Mississippi Valley State University student Maritza Johnson and Instructor Ladd Simms were among 68 outstanding students and faculty members from 34 Mississippi public and private universities and colleges who received special recognition from the Mississippi Legislature on Feb. 18 during the 27th annual Higher Education Appreciation Day – Working for Academic Excellence (HEADWAE) program.
HEADWAE was established in 1988 by legislative resolution to honor individual academic achievement and the overall contribution of the state’s public and private institutions of higher learning.
Johnson, a senior, currently serves as Miss MVSU. Since arriving to the Itta Bena campus, she has been actively involved in campus life. Johnson is a member of the University Choir, Valley Singers, Perfected Praise Gospel Choir, Orlando Moss Choral Musical Society, Student Support Services Coalition, Residential Life Assistant, Wesley Campus Ministries, Baptist Student Union, Social Work Club, University Ambassador and Zeta Psi Chapter of Gamma Sigma Sigma National Service Sorority. A native of Prentiss, Miss., she is the daughter of Laretta Johnson.
Simms began his career as a faculty member at MVSU seven years ago. He received his undergraduate degree from Northwestern State University in Natchitoches, La. and a masters in professional accounting from Delta State University. Previously, Simms has served as the assistant director of financial aid at MVSU and a registered securities representative/commodities broker at First State Investments in Little Rock, Ark.
He is a member of the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants, Institute of Management Accountants, Robert Morris & Associates and National Association of College Professors.
Business leader James L. Barksdale chaired the event. The Honorable William F. Winter, Governor of the State of Mississippi, 1980-1984, delivered the keynote address at the luncheon.
The honorees began the day with a visit to the State Capitol where they were welcomed and recognized by the Senate and House of Representatives and given a tour of the Capitol. The awards luncheon was held at the Marriott Hotel.
James L. Barksdale is the chairman of the board and president of Barksdale Management Corporation, a private company that manages his investments and philanthropic activities, and serves as chairman of Spread Networks, a company he helped establish in 2009. With more than 35 years of operational experience, he served as president and CEO of Netscape Communications Corp. from January 1995 until the company merged with America Online in March 1999, at which time he joined Time Warner’s board of directors.
“I am so pleased to serve as chair of the event,” said Jim Barksdale. “It is so important that we recognize these students and faculty for their achievements and the contributions they make in the classroom and their communities. They strive for excellence in all endeavors and demonstrate the quality we have within higher education in Mississippi.”
The Barksdale Foundation established the Barksdale Honors College at the University of Mississippi in 1997. In January 2000, the foundation granted $100 million to the State of Mississippi for creation of The Barksdale Reading Institute to help Mississippi children improve their reading skills.
The Honorable William F. Winter served as Governor from Mississippi from 1980 to 1984. Prior to his election to the state’s highest office, he had been elected to the offices of state representative, state tax collector, state treasurer and lieutenant governor.
His term as Governor of Mississippi has been nationally acclaimed for the groundbreaking passage of education reform legislation. He was instrumental in founding of the William Winter Institute for Racial Reconciliation at the University of Mississippi. He was awarded the Profile in Courage Award by the John F. Kennedy Library Foundation.
Corporate sponsors for the HEADWAE program include: Atmos Energy, Jackson; AT&T, Jackson; BancorpSouth, Tupelo; BankPlus, Jackson; Chevron Products, Pascagoula; ERGON, Flowood; Entergy, Jackson; Georgia-Pacific (KOCH Companies), Baton Rouge, LA; Generation Ready, Jackson; Huntington-Ingalls, Pascagoula; Mississippi National Guard, Jackson; Mississippi Power Company, Gulfport; Nissan-Canton; Puckett Machinery, Jackson; Sanderson Farms, Laurel; Trustmark Bank, Jackson; and Valley Services, Inc., Flowood.