Class notes


‘71 & ‘75 Dr. James E. Cofer Sr., Professor in the College of Business at Missouri State University has been awarded a Fulbright Scholar grant to lecture and perform research at Pontificia Universidade Católica do Rio Grande do Sul in Porto Alegre, Brazil during the 2014-2015 academic year.

‘74 Jim Koerber of The Koerber Company, P.A., in Hattiesburg received the 2013 Accredited in Business Valuation Champion of the Year award from the American Institute of CPAs. The honor was announced at the organization’s Forensic & Valuation Services Conference in Las Vegas, Nev.

‘74 Tom Mason Jr., of Biloxi, has retired after practicing general dentistry in Biloxi for 35 years. He also received his D.D.S. in 1978 from the Louisiana State University School of Dentistry.

‘76 Terry Fleming of Leakesville has been named local director of the year by the Miss Mississippi Pageant program. In addition to teaching with the Greene County School District, she directs the Miss Deep South Scholarship Pageant, a division of the Hattiesburg-based Leaf Foundation.

‘76 Jolynn Leverette of State Line is Waynesboro Middle School’s 2013 Teacher of the Year. A 34-year education veteran, she teaches computer technology at the school.

‘77 Attorney Granville Tate Jr., a partner at Bruinini, Grantham, Grower & Hewes, PLLC, was a top 10 finalist in the Mississippi Business Journal’s third annual Leadership in Law, an awards program honoring 50 members of the state’s legal community. With the firm for 25 years, he serves as chairman of the board of directors.

‘78 Allen Payne, formerly of Philadelphia, has been appointed executive director of the National Heritage Trust by the Governor’s Appointments Office of the State of New York. The trust’s mission is to receive and administer gifts, grants and contributions to further public programs for Empire State parks, recreation, cultural, land and water conservation, and historic preservation purposes.

‘79 Jeff McCoy of DeKalb is the new president and chief executive officer of Great Southern National Bank that serves East and South Mississippi. An East Mississippi banking veteran of more than three decades, he also is a graduate of the Louisiana State University School of Banking.


‘86 Joseph Sawyer has joined Barge, Waggoner, Sumner and Cannon Inc. as senior landscape architect in the land resources business unit. Previously, he served as principal for DC Sawyer Design Group, Inc., a Chattanooga, Tenn., firm founded by his grandfather in 1936.




‘90 R. Shane Ritter (M.S. ’97) is the new engineering department chair of Olivet Nazarene University in Bourbonnais, Ill. He also is owner and electrical engineering director with Ritter Engineering, P.C. A licensed professional engineer in 38 states and Canada with more than 25 years of experience, Ritter has spent his entire career working with and studying the properties of light.

‘92 James Spann of Birmingham, Ala., chief meteorologist at ABC 33/40, was named 2012 “Broadcaster of the Year” by the National Weather Association. He is the first Alabama meteorologist to receive the honor. The NWA recognized his 30-plus years of service to the community and, specifically, his life-saving broadcasts during the state’s historic outbreak of 62 tornados on April 27, 2011.

‘96 Robert Thornton (Ph.D. ’12) has rejoined KETK-TV in Tyler, Texas, as a broadcast meteorologist. A member of KETK’s Hall of Fame, he had been working for the state climatologist of Mississippi and teaching while pursuing his doctorate. Before that, Thornton spent 13 years as a meteorologist in Texas and Mississippi.

‘97 Whit Hughes (M.B.A. ’98) of Madison is the new chief development officer for Baptist Health Systems and president of the Baptist Health Foundation. Previously, he was founder and president of P3 Elevations, LLC, an economic development firm. Hughes also has served as deputy director and chief operating officer for the Mississippi Development Authority.

‘97 Attorney Jason Fortenberry, a member of the Jackson, Miss., litigation practice group for Bradley Arant Boult Cummings LLP, has been elevated to partner. He represents businesses in matters from consumer finance litigation and products liability actions to intellectual property disputes and commercial real estate acquisition and litigation.

‘99 Rusty Burton, an Edward Jones financial adviser in Owensboro, Ky., qualified for the firm’s 2014 Financial Adviser Leaders Conference. He was among only 1,003 who qualified out of the firm’s nearly 12,000 advisers in the U.S. and Canada.


‘02 Joy Herndon of Lucedale now is officially licensed by the Mississippi State Board of Funeral Service and employed at Heritage Funeral Home. A graduate of the funeral service program at Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College, the George County High School alumna also holds degrees from Jones County Junior College and University of South Alabama.

’02 Jason Word of Ridgeland is the new manager of programs, administration and policy for the Mississippi Economic Council.

‘08 Jairus Bernard (Ph.D. ’13) of Lucedale is employed with the Air Force Research Laboratory at Eglin Air Force Base in Florida. He began his career in 2006 at MSU’s Center for Advanced Vehicle Systems.

‘09 Drew Hollinghead of Leakesville is the new head baseball coach at Greene County High School. He is a GCHS alumnus.


‘10 Ben Wall of Atlanta, Ga., has joined Atlas Manufacturing Co., Inc. in Monticello as eastern regional sales manager.

‘10 Scott Waller has been promoted to executive vice president and chief operating officer of the Mississippi Economic Council. Previously of Shubuta, he joined the MEC in 2006, where he oversaw public affairs, policy and communications.

‘11 Tyler Freeman of Corinth has joined Franks, Franks & Jarrell, P.A., in Tupelo as a staff accountant in the audit department. Most recently, he was a field auditor in the Mississippi Office of the State Auditor.

‘11 Robert Lord of Summit has been promoted to inside sales manager at Atlas Manufacturing Co. Inc. in Monticello.

‘11 Russell Ward has joined the University of Alabama in Huntsville as chief information security officer.

‘12 Matthew Parker has been promoted to general manager of Advanced Disposal’s Columbia, S.C., location. He oversees day-to-day operations for the site that is part of the largest, privately-owned U.S. environmental services company.

Birth Announcements

Luke Easton Ardoin, Feb. 8, 2013, to Kelli Ardoin (’08) and Jason Ardoin of Lucedale.

Angel Raeyan Hester, Nov. 22, 2013, to Xiaoming Xie Hester and John Hester Jr. (’85) of Ridgeland.

Reid McCaig Johnston, April 22, 2013, to Victoria McCaig Johnston and Bryan Irby Johnston (’99) of Montgomery, Ala.

Catherine Frances and Caroline Olivia Ridgway, Feb. 24, 2014, to Charles Robert Ridgway (’04) and Brittany Carr Ridgway (’06) of Biloxi.

Dani Lynne Smith, May 20, 2013, to Stevie Smith and Matthew Smith (’08) of Lucedale.