Alumni Association


COLUMBUS, Miss. – Each year at Homecoming, the Mississippi University for Women Alumni Association (MUWAA) recognizes outstanding achievement and presents awards to selected recipients in the categories of MUW Distinguished Alumni Achievement Award, MUW Distinguished Achievement Award, MUW Alumni Service Award and Outstanding Recent Graduate Award. 

 Today, those four deserving individuals have been named for their contributions in their respective career fields and service to The W. Winners will be recognized on campus during the homecoming convocation ceremony to be held in Rent Auditorium on Saturday, March 24th, at 10 a.m.

The award recipients are Madeleine Cunningham (’68 of Edmond, Okla.), Jennifer Katool (’78 of Jackson), Hayley Gilmore (’08 of Columbus) and Eric Harlan (faculty member since 1991, originally from Elizabethtown, Ky.).

The MUW Distinguished Alumni Achievement Award goes to Madeleine Cunningham, originally of Greenville, who graduated from The W with a bachelor of science in bacteriology with a chemistry minor. Cunningham continued her education at the University of Tennessee Center for the Health Sciences, earning her master’s in microbiology and immunology in 1970 and her doctorate in 1973. In her over 35 years working at the University of Oklahoma (UO) Health Science Center, she distinguished herself time and again for contributions to the field. In the words of her colleagues, “her research in science and medicine over the past 35 years has made an indelible impact on our understanding of autoimmunity and infection.” Cunningham’s groundbreaking research has, in part, focused on PANDAS, a childhood neuropsychiatric disease that sometimes develops after streptococcal infections. Her research laboratory developed a test to diagnose the disease by testing for the presence of an immune response, thus demonstrating that a disease once deemed psychiatric in nature is actually an inflammatory disease. In 2012, she co-founded Moleculera Labs to make this panel of tests commercially available. She currently serves as its chief scientific officer and spends some portion of every week counseling parents and doctors about PANDAS and other childhood neuropsychiatric diseases. With more than 150 academic publications to her credit, Cunningham’s speaking engagements and service to the OU campus, Edmond community and global medical community have been similarly monumental. The Oklahoma Journal Record named her “Innovator of the Year” in 2013.

The recipient of this year’s MUW Alumni Service Award is Jenny Katool, former alumni association director and president whose commitment to The W has been rich and expansive since her graduation, beginning with service to her local Jackson-Metro chapter. She finished The W with a bachelor of science in home economics education, then returned to complete her Certificate in Culinary Arts, later earning a master of science in nutrition from the University of Southern Mississippi. MUWAA committee participation and leadership allowed Katool to serve on the Culinary Arts Advisory Board and spearhead the “Southern Grace” cookbook, the proceeds of which endowed two scholarships. She is on the MUW Foundation Board, serving as director since 2015 and investment committee chair. Katool has also served many community organizations including St. Richard Catholic Church, United Way, ProStart and St. Dominic Health Services, serving as their foundation board director. Katool is a Certified Culinary Professional and has been employed with Sanderson Farms, Inc. for 32 years, currently serving as corporate product development manager, developing both product and menu innovations to promote poultry sales. She was awarded the MUW Alumnae Achievement Award in 2004.

The 2018 Outstanding Recent Graduate Award goes to Hayley Gilmore. If her name sounds familiar, it may be from a recent mention in Vanity Fair, Wired, CBS This Morning, NPR’s All Things Considered, or nearly a dozen other media outlets that featured her graphic design work that was part of the 2017 Women’s March on Washington. Gilmore designed a series of posters, available as digital downloads for the march, one of which went viral online and featured Carrie Fisher as Princess Leia with the slogan, “A Woman’s Place is in the Resistance.” The Resistance poster is part of the Library of Congress' archive of American protest art. Garnering hundreds of thousands of online impressions in a matter of days, this also helped to promote, a group she founded to build a strong community of female designers and creators through mentoring, collaborations and support. A 2008 graduate with a bachelor of fine arts in graphic design, Gilmore also earned a master of fine arts from the University of Memphis and currently works full time in the Office of Public Affairs at Mississippi State University. She has won numerous graphic design awards and maintains that “teaching and sharing are a crucial part” of her art practice.

Eric Harlan is the 2018 recipient of the MUW Distinguished Achievement Award. Though not an MUW alumnus, he is both faculty and friend to the university, employed in the Department of Communication, teaching broadcasting, public relations and speech for 27 years. Probably best known as the longstanding voice, faculty adviser and general manager for WMUW 88.5 FM “The Edge” and online radio, Harlan has also lent his voice to major national commercials. He has a combined 33 years working in professional broadcast announcing, sales, management, engineering, station ownership and consulting and 28 years working in corporate and government television as producer, director and consultant. Harlan has served on a long list of committees and volunteer efforts during his MUW tenure, including serving as the technology coordinator for the communication department, faculty sponsor of the BlackList Honorary Social Club and he has assisted the Speech and Hearing Department with treating young people with speech difficulties. Similarly, his involvement with the Rotary Club, United Way, Angel Flights and live WMUW broadcasts at charitable events around Columbus have provided deep connections within the community. In Harlan’s own words: “I see the total experience for the student as part of my job description.” And he has set the tone for community and university engagement for students by his example.

The MUWAA exists to support and promote the mission of The W while providing alumni engagement opportunities. Any former student who has completed at least 12 semester hours at the university and who has made an annual contribution to the MUW Foundation is an active member eligible to vote and hold office for the year. For more information, visit the Mississippi University for Women Alumni Association website at

March 7, 2018


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