The Honorable William F. Winter

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Born in 1923 in Grenada, Mississippi, William F. Winter served in the armed forces in World War II and the Korean War. He was awarded a BA from the University of Mississippi in 1943 and an LL.B. in 1949. He has since been awarded over five honorary degrees. His credentials within the academic community are long standing: Jamie Whitten Professor of Law and Government at the University of Mississippi School of Law (Fall 1989); Eudora Welty Professor of Southern Studies at Millsaps College (Spring 1989); Fellow, Institute of Politics, Harvard University (1985) and President, Ole Miss Alumni Association (1978). He continues to practice law with the Jackson, MS, firm of Watkins Ludlum Winter & Stennis, P.A. which celebrated its one hundredth anniversary in 2005.

William Winter is most well known, however, for his role in leading the charge for publicly-funded primary education while he was the fifty-eighth governor of Mississippi from 1980-1984. His governance echoed his belief that all people, regardless of race or class, should be entitled to the same rights and privileges as the most privileged enjoys. In a substantial way, Governor Winter’s accomplishments were honored in 1997 when President Bill Clinton initiated “One America,” an unprecedented national conversation on race. Winter served on the board of One America, helping to bring the only deep-South public forum to the University of Mississippi. President Bill Clinton has called Winter a “great champion of civil rights.” Positive changes stem from great leadership, and William Winter is one of many guiding lights for Mississippi and America.

On May 12, 2008, Governor Winter was honored at the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum in Boston. Click here to read his acceptance speech.

Institute Staff

SMGSusan M. Glisson  has served as the Executive Director since 2002.  She is a native of Evans, Georgia, and earned Bachelor’s degrees in Religion and in History from Mercer University, a Master’s degree in Southern Studies from the University of Mississippi, and a Ph.D. in American Studies from the College of William and Mary. Glisson specializes in the history of race and religion in the United States, especially in the black struggle for freedom. She has numerous publications, has been quoted widely in the media and has supported community projects throughout the state for the Institute since its inception. Click here to email Dr. Susan M. Glisson.
PBE-th Portia Ballard Espy is the Director of Community Building at the Institute. She previously served as Chief Administrative Office for Children’s Defense Fund Southern Regional Office and Assistant Director of the W.K. Kellogg Foundation’s Mid-South Delta Initiative. She is a graduate of Southern University in Baton Rouge and Loyola University in New Orleans, and she is a Ph.D. student in the Public Policy and Administration Program at Jackson State University. Click here to email Portia Ballard Espy.

melody-friersonMelody Frierson is Youth Engagement Coordinator at the Winter Institute. She holds an M.A. in Afro-American studies from UCLA and B.A. degrees from the University of Mississippi in Psychology/Gender studies and African American studies. As an undergraduate at UM, Melody worked as a student intern at the Institute, and co-organized and facilitated programs like the Summer Youth Institute, One Mississippi, and several anti-racism/oppression workshops. Her most recent non-profit work took place at the Barbara Jordan/Bayard Rustin Coalition (JRC), a Los Angeles-based Black LGBT political advocacy organization. Though sad to leave California, Melody is excited to join Winter Institute staff and work with the amazing young women and men of her native Mississippi. Click here to email Melody Frierson.

Gordon_smallerVondaris “Von” Gordon is a native of Moorhead, MS, in Sunflower County. He joined the Institute to develop and coordinate youth programs as Youth Engagement Coordinator. He attended the University of Mississippi, where he was a student leader and helped organize the first Statewide Student Summit on Race. He served as a founding board member of the Winter Institute and the only student representative. He has worked in the private sector in franchise and corporate multi-unit restaurant operations and in business development for one of Pepsi’s top franchise bottlers. Von is the married father of two, and he is passionate about equipping youth to build stronger communities through education, empowerment, and racial healing. Click here to email Vondaris “Von” Gordon.

ALG-thApril Grayson is Community Building Coordinator for the Welcome Table. A native of Rolling Fork, MS, April was Documentary Educator at the Institute from 2005 through 2008. During that time, she led community oral history and documentary projects in Philadelphia, McComb, Tallahatchie County, and other communities. Her oral history project on the integration of the University of Mississippi School of Law and Medical School, in conjunction with Kate Medley, won the Mississippi Historical Society’s Oral History award. She has a Master of Fine Arts in Film from San Francisco Art Institute. Her short films have shown in film festivals, galleries, and museums in the United States, Canada, Europe, Africa, and South America. Click here to email April Grayson.

Jackie_Martin_pictureJacqueline B. Martin is a civil rights veteran from McComb, MS, and serves as the community liaison for the Civil Rights/Labor History curriculum development project at McComb School District. She has served as civil rights tour guide for high school and college students, as well as teachers and other interested citizens. She has organized many of McComb’s civil rights tours and commemorations, especially those honoring local civil rights veterans. She joined the Institute as a Community Building Manager and participates in intergenerational community work in Mississippi. Click here to email Jackie Martin.

jmJake McGraw is the coordinator for Rethink Mississippi and editor of, a collaboration of emerging leaders in Mississippi to begin critical discussions about the state’s long-term issues. Jake has deep-seated passion for combining the power of ideas with community organizing methods. While studying public policy and economics at the University of Mississippi, Jake co-founded the campus integration initiative One Mississippi as well as a community empowerment organization in San Mateo, Belize. Jake also has significant experience working in both state and national politics. A native of Oxford, MS, Jake researched the history of progressive education policies in the South while attending a master’s program at “the other Oxford” in England. He returned home to join the Winter Institute in spring 2013. Click here to email Jake McGraw.

Chris_SchultzChristopher Schultz is the Institute’s Director of Development and Communications. We’re proud to have been among the very first clients of Chris’s idea-development consultancy, Start Here Project Development, which has worked with clients worldwide to help them develop and fund projects for more than ten years, securing contracts and funding surpassing $12 million. Additionally, Chris is the co-author (with his sister, Heidi Schultz Adams), of Planet Cancer, a book for young adults and their loved ones affected by cancer; his writing has appeared in the New York Times, Esquire, Men’s Journal, ESPN: The Magazine, and other publications, including Shenandoah, a literary journal founded by Tom Wolfe. Click here to email Chris Schultz.

Stollman_smallJennifer A. Stollman Ph. D. is the Academic Director at the Winter Institute. She completed her Master’s degree at Wayne State University in U.S., Labor, and Women’s History. She finished her doctoral work at Michigan State University in Early American history, Comparative Women’s history, Native American history, and African-American history. She also completed a cognate at the University of Michigan in feminist cultural theory. Her teaching and research interests include American intellectual history, the study of collective and individual identity development, Atlantic history, American religious history, 19th-century American history, the history of American wars, American legal and business history, American medical history, history of American sexuality, history of American disasters, labor and collective movements, history of the American South, great thinkers, and feminist and gender theory. Dr. Stollman is also active in anti-racism and gender activism. Click here to email Jennifer A. Stollman Ph. D.

CHTCharles H. Tucker, a Cary, MS, native, is the Institute’s Associate Director. He holds a degree in mass communication and journalism from Jackson State University. Tucker was a newspaper reporter and photographer and a writer for the Associated Press. He has worked in development for the Piney Woods School, where he also tutored and taught creative writing seminars. He served in the Office of Public Information at Jackson State University. Most recently, Tucker was the public information officer for the W.K. Kellogg Foundation on its Mid-South Delta Initiative. He is a facilitator and community builder for the Welcome Table model and helps develop and coordinate the Institute’s national and international partnerships. Tucker is a National Book Foundation Summer Fellow and was a Solstice Summer creative writing program participant at Pine Manor College. Click here to email Charles Tucker.

Institute Interns

UM undergrads: Apply to be a Fall 2014 Wintern!

Affiliated Colleagues

craChris Aloia manages the Mississippi Healthcare Initiative for the Institute. A native of Brooklyn, NY, he is a graduate of the University of Mississippi and holds a Master of Public Health from Simon Fraser University. His goal is to help improve the health of Mississippians by addressing social, economic, and racial disparities.
KevinFong-thKevin John Fong works with the Institute by helping facilitate Welcome Table circles. Born and raised in Hawaii, Kevin is a nationally recognized and respected facilitator, trainer and speaker in leadership, organizational design and building beloved communities. He has extensive experience in working with clients in the public and private sector, especially with diverse, multicultural/multi-lingual groups. A graduate of the University of California at Berkeley, Kevin resides in San Francisco.
Megan-thMegan McRaney is a Research Associate at the Winter Institute. Megan hails from Madison, Mississippi, and is pursuing her J.D. degree at Tulane University Law School. Megan studied sociology at the University of Mississippi, where she was the Vice President of the Associated Student Body as well as a Winter Institute intern. Megan has a passion for social and economic justice. She has worked for Justice James W. Kitchens on the Mississippi Supreme Court as a two-term summer clerk and served as an Americorps member for Habitat for Humanity Metro-Jackson prior to law school.
Heather Symmes, from Winston-Salem, NC, is a Research Associate at the Winter Institute. She is a North Carolina Certified Paralegal. She received a Bachelor of Arts degree in History with a minor in Arts Management from Salem College in 2008 and an Associates degree in Paralegal Technology from Forsyth Technical Community College in 2010. She has a passion for music, particularly country. She enjoys playing piano, traveling, reading, exercising, and songwriting.