School of Journalism and New Media

The University of Mississippi

Foundation launches speaker series endowment

Posted on: October 15th, 2013 by
Students listen to a briefing on the nuances of magazine design during a presentation in the 225-seat Overby Auditorium.

Students listen to a briefing on the nuances of magazine design during a presentation in the 225-seat Overby Auditorium.

Now in its sixth year, the Overby Center for Southern Journalism and Politics has become a leading center for civil discourse on issues facing Mississippi, the region, nation and world.

Programs have ranged from second generation Chinese Americans sharing their stories of growing up in the rural South to the only debate between Democratic contenders for governor to a call for journalistic truth and fact-checking by the cousin of Emmett Till, whose 1955 murder triggered the American Civil Rights Movement.

To continue the exploration, the University of Mississippi Foundation has launched an initiative to endow a speaker series. Proceeds from the endowment will cover travel and expenses for guests invited to be part of presentations at the center, which have averaged about one per week during the fall and spring semesters. When fullly funded, the endowment will be the largest for a speaker series at Ole Miss.

Programs have included the well-known — Myrlie Evers Williams, Tom Brokaw, Shepard Smith and Harold Burson — as well as those, such as Till’s cousin Simeon Wright and Stuart Stevens, a manager of Mitt Romney’s 2012 campaign, whose stories are behind the headlines.

“The quality of speakers the Overby Center hosts each semester is a huge asset for the university,” said Chancellor Dan Jones, who is often in the audience at the center’s 225-seat auditorium.

The center was created through a gift from the Freedom Forum, the foundation created by the Gannett media company to support freedom of expression as an essential element in American Society and around the world. A major project of the Forum is the Newseum in Washington, D.C.

It was named in honor of Charles L. Overby, a Jackson native who, after serving as editor of the Daily Mississippian at Ole Miss, worked in politics and journalism, earning a Pulitzer Prize, before becoming chief executive officer of the Freedom Forum.

The center is adjacent to the newly renovated Meek School of Journalism and New Media, the fastest-growing academic unit at the university. In addition to the auditorium, the center features display areas, a 100-seat conference area and a boardroom for up to 24 people. Media technology is on display throughout the center, including a news wall with nine large-screen monitors showing 20 front pages of newspapers around the South as well as live news programs.

“The center has become a focal point for attracting knowledgeable and interesting speakers with diverse points of view,” Overby said. “Inside the center, we have benefitted from our ongoing partnership with the Newseum, through exhibits and technology.”

Gifts to the Overby Center Speaker Series Endowment may be made in a range. A gift of $50,000, payable over five years, will provide a named speaker series. Gifts of $25,000 each may be given for a paired-name series.

Gifts of $5,000 will endow a premium seat, which is commemorated with a permanent nameplate on the seat. Gifts of $1,000 will endow the remaining seats, which will also have a permanent nameplate.

More information is available from Director of Development John Festervand ( Donations may be made through the Giving link on the Meek School website,