Ten senior students were inducted into the 2019 class of the University of Mississippi Hall of Fame at the Gertrude C. Ford Center on Friday, April 5. Many of those selected for the honor have been leaders of student activism in their time on campus.
This year’s inductees are Jarvis Benson, an international studies major from Grenada; Levi Bevis, a public policy leadership major from Florence, Alabama; Jaz Brisack, a general studies major from Oxford; Jacob Ferguson, an English and history major from Randolph; Randon Hill, an English and Spanish major from Oxford; Mallie Imbler, a public policy leadership and political science major from Tupelo; Skylyn Irby, a math major from Batesville; Makala McNeil, an integrated marketing communication and sociology major from Grenada; Elam Miller, a public policy leadership major from Murfreesboro, Tennessee; and Blair Wortsmith, a managerial finance major from Little Rock, Arkansas.
Benson, who served as the Black Student Union President and as an Associated Student Body senator, worked as a Mississippi Votes community organizer and oversaw the largest voter registration effort in the state since 1964.
Brisack was selected in the fall as the first female Rhodes Scholar in Ole Miss history, and has participated in protests on campus against pro-Confederate groups, helped deliver firewood to the Standing Rock Indian Preservation and organized with the United Auto Workers at the Nissan plant in Canton.
“I’m honored to be in such good company and use this platform (to create change),” she said. “During my time here, I’ve been able to help patients access abortion care in the most restrictive state in the nation. I’ve also gotten to help Nissan workers in their union organizing effort, and their passion and courage inspires me. Recognitions like the Hall of Fame and the Rhodes Scholarship reflect on these folks, my mentors and friends, as much as on me.”
She said that, as she graduates and becomes a distinguished alumna, she feels a responsibility to hold the university accountable.
“As an alum, I want to celebrate the progress this university is making, while holding it accountable when it fails to do so, so that younger students will want to attend,” Brisack said.
Eight of the 10 inductees are enrolled in the Sally McDonnell Barksdale Honors College, including Benson, Brisack, and Miller, the outgoing Associated Student Body president.
Melinda Sutton Noss, assistant vice chancellor for student affairs and dean of students, said these students make the university a better place across all aspects of campus life.
“The students inducted into the Hall of Fame are excellent representatives of the University of Mississippi,” Sutton Noss said. “They are scholars, leaders and community servants who are making a difference in the world around them.”
Sutton Noss helps guide the selection process every year, which is outlined by the Associated Student Body and with a body of other selectors, most of whom are students, and said that being a part of the selection process is one of the best parts of her job.
“Recognizing students for their achievements is one of the highlights of my year,” she said. “I’m proud and honored to know them and to have been a part of their journeys.”
The 10 students were chosen from a list of 200 seniors recognized in Who’s Who Among Students at the University of Mississippi. Sutton Noss said that selection process is a difficult task.
“Narrowing the field down to 10 for the Hall of Fame is not an easy job,” Sutton Noss said.