FedEx Founder Fred Smith Featured Speaker For Fall Honors Convocation

This year’s Fall Convocation for the University of Mississippi’s Sally McDonnell Barksdale Honors College brings together two renowned businessmen to share their journeys to international success.

Frederick W. Smith, founder and CEO of FedEx, will deliver keynote address at 7 p.m. Tuesday (Sept. 12) in the Gertrude C. Ford Center for the Performing Arts. James Barksdale, founder and CEO of Netscape Communications Corp., will introduce Smith.

Admission is free to the public, but tickets are required and available from the Ford Center Box Office.

Smith is among the country’s most innovative corporate leaders, said Douglass Sullivan-Gonzalez, the college’s dean.

“We are honored and delighted that Fred Smith, the visionary founder of FedEx, will be our guest speaker on the special occasion of the 20th anniversary of the founding of the Sally McDonnell Barksdale Honors College,” Sullivan-Gonzalez said. “I am thrilled that our students will have the opportunity to hear and interact with such an impactful figure in his field.”

Smith is chairman, president and CEO of FedEx, originally known as Federal Express.

A native of Marks, he earned his bachelor’s degree from Yale University and was a commissioned in the U.S. Marine Corps. Honorably discharged with a Silver Star, a Bronze Star and two Purple Hearts, Smith purchased controlling interest in an aircraft maintenance company, Ark Aviation Sales, and by 1971 turned its focus to trading used jets.

In June, 1971, Smith founded Federal Express with $4 million of his own money. The company began offering service to 25 cities in 1973, beginning with small packages and documents and a fleet of 14 Falcon 20 (DA-20) jets. His focus was on developing an integrated air-ground system, which had never been done.

He developed FedEx on the business idea of a shipment version of a bank clearing house, where one bank clearing house was situated in the middle of the represented banks and all their representatives would be sent to the central location to exchange materials.

Smith is a former chairman of the board of governors for the International Air Transport Association and the U.S. Air Transport Association. He is chair of the Business Roundtable’s Security Task Force, and a member of the Business Council and the Cato Institute. He served as chairman of the U.S.-China Business Council and is chairman of the French-American Business Council.

He was awarded “CEO of the Year 2004” by Chief Executive Magazine and the 2008 Kellogg Award for Distinguished Leadership, presented by the Kellogg School of Management. In March 2014, Fortune Magazine ranked him 26th among its list of “World’s 50 Greatest Leaders.”

“The Honors College has taken its place among the nation’s leading honors programs,” Chancellor’s Honors College Artist-In-Residence Bruce Levingston said.

“As we celebrate its remarkable founding and growth during the last 20 years, we remind ourselves how incredibly blessed we’ve been by the insightful guidance and unflinching support of Jim Barksdale and his family. The Barksdales have long stood strong for excellence in education, and their exceptional standards continue to inspire us and help us take the Honors College to even greater heights.”

Barksdale and his family gave a $5.4 million endowment to Ole Miss to help form the Honors College in 1997. In January 2000, they gave $100 million to the state of Mississippi to create the Barksdale Reading Institute, a joint venture with the Mississippi Department of Education and the state’s public universities.

His latest gift, given in conjunction with his wife, Donna, created the Mississippi Principal Corps at UM.

“The Honors College Convocation is always an exceptional event, providing a great venue for our students to hear from stellar and accomplished individuals,” Chancellor Jeffrey Vitter said. “This year, we are so fortunate to have not one, but two visionaries join us, as Fred Smith and Jim Barksdale will share their time and thoughts with our campus community.

“It is yet another example of the tremendous growth opportunities and events available to the students at the University of Mississippi.”


By Edwin Smith

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