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CLASS NOTES: Medical Alumni Hall of Fame

Published on Thursday, January 15, 2015

By: Gary Pettus at 601-815-9266 or gpettus@umc.edu.

Published on January 15, 2015

Dr. James Keeton, vice chancellor for health affairs, was celebrated in August as the latest recipient of UMMC's Distinguished Medical Alumnus Award, on the night that five School of Medicine legends joined the Medical Hall of Fame. 

"Maybe you can be a prophet in your own country," Keeton said upon accepting the award during an Aug. 16 ceremony attended by an estimated 120 people at the Country Club of Jackson.

"It's been a heck of a trip," said Keeton, who also serves as the dean of the School of Medicine. "To be honored by your peers - it doesn't get any better than that."


  • Dr. PonJola Coney, the first School of Medicine graduate to be appointed dean of a medical school
  • The late Dr. Robert Currier, the first chair of the Department of Neurology
  • Dr. Mac Andrew Greganti, the first-ever recipient of an endowed professorship in internal medicine at the University of North Carolina School of Medicine at Chapel Hill
  • The late Dr. Patrick Lehan, who made the Medical Center's training program in cardiology among the Southeast's best
  • Dr. William Lamar Weems, the first geographic full-time urologist in the Department of Surgery

This is the third year the Medical Alumni Chapter of UMMC has made the Hall of Fame presentations, held in conjunction with the 146th session of the Mississippi State Medical Association.

Keeton, who plans to retire in the summer, is a Class of '65 graduate and the fifth recipient of the Distinguished Medical Alumnus honor.

"I'm just a little old boy from Columbus, in the middle of his class," he said. "I was going to be a YMCA director if I didn't get into medical school. Thank God I got into medical school."

Dr. Dan Jones, University of Mississippi chancellor, presented the award to Keeton.

Keeton served as interim vice chancellor for several months starting in 2009 before Jones appointed him to fill the position permanently on Feb. 18, 2010.

As UMMC's chief executive officer, Keeton has led the institution through a host of challenges - among them a major economic recession.

"In my humble opinion these are our best days," Jones said. "When the history of the medical center is written, I believe it will show that the time Jimmy has been here was pivotal."

Dr. Barbara Goodman, president of the Medical Alumni Chapter, said the Hall of Fame inductees made outstanding contributions to the medical school, the state, and beyond.


Dr. PonJola Coney
Dr. PonJola Coney

Coney, who was unable to attend the ceremony, sent her acceptance speech, which included these words: "Thank you, my family and friends, for your support and unconditional love and especially to my late mother, Dorothy, for being a role model of patience, sacrifice, trust, leadership and more."

Accepting the award for Robert Currier were his wife Marilyn Currier and their two daughters Dr. Mary Currier, State Health Officer for the Mississippi State Department of Health, and Angela Currier.

"I may be prejudiced, but I think he deserves it," Marilyn Currier said. "He loved to teach. His students loved him. He was good at it."

For his part, Hall of Fame recipient Greganti said that three of his fellow honorees had been his teachers: Currier, Lehan and Weems. "These people were the stars," he said.

Accepting the honor for Lehan was his son Dr. Neal Lehan, a Clinton dentist who teaches in the UMMC School of Medicine. As a boy, he said, he went with his father to work at UMMC on Sundays before church.

"Dad was a calm cookie," he said. "A heart would stop on the table. He'd point to this, then point to that, and then everything would be fine. Then he'd go outside and suck down half a cigarette."

Accompanying Weems to the presentation was his wife of 61 years, Nanette Weems. 

Referring to his Hall of Fame night, Weems said, "It's a high honor, but not the highest honor I've ever had. When Nanette agreed to marry me, that was the highest."