Donna Kennedy Barksdale — Executive Chair
Consistently throughout her life, Donna Kennedy Barksdale has provided leadership in education activities, private business, public philanthropy, church and civic engagement.
She is currently on the board of the Aspen Institute, a global nonprofit committed to realizing a free, just and equitable society; a member of the International Women’s Forum, whose mission is to support the women leaders of today and tomorrow; a board member of the Foundation for Mississippi History; and a board member of the Mississippi Women’s Foundation. She served on the executive committee of America’s Promise Alliance, committed to creating the conditions of success for all children and youth, and, among many other activities, she has served as a board member of Habitat for Humanity, a board member of the Mississippi Arts Commission, as a founder and chair of Leadership Jackson, on the board of the Jackson Chamber of Commerce, a past president of the Junior League of Jackson, past chair of Mistletoe Marketplace and a deacon of her church.
As well as being chair of the board of MississippiToday.org, she is chair of the board of Nunoerin, a creative data economy company. Since 1991, she has served as president of Mississippi River Trading Company, and she manufactured in China and Mongolia for over 10 years. She previously served as a consultant to Viking Corporation.
Barksdale was deeply involved in the Youth Employment Project (YEP) in Jackson, which provided students at Lanier High School an opportunity to work in real-world professional settings during the summer and helped prepare and mentor them for college and for professional careers. Their college completion rate was 93-100%.
Andrew Lack — Founder
Andrew Lack served as Former Chairman of NBC News. He oversaw editorial and business operations for the network’s award-winning television and digital news properties. He is a member of the NBCU Executive Committee and reports to Jeff Shell, CEO of NBCUniversal.
Lack, an NBC veteran, returned to the company in April 2015. He first joined in 1993 as President of NBC News. Under his leadership, the network transformed into America’s most-watched news organization, with NBC Nightly News, Meet the Press, TODAY and Dateline NBC all leading their respective categories. He was also responsible for expanding the TODAY show to three hours, and for creating the program’s street-side studio at Rockefeller Center in New York City in 1994.
In 2001, Lack was promoted to President and Chief Operating Officer of NBC. In that role, he oversaw entertainment, news (including MSNBC and CNBC), NBC stations, sales, and broadcast and network operations.
Most recently, Lack held the position of the first-ever Chief Executive Officer of the Broadcasting Board of Governors, the independent federal agency that oversees all U.S. civilian international media.
Lack previously served as Chairman of the Bloomberg Media Group. He joined Bloomberg in October 2008 as CEO of its Global Media Group, where he led the expansion of its television, radio, magazine, conference and digital businesses. During Lack’s tenure, Bloomberg LP enhanced the quality of its media portfolio, expanded internationally with seven channels across Asia, Africa, India and the Middle East; and built out services to connect people with information in more places and across more platforms than ever before.
Prior to Bloomberg, Lack was Chairman and CEO of Sony Music Entertainment, where he oversaw management of the company’s prominent international artists and vast catalog of recorded music from around the world.
Lack spent much of his early television career at CBS News. After joining in 1976, within a year, he became a prominent producer for 60 Minutes and subsequently senior executive producer of CBS Reports. Lack’s broadcasts at CBS earned numerous honors, including 16 Emmy Awards and four Alfred I. DuPont-Columbia University Journalism Awards.
James L. Barksdale
James L. Barksdale is chairman of the board and president of Barksdale Management Corporation, a private company that manages his investments and philanthropic activities. He also serves as chairman of Spread Networks, a company he helped establish in 2009. Barksdale has more than 35 years of operational experience. He served as president and chief executive officer (CEO) of Netscape Communications Corp., from January 1995 until the company merged with America Online in March 1999. He was director of Netscape from October 1994. Upon completion of the merger with America Online, Jim joined Time Warner’s board of directors.
Prior to Netscape, Barksdale was CEO of AT&T Wireless Services (formerly McCaw Cellular Communications). From January 1992 to September 1994, he served as president and chief operating officer (COO) of McCaw Cellular. From April 1983 to January 1992, Barksdale served as executive vice president and COO at Federal Express Corporation and, prior to that, he served as the company’s chief information officer (CIO) for four years. From the time he began his career at IBM, Barksdale has held various management positions, including CIO of Cook Industries and President of Cook Treadwell and Harry, an insurance brokerage firm and subsidiary of Cook Industries.
Under Barksdale’s leadership, Netscape received the “Entrepreneurial Company of the Year” award from both Stanford and Harvard Business School alumni groups in 1997. Additionally, Computer Reseller News named Barksdale “#1 Executive of the Year,” while PC Magazine selected him “Person of the Year.” At the 1997 ETRE Conference in Budapest, Barksdale received the “Executive of the Year” award. He also earned the BEAR Award from Brown University for citizenship and the CIO Council for the United States awarded him the Industry Executive of the Year in 2006.
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. In 2009, Barksdale was awarded The Working for Academic Excellence Award (HEADWAE) from the State of Mississippi for his overall contribution of the state’s public and private institutions of higher learning. In addition, he received the national NetDay Hero Award for his work for education. He was later awarded the 2012 Winter-Reed Partnership Award for his work on education in Mississippi. He has earned inductions into the University of Mississippi Hall of Fame, the Mississippi Business Hall of Fame and the Memphis Society of Entrepreneurs.
In 2008, Jim and his wife, Donna Kennedy Barksdale, presented a gift to the University of Mississippi for the creation of the Mississippi Principal Corps, an initiative designed to change the way Mississippi school principals are trained. The Barksdales have also sponsored Parents for Public Schools’ “Schoolhouse to Statehouse” project, which trains parents to become more engaged with public schools in the state. They were both selected for the 2014 Legacy Award given by the Ole Miss Women’s Council for Philanthropy. The award recognizes individuals who have made significant contributions as philanthropists, leaders and mentors and, through these contributions, have brought about definitive, positive change in the University of Mississippi, the state and nation.
Immediately after Hurricane Katrina, Barksdale was appointed by then-Gov. Haley Barbour to chair the Governor’s Commission on the Recovery, Rebuilding and Renewal of Mississippi. He was subsequently asked by Gov. Barbour to chair the Mississippi Broadband Connect Coalition (MBCC). Recommendations from this coalition will be used to develop a strategy for broadband development and use in Mississippi. For his work on these commissions, and for his establishment of the Barksdale Reading Institute, Jim was awarded the Mississippi Medal of Service in 2011.
In January 2012, Gov. Phil Bryant appointed Barksdale as interim Executive Director of the Mississippi Development Authority, the state’s lead economic development agency. Later that year, Gov. Bryant also appointed him as co-chair of Mississippi Works, a working group of Mississippi business leaders focused on achieving greater economic success for the state.
Barksdale sits on the boards of several companies and foundations, including Time Warner, Federal Express and In-Q-Tel. He also was appointed to the President’s Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board by President George W. Bush.
Barksdale received his B.A. in Business Administration from the University of Mississippi. In 1997, he received an honorary Doctor of Laws degree from Rhodes College and in 2001 the University of Mississippi conferred the Mississippi Humanitarian Award to him. Millsaps College awarded him an honorary Doctor of Laws degree in 2003, and in 2012, Duke University awarded him an honorary degree.
Tray Hairston is an attorney at Butler Snow LLP and is a member of the firm’s public finance and incentives practice group. Hairston focuses on bond transactions and economic development projects. He has served as bond counsel for various cities and counties throughout the state of Mississippi.
Hairston is former counsel and policy advisor to Mississippi Gov. Phil Bryant and was the governor’s liaison to the Mississippi Development Authority, which is the state’s economic development arm, the State Bond Commission, the Mississippi Home Corporation, where affordable housing tax credits are allocated, and minority contracting.
As counsel to the governor, he helped assist the state in 2012 before Moody’s, Fitch, and Standard & Poor’s in New York pursuant to the state’s $300 million variable rate demand obligation restructuring and advance refunding of approximately $240 million in debt and in 2013 when the rating agencies toured the state visiting various existing industries such as Nissan, Toyota, and General Atomics. As a member of the governor’s staff, he also helped draft the Mississippi Health Care Industry Zone Act of 2012 in addition to drafting sections of the Mississippi Home Corporation’s allocation plan for administering affordable housing tax credits for health care industry zone developments for workforce housing. Since leaving the governor’s office, he has continued to assist the state in its rating agency preparations both in 2014 and 2015.
Prior to joining the office of the governor, Tray was an attorney at Balch & Bingham LLP where he practiced in the firm’s corporate, public finance and economic development incentives sections. Before Balch, Tray also served as a year-long federal law clerk to the Honorable Henry T. Wingate, District Judge for the Southern District of Mississippi from 2009-2010.
Prior to beginning his legal career, Hairston was a member of the Global Business Division at the Mississippi Development Authority, where he provided project management assistance to companies and consultants looking to locate new businesses in Mississippi. In this capacity, Hairston helped companies obtain economic development incentives. He was also a legal extern to MDA’s legal counsel during his third year of law school.
Tray received dual degrees from Tougaloo College in English and Humanities with an emphasis in Philosophy (magna cum laude). He also spent an extra year as a student at Tougaloo (i.e., one year as an exchange student) attending Brown University in Providence, R.I. during the fall semester and New York University in New York City during the spring semester. Tray received his MBA in 2006 from Belhaven College in Jackson and is a 2009 graduate of Mississippi College School of Law, where he received American Jurisprudence awards for Corporate Finance and Counseling and Negotiations.
Hairston regularly publishes scholarly legal articles and is an adjunct law professor at Mississippi College School of Law. He is a member of the Mississippi Economic Development Council and the National Association of Bond Lawyers. Tray was recognized as “Young Lawyer of the Year” by Mississippi College School of Law in 2012 and “Top 40 under 40” by the Mississippi Business Journal 2012-2013. He most recently gave a TEDx Talk on “How to Make Health Care an Economic Driver” at Jackson’s first ever TED Talk forum.
Jonathan B. Jones is the CEO of Jones Companies. Before becoming CEO, Jonathan earned a bachelor’s of accountancy from the University of Mississippi. Immediately upon graduation, Jonathan began working as an assistant controller for the family business.
Within four years of employment, Jonathan purchased a controlling interest in the company and was promoted to CEO. During Jonathan’s leadership, the company has grown to nearly 1,000 employees and become the market share leader in several industries, including Jones’ development and ownership of the nation’s largest power line and pipeline subcontracting consortium.
In 2016, he was recognized for his entrepreneurial achievements by receiving the EY Entrepreneur Of The Year® 2016 award for Diversified and Industrial Products in the Gulf Coast Area. As a regional winner, Jonathan competed for national recognition among the most elite entrepreneurs in the country. Jonathan was the only award winner from the Gulf Coast region to be named a finalist at the national level. Jones competed with overall winners including Marriott, Fitbit, Mail Chimp and Blue Apron.
Charles L. Overby
Charles L. Overby is the former chairman and CEO of the Freedom Forum, Newseum and Diversity Institute. He currently serves as chairman of the Overby Center for Southern Journalism and Politics. He also is an adjunct instructor in journalism at Ole Miss.
For 22 years he was chief executive officer of the Freedom Forum, a non-partisan foundation that educates people about the press and the First Amendment.
He was CEO of the Newseum from 1997 to 2011 and supervised the building of the Newseum on Pennsylvania Avenue in Washington, D.C. He also was CEO of the Diversity Institute from its beginning in 2001. The Diversity Institute is a school that teaches journalists and aspiring journalists, with the goal of increasing diversity in newsrooms.
Overby has traveled to six continents speaking about media issues and promoting First Amendment freedoms.
Before joining the Freedom Forum, Overby was a reporter and editor for 17 years.
As a reporter, he covered Congress, the U.S. Supreme Court, the White House and presidential campaigns for Gannett Co., the nation’s largest newspaper company.
Overby was the top editor at Florida Today in Melbourne, Fla., and the executive editor of The Clarion-Ledger and Jackson Daily News in Jackson, Miss.
Overby supervised the news and editorial coverage that led to The Clarion-Ledger winning the Pulitzer Prize Gold Medal for Distinguished Public Service in 1983.
Overby also served as vice president of news and communications for Gannett and was a member of the management committees of Gannett and USA TODAY.
He served two brief stints in government, as press assistant to Sen. John Stennis, D-Miss., and special assistant for administration to Gov. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn.
Overby has served on several boards relating to education. He was a regent for Baylor University, a member of the board of visitors of Duke Divinity School, a member of the NCAA Foundation Board and a member of the foundation board of the University of Mississippi, his alma mater. He was a member of the board of the Horatio Alger Association of Distinguished Americans, which gives more than $2 million annually in college scholarships to underprivileged students. He is a member of the board of directors of the Andrew Jackson Foundation and serves on the Board of Visitors for the School of Journalism and New Media.
He and his wife, Andrea, live in Franklin, Tenn., and have three children and three grandchildren.
Tom Pittman was co-incorporator of the Community Foundation of Northwest Mississippi in 2002 and served as its first chairman before becoming its first full-time president and CEO in 2004. He oversaw its development of $20 million in endowments while granting $25 million to more than 200 nonprofits in its 11-county region before becoming president emeritus in 2020.
He previously was publisher and editor of the DeSoto Times newspaper, which received first place awards for general excellence in Mississippi. Prior to that he served as general manager and editor of the Daily Journal in Tupelo, the state’s third-largest newspaper, for 18 years. He became interested in electronic delivery of news in 1981 after reading about Knight-Ridder’s videotext experiment in Miami.
Pittman has served as president of both the Mississippi Association of Grantmakers and the Mississippi Press Association. He currently serves on the boards for Entergy Mississippi and Southern Bancorp Community Partners. He has previously served on the boards of the Mississippi Economic Council, North Mississippi Health Foundation, Mississippi’s Kids Count and Excel By 5. Pittman was a charter board member for the DeSoto Arts Council and the DeSoto Health and Wellness Center.
A native Mississippian, he earned degrees from the University of Mississippi in sociology and Emory University in theology.
Seetha Srinivasan is director emerita of the University Press of Mississippi. She joined the press in 1979 as its first acquiring editor and advanced to become director in 1998, from which position she retired in 2008. Srinivasan played a major role in putting the press on a firm footing with a well-recognized publishing program.
Throughout her publishing career, Srinivasan was active in the Association of American University Presses, serving in a range of capacities, often in leadership positions. She served as president of the association in 2003-2004. In 2002, she received the association’s Constituency Award for her “outstanding service to the university press community.” On the occasion of her retirement, the Mississippi Legislature passed a concurrent resolution commending her career and her contributions to the state.
Srinivasan has lived in Jackson since 1969. She has always been and continues to be involved in a variety of activities in the community. She has headed civic and arts organizations, served as chair of the Women’s Foundation of Mississippi (2011) and serves on the boards of the Community Foundation for Mississippi and St. Andrew’s School. In 1998, Millsaps College presented her with the Jim Livesay Service Award. Millsaps College awarded Srinivasan an honorary doctorate in humane letters in 2013. That same year, Srinivasan was recognized by the Women’s Foundation of Mississippi as one of the state’s 10 Women of Vision.
Seetha Srinivasan is married to Asoka Srinivasan, and their sons, Arjun and Gautam, live with their families in Atlanta and Washington, D.C., respectively.
Vangela M. Wade
Attorney Vangela M. Wade has a long-standing connection to Mississippi Center for Justice, having joined the Board of Directors in 2016 and served as Secretary/Treasurer, Chair of the Audit Committee and Chair of the Board of Directors. She currently serves as MCJ’s president and CEO. Wade began The Wade Law Firm, PLLC, after building a diverse and distinguished resume as a lawyer. Her background also includes working as a law clerk with the Mississippi Court of Appeals, a special prosecutor with the Madison/Rankin County District Attorney’s Office and as a corporate defense attorney with local and national employment law firms. She has also served as an adjunct law professor at the University of Mississippi School of Law. In addition to her legal experience, she advised public and private employers and organizations as a consultant in matters involving diversity and fair employment practices. Wade currently serves on the board of Mississippi Today and served on the board of St. Andrew’s Episcopal School for eight years. With more than 23 years of experience in Mississippi Law, Wade is dedicated to the fight against Mississippi’s culture of injustice by seeking systemic solutions to ensure equity in the lives of all Mississippians.