Hillary Clinton speaks at former Ole Miss provost’s memorial service

Posted on May 22 2017 - 5:59pm by Lyndy Berryhill

Carolyn Ellis Staton’s life and legacy extended beyond Ole Miss and Oxford, leaving a lasting impression on former Secretary of State and presidential nominee Hillary Clinton.

A memorial service for the first female provost and vice chancellor took place Monday at Ole Miss in the Paris-Yates Chapel.

Along with Staton’s brother and son, Clinton eulogized their friendship 

 from the fall of 1969 at Yale Law School until Staton was enduring months of treatment in New York.

“It’s hard always to lose a beloved wife and mother, a sister, an aunt, a cousin…but it’s also hard to lose a friend,” Clinton said. “She will be missed.”

Clinton said there was no one else quite like Staton. They tried not to miss an opportunity to visit one another.

While Clinton was on the campaign trail for President last year, she arranged for Staton to see the production of the “Hamilton” on Broadway and a trip to a television show.

Staton was rarely involved in politics, but she became a Mississippi delegate to the Democratic national convention when former President Bill Clinton ran for office. She joined other Mississippians in New York to continue campaigning that year.

“That was a hardy bunch,” Clinton quipped.

Throughout Clinton and her husband President Bill Clinton’s political career, Staton was supportive.

“Carolyn became one of the touchstones, the foundations of building relationships to those of us who were her classmates,” Clinton said. “Carolyn was the connector….there really wasn’t anyone like her.”

Out of more than 270 students that fall, Staton was one of only 27 women and even fewer African Americans. In addition to Clinton, several other Yale classmates were present for the services.

But Staton was not one to ask twice before pursuing her dreams. 

Before becoming the provost and vice chancellor for Academic Affairs at Ole Miss, Staton earned her bachelor’s from Sophie Newcomb College of Tulane University in 1967, a master’s degree from the Columbia University in 1969 and a juris doctor degree from Yale Law School in 1972.

She later taught English at Warren Central High School. In 1972, she served as assistant U.S. Attorney in New Jersey. She also served as staff attorney on the New York State Commission on Judicial Conduct for two years. Staton joined the university in 1977 where she taught in the law school. She served as acting dean of the law school in 1993.

Additionally, she has been a visiting professor in Germany, the University of Colorado and Fordham University.

Staton’s passion, caring and bold nature did not go unnoticed by her family, friends, colleagues and children.

Married for 33 years to Bill Staton, the Vicksburg native raised three boys; Michael, Tom and Will.

Her son Will spoke of his mother’s strong will and selfless love for her family and friends. He said she had a talent for bettering others. 

Staton said every person writes their own contribution to the human narrative, but some stories are shorter than others.

“My mom’s story overflowed with goodness,” Will Staton said. “Hers was the type that overspilled the pages and touched the lives of others.”

More than 200 attended the memorial service, some standing when the pews were filled.

Staton was interred in St. Peter’s Memorial Columbarium.