Mississippi University for Women Alumni Association award winners include leaders in health care and philanthropy and an intelligence officer in the U.S. Air Force. 

MUWAA’s 2024 award winners include: 

  • Elizabeth Yoste Whittington, of Southaven, Class of 2000, Alumni Achievement Award. 
  • Katy Canion Pacelli, of Brandon, Class of 2000, Alumni Service Award.  
  • Wahnee Sherman, of Lena, a former director of student life at MUW, Distinguished Achievement Award.  
  • Taylor Vick, of Baltimore, Maryland, Class of 2016, Outstanding Recent Graduate Award. 

“It is a great honor to celebrate these distinguished W alumni and award recipients,” said MUWAA President Heather Fasciocco Stone, a 2002 graduate of The W. “Their dedication and contributions to our beloved alma mater and the wider community are a testament to the power of education. Our alumni look forward to celebrating our cherished friends from The W during our annual Homecoming Convocation.”

The awards will be presented April 6 during The W’s Homecoming Convocation Service.

Alumni Achievement Award 

Elizabeth Y. Whittington, MBA, APR, is the recipient of the 2024 Alumni Achievement Award, which recognizes those who have achieved professional distinction and contributed significant community service at the local, national or international level, bringing distinction and honor to the university.

Whittington is the senior director of executive communications at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. She has earned numerous awards for her science writing and communication efforts, including a Silver Anvil for a clinical trial recruitment that resulted in a cure for a rare pediatric disease, a Bronze Anvil for executive communications, and a fellowship to Medicine in the Media, sponsored by the National Institutes of Health. Prior to her role at St. Jude, she served as digital managing editor of CURE Media Group, a publishing company focused on providing healthcare information to cancer patients, survivors and caregivers.

During her time as an alumna, Whittington has served on the MUWAA Board twice, chairing the Public Relations Committee and serving on several other committees. She formalized the MidSouth Chapter of the MUWAA, established the Troubadour Alumnae Association and its long-standing scholarship and is a member of the BlackList Alumnae Association.

Alumni Service Award

Katy Canion Pacelli is recipient of the Alumni Service Award, which is presented to alumni and friends of The W who have achieved professional distinction and made significant community service contributions at the local, national or international level, bringing distinction and honor to the university.

A past president of the MUWAA, Pacelli has chaired the association’s Long Blue Line Auction, which raises funds for scholarships at MUW.

Pacelli graduated in 2000 with a Bachelor of Science in business administration, concentrating in marketing. She also received a Master of Arts in higher education administration from Southeast Missouri State University.

A 2015 graduate of Leadership Mississippi, Pacelli has been the executive director of the Kelly Gene Cook, Sr. Charitable Foundation, Inc. since 2012, overseeing the day-to-day operations of the foundation, including a scholarship program of 90-plus students and a teacher grant program for three parishes in Louisiana. Prior to this, she worked as the associate director of admissions for Millsaps College and as an admissions counselor at The W.

Since graduation, Pacelli has served with many community organizations, including the Jackson Metro Chapter of the MUWAA; serving as local committee chair and a state regional director for America’s Distinguished Young Women (formerly Junior Miss) program, where she was recognized as one of the top five volunteers in 2012; and the Junior League of Jackson, where she chaired the first Touch A Truck Jackson event.

A past member of the MUWAA Board of Directors, Pacelli served as secretary for one year and chaired several committees including the Recent Graduate Committee, Scholarship and Awards Committee, and Chapters and Constituencies. In the fall of 2015, she led a major membership drive, Back to Blue, which led to the association’s highest number of active members at the time. Alongside fellow board members, she helped found the Long Blue Line Silent Auction, which continues to raise funds for the MUWAA’s Legacy Scholarship and Faculty Awards.

While a student at The W, she was involved with the D’Belle Social Club and the Jester Honorary Social Club, Hottentots, and served as Student Alumni Ambassador, Interclub president and with several other organizations.

She is chairing the Transition Committee for the Episcopal Diocese of Mississippi this year.

Distinguished Achievement Award

Wahnee Sherman, Ed.D., is the 2024 Distinguished Achievement Award recipient. The award, given by the Mississippi University for Women Alumni Association, honors a faculty, staff or supporter of the university who achieved professional distinction and made significant community service contributions, bringing distinction and honor to The W.

Sherman, a former assistant vice president for student affairs and director of student life at the university, is the executive director of the Mississippi Dental Association, connecting all dentists in Mississippi. She led the creation of the Mississippi Rural Dentists Scholarship Program (MRDSP), linking 13 rural dentists in the state. Sherman also led the growth of the Mississippi Rural Physicians Scholarship Program (MRPSP) from 6 to 70 practicing physicians. Her efforts were instrumental in raising more than $2 million annually in total scholarship funding for MRDSP and MRPSP.

Sherman currently serves Lena Baptist Church as director of Vacation Bible School, youth Sunday school teacher, assistant music director and chair of the child youth committee while also serving her community on the Lena Lights and Cemetery Committees. Sherman’s penchant for service is represented by her previous participation in at least ten other service-focused committees promoting improvements for rural communities and college student wellbeing. Sherman also led Student Life programs at The W for seven years, including the Hearin Leadership Program, New Student Orientation, Welcome Week, social clubs, and Greek life. In this capacity, she also supervised Diversity Education, Career Services, Student Involvement, Student Organizations, Community Service, Miss W and Student Government.

Outstanding Recent Graduate Award

Taylor Vick, ’16 ’20, is the recipient of the 2024 Outstanding Recent Graduate Award from the Mississippi University for Women Alumni Association. This honor recognizes recent graduates for outstanding service and contributions in their professions and to The W within 15 years following graduation.

Vick is an intelligence officer in the United States Air Force and has demonstrated outstanding leadership during combat operations and major military exercises. As an element officer in charge at her first operational assignment, Vick supervised 44,000 hours of MQ-9 Reaper combat aircraft missions, resulting in the elimination of 10 high-value adversaries from the battlefield.

During Pacific Sentry 21, a major joint military exercise, Vick was recognized as an Outstanding Performer for her skillful management of timely requests for information from units across Pacific Air Forces Command. Vick’s demonstrated leadership ability propelled her to the current role of deputy section chief in charge of 250 civilians and joint service military personnel at Fort George G. Meade, Maryland.    


About the Mississippi University for Women Alumni Association

The Mississippi University for Women Alumni Association exists to support and promote the mission of Mississippi University for Women while providing alumni engagement opportunities as the university’s officially affiliated alumni organization.

About The W

Located in historic Columbus, Mississippi, The W was founded in 1884 as the first state-supported college for women in the United States. Today, the university is home to 2,227 students in more than 70 majors and concentrations and has educated men for 40 years. The university is nationally recognized for low student debt, diversity and social mobility which empowers students to BE BOLD.

Be Bold. Tower with Blue.