The Chancellors of The University of Mississippi
A Legacy of Leadership
George Frederick Holmes (1848-49)
Elected to serve as president when he was only 28, George Frederick Holmes is distinguished as the university’s youngest president, its first president—and its most transitory president. He served only five months, due to illness in his family and difficulties in maintaining discipline on campus. Born in 1820 in Georgetown, British Guyana, Holmes was reared in England but journeyed to Canada and the United States in his late teens to teach and practice law. President Holmes was a prolific writer; many of his essays were published in the Southern Quarterly Review before he was 25. He taught briefly at Richmond College and the College of William and Mary before coming to The University of Mississippi in 1848. Holmes helped inspire and organize the university’s Hermaean Literary Society, which existed until 1946.
Augustus Baldwin Longstreet (1849-56)
Born in 1790, Augustus Baldwin Longstreet was the first of four Yale graduates to serve as president of the university, and he was the first of three presidents to be an ordained minister. A man of many trades, Longstreet worked as a lawyer, legislator, judge and journalist in Georgia, where he started his own publication, The Sentinel, in Augusta. He also was a prominent author. His Georgia Scenes, a collection of humorous stories, was published by Harper in 1840. Longstreet served as president of Emory College in Oxford, Georgia, and of Centenary College in Shreveport, Louisiana, before being elected to the post at The University of Mississippi. During his tenure, several social fraternities were organized, the School of Law was started and a professorship of governmental science and law was added to the faculty.
Frederick Augustus Porter Barnard (1856-61)
Frederick A.P. Barnard was the university’s first “chancellor” (the title was changed from “president” in 1858), and he was perhaps its most ardent and idealistic proponent. He aspired to make the university the greatest scientific institution in the world, establishing an ideal that has challenged and inspired his successors. Born in 1809, he graduated from Yale in 1828 and began teaching. In 1838, he accepted a position teaching mathematics and natural philosophy at the University of Alabama, and, in 1854, he accepted a similar position at The University of Mississippi. Shortly after assuming the presidency in 1856, Barnard convinced the Legislature to appropriate funds to order the largest telescope in the world for the university and to construct an observatory for it on campus. The observatory (now called Barnard Observatory), which today houses the Center for the Study of Southern Culture, was completed, but because of the Civil War the telescope was diverted to Chicago, where it remains today at Northwestern University. Barnard, a minister and musician, left Oxford during the Civil War and became president of Columbia University, where he remained for 25 years. He is the only University of Mississippi chancellor to be elected as an undergraduate to Phi Beta Kappa.
John Newton Waddel (1865-74)
One of the university’s original trustees and faculty members, Waddel was 36 when he came to The University of Mississippi in 1848, where he remained until the Civil War. An ordained Presbyterian minister, Waddel had served as commissioner of army missions for the Confederate Army in 1863 and had preached many sermons to troops. After the war, he was a highly influential and stabilizing force for the university and the community, encouraging the revival of the Alumni Association and student organizations. With the idea of revising the curriculum here, he visited leading universities in the North and East, ultimately achieving a new curriculum similar to that of the University of Michigan. Waddel was a graduate of the University of Georgia, where his father had served as president. He worked as a cotton farmer in Alabama, taught at the Willington Academy in South Carolina and established the Montrose Academy in Jasper County, Mississippi, before he was elected chair of the Ancient Languages Department at The University of Mississippi. He resigned the chancellorship to become secretary of education for the Presbyterian Church of the United States.
Alexander Peter Stewart (1874-87)
The only Civil War general to serve as chancellor of The University of Mississippi, Alexander Peter Stewart walked away from a $6,000-a-year job with the St. Louis Mutual Life Insurance Company to take the job here—which paid about $2,500 a year. Stewart’s tenure was marked by firsts. Baseball was introduced to the university in 1876. The university’s first Ph.D. was granted in 1877. The university became coeducational in 1882. And the first woman faculty member was appointed in 1885. Born in 1821, Stewart was a graduate of West Point Military Academy, and he taught mathematics at Cumberland University in Tennessee before the start of the Civil War. Stewart entered the Confederate Army as a major, was promoted rapidly and was appointed lieutenant general on June 23, 1864. Stewart was a commander in the Army of Tennessee and was distinguished in the battles of Shiloh, Perryville, Murfreesboro, Chickamauga and Missionary Ridge.
Edward Mayes (1887-91)
Edward Mayes was the first native Mississippian and the first University of Mississippi alumnus to become chancellor of the university. Born in Hinds County, Mississippi, in 1846, Mayes served as a private in the Fourth Regiment of Mississippi Cavalry during the Civil War. When the university reopened after the war, Mayes was the first non-Oxford student to arrive—in October 1865. He was one of only 193 students enrolled at the university that year. After graduating in 1868, Mayes practiced law in Coffeeville and Oxford. He was selected to teach law at the university in 1877. During his tenure, Ventress Hall was constructed as the university’s first library building. Mayes returned to his law practice at the end of his term, and he later served as dean of the Millsaps School of Law. Among his most notable writings is a history of education in Mississippi.
Robert Burwell Fulton (1892-1906)
Another University of Mississippi alumnus, Robert Burwell Fulton served as chancellor longer than any of his predecessors and deserves credit for establishing the School of Engineering (1900), the School of Education (1903) and the School of Medicine (1903). Born in 1849 in Sumter County, Ala., Fulton graduated with honors from The University of Mississippi in 1869. After a teaching stint in Alabama and New Orleans, Fulton returned to Oxford in 1871 as assistant professor of physics and astronomy. He achieved full professor status in 1875 and was the first director of the Mississippi Weather Service. His leadership was largely responsible for the organization of the National Association of State Universities; he served as its president for five consecutive years. During Fulton’s tenure, football was introduced to the university (1893), and the university’s first printed annual was published (1897). Its name, The Ole Miss, soon became synonymous with The University of Mississippi.
Andrew Armstrong Kincannon (1907-14)
Born in Noxubee County in 1859, Andrew Armstrong Kincannon was the second Mississippi native to serve as the university’s chief administrator. Striving to make The University of Mississippi a progressive school, he pointed to other top state schools around the country, such as the University of Michigan and the University of Wisconsin, to inspire an attitude of enthusiasm and growth. After graduating from the National Normal University of Ohio in 1884, Kincannon taught at Mississippi A&M College (now Mississippi State University), was superintendent of the new public school system in Meridian and was president of the Industrial Institute and College (now Mississippi University for Women) before being elected chancellor of Ole Miss. During his tenure, the university grew in size and reputation: Some of its younger graduates were among the first of a growing list of Rhodes Scholars; the School of Pharmacy opened in 1908; and, in 1911, The Mississippian, the university’s student newspaper, was started under the auspices of the YMCA and two literary societies. But there was increasing animosity in the Legislature toward the university: Fraternities and sororities were banished by law in 1912.
Joseph Neely Powers (1914-24; 1930-32)
Joseph Neely Powers is perhaps best-known as an educator for his role in establishing the agricultural high schools that would become the basis for the community college system in Mississippi. A native of Havana, Alabama, Powers was born in 1869. He taught in several rural schools and later served as a principal and superintendent. Governor James K. Vardaman appointed Powers as state superintendent of education, a post to which he was subsequently elected. Powers enjoyed enormous popularity as chancellor of The University of Mississippi, although he was subjected to scandal and political favoritism during the political administrations of Governor Bilbo and Governor Russell. He was voted out of office by the university’s trustees in 1924 but was reappointed for a brief, turbulent period in the early 1930s. Powers is credited with the establishment of the School of Commerce. In another notable action, he permitted William Faulkner, the future Nobel Prize winner, to enroll at Ole Miss without a high—school diploma—as a special student.
Alfred Hume (1924-30; 1932-35)
Alfred Hume was the first University of Mississippi chancellor to possess an earned doctorate, and he was perhaps one of the most dedicated to the university, devoting nearly 60 years of his life to the school. A Tennessee native born in 1866, Dr. Hume began teaching mathematics and astronomy at The University of Mississippi immediately after he received his doctorate from Vanderbilt University. Besides serving two terms as chancellor, he was called upon three additional times to serve as acting chancellor. Dr. Hume made many enduring contributions to the university. In 1927, he organized the graduate program into an administrative entity of its own. He started a significant building program, which included plans for the construction of Fulton Chapel, Bondurant Hall, the gymnasium, the high-school building, Lewis Hall, the School of Law, the cafeteria, six dormitories for men, one women’s dormitory, Hemingway Stadium and the Field House. Fraternities were allowed to reorganize. Most significantly, however, Hume is credited with preventing Governor Theodore G. Bilbo from moving the university to Jackson.
Alfred Benjamin Butts (1935-46)
A recognized scholar and law professor, Alfred Benjamin Butts was born in 1890. He received a B.S. degree from Mississippi A&M College in 1911 and a Ph.D. from Columbia University in 1920. While head of the Department of Education and Sociology at A&M, he spent summers teaching at numerous universities around the country, including at Yale, where he earned a law degree in 1930. Dr. Butts’ most daunting task upon assuming the chancellorship in 1935 was to restore the university’s accreditation, which had been lost during the Bilbo administration. This was achieved in 1941. Dr. Butts is credited with pulling the university through the Great Depression. To his credit, a substantial amount of construction was achieved despite economic difficulties: the Student Union (Weir Hall), the Physics and Astronomy Building (Lewis Hall), 21 new faculty houses, and 17 sorority and fraternity houses. Also during Dr. Butts’ term, the name “Rebels” was selected for the football team.
John Davis Williams (1946-68)
John Davis Williams was chancellor for 22 years, and his influence on the university was profound. During the years of growth after World War II, he reorganized the administrative structure of the rapidly expanding university. He kept the university open and stabilized during the difficult period of integration in 1962. He saw the university experience a revival of athletics (the football teams were consistently successful during his term as chancellor). He helped the university celebrate its Centennial (an event highlighted by the publication of Dr. J. Allen Cabaniss’ A History of The University of Mississippi). A Kentucky native born in 1902, Williams was the first and only chancellor to hold the Ed.D. (Doctor of Education) degree. In 1955, he oversaw the establishment of the Medical Center campus in Jackson and the transition from a two-year medical program to a four-year school that was fully accredited. Three years later (1958), the School of Nursing was added on the Jackson campus. Doctoral programs were authorized in biology, physics, political science and psychology, and Carrier Scholarships were established to attract the best students. Also during his long tenure, the university built an alumni headquarters and celebrated its unique relationship with William Faulkner.
Porter Lee Fortune Jr. (1968-84)
Porter Lee Fortune Jr. was chancellor during a period of remarkable growth and development. Born in 1920, Fortune served as a naval officer during World War II and saw action in the South Pacific, where he was awarded the Bronze Star. After receiving his Ph.D. from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, he joined the faculty at Mississippi Southern College (now the University of Southern Mississippi), where he later served as dean of the university and graduate school. During his first 10 years as chancellor of The University of Mississippi, Dr. Fortune saw enrollment increase by 40 percent and black enrollment increase from 17 students to 733 students. Dr. Fortune is remembered for helping to smooth the way for both black and white students during the civil rights movement. During his administration, funds were finalized for the construction of the Ole Miss Union; the Turner Health, Physical Education and Recreation Center; the athletic dormitory; the chemistry building (Coulter Hall); Dorothy Crosby Hall; the Kate Skipwith Teaching Museum; Anderson Hall; the Lamar Law Center; and the J.D. Williams Library addition. The schools of Health Related Professions and Dentistry were added to the Medical Center during his chancellorship, as was the School of Accountancy on the Oxford campus. New programs under his administration included women’s studies, Afro-American studies, communicative disorders, social work and court reporting. Other legacies of the Fortune administration include The University of Mississippi Foundation, the Chancellor’s Trust and the Alumni Hall of Fame. But Dr. Fortune may be best-remembered for promoting the development of the eastern part of the campus as a culture center—including the acquisition of Rowan Oak, the William Faulkner property, and the Skipwith property—which attracts visitors and scholars from around the world.
Robert Gerald Turner (1984-95)
The second youngest of the university’s chancellors, Gerald Turner is credited with boosting the university’s enrollment and with significantly increasing endowment funds. Spearheading the university’s first capital campaign solely for academic enrichment and following that with a campaign to raise funds to bring athletics facilities to SEC standards, Dr. Turner oversaw a private fundraising effort that resulted in gifts to Ole Miss of more than $100 million. During his chancellorship, the university’s endowment increased from $8 million to $64 million. A Texan, Dr. Turner received his Ph.D. in psychology in 1975 from the University of Texas at Austin. He advanced rapidly through a succession of teaching and administrative positions at Pepperdine University and later served as vice president for executive affairs at the University of Oklahoma before being named chancellor of The University of Mississippi. During his administration, seven new academic programs were introduced and six federally funded national centers were established: the Jamie L. Whitten National Center for Physical Acoustics, the National Center for the Development of Natural Products, the Marine Mineral Research Institute, the Center for Computational Hydroscience and Engineering, the National Food Service Management Institute and the Center for Water and Wetlands Resources. The Mississippi Supercomputing Center was established on campus, and externally funded research programs increased more than 300 percent. Twelve Barnard Distinguished Professorships were created from private funds, and the university’s 23rd Rhodes Scholar, Mississippi’s first African American honoree, was named. Minority enrollment increased 85 percent, and the university received two Peterson Awards for Excellence in Graduate Admissions for Minority Students. More than $200 million in new construction was completed, initiated or approved on the Oxford and Jackson campuses prior to his departure to become president of Southern Methodist University in Dallas, Texas, in May 1995.
Robert Conrad Khayat (1995-2009)
A respected academician and administrator, Robert Khayat was a professor of law and served as associate dean of the School of Law, vice chancellor for university affairs and director of the Sesquicentennial before being named chancellor of The University of Mississippi in 1995.
He received his bachelor’s degree in education from Ole Miss in 1961 and graduated with honors in his Ole Miss law school class in 1966.
As a student-athlete, Dr. Khayat demonstrated that athletes can succeed academically and be active in student life. During his undergraduate years he was tapped for membership in ODK, was active in the YMCA and served on ASB committees. Named an Academic All-American football player in 1959, he led the nation in kick-scoring in 1958 and 1959 and was selected to play in the 1960 College All-Star game. He played for the Washington Redskins from 1960-64 and was a member of the 1961 NFL Pro Bowl team.
Dr. Khayat joined the Ole Miss faculty in 1969 as a law professor. While on leave from Ole Miss during 1980-81, he earned a master’s degree in law from Yale University on a Sterling Fellowship. He returned as a law professor in 1981, advancing to the position of associate dean. He served as Ole Miss vice chancellor for university affairs from 1984-89. On leave from the university, he became the first president of the NCAA Foundation with a mission of promoting academic and personal development opportunities for college athletes.
He returned as law professor in 1992 and later began chairing the university’s 150th anniversary celebration. The School of Law student body chose Dr. Khayat as their 1993-94 Outstanding Law Professor of the Year, and the school’s Mississippi Law Journal staff established a scholarship in his name in 1995.
He has served as Oxford-Lafayette County Chamber of Commerce president and was named Oxford’s Citizen of the Year. The National Football Foundation presented him with the Distinguished American Award in 1987 and 1989. He also was featured in the 1987-88 and 1988-89 NFL yearbooks for achieving success after football, where he was cited as “one of the NFL’s best examples of a successful scholar-athlete.”
During his 14 years as chancellor, Dr. Khayat made an indelible impact on the university through enhancing the learning environment, increasing enrollment and heading two capital campaigns generating almost $775 million in private support. The university created the Sally McDonnell Barksdale Honors College, Croft Institute for International Studies, Lott Leadership Institute and Winter Institute for Racial Reconciliation while he was chancellor.
Dr. Khayat spearheaded the effort that resulted in UM’s becoming the first public institution of higher learning in Mississippi chosen for a Phi Beta Kappa chapter, thus establishing a climate of excellence for all endeavors at The University of Mississippi. Also during his tenure, Ole Miss hosted a presidential debate, announced its 25th Rhodes Scholar, inaugurated the first black president of the alumni association and won two Cotton Bowls.