Main Content

At UMMC's 58th annual commencement largest class ever receives degrees

Published on Thursday, May 22, 2014

By: Ruth Cummins

Today’s one more day for the record books at UMMC.

A total 846 physicians, dentists, nurses, allied health professionals, and graduate students in the health sciences are receiving degrees during annual commencement ceremonies at the Mississippi Coliseum. That tops 2013’s 677, which bested the 2011 record total of 638.

University of Mississippi Chancellor Dr. Dan Jones and Dr. Jimmy Keeton, vice chancellor for health affairs and dean of the School of Medicine, are addressing more than 3,000 guests gathering at 10 a.m. to cheer on their family and friends.

Monica Nichols White of Ridgeland hadn’t planned to walk across the stage to accept her diploma. She’s been there, done that, with three degrees earned over the past decade.

“But, my son told me he was so excited to see Mommy graduate, so I’m going to,” said White, who received her master of nurse education and already has started work as a health assessment instructor in the School of Nursing. “I feel like I’m dreaming, but I worked hard and sacrificed quite a bit.”

Nursing is a career change for 35-year-old White, who earned a bachelor’s degree in English and journalism, then a master’s in mass communications before receiving her bachelor’s degree in nursing at UMMC in 2010 and working as a trauma nurse. “I knew once I got into this program, I’d pursue a career in nurse education,” she said.

Fellow School of Nursing grad and Byram resident Terica Lomax, 26, will use her new master of science to work as a family nurse practitioner. “This institution has set the foundation for the rest of my life,” she said. “I’ve obtained the tools I need to be successful. I’m prepared to go anywhere.”

It’s a day for both students and their professors to be recognized for excellence in education, with some awards a closely-held secret until commencement.

Dr. Ian Paul, professor of psychiatry and human behavior and director of the graduate program in neuroscience, will be recognized for winning the 2014 Regions Bank TEACH Prize for outstanding accomplishments in education.

Other coveted awards include the Waller S. Leathers Award for the medical student with the highest academic average for four years; the Wallace V. Mann Jr. Award for the dental student with the highest academic average for four years; the Christine L. Oglevee Memorial Award for the outstanding School of Nursing baccalaureate graduate; the Dr. Virginia Stansel Tolbert Award for the student with the highest academic average in the School of Health Related Professions; and the Randall-Trustmark Award for outstanding research achievement by a graduate student.

School of Medicine graduates Tess Sison of Long Beach, Adrienne Webb of Madison and Virginia Wright of Jackson today celebrate a fast friendship that began when they met each other in first-year orientation lines. For the last two years, they’ve shared a house with their three very large dogs.

How have they kept up their bond over four stressful years? It’s all about supporting each other and stopping to have a little fun along the way, they say.

“We don’t know each other’s grades. We don’t ask,” said Sison, 27. And, Webb said, “none of us are naturally competitive.”

Sison leaves for a residency at the University of Texas Medical School in Houston. Webb, 26, and Wright, 27, will complete their residencies at UMMC.

It’s hitting them, they say, that just weeks from now, they won’t all wake up in the same house. “It’s exciting, but it’s kind of nerve-racking,” Webb said.

“Medical School is about over,” Wright said. “We’re about to take the next step.”


three-bedroom, For sale : three-bedroom, three-bathroom house on almost two acres of land, recently renovated, new carpet, tile and wood floors in den and sun room, recently painted inside and out, great storage space, two attics, too many features to list, call Brittany Lyons at (601) 543-9849 or e-mail

High Resolution
Medium Resolution
Low Resolution