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Prominent Alumni

Updated April 3, 2014
 

 Prominent Alumni
 Natalie Allen | '84
Natalie Allen   After more than 25 years in the journalism industry, Natalie Allen has worked her way up a soaring ladder of success and is currently a news anchor at CNN International. Prior to this role, Allen appeared on "Forecast Earth," the Weather Channel's weekly program on climate change and was a news correspondent for NBC News, an MSNBC News anchor, and was co-anchor of "CNN Live Today," the network's weekday afternoon newscast.
 
 Charles Atwood | '70
Charles Atwood   Charles Atwood retired in December 2008 as vice chairman of the Board of Directors for Harrah's Entertainment Inc., now Caesars Entertainment Inc. Atwood joined Harrah's in 1979 and held numerous finance and development positions during his tenure. He was named chief financial officer in 2001, joined Harrah's Board of Directors in July 2005, and became vice chairman in 2006. Atwood is the Lead Trustee of the Board of Trustees for Equity Residential, a REIT listed on the New York Stock Exchange. He is also a member of the Board of Directors of Gala Coral Group, a London-based company.
 
 Bruce Aust | '85
Bruce Aust   Bruce Aust is executive vice president, Global Corporate Client Group at NASDAQ OMX. He oversees global business development and relationship management with the 3,700 companies listed on NASDAQ OMX Group's 16 listing markets. He also has responsibility for NASDAQ OMX's Corporate Services unit, which provides investor relations, corporate governance and visibility services to public and private companies worldwide. During his tenure, NASDAQ OMX has attracted some of the country's highest-profile IPOs, including Google, Groupon, Carlyle, Zynga and Facebook, as well as NYSE company switches including Mattel, Vodafone, Dreamworks, Texas Instruments, Viacom and Wendy's.
 
 Raylawni Branch | '94
Raylawni Branch   Mississippi pioneer of the African-American civil rights movement, Lt. Col. Raylawni Gloria A. Branch is best known for her leading role in the peaceful integration of The University of Southern Mississippi in 1965. At age 24, while secretary for the Forrest County NAACP, Branch was recruited to integrate The University of Southern Mississippi. On September 6, 1965, she and 18-year-old Hattiesburg native Gwendolyn Elaine Armstrong became the first two African-American students at Southern Miss, where they attended classes accompanied by six bodyguards.
 
 Phil Bryant | '77
Phil Bryant   Mississippi's 64th governor, Phil Bryant made history as the first Golden Eagle elected to lead the state of Mississippi. Prior to this role, Bryant served as Mississippi's lieutenant governor, state auditor and represented Rankin County in the House of Representatives. On Dec. 8, 2011, the Southern Miss Alumni Association announced the newly created Phil Bryant Executive Leadership Scholarship, founded with an initial $10,000 gift from the Association.
 
 Jimmy Buffett | '69
Jimmy Buffett   Singer, songwriter and author, Jimmy Buffett, has recorded more than 30 records, most of which have gone gold, platinum or multiplatinum. His recording, "Boats, Beaches, Bars & Ballads," is one of the biggest-selling boxsets in MCA Records history and was certified quadruple platinum by the Recording Industry Association of America. Buffett has written three No. 1 bestsellers and is one of only six authors in the history of the New York Times bestseller list to have reached No. 1 on both its fiction and nonfiction lists.
 
 James Ray Carpenter | '50, '51
James Ray Carpenter   A prominent figure in the golf community, James Ray Carpenter became involved with the Professional Golf Association in 1969. He worked his way up the ladder of leadership positions in the Gulf States PGA and was elected to the National PGA Board of Directors in 1978. He was elected national president of the PGA in 1987-88, the only Mississippian to ever hold the prestigious position.
 
 Tena Clark | '75
Tena Clark   Tena Clark is chief executive officer and chief creative officer of DMI Music and Media Solutions, which creates nontraditional media in music technology and marketing for well-known corporate brands such as General Mills, AARP, Build-a-Bear Workshop, McDonalds, and has composed the official theme song for NASA. Clark has written for film and television with credits that include Hope Floats, My Best Friend's Wedding, Desperate Housewives and Where the Heart Is. Her work also includes gold- and platinum-selling songs for many renowned artists, including Aretha Franklin, Patti LaBelle, Dionne Warwick and Sara Evans.
 
 Cat Cora | '90
Cat Cora   Cat Cora made television history on the Food Network's "Iron Chef America" as the first and only female Iron Chef. She is the author of multiple best-selling cookbooks and has developed a global barbecue concept for Macy's called CCQ. Cora is the president and founder of Chefs for Humanity, a group of culinary professionals working to fight hunger, provide food nutrition education and emergency food relief worldwide. In 2006, Bon Appetit magazine bestowed her with their Teacher of the Year Award. On July 15, 2012, Cora was inducted into the American Academy of Chefs (AAC) Hall of Fame and was the first female chef to ever receive this recognition by the American Culinary Federation.
 
 Brett Favre
Brett Favre   Upon his retirement after 17 years in the NFL, Brett Favre held virtually all the career passing marks in the league's record books. Among the records held by Favre are most career touchdowns (442) and passing yards (61,655). He was the NFL's first three-time most valuable player, and in 2007 was selected as Sports Illustrated's Sportsman of the Year. As quarterback of the Green Bay Packers, he won Super Bowl XXXI in 1997.
 
 Evelyn Gandy
Evelyn Gandy   Evelyn Gandy, who died in 2007, was the first woman in Mississippi to serve as a state representative, assistant attorney general, commissioner of public welfare, state treasurer, commissioner of insurance and lieutenant governor. Her many honors included the Margaret Brent Award from the American Bar Association and the Lindy Boggs Women in Public Service Award.
 
 Gary Grubbs | '72
Gary Grubbs   Movie and television actor Gary Grubbs has acted in such films as Oliver Stone's JFK and Clint Eastwood's Honkytonk Man. He has worked with such established stars as Kevin Costner, Meryl Streep, Tommy Lee Jones and Jack Nicholson. In recent years, Grubbs has devoted much of his time to writing, has successfully sold two pilot scripts to CBS-TV and starred in a recurring role on "Will and Grace."
 
 Ray Guy | '78
Ray Guy   The first pure punter ever taken in the first round of the NFL draft, Ray Guy played 14 seasons for the Oakland/Los Angeles Raiders. He earned a selection to the Pro Bowl seven times, was a three-time leading NFL punter, and played in 22 post-season games, including three wins in Super Bowls. Guy's talents have earned him several honors, including being a member of the NFL's 75th Anniversary All-Time Team and being the first pure punter to be a finalist for selection to the NFL Hall of Fame.
 
 Ted Jackson | '84
Ted Jackson   Ted Jackson, Pulitzer Prize-winning photojournalist for The Times-Picayune, has covered assignments ranging from swamp-dwelling Cajuns to Pope John Paul II's tour of the United States. He has produced an essay on life in the Desire housingproject, a successful crack cocaine rehabilitation facility, and several stories on the city's homeless population. Jackson also photographed a comprehensive look at the collapse of the world's fisheries, a series that won the 1997 Pulitzer Prize for Public Service and another for breaking news for their coverage of Hurricane Katrina.
 
 Nan Kelley | '88
Nan Kelley   Hattiesburg native Nan Kelley has become a fixture on one of the most popular and longest running shows in all of entertainment, "The Grand Ole Opry." She is the television host of "Opry Live" and a regular personality on the Great American Country television network. The former Miss Mississippi also hosts GAC's weekly fan-voted "Top 20 Country Countdown."
 
 Kathleen Koch
Kathleen Koch   Kathleen Koch is a former CNN general assignment correspondent. Based in Washington, D.C., Koch specialized in aviation reporting and served as back-up correspondent at the Pentagon and the White House. In 2005 and 2006, Koch provided moving reports from the Gulf Coast during and in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. Her reports were featured in "CNN Presents: Saving My Town - The Fight for Bay Saint Louis," a special that looked at the progress of Koch's hometown in Mississippi six months after Katrina.
 
 Natalie Allen | '84
Natalie Allen   After more than 25 years in the journalism industry, Natalie Allen has worked her way up a soaring ladder of success and is currently a news anchor at CNN International. Prior to this role, Allen appeared on "Forecast Earth," the Weather Channel's weekly program on climate change and was a news correspondent for NBC News, an MSNBC News anchor, and was co-anchor of "CNN Live Today," the network's weekday afternoon newscast.
 
 Margaret Loesch | '68
Margaret Loesch   From November 1998 until November 2001, Margaret Loesch served first as president and CEO of the Odyssey Network and, subsequently, became the founding president and CEO of Crown Media United States LLC. Prior to that, she was the founding president and key architect of Fox Children's Network (FOX Kids). One of the most successful and respected executives in the television industry and an Emmy Award-winning producer, Loesch was co-CEO of the Hatchery LLC, a kids and family entertainment company. Loesch is currently president and chief executive officer of The Hub, a Hasbro-Discovery Communications joint venture.
 
 Michael H. Magusiak | '78
Michael H. Magusiak   Mike Magusiak is currently the president and chief executive officer of CEC Entertainment Inc. CEC Entertainment Inc. operates and franchises more than 500 Chuck E. Cheese's restaurants in 48 states and five foreign countries. Mike and the management team took the company public in 1989, and the company's common stock is currently traded on the New York Stock Exchange under the symbol "CEC."
 
 Tom "Bones" Malone
Tom 'Bones' Malone   Musician, arranger and producer Tom "Bones" Malone is best known for his work with the Blues Brothers, "Saturday Night Live," Frank Zappa, Gil Evans, The Band, and Blood, Sweat and Tears. In 1993, Malone was added to the CBS Orchestra on the "David Letterman Show," where he arranges music and plays trumpet, trombone, bass trombone, alto sax, tenor sax, baritone sax, piccolo and flute on the show.
 
 Oseola McCarty | '98
Oseola McCarty   Oseola McCarty, the humble washerwoman who became the University's most famous benefactor, drew global attention after it was announced in July 1995 that she would will $150,000 of her life's savings to Southern Miss to provide scholarships for deserving students in need of financial assistance. She received scores of awards and other honors recognizing her unselfish spirit, and President Bill Clinton presented her with a Presidential Citizens Medal, the nation's second highest civilian award, during a special White House ceremony. She also won the United Nation's coveted Avicenna Medal for educational commitment.
 
 Whitney Miller | '10
Whitney Miller   Inspired by the hospitality of her great-grandmother and creativity of her mother, Whitney Miller's passion for the art of cooking began at an early age. At 22, she won the show "Masterchef," gaining the title of Fox's first U.S. Masterchef. Soon afterward, Whitney obtained her degree, with an emphasis in nutrition, from The University of Southern Mississippi. Whitney is the author of the cookbook Modern Hospitality: Simple Recipes with Southern Charm (Rodale), with foreword by Gordon Ramsay. She is a food writer of magazine articles for Flavors (Atlanta) and Taste of Home. Her recipes and/or book promotions have appeared in People, Women's Health, Masterchef and Cooking Light.
 
 Steven Palazzo | '94, '96
Steven Palazzo   Congressman Steven M. Palazzo represents the fourth congressional district of Mississippi. He was sworn into office on January 5, 2011, and serves on the House Armed Services and Science, Space and Technology Committees. Born in Gulfport, Miss., Steven earned his bachelor's and master's degrees in accounting from Southern Miss. Steven and his wife Lisa Belvin '94, whom he met during college, started a small business in 2001, giving him a unique perspective on what it means to create jobs and manage a budget. Over time, they have been able to grow their CPA firm into a successful agency that specializes in helping Americans living abroad with their income taxes.
 
 Sally-Ann Roberts | '74, '76
Sally-Ann Roberts   Sally-Ann Roberts co-anchors the highest rated local morning newscast in the nation, "Eyewitness Morning News" on WWL-TV in New Orleans. Additionally, Roberts hosts "Our Generation," a Saturday morning teen talk show that gives young people a platform for their thoughts and creativity. During her tenure at WWL-TV, Roberts has received first place awards in reporting excellence from several organizations, and in 2000, received the Edward R. Murrow Award for reporting excellence.
 
 Chuck Scarborough | '69
Chuck Scarborough   Emmy Award-winning anchor and correspondent Chuck Scarborough has been with New York City's News Channel 4 since 1974. He is the co-anchor of the city's number one-rated local evening newscast. Among his awards are 24 Emmys and several awards from the Associated Press. Additionally, Scarborough has authored three novels, one of which became a CBS mini-series, and has also written articles for New York, Boston and American Home magazines.
 
 Chuck Scianna | '75
Chuck Scianna   A native of Bay Saint Louis, Miss., Charles "Chuck" C. Scianna Jr. earned his bachelor's degree from Southern Miss and a master's degree from the University of Houston. Scianna credits his education at Southern Miss for much of his success as president of Sim-Tex, L.P. in Waller, Texas, one of the leading suppliers of APIcertified oil country tubular goods. With a gift commitment of $6 million to The University of Southern Mississippi Foundation, Chuck is making an investment in the future of education by providing the gift that will also name the proposed College of Business building Scianna Hall.
 
 David Sheffield | '72
David Sheffield   Comedy writer and Hollywood screenwriter David Sheffield broke into the business as a writer for "Saturday Night Live," writing mostly for cast members Eddie Murphy and Joe Piscopo. During his last year with SNL, he also served as one of the show's producers. In 1983, Sheffield moved on to writing screenplays for Hollywood movies, including Police Academy II, Boomerang and Coming to America. He also worked on The Nutty Professor.
 
 Robert Stewart | '64
Robert Stewart   Ret. Brig. Gen. Robert Stewart is a former NASA astronaut and retired Army brigadier general. Stewart has served in three space missions and has logged a total of 289 hours in space. He is presently employed as director of advanced programs for Nichols Research Corporation based in Colorado Springs, Colorado.
 
 Walter Washington | '70
Walter Washington   Walter Washington, a retired Alcorn State University president, was the first African-American to receive a doctorate in Mississippi. Prior to his death, he was considered a role model in Mississippi higher education and nationally in black higher education and was listed as one of the "100 Most Influential Black Americans" in Ebony magazine. With his 37 years of continuous service, Washington was among the longest-serving college presidents in Mississippi and in the nation.
 
 Clarence Weatherspoon | '93
Clarence Weatherspoon   Clarence Weatherspoon enjoyed a 13-year NBA career, during which he played for the Houston Rockets, the Philadelphia 76ers, the Golden State Warriors, the Miami Heat, the Cleveland Cavaliers and the New York Knicks. A three-time Metro Conference Player of the Year at Southern Miss, Weatherspoon leads the University career lists in rebounds and blocks and is second in scoring.
 
 Neil Williams | '75
Neil Williams   Neil Williams serves as chief financial officer and senior vice president of Intuit Inc., which produces financial and tax preparation products like Quicken, Quickbooks and Turbo Tax. Williams was previously the executive vice president and chief financial officer for Visa U.S.A. Inc., the leading payments company in the United States.
 
 Sammy Winder | '83
Sammy Winder   Sammy Winder played in three Super Bowls and is a former All-Pro running back with the Denver Broncos. Additionally, Winder was the NCAA scoring champion as a Southern Miss running back in 1980 and still holds the third-highest career rushing total in school history. Currently Winder is the owner of Winder Construction Company in Jackson.
 
 Sheldon Wolf | '72
Sheldon Wolf   Sheldon Wolf is the founder and CEO of Spellex Corp. Following his graduation from Southern Miss, Wolf taught junior high school music for two years in Albany, Ga., before leaving to make his mark in the business world. After spending the next several years working in a variety of information technology positions, Wolf began to envision great potential for vertical market software spelling tools for industries that required specialized terminology. The vision for Spellex was born. Spellex products now have more than 1 million users in 42 countries and counts among its notable clients - Microsoft, IBM, the United Nations, the Supreme Court, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, the American Medical Association, General Electric and the United States Senate.

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