Generations of women at the University of Mississippi credit Jan Hawks with providing the support and mentorship that empowered them to pursue successful careers, lead their communities and fulfill their dreams. This campaign seeks to continue her important work at the university for future generations of students.
Dr. Joanne “Jan” V. Hawks served as the university’s Dean of Women in the 1970s, and then became the founding director of the new Sarah Isom Center in 1981. In addition to working for the advancement of women within and outside the university, Hawks made significant contributions through teaching and writing about the history of women in the South.
One of her most important contributions to the University of Mississippi and Oxford was the “Non-Rotary Club.” While women today lead the local chapter of the Rotary Club in Oxford and across Mississippi, they were once barred from membership. Hawks and a group of female faculty and staff, seeking opportunities for mentorship, leadership and service, formed their own informal network, naming it the “Non-Rotary Club” as a lighthearted dig at the very real discrimination women faced in Oxford and at the university.
Many of the women who would later become the first women to serve in senior leadership roles at UM were young members of this network and participated in these lunchtime meetings. Gloria Kellum, whose dynamic 42-year career at UM culminated in her role as vice chancellor for University Relations, was an early member, as was the late Carolyn Ellis Staton, herself a trailblazer who served as UM’s first female provost. Hawks and her network mentored and encouraged students such as Rose Jackson Flenorl, a FedEx executive who has been honored as a UM Alumni Hall of Fame, past president of the Alumni Association and past chair of the UM Foundation Board of Directors.
This year, the Isom Center established the Jan V. Hawks Non-Rotary Club Mentorship Program to renew Hawks’ legacy of women mentoring women. Organizers will host two dinners per semester open to any female student, faculty or staff member, with each dinner including a speaker and time for table conversation related to the topic of the evening. The dinners will be free and students will be strongly encouraged to attend.
The Sarah Isom Center for Women and Gender Studies marks its 40th anniversary this year. Please help us celebrate with a gift that honors our founding director and her mission to serve students.
Your donations to the Jan V. Hawks Non-Rotary Club Mentorship Program will cover expenses such as food and space, and are an investment in the future of UM students.
“Jan Hawks mentored a generation of women at the University of Mississippi, at a time when women's ambitions and aspirations were rarely taken seriously,” said Jaime Harker, the Isom Center’s director. “Many of those she mentored went on to leadership positions here and elsewhere. We want to nurture the next generation of women leaders by providing opportunities for networking, connection and collaboration.”
Help us honor Dr. Hawks’ legacy of women supporting women and raising up a generation of leaders. Make a gift today!