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MTA hosting inaugural Innovators Hall of Fame gala May 13

To truly understand the impact high-tech has on Mississippi’s economy today and its potential impact tomorrow, it is important to study the past. That is the idea behind the Mississippi Technology Alliance’s (MTA’s) Inaugural Innovators Hall of Fame.

“We’ve been working on the program since last December,” says Heath Hall, MTA’s vice president for external affairs and marketing. “We felt that the best way to look at Mississippi innovation and technology economy is to view it from a historical perspective. Mississippi is the home of many pioneers.”

“It is an honor for the Mississippi Technology Alliance to celebrate the accomplishments of these outstanding individuals and companies,” says MTA president and CEO Dr. Randy Goldsmith. “They put Mississippi on the map as a leader in innovation and entrepreneurship and blazed a trail of achievements for those who will follow in their footsteps.”

History makers

The Innovators Hall of Fame induction ceremony will be held May 13 at the Mississippi TelCom Center in downtown Jackson. In total, 13 individuals will receive awards, including eight Leadership Awards, four Excellence Awards and one Legends Award.

The top honor is the Legends Award, which will go to Ambassador John M. Palmer. Hall says when the selection process began, Palmer’s name was the first mentioned, and says a more fitting inaugural winner could not be found.

Palmer, indeed, forged an illustrious career in the telecommunications industry, and subsequently as a diplomat and advisor. He was the chairman of GulfSouth Capital Inc. in Jackson and served as the chairman of SkyTel from 1989 until its sale to MCI WorldCom in 1999. He was appointed by President George H.W. Bush to sit on the President’s Export Council as a private sector advisor to the Secretary of Commerce and by President Ronald Reagan as the private sector trade advisor to the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative. A graduate of the University of Mississippi, where he received both an undergraduate and M.B.A., Palmer was sworn in as ambassador to Portugal in November 2001.

Two of the four Excellence Awards will be presented posthumously to Edward Barq and Dr. Arthur Guyton. Barq was the founder of Barq’s Root Beer in Biloxi back in the late 1800s, where he pioneered in carbonated beverages.

A native of Oxford, Guyton was a ground-breaking physician at the University of Mississippi Medical Center. He began his career at Ole Miss teaching pharmacology in the two-year medical school in Oxford, and in 1948 was named chairman of the Department of Physiology and Biophysics. His “Textbook of Medical Physiology” is well known and widely read.

The two other Excellence Award recipients will be Jimmy Creekmore of Cellular South and Hartley Peavey of Peavey Electronics Corporation. Cellular South is an operating unit of the holding company TELAPEX Inc., owned in part by Creekmore. Today, Cellular South is still locally owned and based in Jackson, and continues to be an industry leader in new products and services.

Peavey began building his own guitars and amplifiers as a boy in his father’s Meridian shop. Peavey Electronics now is a global manufacturer of electronic sound equipment and instruments, employing thousands and counting customers worldwide.

The Leadership Award recipients will be:

• Nathan McNeill — McNeill is co-founder of and vice president of product strategy at Ridgeland-based Bomgar Corporation (formerly NetworkStreaming).

• Bill Rayburn — Rayburn is co-founder of FNC Inc. in Oxford.

• Chip Slack — Slack is chairman and CEO of Intechra Holding Corporation of Jackson.

• Maury Knowlton — Knowlton is CEO of Cleveland-based InTime Inc.

• Dean Bertram — Bertram is president of KDL Solutions in Hattiesburg.

• Jeff Casady — Casady is president and CTO of SemiSouth Laboratories Inc., which was founded in Starkville.

• Stephen Johnston — Johnston is CEO of Jackson-based SmartSynch Inc.

• Mark Rodgers — Rodgers is chairman and CEO of Samarion Inc. of Jackson. (Rodgers also founded SmartSynch, and served there as president and CEO before coming to Samarion.)

Black tie optional

The first Innovators Hall of Fame ceremony will get underway at 6 p.m. with a reception. The seated awards dinner will commence at 7 p.m. Attire is black tie optional.
Tickets at the door will be $100. At press time, limited sponsorships were still available. To reserve space, visit www.technologyalliance.ms, and click on the Hall of Fame banner, or call (601) 960-3610.

“I think MTA does an outstanding job, especially connecting people to capital,” Rodgers says. “It’s an honor to be recognized in this first Innovators Hall of Fame.”

Hall says MTA intends the Hall of Fame ceremony to be an annual event, and says the organization has been extremely pleased with the response it has gotten.

Contact MBJ staff writer Wally Northway at wally.northway@msbusiness.com.

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