Medical Center salutes Jim and Donna Barksdale for contributions to diversity and inclusion

Published on Friday, January 31, 2020

By: Gary Pettus, [email protected]

Mississippi-born philanthropists and entrepreneurs James L. “Jim” and Donna Barksdale were honored Thursday at the University of Mississippi Medical Center for contributions benefitting diverse and underrepresented communities.

The couple received the Inspiration Award, one of six institutional accolades, during the third annual presentation of The Pillars, a tribute to those who further diversity and a “climate of inclusion” at the state’s only academic medical center and within the community beyond.

The annual event is hosted by the UMMC Office of Diversity and Inclusion.

The Barksdale family name is linked to millions of dollars in gifts for initiatives to better the state, including one whose 20th anniversary was marked recently: the Barksdale Scholarships.

“They are heroes of the Medical Center and for the state of Mississippi,” said Dr. LouAnn Woodward, UMMC vice chancellor for health affairs and dean of the School of Medicine.

Dozens of scholars have benefitted from their gifts, including a large number of African Americans, many of whom are now practicing physicians in this state.

Portrait of Juanyce Taylor

In announcing the award, Dr. Juanyce Taylor, UMMC’s chief diversity and inclusion officer, noted Jim Barksdale’s reputation as a “renowned business executive, philanthropist, faithful, genuine leader.”

A Jackson native, Barksdale, 77, the chair and president of Barksdale Management Corp., graduated from the University of Mississippi in 1962 with a degree in marketing before selling computers for IBM. Later, at Federal Express, where he held a variety of leadership roles, including CEO, he helped deliver a computerized package-tracking system.

Afterward, he became president and CEO of a cellular communications company whose prosperity prompted its purchase from AT&T Wireless.

Starting in 1995, he led Netscape Communications Corp. for about four years as president and CEO during the dot-com boom. The company’s success led to its purchase in 1999 by AOL for $10.5 billion.

He and his wife of four decades, the late Sally McDonnell Barksdale, gave Ole Miss $5.4 million in 1997 to create what is now the Sally McDonnell Barksdale Honors College – “to keep the best and brightest in the state,” as Barksdale said at the time.

Three years later, the Barksdale Foundation granted $100 million to the state to foil illiteracy through the Barksdale Reading Institute, led at one time by one of Jim Barksdale’s five brothers, attorney Claiborne Barksdale. The donation also funded the Mississippi Principal Corps, a program to develop highly-effective, homegrown school administrators.

With an additional $2 million endowment, Jim and Sally Barksdale established scholarships meant to encourage talented African American students to stay in Mississippi for their medical education, naming the awards after physicians in their family: Dr. Bryan Barksdale, Dr. Don Mitchell and Dr. Fred McDonnell. More than 50 of these students have received these annually renewable grants.

Some years after Sally Barksdale’s death in 2003, Jim Barksdale met Donna Kennedy of Magee, who for years ran her own clothing design business, while also forging a career as a leader in education, business, philanthropy, civic endeavors and more. She was president of the Junior League of Jackson when it voted to support the Children’s Cancer Clinic at UMMC.

After their marriage, the first Jim and Donna Barksdale Scholars entered the School of Medicine at UMMC as beneficiaries of grants presented to students of merit.

Now, some 20 years later, the total number of Barksdale Scholars  is around 90. The Barksdales’ medical school contributions have exceeded $17 million, paying for the education of scores of scholars, most of them African American, and all of them committed to living and practicing medicine in Mississippi for at least five years.

“I appreciate the honor,” Jim Barksdale said after the ceremony. “I’m so proud of our medical scholars; about 47 are now practicing in the state. We’re starting to make a dent in the physician corps in Mississippi.”

Held on the Medical Center campus, The Pillars’ Recognition of Service & Inclusive Excellence observance acknowledged the work of five more “visionaries and leaders,”  in Taylor’s words, who were named winners of the Excellence Award, Inclusion Award, Beacon Award, Lifetime Achievement Award and Esprit De Corps Award.

Another eight UMMC faculty and staffers were recognized as members of the inaugural 2020 Masters Class of learners from the Diversity and Inclusion Champion and Professional Development Certificate Program.

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“Physical” Is Dua Lipa’s Biggest ’80s Pop Move Yet

Plenty of current pop stars mine the chintzy sounds of the ’80s for inspiration, but none have concentrated the motif quite like Dua Lipa. The title of the UK singer’s upcoming second LP, Future Nostalgia, underlines her commitment; standout lead single “Don’t Start Now” wears flashy synths and a disco bassline as chunky as the era’s geometric jewelry. “Physical,” the album’s latest single, is her most obvious pastiche yet, setting a chugging, bordering-on-cheesy synth line beneath a melody seemingly descended from Patti LaBelle’s “New Attitude.” Of course, Olivia Newton-John’s eternal “Physical” remains the true guiding light for the track’s peppy, Jazzercise energy, but Lipa’s song brushes past simplistic, imitative devotion. She sings about feeling “diamond rich” with her new lover, so keyed up on the honeymoon phase that she can’t sleep. The vigorous chorus is as fit for the gym as the dancefloor. “Lights out, follow the noise,” she snarls in her smoky lower register. “Baby, keep on dancing like you ain’t got a choice.” It’s polite of her to consider there was any other option.

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Mountain honey, Utah Valley

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Small glass jars of local Utah mountain honey from the Sundance Mountain Resort.

It shouldn’t come as a surprise that the Beehive State produces great honey—but did you know the Utah honeybee has a history with the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints?

Colonies of honeybees were brought into the region by Mormon settlers in covered wagons in 1848, as part of the famous Brigham Young-led migration west (aka the Mormon Trail). Young, in fact, reportedly urged his followers to try beekeeping and to use the honey for sweets and medicine (source). Honeybees as a whole were admired by the Mormons for their work ethic and cooperative spirit, qualities they saw ingrained in themselves. The bees became an important part of the region’s agriculture in the decades that followed—in fact, Utah, which became a U.S. state in 1896, was almost named Deseret, a word from the Book of Mormon that means “honeybee.”

Today’s Utah’s four main beekeeping regions encompass the mountains (Wasatch Front), the forest (Uinta Basin), the desert (the Delta), and the far southwest (the Dixie). Each area presents its own challenges, but the primary nectar source remains the same: alfafa and sweetclover. Bees are essential to our ecosystem for many reasons—not least of all being responsible for pollinating countless crops—but the product of so much beehive activity is, of course, that sweet, sweet honey. And if you’re in the Utah Valley, chances are you’ll encounter Utah’s mountain honey.

Good to know: While honeybees are not native to Utah, some 900 species of bees are, making the state home to the most diverse bee population on the continent.

Where: The gorgeous Sundance Mountain Resort (8841 Alpine Loop Scenic Byway, Sundance, map) is a must in this region, whether for a luxurious night’s accommodation, a meal at one of its highly rated restaurants, a hike or ski in its nearby mountains, or a show in its outdoor amphitheater. Among its offerings is the Sundance Deli and store, which sells, among other things, made-to-order sandwiches, baked goods, coffee, the handmade soaps used by the hotel, and little jars of mountain honey.   

When: The deli is open Sun-Thurs, 7am-9pm; Fri-Sat, 7am-10pm.

Order: Pictured are the adorable little 4 oz. jars of mountain honey ($10 each) at the Sundance store. A perfect edible souvenir!

Alternatively: Another great way to try the local honey at Sundance is via a meal at the Foundry Grill, where it’s featured in the charcuterie plate (available at lunch and dinner).