Class Notes


John Thornton (B.A. communication, ’72) recently retired from West Florida Electric Cooperative as director of communications with 32-years of service. He was responsible for the cooperative’s monthly newsletter and bi-weekly employee newsletter, as well as coordination of promotional materials. He earned the Cooperative Master Communicator award from the National Cooperative Communicators Association. He was also recognized by former Alabama Governor Bob Riley, with a proclamation for this achievement.

Patricia O’Kelly (BME instrumental, ’75) earned notice in The Washington Post upon her retirement as managing director of media relations from the National Symphony Orchestra. The article notes that she was the organization’s institutional memory and an invaluable member of the organization.

Hinds Community College presented its highest honor, the Emphasis on Excellence and Enrichment Award, to Thomas Wasson (B.S. management, ’76), vice president for Physical Plant and Auxiliaries, and Janet Wasson (B.S. foreign language education, ’74), the current longest serving English instructor on the Raymond campus. The couple’s honor marks only the fourth time the award has had multiple recipients.

Lynn Phillips-Gaines (B.A. communication, ’78) was named to Barron’s Financial News’s list of the top 1,200 advisers in the country. This is her second consecutive year on the list. She manages more than $200 million in client assets in her role as a certified financial planner at Phillips Financial, an independent firm with Raymond James Financial Services.



Tom Nelson (attended) has been promoted to senior associate at San Francisco, California-based BAR Architects.

Gordon W. “Will” McMahon (B.S., M.S. civil engineering, ’82, ’88) has been named chief of the Engineering Systems and Materials Division in the Geotechnical and Structures Laboratory at the U.S. Army Engineer Research and Development Center in Vicksburg.

James C. Ray (B.S., M.S. civil engineering, ’83, ’91) was named a Fellow of the American Society of Civil Engineers. He is a research structural engineer in the Geosciences and Structures Division Research Group of the Geotechnical and Structures Laboratory of the U.S. Army Engineer Research and Development Center in Vicksburg.



Lisa Yonge Lacy (B.S. home economics, marketing, ’90) released “A Promise on Brushy Creek” in April. Based on the lives of her paternal ancestors, the book weaves together true stories and fiction to create an engaging tale of the past. The first published work of the Stoneville resident is available in hardcover, paperback and e-book editions.



Brian Ketchum (B.S. chemical engineering, ’92) has been named to The Peoples Bank board of directors. He is the principle owner in Environmental Compliance and Safety Inc. He previously worked with the Mississippi Department of Environmental Quality, where he became a branch chief before leaving to become a corporate environmental health and safety manager, and later plant manager for a chemical manufacturing company.

Russell M. Burton (B.S. mechanical engineering, ’99) was invited to attend the Edward Jones Managing Partner’s Conference in April. The prestigious annual event honors the top 350 of the firms more than 14,000 financial advisers. He is based at the firm’s Owensboro, Kentucky, office.



Michael Thoma (BARC architecture, ’00) has joined the St. Louis office of HOK, a global design, architecture, engineering and planning firm, as a vice president and senior project manager.

Trey Ball (BACC accounting, ’01) joined Evans Petree PC as an associate focusing on business transactions, mergers and acquisitions, commercial lending and tax law. He previously worked as a certified public accountant.

Dow AgroSciences named Scott Wright (B.S. agronomy, ’01; M.S. agriculture, ’06) an Enlist field specialist. He will serve the mid-South as a member of a team of regional experts supporting Enlist weed control systems, an advanced herbicide and trait system that delivers exceptional weed control.

Rhonda R. Burrage (B.S., M.S. secondary education, ’03,’10) was selected for the prestigious national Milken Educator Award, which comes with a $25,000 prize. She teaches at Meridian’s Magnolia Middle School.

Alice Holloway (BBA banking and finance, ’03) has been promoted to consumer loan officer with First State Bank-Lucedale.

Courtney Tarpley Robbins (B.A. communication, ’04) opened a law practice based in Canton. Robbins Legan, PLLC offers services in the specialized areas of ERISA and estate planning. She previously worked as an ERISA expert in the trust and wealth management department of one of the largest banks in the South.

Dustin Barnes (B.A. communication, ’05) has been named one of the nation’s top journalists under 35 by Editor and Publisher magazine. He is community engagement editor of the Clarion Ledger (Jackson) and previously worked in public relations at the University of Mississippi Medical Center. (Image submitted Joe Ellis/The Clarion-Ledger)

Kim Strickland (BFA art, ’05) has been promoted from senior art director to vice president at Kelley & Associates Advertising. She will manage delivery of service to clients, supervise professional development and continue to create leading-edge visual communications.


Ashley Buse (B.S. biological sciences, ‘06) will represent Mississippi in the Mrs. America competition in Las Vegas August 27. Representing Tupelo, she took top honors in the state pageant, in which she was also named Mrs. Fitness. Known as the foremost competition for married women in the United States, the Mrs. America organization celebrates family values and holds up contemporary married women as America’s greatest natural resource. (Image by Zach Harrison Photography)

Lauren Black (BBA marketing, business information systems, ’07; MBA business administration, ’09) earned certification from the certified financial planner board of standards. She works at Phillips Financial in Starkville.

Kimberly Mason Peeples (B.S. psychology, sociology, ’09; M.S. counselor education, ’12) has been selected for the National Board for Certified Counselors Minority Fellowship Program by the organization’s foundation. She will receive $20,000 in funding and training to support her education and work with under-served populations.

Christian Preus Landscape Architecture earned the Honor Award by the Mississippi chapter of the American Society of Landscape Architects for the Lighthouse Park project in Pascagoula. It is the highest honor that a project can receive at the state level for exemplifying excellence in public design. The presentation was made at the 50th year celebration of the landscape architecture department to Oliver Preus (BLA landscape architecture, ’10), founding principle Christian Preus (BLA landscape architecture, ’02) and campus planner and MSU faculty member Cory Gallo.



William Morris “M.J.” Hill Jr. (B.S., M.S. computer science, ’11, ’13) was honored by Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory during African-American Heritage Month for making an impact in his field and serving as a role model for younger generations. He is a software engineer for the California-based group.

Lynn Tincher-Ladner (Ph.D. community college leadership, ’12) is now president and CEO of Phi Theta Kappa. She is only the third CEO in the honor society’s 98 years. She is a member of Mississippi State’s graduate faculty.

Hans Palacios (MBA business administration, ’14) has joined HOK, a global design, architecture, engineering and planning firm, as a project architect.


Birth Announcements

Elizabeth Britt Carter, Sept. 21, 2015 to Christopher Carter and Britt Hammons Carter (’09, ’10) of Flowood.

Morgan Alexis Arnold, Jan. 22, 2016 to Michael G. Arnold (’07) and Kathryn Arnold of McComb.

Pippa Alison-Carolyn Clayton, March 17, 2016 to Kevin Clayton (’06) and Alison Clayton (’15) of New Albany.