Bonnie Brown: Q&A with Former Vice Chancellor for University Relations Dr. Gloria Kellum

Dr. Gloria Kellum has worn many hats during her distinguished career as academician, practitioner, administrator, community activist, and mentor to many. Her influence is evident in so many areas of the University of Mississippi. Dr. Kellum has many talents, as evidenced by her wrangling of the presidential candidates McCain and Obama during the 2008 Presidential Debate on the Ole Miss campus. She is lovingly referred to by former students as “Aunt Glo.” It was my honor to hear her responses to the following questions.

Dr. Gloria Dodwell Kellum is the Vice Chancellor for University Relations; her responsibilities include being involved with the Communications/Public Relations, the Development/Fund Raising, the coordination of Special Events and Community Relations. Photo courtesy of Kevin Bain, University Communications

Brown: Dr. Kellum, you’ve had quite a distinguished academic career having earned a bachelor’s, master’s, and Ph.D. in speech language pathology from Louisiana State University. When and why did you decide that you wanted to be in speech language pathology “when you grew up?”

Kellum: In 1960 when I was a junior at Baton Rouge High School there were a series of speakers on careers. A speech language pathologist spoke about her profession of helping other people who had speech, language, or hearing differences. I was hooked because I was fascinated by the physiology of human communication and I knew I wanted to help others.

Brown: How did you find your way to Ole Miss?

Kellum: Well I found my way to Ole Miss and the Kellum family because my major professor at LSU asked me to please interview for a new position at Ole Miss to help restart the speech and hearing program. Also, I had an aunt and uncle who lived in Grenada. Their two sons went to Ole Miss for their undergraduate and master degrees. Growing up our families would travel back and forth between Grenada/Oxford and Baton Rouge for family visits, which often included the Ole Miss versus LSU football games. So I was familiar with Ole Miss and its campus. In fact, when I parked on the Circle to go to the job interview in Bryant Hall, I had a wonderful feeling of coming home. I had visions of eating fried chicken on the front porch of the Bishop’s House. Dr. Bishop and his family were friends of my aunt and uncle so we would tailgate with them at their campus home, now the George Street House, which is on the left of the J. D. Williams Library as you go in the door facing the Lyceum. On the first day of work in August 1966, I met Jerry Kellum who was also beginning his teaching career at Ole Miss. We had very small offices across the hall from each other in Bryant Hall. And so began a lifelong friendship and marriage in 1968.

Brown: You’ve worn many hats during your 42 year career at Ole Miss—teacher, fundraiser, and administrator, in addition to being very involved in the LOU community, through your church. What do you consider to be the highlights?

Kellum: The highlights of my life at Ole Miss are abundant as a faculty member and as an administrator. I had the good fortune to help others find their meaningful life’s work as speech language pathologists and audiologists. I received the Elsie M. Hood Outstanding Teacher Award in 1975 which was a very meaningful honor for me. It led to the university supporting a sabbatical for me to obtain a Ph.D. at LSU.

When Robert Khayat asked me to join his administrative team to chair the Sesquicentennial Celebration and Campaign, it was the beginning of my second career at Ole Miss. It brought amazing opportunities to network for Ole Miss where I discovered the extraordinary devotion of Ole Miss Alumni and friends. After a few years Chancellor Khayat asked me to become the Vice Chancellor of University Relations to oversee the communications/public relations and development/fund raising efforts for the university. What a privilege to serve on Chancellor Khayat’s administrative team, all of whom devoted themselves to excellence. The sense of community that Chancellor Khayat built during his 15 years was amazing. Our faculty, staff, students, alumni, and friends all felt a part of a special time of renewal for Ole Miss.

Some highlights were the Commitment to Excellence Campaign that raised over $525 million dollars to support the vision for Ole Miss, the awarding of the Phi Beta Kappa Chapter to Ole Miss, the Open Doors Celebration in 2002, and the Presidential Debate in 2008. All of these took extraordinary Ole Miss Alumni, staff, faculty, and students working together to achieve excellence for our Ole Miss. The highlights of living in this vibrant LOU community are being near the Kellum family and having the St. Peter’s Episcopal family. We were fortunate to raise our daughters here with Kellum grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins. And we are blessed to be a part of the wonderful St. Peter’s church family.

Brown: You have always been an advocate for women. Some of the things that come to mind are your being named the Girl Scouts Woman of Distinction of the Year in 2016 and being a founding member of the Ole Miss Women’s Council. You have also been a mentor to many women—students, faculty, and staff, myself included. What was your inspiration for your advocacy?

Kellum: My mentors in life helped me see the importance and fulfillment of reaching out to others. My mother, father, and brothers inspired me to help others as they all did in their lives. At LSU Dr. Cornelia Braun and Dr. Stewart Gilmore were wonderful mentors as faculty members and as Speech Language Pathologists. At Ole Miss, Robert Khayat and my colleagues were my mentors. Throughout my administrative time Chancellor Khayat was invaluable as I had a very steep learning curve, particularly in the fundraising duties. I constantly learned from all the individuals who were so devoted to Ole Miss be they alumni, faculty, staff, or students.

Family members gather around Gloria Kellum (fourth from right) at a recent reception hosted in her honor by the UM Department of Political Science Advisory Board. The board acknowledged Kellum’s long-term service to the university by establishing a scholarship endowment in her name. Photo by Bill Dabney/UM Foundation.

Brown: Please talk about your role as Vice Chancellor for University Relations. What were your primary responsibilities as Vice Chancellor? What was your “best” day at work and what was your “worst” day at work?

Kellum: As the Vice Chancellor for University Relations my responsibilities involved the communications/public relations, the development/fundraising, the coordination of special events and community relations. By far the most difficult days were spent with the families and friends of the three young men who died in a fire at one of the fraternity houses. There are many best days: Announcement of the $525 million dollars raised for the Commitment to Excellence Campaign, the Phi Beta Kappa Conclave when they voted to establish a chapter at Ole Miss, the dedication of the renovated Depot, the Opening Celebration of the Gertrude C. Ford Center for the Performing Arts, the many Sesquicentennial events and activities, the Open Doors ceremony, Congressmen John Lewis’s (Georgia) speech and Governor William Winter’s speeches at the dedication ceremony of the James Meredith statue, the creation of the Ole Miss Women’s Council for Philanthropy, and the Presidential Debate. These best days took hundreds of Ole Miss staff, faculty, students, and alumni working together in extraordinary ways to accomplish extraordinary outcomes for our Ole Miss. I am ever in debt to my fellow workers in University Relations who labored so hard and taught me on a daily basis.

Some personal professional best days were receiving the Outstanding Teaching Award, the LSU Alumni of Distinction Award, receiving the Honors of the American Speech Language and Hearing Association, and having named scholarships established in my honor.

Brown: What has become your new routine in retirement?

Kellum: When I had to make an appointment on my calendar to visit with our first grandchild, Cecilia, I knew it was time to retire. So family time has been my primary focus in retirement. Jerry and I have been blessed with two wonderful adult daughters and their husbands and three grandchildren. Life is Grand! I still find time to work with a few nonprofits and as needed provide advice for some of Ole Miss Development activities. The freedom of retirement is a wonderful phase of life. I miss the everyday working with Ole Miss people but I do not miss the responsibilities.

Brown: To quote Katherine Meadowcroft, cultural activist and writer, “What one leaves behind is the quality of one’s life, the summation of the choices and actions one makes in this life, our spiritual and moral values.” What is your legacy?

Kellum: I hope my legacy is helping others achieve their goals and potential in life. Providing opportunities for individuals to improve their quality of life and the lives of others is very important to me. Whether it is in the classroom and clinic working with students or working with alumni to help them see the potential opportunities that their financial gifts to the university will create for the Ole Miss family, I have tried to help others help others. Life is grand!

Bonnie Brown is a retired staff member of the University of Mississippi. She most recently served as Mentoring Coordinator for the Ole Miss Women’s Council for Philanthropy.

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