Ivye Allen- Secretary
Ivye L. Allen is President of the Foundation for the Mid South, a regional foundation serving Arkansas, Louisiana, and Mississippi. The Foundation supports programs and initiatives that focus on community development, education, health and wellness, and wealth building. Having served the region for 25 years, the Foundation has supported efforts that have increased student academic performance as well as encouraged more active movement and better health outcomes for families. In addition, it has assisted parents in developing the tools and strategies to build their assets and improve employment opportunities. The Foundation recognizes that helping parents improve their incomes and knowledge will directly impact the outcomes for their children.
She is a strategic and thoughtful leader who is skilled at bringing together community partners and attracting public and private resources to address important community concerns.
Allen previously served as Chief Operating Officer for MDC Inc. and was Director of Fellowship Programs for the Rockefeller Brothers Fund. She held finance and marketing positions in Fortune 100 corporations such AT&T/NYNEX, Eastman Kodak/Sterling Drug, and Reckitt Benckiser.
Her education includes a Ph.D. in social policy from Columbia University; an M.S. in urban affairs from Hunter College; an M.B.A. in marketing and international business from New York University; and a B. A. in economics from Howard University.
Barbara Austin earned her bachelor of arts degree magna cum laude at Mississippi University for Women in 1963. After graduation, she spent six months in Ireland and Northern Ireland as an International 4-H Youth Exchange student and then accepted a job in public relations at Belhaven College in Jackson. She joined the public relations staff of the University of Mississippi Medical Center in 1967. She became director of the academic health center’s Division of Public Affairs in 1978 and retired on June 30, 2007.
Along the way, she received a number of professional honors and had the good fortunate to lead several national and regional organizations related to academic health center public relations. In retirement, she serves on the board of a number of nonprofits, but gives most of her volunteer time to New Stage Theatre, Mississippi’s only professional theatre, where she is a lifetime trustee.
Consistently throughout her life, Donna Kennedy Barksdale has provided leadership to every organization with which she has been involved. These include education activities, private business, public philanthropy, church and civic engagement . She is currently on the board of the Ms. Women’s Foundation, the B.B. King Museum, the Ms. Arts Commission, serves on the executive committee of America’s Promise and, among many other activities, has served as a board member of Habitat for Humanity, as a founder and chair of Leadership Jackson, on the board of the Jackson Chamber of Commerce, a past president of the Junior League of Jackson, a deacon of her church, and as a member of the International Women’s Forum. She is chairman of the board of Nunoerin. She previously served as a consultant to Viking Corporation. She was the driving force behind the Youth Employment Project which provided students at an inner-city high school the opportunity to work in real-world professional settings and then helped them prepare for and have success in college.
Since 1991, Donna has served as president of Mississippi River Trading Company, an import company manufacturing in China and Mongolia. She designed and manufactured her own clothing line, Hamilton Kennedy, which was sold nationwide and internationally.
Jill Beneke is the Chief Executive Officer and President of Pileum Corporation, an engineering, security, compliance and management consulting company and Metrix Solutions, a technology solutions provider. She is the founder and owner of both Companies. She has held executive management positions at three of the largest financial institutions in the South and has served on the Graduate Schools of banking at; Ole MS, LSU, and the University of Colorado.
Jill received her Bachelor of Business Administration degree from the University of Mississippi and her Masters of Business Administration degree from the Else School of Management at Millsaps College. Jill is currently serving or has served on the Boards of the Metro Jackson Chamber of Commerce, Bancorp South, Mississippi, Millsaps College, Else School of Management ,the Business Law Advisory Group, the International Women’s Forum, Rotary, Mississippi Symphony Orchestra, CIT, the Arts Alliance, MS History NOW, Leadership Jackson, the YMCA, United Way, American Heart Association’s Go Red for Women, and Career Forum.
Beneke has been recognized as one of MS Business Journals “50 Leading Business Women” and she holds a variety of licenses and certifications in both Banking and Technology. Jill is married to Richard Beneke and they are the proud parents of four children.
Debra Huchel Billups- Past President
In 1987 Debra approached Andy Young, founder of Pearl River Glass Studio on Millsaps Avenue in Jackson, about suitable performance and class space for the Modern Dance Collective. Finding nothing available to rent, Debra founded the 121 Millsaps Corporation. She saw the potential for a creative community and an incubator for aspiring artists in all mediums. The corporation began purchasing obsolete commercial properties in Midtown to convert to studios and to establish a home for the Modern Dance Collective. Later, collaborating with several neighborhood visual and performing artists, Debra founded the Millsaps Avenue Arts District. Through the years, the six-block area has been home to music venues, restaurants, retail shops, studio tours, artists’ studios, and outreach programs. It will always be an area in transition and today continues to attract artists, craftsmen and entrepreneurs.
Debra delights in thejoy filled mayhem of being a wife,mother and grandmother. She is a charter member of the Mississippi Women’s Forum and has served as MWF’s President-Elect and President.
Courtney Cook Blossman
Education: Attended high school All Saints’ Episcopal Boarding School, Vicksburg, MS;
BFA from Mississippi University for Women, Columbus, MS.
Founded the Walter Anderson Museum of Art, Ocean Springs, MS and served as Board
President for 8 years during building and development of museum. Arts and environmental activist in Mississippi and North Carolina. Currently serving on board for Asheville Art Museum, Southern Appalachian Highlands Conservancy (a land trust), and Foundation Board of University of North Carolina at Asheville. Former owner of Minerva’s Antiques & Fine Arts; currently managing real estate in Ocean Springs, MS.
Betsy Bradley was appointed director of the Mississippi Museum of Art in December, 2001. Previously, she served as executive director of the Mississippi Arts Commission for six years after having served four years at the Commission as deputy director and community arts director. Before joining the Mississippi Arts Commission she was the curator of education for the Mississippi Museum of Art. She has served on the boards of Americans for the Arts, the National Assembly of State Arts Agencies, and the Southern Arts Federation. She has also served as a panelist for the National Endowment for the Arts. She was appointed by the Governor to serve on the advisory panels of the Mississippi School for the Arts and the Mississippi Commission for Volunteerism. Bradley has chaired the boards of the Mississippi Center for Nonprofits, the Millsaps Arts and Lecture Series, and the Jackson Servant Leadership Corps. She is a member of the Steering Council for the Mississippi Economic Council’s Blueprint Mississippi Project, the 50th Reunion of the Mississippi Freedom Riders, and the advisory board of Downtown Jackson Partners. She is also a member of the Women’s Executive Forum and the SonEdna Foundation. Most recently, Bradley was elected to membership in the American Association of Museum Directors. She is a graduate of Vanderbilt University with a master’s degree in English and of Millsaps College with a bachelor’s degree in English.
Geraldine Cheney Buie- bio coming soon
Carol J. Burger- Past President
Carol Johnson-Burger was named the first woman and African American President and CEO of United Way of the Capital Area in Jackson, MS in July, 1995. Born in Jefferson Davis County, Mississippi, she graduated from Tougaloo College and was very involved in the Civil Rights Movement in Mississippi, having the opportunity to meet and work with Medgar Evers and Dr. Martin Luther King. Carol was the first Black teacher to integrate the public schools in Pearl River County, MS, one of the most racist counties in Mississippi at the time.
Carol is active in her community and on the national and international levels with United Way Worldwide. She has served on many boards including co-chairing with former Governor William Winter, the process that created a strategic plan for the City of Jackson and as vice chair of the Secretary of the State’s Nonprofit and Charities Laws study group. She is founding member of the Central Mississippi Chapter of 100 Black Women and the Mississippi Chapter of the International Women Forum. She serves on Executive Committee of the National Professional Council for United Way Worldwide and as a mentor to United Way Professionals in South Africa.
She is the recipient of many awards but her greatest joy is being “Grammie” to her grandkids Nicholas and Logan. She, her son Marcus and the grandkids are active members of Anderson United Methodist Church.
Margaret Carl- bio coming soon
An advocate for the arts, an avid collector, and an artist herself, Myrna Colley-Lee is a Costume Designer who starting working in black theatre in the late 1960’s and continues designing for regional theatres today. Born in North Carolina, she received her M.F.A. in Scenic and Costume Design from Temple University, studied scene painting and properties at Brooklyn College and completed her B.F.A. at the Women’s College of the University of North Carolina at Greensboro. A Theatre of Color: Costume Design for The Black Theatre by Myrna Colley-Lee, a comprehensive exhibition of her work opened in 2014 at the Charles H. Wright Museum in Detroit. A separate exhibition of her personal collection, Reflections: African American Life from the Myrna Colley-Lee Collection, is touring the country. Colley-Lee is currently a Commissioner for the Mississippi Arts Commission and serves on several Arts related governing boards. In 2006, she founded SonEdna, an organization that celebrates and promotes the literary arts and writers of all genres and backgrounds in the Delta, in Mississippi, and the world. Colley-Lee is the recipient of numerous awards, including Doctor of Creative Arts, honoris causa, from Mississippi State University; Honored Artist from the National Museum of Women in the Arts; The Agatha Award from the Rowell Foster Children’s Positive Plan; Outstanding Costume Design from the National Black Theatre Festival; the Exemplary Arts Service Award from the Mississippi Alliance for Arts Education; the Wynona Lee Fletcher Award for Outstanding Achievement as a Designer from the Black Theatre Network; and the Mississippi Institute of Arts and Letters Lifetime Achievement Award. A world traveler since the age of 11, Myrna divides her time between Mississippi, New York, and the British Virgin Islands.
Rebecca Combs-Dulaney- Treasurer
A native of New York, Rebecca Combs-Dulaney is a graduate of the State University of New York at Brockport where she received her undergraduate and master’s degree and was named a SUNY fellow. She continued post graduate work in Organizational Management at St. John Fisher College in Rochester, New York.
She began her early career in private industry as a Vice-President with an investment firm in Rochester then headed the Reading Assist Institute in Wilmington, Delaware where she directed applied research in Delaware, Pennsylvania, and New Jersey schools.
Combs-Dulaney has served for nearly eight as the CEO of the Phil Hardin Foundation in Meridian, a state-wide foundation that provides funding for the improvement of education for all Mississippians. The Foundation celebrated its 50th Anniversary in 2014 and currently holds assets in excess of nearly 50 million. She served as a former member of the Advisory Committee of Mississippi Building Blocks, an early education program which was appropriated state-funding in the last legislative term and as past Chair of the Mississippi Association of Grantmakers. Combs-Dulaney also serves on the Government Affairs Committee for the Southeastern Council of Foundations, the International Women’s Forum of Mississippi and is a member of the Board of Directors for Structural Steel Services Holdings, Inc. in Meridian.
Toni D. Cooley is the President of the Mississippi-based, Systems Companies, consisting of Systems Electro Coating (SEC), Systems Consultants Associates (SCA), Systems IT (SIT) and Systems Automotive Interiors (SAI). Co-founded by Cooley in 2001, SEC is a Tier I supplier to Nissan, which by the end of 2015, will be the sole provider of frames used in the manufacture of all of Nissan’s U.S. built trucks and SUVs. She is also the founder and CEO/President of SAI, a Tier One Supplier which manufactures and sequences the seats for all Corollas built at Toyota’s Mississippi plant. In 2014, SAI and SEC were ranked respectively as the 30th and 32nd largest Black manufacturing companies in the nation. Since 1997, Toni has been the President of SCA, a management consulting and training firm which specializes in vocational training and business development. In 2003 INC Magazine named SCA one of the top 100 fastest growing, inner city businesses in the US. Her IT training company, SIT provides training largely for Mississippi state agencies and local businesses.
Toni has a bachelor’s degree in Business from Stephens College, and a law degree from the University of Minnesota. She is a former board member of the William Winter Institute for Racial Reconciliation, the Mississippi Home Corporation, and, the Mississippi State Board for Community and Junior Colleges. Her business and civic work includes the Mississippi Automotive Manufacturers Association, the Women’s Fund of Jackson, the YMCA, Mississippi Economic Council, the Community Foundation , the Mississippi Minority Contractors Association, Leadership Jackson, and Jackson Public Schools, to name a few. Toni currently serves on the boards of Sanderson Farms and Trustmark, both publicly traded corporations.
Carolyn Correro holds the title as one of Mississippi’s most electrifying women.
Joining Entergy in 1983 as an accountant, she rose through the ranks to become president and chief executive officer for Entergy Mississippi. There, she achieved critical acclaim for helping the utility become a national leader in customer satisfaction. Correro also helped develop Entergy into one of Mississippi’s more respected and forward-thinking companies via an emphasis on its core business—providing affordable, reliable electricity to customers.
Correro went nuclear and left the distribution circuit in 2008, switching characters to take on a managerial role with Enexus Energy, the division that would own the nuclear units in the northeast separate from Entergy.
After a lengthy and impressive career, Correro retired in 2010. She now enjoys golf and travel along with motorcycle trips and memorable cruises to Alaska.
Correro and her husband, Randy, live in Madison, MS.
Melody Golding is an author, photographer, and artist living in Vicksburg, Ms. Her documentary books, published by The University Press of Mississippi, include Panther Tract: Wild Boar Hunting in the Mississippi Delta and Katrina: Mississippi Women Remember. The Smithsonian Institution National Museum of American History Archives Center acquired her solo documentary exhibit about Hurricane Katrina and also segments of her work about Panther Tract. Her photographs are on display in the Congressional Hearing Room at the Department of Homeland Security and have been featured in solo exhibitions at The National Museum of Women in the Arts, Washington, D.C., and at many colleges, universities and museums. Some of her photographs have been featured and published by The Johns Hopkins University Press in their NWSA Journal (The National Women’s Studies Association). Her work is in many private and public collections and she has written for various statewide publications. She is currently working on her third book featuring the lives of Captains on American waterways.
Recently elected as First Vice President of Peoples Financial Corporation, Ann has served as Senior Vice President of The Peoples Bank, Biloxi, Mississippi since 2006. A graduate of Tulane University with a Masters of Business Administration from the A. B. Freeman School of Business, Ann holds the designation of Certified Trust and Financial Advisor. She attended the National Trust School and National Graduate Trust School held at Northwestern University as well as The Southeastern Trust School at Campbell University. Ann combines her love of teaching with banking and served on the faculties of the Alabama School of Banking, the Mississippi School of Banking and the LSU Graduate School of Banking. She is a frequent speaker and guest lecturer on trust services and marketing professional services. Secretary of State J. Delbert Hoseman, Jr. appointed Ann to the Mississippi Trust Laws Study Group in 2010.
For many years Ann Guice served on the Executive Committee of the National Association of Junior Auxiliaries, serving as National President in 1981. She was named Betty Rollins Volunteer of the Year in 2002. Recognized as a Finalist for the 2006 Mississippi’s 50 Leading Business Women, she also was inducted in the Roland Weeks Hall of Fame when named as a member of the 2009 Class of Outstanding Community Business Leaders on the Gulf Coast.
Ann served on the Investment Committee and Board of Directors of the Gulf Coast Community Foundation and as President of Kids Voting, Mississippi as well as a Mississippi Director for Foundation For the Mid South. She continues to serve on the boards of many non-profits. Ann grew up in New Orleans in a very sports minded family, and continues to play tennis and baseball. Her two sons, Billy Guice and Nathan Guice, own and operate Guice Offshore LLC, (“GO”), an offshore supply vessel service provider. Her five grandchildren keep her at soccer fields, basketball courts and dance recitals.
Beverly Wade Hogan- bio coming soon
Rhonda Keenum- bio coming soon
Grace and her husband founded Trilogy Communications Inc. in 1985 which manufactures and markets the superior unique air dielectric fully bonded technology coaxial cable for CATV and Wireless markets. Its CATV market share reached up to 3rd sold their CATV business to their biggest competitor in 2006. Currently, they market their advanced air dielectric coaxial cable in the wireless market. Their AirCell Plenum cable has the leading market share in U.S.in building wireless networks. Its other AirCell Radiating cable offers the best electrical and mechanical performances in wireless broadband applications for tunnels, metros and mines. The product has been deployed in hospitals, stadiums, hotels, casinos, airports, and company headquarters. E.g.: Heathrow airport, New York City World Trade Center, Las Vegas City Center, United Nations, NY/NJ Port Authority, Washington Metro, Codelco copper mines, Raymond James Stadiums, Georgia Dome etc. Customer includes AT&T, Verizon, American Tower, General Electric, Motorola, Ericsson etc. The only coaxial cable manufacturers 100% cable in United States. (Its TL9000 and ISO9001 certified facility in Mississippi).
Grace has an MBA from the University of Connecticut and a BS in Accounting of Stonehill College. She was inducted into Hall Of Fame by University Of Connecticut Business School and listed as a Top 50 Business Women in Mississippi By Business Journal in 1997 (Inaugural year).
Dr. Frances Lucas
After 28 years as a president or a vice president in higher education, Dr. Frances Lucas recently joined the Human Capital Development Faculty as a Professor of Practice and has started her own company, Frances Lucas Consulting. She teaches how to develop talent in organizations in order to enhance productivity and job satisfaction. In her new company, Dr. Lucas gives keynote addresses, and coaches executives in many work sectors and works with organizations on how to reach their highest potential. Dr. Lucas is also a woman of firsts. Dr. Lucas was named President of Millsaps College in January 2000, becoming the first female president in the College’s history. She was also one of the only Mommy President’s in the country to have small children during her presidency. Prior to taking the helm of Millsaps College, Dr. Lucas served Emory University as Senior Vice-President for Campus Life, becoming the first woman to hold a vice-presidential role in that university’s 160-year history. At age 29, she was the youngest Vice-President for Student Affairs in the country and the first female Vice-President at Baldwin-Wallace College in Ohio, were she was named that college’s Most Outstanding Administrator.
Dr. Lucas’ career in higher education is an illustration of opening doors and breaking barriers with grace. She has keynoted over 50 national and regional conferences and has served on the executive board of many national and regional organizations. She won Pillar of the Profession for NASPA, SACSA Bob Leach Award for furthering diversity, and the NASPA III John Jones award for Outstanding Performance by a Dean. Last year she won four prestigious awards, including Woman of the Year for the Mississippi Gulf Coast, Outstanding Community Leader on the Coast, inducted into the Roland Weeks Hall of Fame, and was selected as Most Outstanding Woman Educator for the state of Mississippi.
On a personal note, she comes from a higher education family, with her father, Dr. Aubrey Lucas having served two universities with 28 collective years as a president. Her son, Michael is in his first year of the master’s degree program at the University of South Carolina in administration of higher education. Dr. Lucas also has a daughter, Anna Catherine, a junior in college who is a fashion model and public relations major.
Jamie Planck Martin
Jamie is Senior Legal Counsel at Taggart, Rimes & Graham, PLLC, prior to joining the firm, Jamie practiced with large firms in Atlanta, Georgia, and Boston, Massachusetts, and was a partner in the State’s largest law firm. Jamie also maintained her own law practice and consulting firm for several years, and participated in the management and operation of several businesses.
Jamie has extensive experience in general business, real estate and health care matters, including business transactions (mergers, acquisitions and financings), commercial and real estate lending transactions, and physician group practices.
Jamie received the Mississippi Business Journal’s “Top 40 Under 40” Award and “Top 50 Business Women” Award, and was selected to participate in “Leadership Mississippi” and “Leadership Jackson” leadership programs.
At the invitation of the Dean of the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University, Jamie served on the Women’s Leadership Board at the Kennedy School. The Board advises the Dean and the Kennedy School with respect to issues and programs relating to women.
Jamie also served for several years as a member of the Mississippi Secretary of State’s Business Law Advisory Group, including serving on the Business Trust Subcommittee and the Limited Liability Company Subcommittee.
Jamie is past Chairman of the Business Law Section of The Mississippi Bar, and a past officer of the Real Estate and Healthcare Sections of The Mississippi Bar. Jamie also served on the American Bar Association’s Standing Committee for the Delivery of Legal Services, a position appointed by the President of the American Bar Association.
Jamie graduated magna cum laude from Sweet Briar College with a Bachelor of Arts in English. She was a member of Phi Beta Kappa and received the College President’s Award to the Outstanding Athletic Scholar and the Lawrence Nelson Award to the Outstanding English Major. She was recently inducted into the College’s Athletic Hall of Fame.
Jamie received her law degree from Vanderbilt School of Law. While at Vanderbilt, she was the Associate Editor of the Journal of Transactional Law, served as a member of the Appellate Review Board and received the Appellate Advocacy Outstanding Brief Award.
Jamie has served on the Board of Directors of numerous businesses and non-profit organizations, including Health Alliance Holdings, Inc., Hamilton Kennedy, Inc., Providence Hill Farm, LLC, Mississippi University for Women Foundation, Sweet Briar College, the MetroJackson Chamber of Commerce, the Baptist TRUST, the Mississippi Symphony Orchestra, St. Andrew’s Episcopal School, New Stage Theatre, Central Mississippi Chapter of the American Red Cross, Health Futures, Mississippi Hunter Jumper Association and the Canton Multipurpose & Equine Center Foundation. Jamie is a firm believer that everyone has a responsibility to give back to their community.
An avid horseback rider, Jamie has been State Champion of Kentucky, Mississippi and Tennessee, and Champion at many of the largest national horse shows. Jamie is co-owner of the renowned equestrian facility, Providence Hill Farm, and is currently serving as advisor to Mississippi College’s Equestrian Program.
Jamie is the mother of three young adults.
Martha Murphy has strong southern roots. She is deeply involved with family, professional, civic and philanthropic activities in Arkansas, Louisiana and Mississippi. In 2008, she began dividing her time between the south and Sonoma, California where she lives with her husband Jack Leahy. She has a son, daughter-in-law and 2 granddaughters who reside in South Mississippi. Martha is the president of an independent, Arkansas-based, private investment company and co-manager of Murphy Family Management, LLC. She was for many years president/CEO of a gourmet food company. She served on the Nature Conservancy Board for twelve years. She is founding director of the Mississippi Land Trust and has received numerous conservation awards, including the NASA Citizen Award of Excellence. Martha serves on numerous boards at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences. For 25 years, she has chaired the Murphy Center in language and literature at Hendrix College (Arkansas). Martha is lifetime Chair of the Murphy Institute for Political Economy and the Center for Ethics and Public Affairs at Tulane University (Louisiana). Martha is emeritus board chair for the Donald W. Reynolds Center on Aging in Little Rock. Since hurricane Katrina, Martha has been engaged with every facet of relief recovery and rebuilding of the gulf coast and is active in helping to restore music education in ravaged neighborhoods in New Orleans. She currently serves on the Hope Enterprise Corporation, Ellis Marsalis Music and Community Center Board in New Orleans and she chairs the Trombone Shorty Foundation in New Orleans. Her favorite spot on earth is Henderson Point Mississippi.
Lisa Bourdeaux Percy
A natural organizer and facilitator, Lisa Bourdeaux Percy grew up in Meridian and has spent the last 25 years working on vital issues for Mississippi from her home base of Greenville. She currently serves on the board of Delta Health Alliance and the Mississippi Museum of Art, and recently led the charge to establish the Community Foundation of Washington County, serving as its first chair. She is past chair of the Foundation for Public Broadcasting in Mississippi and the William Winter Institute for Racial Reconciliation.
Lisa is a graduate of Vanderbilt University and the University of Mississippi Law School where she was a member of Phi Delta Phi honorary legal fraternity and Articles Editor of the Law Journal. Before and after practicing law with the firm of Brunini, Grantham, Grower and Hewes in Jackson, Lisa held positions of responsibility in political campaigns, both regional and national, and in government, spending four years in Washington, DC on staff at the Carter White House and the Office of Management and Budget. Returning to Mississippi, she served two Governors in intergovernmental relations and as legislative liaison.
Through her career, Lisa has been chosen to participate in the Global Leaders for the New South Conference; the American Council on Germany Young Leaders Program in Hamburg, Germany; and as Faculty Fellow for the Foundation for the Mid South. She received the Greenville Arts Council volunteer award in 2013.
She and her husband, Billy, enjoy their large family which now includes seven grandchildren and an English Springer Spaniel.
Mary Ann Petro
Mary Ann Sadka Petro is a native of Meridian, Mississippi. She graduated with honors from Mississippi University for Women, with majors in Psychology and Sociology. Receiving a scholarship from the National Institute of Mental Health, Mary Ann obtained a Master of Science in Social Work from the University of Tennessee.
She married Anthony Petro M.D. and returned to Jackson, where she worked at the Child Development Clinic at UMC. After the birth of her daughters, Mary Ann became involved in her community, which inspired her interior design career.
“Philanthropy offers opportunities to discover your authentic self,” she says. “I love social work, and interior design is almost the other side of it. Interior design brings people together to create beauty.”
Mary Ann has done commercial and residential interior design work throughout the Southeast. Notable clients include the Baptist Hospital and Providence Plantation. Her work is featured in Atlanta Homes and Lifestyles, Bespoke International and The Robb Report. She is the recipient of Who’s Who in Interior Design and The Alumni Achievement Award from MUW.
Mary Ann’s home and garden were selected for features in Mississippi Magazine, Northside Sun and Veranda. During the construction of her home, Mary Ann subcontracted the finishes and designed her garden. Today, Mary Ann’s garden is listed in the Garden Club of America Collection of the Smithsonian Institute in Washington, D.C. Mary Ann has hosted many events in her home and garden for Habitat for Humanity, Art for Heart, Mississippi Museum of Art and others.
Mary Ann has served on the Red Cross and Jackson Symphony League Boards and the Trust Board for the Baptist Hospital. She has also served on the MUW Alumni and Foundation Board. She has been a member of St. Andrew’s Episcopal Cathedral for over thirty years. She plans to continue her interior design work and hopes to write a book on inner beauty and interior design.
Her two daughters, Michelle Petro M.D. and Melanie Petro M.D. and three grandchildren, Rhodes,Grant and Elle, are frequent visitors to her home and garden, where peonies, sweet peas, roses and tulips bloom.
Carol Todd Puckett
Carol Puckett is a consultant working in the hospitality industry and with non-profits on strategic planning and executive searches. Formerly president of the Viking Hospitality Group for Viking Range Corporation in Greenwood, MS, she was the founder of the Everyday Gourmet, a cooking school and gourmet retail store operating in Jackson, MS since 1981 and its companion store, the Everyday Gardener.
She currently serves as Chair of the International Ballet Competition and on the boards of directors of the Mississippi Arts Commission B.B. King Museum, the Grammy Museum, The Mind Center at the University of Mississippi, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Mississippi and Tougaloo College. Carol was educated at Converse College in Spartanburg, South Carolina with a B.A. in English and History.
Betty Lou Reeves
Betty Lou Reeves, CPA, a native of Memphis, Tennessee and graduate of University of Memphis, is a Retired Partner of the national CPA firm, BKD, LLP.
Betty Lou’s career in Mississippi began with her family’s move to our state in 1979. She became a partner in Burkhalter & Company in 1986. In 1992, Betty Lou and her partners purchased the interest of the founding partner and renamed the firm, Smith, Turner & Reeves, P.A. With 65 employees, the firm was one of the largest in Mississippi.
She served for six years on the Board of the Metro Jackson YMCA as its Board Secretary, Vice-Chair and Chairman. She was the first woman to serve in this role in the Metro Y’s nearly 100-year history. Its mission of building strong children, strong families, and strong communities continues to be important to her as she maintains her relationship with the YMCA as a member of its Board of Trustees.
She has served on the Board of Governors of the Mississippi Society of CPA’s and its various committees. She has also been a member of the Board of Trustees of the Community Foundation of Greater Jackson where she was Treasurer for four years. Betty Lou was instrumental in creating the Foundation’s Women’s Fund, now known as the Women’s Foundation of Mississippi.
The United States Small Business Administration awarded her the Mississippi Accounting Advocate of the Year Award in 1990. She has been an Advisor/Loan Committee member to the Minority Capital Fund, Inc., a Jackson-based nonprofit which makes loans to minority businesses. Betty Lou has served as Treasurer, Vice President and President of The Make-A-Wish Foundation of Mississippi.
A 30 plus-year cancer survivor, Betty Lou has been an on the Advisory Board of the local Susan G. Komen Foundation affiliate. She has been a member and secretary and treasurer of the Mississippi Symphony Orchestra Association Board and its related Foundation. She was a member of the Leadership Jackson Class of 1997-1998. She was also selected as a 1998 recipient of the Top 50 Business Women’s award.
She and her husband, Rodger, are members of The Cathedral of St. Andrew and have three grown children and seven grandchildren. Family activities remain at the forefront, as the couple often visits their children and their families in Connecticut and Texas. They are especially happy to have their youngest son, his wife and two young children living only a mile away from their Madison home.
Two years following her retirement in 2008, Betty Lou decided to continue her career on a limited basis. She now maintains an office in Ridgeland, MS in the Lyle Walker & Co. CPA firm. When not traveling, she continues her community and volunteer work from this location and works on special tax and consulting projects.
Sanders, a native of Cleveland, MS is a graduate of Delta State University and a life-long arts advocate. She is a painter and has spent most of her life dedicated to promoting the Arts in the Delta. She has served as a founding member of the Delta Arts Alliance Board of Directors. The Sanders Family endows the Jimmy and Hazel Sanders Sculpture Garden at Delta State University. Nan has received Awards for Community Service from the Chamber of Commerce as well as the President’s Award for the Arts at DSU. She is on the Mississippi Arts Commission, currently having served as Chair in 2014, and has recently joined the Board of Directors of the Ms Museum of Art. Nan serves on several other Boards, including The Delta State Foundation and the Cleveland Music Foundation, which is the governing board for the Grammy Mississippi Museum, scheduled to open later in 2015. The Sanders Family are long-time members of the First United Methodist Church in Cleveland, where Nan has served on Boards of Trustees and Administrative Board over the years.
Nan married Mike Sanders and they have lived in Cleveland since that time. They have three children and six grandchildren.
Ann Jennings Shackelford- Vice President
From ten years as Vice President of Delta and Pine Land Company, a NYSE traded agricultural seed company in Scott, MS, to shepherding the newly formed B. B. King Museum in Indianola to a strong and healthy start, Ann Jennings Shackelford has honed her skills in developing partnerships and fostering growth. Named one of the top 75 Women in Business by the Delta Business Journal in 2000, she currently heads her own consulting company specializing in strategic planning, public relations, human resources and training, and serves as a Director for Growth, Development and Partnerships for Teach For America Mississippi.
Ann is a graduate of Stanford University, a former Newsweek magazine correspondent in the London Bureau while on an Overseas Press Club fellowship, and a nationally certified Senior Professional in Human Resources. She also has experience and professional training in fundraising and museum management. In addition to her career, she has performed extensive community service in both Arkansas and Mississippi, including governor’s appointments to the Arkansas State Board of Higher Education and the Arkansas Humanities Council, as a founding member of the Audubon Arkansas board, and as past president of the Arkansas Women’s History Institute. She is married to Craig Shackelford and they are the parents of three grown children.
The French Impressionist painters created a revolution in the late 19th century that forever changed the face of western art. Their loose painting style and bright palette were similar enough to suggest the presence of a new school, thus creating a modern movement for the avant-garde. Today, a century later, the term “impressionism” has become a household word with different meaning. Not only does it refer to the historical group of “Plein air” painters, but also to the general style associated with techniques used by contemporary artists everywhere. One of these painters whose work embodies the impressionistic style and emotion is artist Yvette Sturgis.
Born in Panama, she spent her formative years in a mixed cultural society lacking many of the usual restrictions to a lively imagination. She developed a sensitive appreciation for the beauty and subtle colors of nature. Yvette’s German father encouraged an early exposure of art at school and at home. This gave her the desire and the opportunity to create her own art at a young age.
When Sturgis was only 15 years old, she came to the United States to study. After receiving her degree in Bacteriology, she began her graduate work in Microbiology. She realized at this this time, that a medical career was not truly what she wanted to do with her life and began to consider other options. Because of the fascination she had always had with art, she decided to begin painting. In 1966, after frustrations experienced in her art classes, she began to study and work on her own, formulating her own style and techniques. Soon after, she sold her first painting- a landscape! After attending a painting workshop in New Mexico, she felt renewed enthusiasm in her commitment to become an artist. In fact, she continued to attend this painting course each of the next seven summers. During this period, increasing control of technique, and experience in creating images, gave Sturgis the confidence to develop her own style.
In the mid 70’s her work began to see increasing attention. Not only was it sold at auctions, but also in 1976 her first solo exhibition was held. This event was followed by a group show at the Jackson Museum of Art. This exposure and the positive reactions to it gave her the needed encouragement. Yvette’s admiration of the French Impressionists and French culture lead to several trips to Europe. She spent time in southern France, Avignon, Ville Franche and in the areas of Cote D’Azur, absorbing the culture, learning French and returning each time inspired for new works.
Yvette has an unusual ability to communicate in an open, extroverted, and honest way. She speaks Spanish, French, and English, but as a gifted artist, she communicates to the world through her painting which offers the collector a beautiful and emotional experience. Of her works, Sturgis explains, “I consider myself a colorist. I like to capture the images of what I see and think. I paint spontaneously from events in my life and the effect they have on me.” Sturgis has become one of those rare artists whose works are so sought after that often times, a painting may sell before it is even completed! Today her paintings are sold in galleries in the United States: Boston, Beverly Hills, New Orleans, Aspen, San Francisco, Carmel, San Diego, Birmingham, and Atlanta. Sturgis’ desire is to gain exposure in Europe, South America, and Asia.
Dr. Myrtis Tabb has over thirty five years of experience in the education and community development fields. As Associate Vice President of Finance and Administration at Delta State University, Dr. Tabb provides leadership to human resources, institutional grants, Bologna Performing Arts Center, serves as contract liaison for Ellucian, the company providing informational technology services to the campus and as a member of the President’s Cabinet. In her tenure with Delta State, Tabb has served in several capacities, including Director of the Center for Community Development and Program Leader of the Mid-South Delta Leaders and Delta Emerging Leaders Program. She serves as Chair of the Naming Committee for DSU and provides leadership to the B.F. Smith Scholars Program. Dr. Tabb serves on the following boards: Bolivar County Medical Hospital Foundation Board, Mississippi Delta Heritage Board, Delta Council, Delta Arts Alliance, and Women in Higher Education Mississippi Network.. She is a member of the Mississippi Women’s Forum, a component of the International Women’s Forum, and was recently asked to serve as President-Elect of this organization. She is also Past Coordinator for the Women in Higher Education. She was a participant in LEADERSHIP AMERICA 2000, a national program for outstanding professional women; one of Mississippi Business Journal’s 50 Leading Business Women in Mississippi and one of Delta Business Journal’s Top 50 Business Women in the Delta. She has also served as President of the Cleveland/Bolivar County Chamber of Commerce and the Mississippi Delta Regional Boys and Girls Club. She received National Bronze Medallion from the Boys & Girls Club of America.
A native of Mississippi, Tricia Walker earned a bachelor’s degree from Delta State University and a Master’s degree from Mississippi College before moving to Nashville in 1980 to pursue a music career. As a staff writer, Ms. Walker wrote for Word Music and PolyGram music, where she had songs recorded by Faith Hill, Patty Loveless, Kathy Troccoli and Allison Krauss, who won a GRAMMY® for her version of the song, “Looking In The Eyes Of Love,” co-written by Ms. Walker. She worked as a vocalist and instrumentalist with award-winning artists Shania Twain and Paul Overstreet, along with Grand Ole Opry star Connie Smith.
Ms. Walker served as Creative Director for Crossfield Music Publishing where she developed a staff of five writers and produced company demos and masters. She was the founder of the Bluebird Café’s legendary Women in the Round, a writer’s show featuring award-winning singer/songwriters Ashley Cleveland, Karen Staley, Pam Tillis and Ms. Walker. As proprietor of Big Front Porch Productions, Ms. Walker has produced eight of her own CD projects and continues to perform her one-woman show, “The Heart of Dixie,” throughout the region. She returned to Mississippi in August of 2006 and now serves as the Director of the DMI Entertainment Industry Studies program. More information about Tricia Walker may be found at www.bigfrontporch.com.
Amy Whitten- bio coming soon
Lester Senter Wilson- bio coming soon
Rita T. Wray- Secretary
Rita Wray, is the Founder & CEO of Wray Enterprises, Inc., a national independent health care consulting firm. Formerly Wray held a ten year gubernatorial appointment as a Deputy Executive Director of the Mississippi Department of Finance and Administration which has primary responsibility for the management of the state’s $16 billion annual budget and provides asset management for a host of state owned property. She is a native of Florence, Alabama, holds a B S degree from the University of North Alabama and a M B A from Jackson State University. Entrepreneur, author and lecturer, her career path has lead to a successful marriage of healthcare and business. Wray is a nationally recognized consultant/facilitator in the areas of regulatory compliance, risk management, leadership development, organizational effectiveness and Current and past leadership positions in numerous national, state and local organizations include DeVry Inc./Chamberlain College Board of Trustees; the National Coalition of 100 Black Women – former National First Vice President; International Ballet Competition – Board of Directors, MS Commission on the Status of Women – Commissioner, Junior League of Jackson – Treasurer/Sustainer Board of Directors, Greater Jackson Arts Council – Past President, Mississippi Federation of Republican Women, Past President, and the Capital Club – Past President and a host of others. Wray is the recipient of varied leadership honors and awards – including Mississippi’s top ten Leading Business Women. Her philanthropic projects include the Mississippi Children’s Museum and she holds active membership in St. Paul Catholic Church in Flowood, MS. She enjoys traveling, reading, light gardening and connecting with friends – old and new. Ms. Wray and her late husband Terrance, have three children – Terrance Jr., Tamika and Torrance.