Some of the state’s most celebrated business and civic leaders of the past century took center stage at a recent celebration in Jackson, helping mark the centennial of the University of Mississippi School of Business Administration.
Ken Cyree, the school’s dean, was joined by alumni Maj. Gen. Leon Collins, former adjutant general of Mississippi; Dick Molpus, former Mississippi secretary of state; and Candie Simmons, geography marketing strategist for Regions Bank, for the Aug. 1 lunchtime event at the Craig H. Neilsen Auditorium at Two Mississippi Museums.
Welcomed by Chris Goodwin, the program organizer for “History is Lunch,” the audience watched a 20-minute feature video, narrated by Cyree, that includes a compilation of alumni. Also on hand were copies of “Ole Miss Business: The First 100 Years,” a 200-page illustrated history of the school published by Nautilus Publishing Co. in 2017.
“We were delighted at the great mix of regular attendees and people who came to ‘History Is Lunch’ specifically to hear the business school’s story,” Goodwin said. “Our series is built on programs just like this that examine a particular aspect of local Mississippi history, and the centennial publication makes this story even more special.”
“It was great to be a part of such meaningful and fun series on the history of the state,” Cyree said. “We had a terrific time working on the book, and it is fun to share it with people who are interested in our history and that of Mississippi.”
Graduates of the business school have become ambassadors, university presidents, technology innovators, financial leaders, sports legends, commodities pioneers, politicians and military leaders.
The book chronicles the century-long journey from the inaugural 1917 semester of the School of Commerce, guided by founding Dean James Warsaw Bell, through the 10 men who have led the school and culminating with Cyree, the 11th dean. It also tells the story of the men and women who passed through the doors as students.
“The Ole Miss business school taught me something that was extremely important,” said Simmons, who received a bachelor’s degree in 2002 and an MBA in 2015, and received the Outstanding Young Alumni of the Year Award in 2017.
“It is not something you learn in the classroom or from a textbook, but you just learn it by building the relationships with people from day to day, and that key word and valuable asset I learned was ‘networking.’ The business school taught me to not be afraid to talk to people and share your career aspirations – especially when asked.”
“I have made thousands of decisions in my lifetime,” said Collins, incoming president of the Ole Miss Alumni Association. “Some were good and some were bad.
“Enrolling at the University of Mississippi was one of the best decisions I have made. Ole Miss provided a quality education and a network of graduates to interact with over the years.
“As the incoming president of the Alumni Association, I would like to mobilize that network to help all students approaching graduation to secure their first job prior to graduation day. What better way to show your love for your university than to lend a helping hand to a future alum.”
Molpus, chairman of the Molpus Woodlands Group and 2013 inductee into the Ole Miss Alumni Hall of Fame, charmed the crowd in recounting how he failed his first test in college, in beloved professor Jimmy Davis’ class, to take a girl on a date, and she dumped him two weeks later.
Molpus discussed professors who opened his mind to new ways of thinking.
“In 1968, Professor Fenstermacher said in 25 years, cash would be obsolete and everyone would be using something called ‘credit cards.’ Then in 1969, Professor Runnelling spent a whole class on how outdated Mississippi’s economic development was by exploiting cheap labor and tax breaks to attract businesses to the state.”
In closing, Molpus stressed that the most important lesson he learned while an Ole Miss student was a sense of social responsibility in business.
“I was taught the best businesses do well for their bottom line, but those that help society as a whole stand the test of time,” he said.
By Stella Connell, for the UM Business School