-year tradition of supporting top students with new and established scholarship endowments. More than $600,000 was awarded to these scholars who hail from Mississippi to Nepal.

“Top-tier students do more than add vibrancy to our community; they are vital in helping us advance our reputation as one of the best honors colleges in the country,” Scurlock said. “This year’s incoming class of scholarship recipients is one of the most diverse and intellectually accomplished classes we have welcomed to the SMBHC.

“We are extremely grateful for the generous private support that enables us to provide these scholarship opportunities.”

Scurlock was named Honors College dean in 2022 — the first African American in its history to be selected for the leadership role. Previously, the associate professor of English and African American studies served as senior fellow of the Luckyday Residential College and chair of the Department of African American Studies. Among her many accolades, she was named the College of Liberal Arts Outstanding Teacher of the Year and UM Humanities Teacher of the Year in 2003 and received the Elsie M. Hood Outstanding Teacher Award in 2011.

Scurlock said she is grateful to inherit the dynamic Honors College, thanks to the leadership of founding director Elizabeth Payne as well as the vision of Douglass Sullivan-González, who served as dean for almost 19 years.

Already this year, the fall Honors Convocation featured three successful SMBHC alumni celebrating the 25th anniversary. Former NASA engineer and now Boeing leader Markeeva Morgan of Frisco, Texas; Nisolo founder-CEO Patrick Woodyard of Nashville, Tennessee; and poet and teacher Sarah Barch-Gill of Little Rock, Arkansas; were the speakers for the event, along with five current Honors College students.

Individuals and organizations can purchase tickets or sponsorships online at or make checks payable to the UM Foundation, with the event written in the memo line, and mail to 406 University Ave., Oxford, MS 38655.

A block of rooms at The Inn at Ole Miss is available for reservation for those attending the Silver Gala. Please call 1-888-486-7666 for room reservations.

The Sally McDonnell Barksdale Honors College Endowment is open to accept gifts from individuals and organizations by sending a check with the endowment’s name written in the memo line to the UM Foundation, 406 University Ave., Oxford, MS 38655; or online at Honors College. Annual income from the endowment is used to recruit and retain outstanding students and faculty and for other support, such as travel, research and creative activities.

For more information on the Silver Gala or supporting the Honors College, contact Brady Bramlett, associate director of development, at or 662-915-3081.

By Tina H. Hahn/UM Development


Online gifts for the 2024 calendar year should be made no later than noon on December 31, 2024.  Checks by mail will need to be postmarked by December 31 to be counted in the 2024 calendar year.