Jamie Joyner Endowment Created to Assist Graduate Students in Southern Studies

While fresh flowers or a night out to dinner might be a perfectly acceptable birthday present, Ernest Joyner III of Tupelo, Mississippi, went one step further. His recent birthday surprise to his wife, Jamie, was the creation of the Jamie Joyner Endowment in Southern Studies to assist University of Mississippi graduate students.

“I decided to create the endowment because of Jamie’s dedication to the southern studies program,” said Ernie Joyner. “I think southern studies is worth preserving and knowing about, and I think her enthusiasm for the program led me to believe it would be a good cause.”

The annual income from the Joyner Endowment will assist graduate students pursuing either a master of arts or a master of fine arts in southern studies.

Jamie Joyner, a member of the Center for the Study of Southern Culture advisory committee for twenty years, was first attracted to the Center through the founding director’s work. “I became interested in southern studies when I saw a film Bill Ferris produced about a man teaching his hogs to pray, called Hush Hoggies Hush,” said the native of Ingomar, Mississippi. “I, like Bill, had grown up in the country, and through this film I remembered so many events that happened on our farm. This led to my interest in rural Mississippi, followed by blues music and current Mississippi writers.”

Ernie Joyner said his wife thoroughly enjoys her involvement with the Center and is passionate about its mission to investigate, document, interpret, and teach about the American South.

Center Director Ted Ownby said the Joyner gift will help in the recruitment of top graduate students and he appreciates the chance to honor Joyner’s enthusiastic, thoughtful work on the board by annually naming a new Joyner Fellow. “This is a terrific gift because it allows us to increase what we can offer an incoming graduate student every year,” Ownby said. “The student to whom we offer the Joyner Fellow will have some additional funds as well as the honor of a named fellowship. Providing enough funding for graduate students is always a challenge, and it’s especially helpful to have resources that might contribute to students in the new MFA program.”

Consisting of about two dozen friends of the Center, the Center’s advisory committee meets twice a year to hear reports and share suggestions about southern studies programs. Member Lynn Gammill of Hattiesburg suggested Joyner as a member, and she was thrilled to accept. “I enjoy the fellow committee members and seeing the program grow,” Jamie Joyner said. “My involvement on this board gives me a chance to be part of the world of ideas.”

She is also involved in a wide variety of institutions in Tupelo, as a founding member of the GumTree Museum of Art and chair of an archeological survey to locate and protect early sites in Lee County. The latter led to the forming of the Inkana Foundation, a local organization helping the Chickasaw Nation build a cultural center in Tupelo. Joyner also works with the Tupelo Garden Club’s restoration of the house and grounds at the Private John Allen Fish Hatchery in Tupelo, which she said “has been fun as well as rewarding.” She has worked for the Commission on Presidential Debates for the last five elections and has provided leadership in several ministry areas of All Saints Episcopal Church over the last fifty years.

Future southern studies students will be able to share Joyner’s devotion to the Center for years to come.


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