The Women’s Foundation Board of Directors demonstrates the character of the Foundation, itself. Inspired. Determined. Fearless. They have refused to accept the hand dealt to women in Mississippi. Each of these insightful and resourceful leaders has made a stand to create new solutions. Their collective strength, support and wisdom fuel our mission.
Every day, our staff works with determination and compassion to foster real change. They work together with Mississippi’s politicians, schools and communities to ensure Mississippi’s women thrive.
Tracy DeVries has worked in the nonprofit sector since 1999. She previously worked as a fundraiser at Special Olympics International and led the corporate and foundation channels at the national headquarters of the American Red Cross. In addition to her role in developing mutually beneficial corporate alliances during her time at Special Olympics, she also oversaw a federal grant to promote social inclusion in schools across the United States, worked on providing health programs to individuals with intellectual disabilities throughout North America, created a family support network, and focused on organizational development through leadership and board training and the creation of fundraising plans.Tracy’s volunteer activities include teaching English as a Second Language and coaching soccer. She is originally from northern Virginia, a graduate of Michigan State University, and has lived in Washington, DC for most of her professional life. She recently moved to the Jackson area in the fall of 2016 where she lives with her husband, Tony, and their two rescue dogs, a German Shepherd named Zuri, and a Rottweiler named River. Tracy enjoys reading, swimming, working with dogs, getting to know Jackson and the state of Mississippi, and spending time on the weekends with her two step-children.
Frances Patterson Croft
Director of Strategic Initiatives
Frances joined the Women’s Foundation in January 2017 as the Director of Strategic Initiatives. In her role, Frances focuses on advocacy efforts, special projects, and fundraising.Frances is a Jackson, Mississippi native and received a BA from the University of Mississippi, and a JD from the University of Mississippi School of Law. Prior to coming to the WFM, Frances practiced law as a prosecutor with the Mississippi Attorney General’s Office for over ten years. Frances has served on the Board of Directors for the Junior League of Jackson where she worked to develop and implement their strategic plan, membership support, and managed League community projects. She has also served on the Board of the Mississippi Children’s Museum Partners and volunteers with St. Andrew’s Episcopal School and other Jackson organizations. Frances and her husband have three children.
Director of Grant Programming
As Director of Grants Programs, Latisha works on grantmaking, advocacy, and engagement activities of the Foundation. A native of Tulsa, Oklahoma, Latisha earned her BA and MA in Political Science with an emphasis in public policy and public administration from Oklahoma State University. There, Latisha worked as a Political Science instructor and received numerous awards, including the Thurgood Marshall Scholarship for outstanding graduate students. Latisha then served as Regional Program Officer for the Children’s Defense Fund’s Southern Regional Office where she worked on advocacy initiatives that addressed the needs of children and families living in poverty.Throughout her career, Latisha has worked on the receiving side of grantmaking and she is excited to now develop and implement grants for those in need. She believes to thrive is to have access to resources and opportunities that allow families to flourish.Latisha is married to Dr. Tony Latiker and they are the proud parents of one son, Qadre; as well as aunt and uncle to numerous nieces and nephews. Latisha is active in her church and serves as a Sunday school teacher. She enjoys reading and watching football.
Manager, Marketing and Public Awareness
Blake Case, a native of Jackson, Mississippi, joined the Women’s Foundation in September 2017. He focuses on communications strategy, media relations, social media messaging, and digital marketing and fundraising.Blake has a background in public education and political organizing. After student teaching in Louisville, MS, and earning a Bachelor’s degree from Mississippi State University, Blake served as a communications assistant in the Mississippi Legislature to Rep. Sonya Williams-Barnes. In 2015, he managed the day-to-day social media operations for Initiative 42, a statewide referendum to achieve consistently adequate funding for the state’s public schools. He has also done social media organizing and grassroots lobbying with The Parents’ Campaign, a public education advocacy group in Jackson. Blake lives in Historic Belhaven with his sister and sister-in-law and his two dogs, George and Peggy. He enjoys music, theatre, sports, and traveling when he can.
Board of Directors
Vonda Reeves is a gastroenterologist practicing in the tri-county area with Gastrointestinal Associates, PA. Prior to joining the group, she was faculty at University of Texas Medical Branch in Galveston, Texas. Vonda is immediate past president for the Mississippi Gastroenterology Society. She received her B.S. in Chemistry from Millsaps College and Doctor of Medicine degree from Meharry Medical College in Nashville. Vonda’s postgraduate work, including fellowship, was at UTMB in Texas. Vonda Is Chair of the Administrative Board for Anderson United Methodist Church and is the proud mom of four children, Galen, Royce, Jaren, and Peryn. The mission of the WFM mission aligns with Vonda’s lifelong mantra of educational and economic empowerment that was taught by her parents. Vonda is a passionate advocate for making more people aware of the WFM outreach and impact on women and girls in our state to get even more people involved in helping women and their families thrive.
Susan received a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration from Mississippi College and her Master of Science from the University of Tennessee-Knoxville. Susan retired in 2016 after practicing as a CPA for 32 years, specializing in nonprofit accounting and tax services.
She spends time running, biking, playing golf, and cheering for the University of Tennessee’s sports teams. Susan also serves on the Finance Committee at Northminster Baptist Church.
Susan joined the WFM to help Mississippi women accomplish their financial goals. She believes her wealth of experience will help those women become economically independent and nurture generations to come.
Shanell H. Watson
Shanell Watson is a program officer with the Woodward Hines Education Foundation, primarily responsible for managing programmatic activity related to the Foundation’s statewide postsecondary attainment priorities. Prior to joining the Foundation as a financial analyst in 2007, Shanell worked as an assurance supervisor for HORNE LLP and external grant manager for the Jackson Medical Mall Foundation. She has been licensed as a certified public accountant in the state of Mississippi since 2005 and received a Bachelor of Business Administration and Master of Accountancy from Millsaps College’s Else School of Management. Shanell has served the community in various capacities, including her current service as chair of the Young CPA Liaison Committee of the Mississippi Society of CPAs and governing board member of Mississippi Action for Progress, a statewide early childhood education agency. Shanell and her husband, Edward, reside in Terry, MS with their three sons, Nicholas, Sean and Barrett. Shanell believes wholeheartedly that empowering women to be successful is a driving force for improving our world: “I am no longer accepting the things I cannot change. I am changing the things that I cannot accept.” ~~Angela Y. Davis
Mary Largent Purvis
Mary Largent Purvis is the Director of Legal Analysis and Communication at Mississippi College School of Law, where she has taught Legal Analysis and Communication, Criminal Law, Secured Transactions, Sales and Leasing and Advanced Legal Analysis. Mary previously served as the Executive Director of CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocates) Mississippi. She graduated magna cum laude from Millsaps College in 1998, and she graduated summa cum laudefrom Mississippi College School of Law in 2001, where she was a member of the Law Review. Mary serves on the Mississippi College School of Law Child Advocacy Advisory Board and the Child Welfare and Advocacy Committee of the Mississippi Bar Association. Mary also serves on the Board of Directors for CASA Mississippi, Habitat for Humanity and the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation. She is the Chair of the St. Andrew’s Parents’ Association, and she serves on the Board of Trustees for St. Andrew’s Episcopal School. She previously served on the Board of Directors of the Mississippi Women Lawyers Association, the Young Lawyers Division of the Mississippi Bar as the Chair of the Bar Admissions Ceremony Committee, and the Board of Directors for Operation Shoestring, the Mississippi Children’s Museum and the Junior League of Jackson. She is a member of the Capital Area Bar Association, Association of Legal Writing Directors and the Association of Academic Support Educators, where she has served as Chair of the Bar and Bar Advocacy Committee. Mary lives in Ridgeland with her husband, Alex, and her children, Cate and Jack.
Lindsay Thomas Dowdle
Lindsay Thomas Dowdle is a partner in Jones Walker, LLP’s Labor and Employment practice group. Lindsay’s legal practice involves cases brought under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, the Americans with Disabilities Act, the Age Discrimination in Employment Act, and similar state and local laws governing employment discrimination, harassment, and retaliation. She defends employers and management before state and federal courts at the trial and appeal levels as well as before administrative bodies, such as the United States Department of Labor, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, and similar state agencies. She received her J.D. from the Mississippi College School of Law, and she also earned a Master of Education in Counseling Education from the University of Mississippi and a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology from Appalachian State University. The Mississippi Business Journal has named Lindsay one of “Mississippi’s 50 Leading Business Women” and “Top 50 Under 40.”
As an entrepreneur, Donna started her own company in 1991 as the founder and owner of Mississippi River Trading Company, an importer from China. As part of Mississippi River Trading Company, Donna designed and manufactured her own clothing line which she branded under the name of Hamilton Kennedy. She travelled extensively throughout China and Mongolia for 10 years. She is currently serving on the board of The Aspen Institute, an international nonprofit forum for values-based leadership and the exchange of ideas. She is also Chair of the Board of MississippiToday, a digital nonprofit, nonbiased news organization dedicated to making Mississippi a better place for all. She is chair of the Board of Nunoerin, an interactive digital play experience company that works around the globe providing creative solutions for companies. She currently serves on the board of the Miss. Civil Rights Museum Foundation and the Ms. Women’s Foundation. In the past she has been President of the Jr. League of Jackson, a founding director of Leadership Jackson, Habitat for Humanity, Ms Arts Commission, America’s Promise and many other civic organizations. Her three children, Jay Sones, Ken Sones and Dr. Megan Clapton are her pride and joy. She and Jim collectively have 12 grandchildren. They feel very blessed and fortunate to be involved with their entire family in many ways.
Kimberly Gladden Burke, Ph.D. is a Professor of Accounting and Dean of the Else School of Management at Millsap’s College. Prior to completing her Ph.D., Kim worked as an auditor for Price Waterhouse and a director of internal audit for Unigate Restaurants. She is the author of several courses offered by the AICPA, as well as several articles published in academic journals. Kim was recognized by the Mississippi Society of CPAs as the 2014 Outstanding Educator and by the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching and the Council for Advancement and Support of Education as the 2008 Mississippi Professor of the Year. Kim and her husband, Rick, are the proud parents of their daughter Kelsey.
Kim joined the WFM after noticing the sheer number of women caught in a cycle of unplanned pregnancy, lack of education and poverty. She’s proud to be part of an organization that is dedicated to improve the economic security of all women.
Margaret Oertling Cupples
Margaret Oertling Cupples focuses on civil appeals and commercial litigation. Her practice centers on asbestos, benzene and silica mass-tort and products liability cases, and also includes insurance sales practices, consumer finance, and general commercial litigation. She has participated in more than two dozen appeals in Mississippi’s Supreme Court and Court of Appeals, and in the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals. Margaret is listed in The Best Lawyers in America® in the field of Appellate Law and Products Liability Litigation, and in Benchmark Litigation as a Litigation Star and one of the Top 250 Business Women in Litigation.
Margaret serves as the managing partner of Bradley’s Jackson office.
Evelyn Edwards has 24 years experience in banking and finance and serves as Vice President and Corporate Community Development Grant Specialist and Mid MS Community Reinvestment Act (CRA) Specialist for BancorpSouth. She is a native of Tchula, Mississippi and is a graduate of Rust College and a former graduate student of the University of Akron, Ohio. She has served in various capacities on numerous boards of directors during her tenure at BancorpSouth.
Evelyn’s guiding principle is helping others bring their plans to life in order to transform communities. She believes in connecting, equipping, and sustaining non-profits, municipalities, and other entities to ensure that the low to moderate income population rises. As co-author of a Youth Asset Development Program for the MS Council on Economic Education, Evelyn’s work changed the lives of an estimated 300 middle- to- high school students that live at or below the poverty level in Mississippi.
Evelyn has two daughters, Kittey an Kaelyn and is an active member at Jackson Revival Center Church in Jackson where she serves as the Community Development Liaison.
Rosalyn Howard is the Executive Director of the Mississippi Nurses Foundation. She is charged with financially enhancing the programs of the Mississippi Nurses Foundation through nursing scholarships, fundraising, event planning, grants, and approving continuing education opportunities for nurses and other healthcare professionals. Mrs. Howard received her Bachelor of Science degree in Education and a Master of Science degree in Guidance and Counseling from Alcorn State University. She is a member of the Association of Fundraising Professionals, a member of the Association of Talent Development, and a member of the Parent Teacher Organization in Rankin County. Mrs. Howard was recognized by Girl Scouts of Greater Jackson as a 2017 Woman of Distinction, she was also awarded as the 2017 Parent of the Year for Northwest Rankin Middle School. She is also a 2016 graduate of Leadership Mississippi, a former-member of “Circle of Red” through of American Heart Association and 2012 graduate of Millsaps Business Advantage Program. Although she is actively involved professionally with speaking engagements and serving on committees, she also volunteers her time to serve her church (New Hope Baptist Church) through public relations and other projects.
Holly Lange is a professional event planner and fundraiser. She is a founder and is currently Executive Director of the Mississippi Book Festival. She managed the opening festivities of the Mississippi Civil Rights Museum and the Museum of Mississippi History, the B.B. King Museum, and the Mississippi Museum of Art Centennial. She has also served as
coordinator for Jubilee!JAM, Trustmark’s Red Beans and Rice Celebration, and the Crossroads Film Festival.
Holly is an active member of the Millsaps College Board of Trustees, the Mississippi Symphony Board, and the Women’s Foundation of Mississippi. She has previously served with the Friends of Children’s Hospital, the Junior League of Jackson, the Mississippi Museum of Art, the Craftsmen’s Guild of Mississippi, and the Jackson Symphony League.
Holly has received the Goodwill Volunteer Services Award as an Outstanding Community Volunteer, the “Women of Distinction” Award from the Girl Scouts of Mississippi, the Outstanding Achievement for Servant Leadership Award by the Governor’s Initiative for Volunteer Excellence, and has been named “Top 40 Under 40” by the Mississippi Business Journal. In 2017, Holly and her husband, Alan, were honored to receive the Livesay Award for Community Service from Millsaps College.
A native of Austin, Texas, Holly graduated from Millsaps College. She and Alan have two sons, Ford and Jake. They attend the Cathedral Church of St. Andrew and live in the Fondren neighborhood in Jackson.
Grace P.C. Lee is the co-founder, co-owner and retired President of Trilogy Communications, Inc. She began Trilogy with her husband in 1985. Trilogy’s coaxial cable has been used in such venues as Heathrow Airport, the World Trade Center, the Las Vegas City Center, and the United Nations. Lee and her family relocated to Mississippi to start Trilogy Communications, Inc. She earned a Bachelor’s degree in Accounting from Stonehill College and an MBA from the University of Connecticut, where she was inducted into the Hall of Fame by the University of Connecticut School of Business. Lee was named one of the “Top 50 Business Women in Mississippi” by the Mississippi Business Journal in 1997, its inaugural list. Grace serves on the Board of Directors for the Mississippi Symphony Orchestra and the Mississippi Public Broadcasting Foundation.
LoRose grew up in Durant, Mississippi, graduated from Mississippi State University and has spent thirty years in the corporate and financial world. LoRose has worked for Regions Bank for 13 years and serves as the Work Banking Coordinator for 100 branches across the state.
LoRose devotes herself to community service, as she sits on a number of local boards and advisory committees. In 2016, the Mississippi Business Journal named her one of “Mississippi’s 50 Leading Business Women”.
Growing up in one of the poorest counties in rural Mississippi, LoRose saw many women overcome unbelievable obstacles to raise and nurture families. She joined the WFM as an opportunity to give back and contribute to being part of the solution instead of focusing on the problems. LoRose believes to thrive is to not just exist, but flourish in your existence.
Norma B. Ojeda
Norma B. Ojeda, MD, is a Professor in the Department of Pediatrics at the University of Mississippi-Medical Center (UMMC). Norma is a physician-scientist interested in clinical and translational research in the field of developmental origins of diseases, women health and health disparities. She received numerous federal funding for her research projects and published her work in several scientific journals. Norma, served as president for UMMC chapter of the Group on Women in Medicine and Science (GWIMS) from the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC). She advocates for gender equality, inclusiveness and diversity and the advancement of women in Academia.
Barbara Logan Smith
Barbara Logan Smith has 19 years of dedicated service to building capacity and has contributed to the development of business executives, administrative leaders, educators, college students, and K-12 children across the country. Her roots as an educator began while serving elementary students in Milwaukee Public Schools. Her tenure involved myriad of roles, including K-8 school administrator, classroom teacher, Title I teacher, technology teacher, programs implementer, and district trainer for efficacy, quality, and proficiency programs. Logan Smith served as Vice President for the Efficacy Institute, a national non-profit agency of education reform, dedicated to the mission of proficiency for all children in academics and character. In this role, she was responsible for the strategic development of training, marketing, and client management services. During her employ with the Institute, she trained approximately 10,000 teachers, certified over 200 teacher and parent trainers, and prepared more than 3,000 students to serve change agents in their schools through the Envoy Project, an Efficacy youth leadership program. Currently Logan Smith serves as the Executive Director of Teach for America – Mississippi, where she continues to fight for educational equity and excellence for the children of the state. Barbara Logan Smith also facilitates training seminars for rising corporate executives. She has trained approximately 1,000 participants from Edward Jones, The Partnership of Boston, and St. Louis Business Diversity Initiative. Logan Smith earned her M.S. in Curriculum and Instruction from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee and graduated cum laude with her B.S. degree in Education (K-8) and Psychology from Lakeland College. Presently, Logan Smith is completing her PhD in Education and Leadership at Cardinal Stritch University, where she also serves as adjunct faculty, teaching undergraduate and graduate courses in leadership, management, and business. She lives with her husband, Christopher, in Jackson, Mississippi.
The Women’s Foundation of Mississippi began as a field-of-interest fund within the Community Foundation of Greater Jackson.
Inaugural Power of the Purse
The first Power of the Purse event, an informative session on how women could get involved in philanthropy, was hosted.
The Community Foundation officially launched the Women’s Fund.
The Fund hosted several new events, including the first Lunch and Learn, Change by Design, and Dining by Fireflies
International Women’s Day in Mississippi
Former governor Haley Barbour declared March 8th “International Women’s Day” in Mississippi.
First Executive Directcor
Carol Penick appointed as the first Executive Director.
W.K. Kellogg Foundation funding
W.K. Kellogg Foundation awarded The Fund a two-year, $375,500 capacity-building grant to support future endeavors.
The Fund officially separated from the Community Foundation of Greater Jackson and became an independent, statewide organization.
Teen Pregnancy Focus
The Foundation committed to addressing proper sex education and teen pregnancy, and released an informational packet on the cost of teen pregnancy in Mississippi.
Partnership for Women’s Prosperity
The Foundation joined the Partnership for Women’s Prosperity (PWP), an organization focused on supporting economically vulnerable women by providing opportunities in education, job training, and employment.
Fact Not Fiction
The Foundation launched Fact Not Fiction, a website and statewide advertising campaign with the goal of lowering Mississippi’s rate of teen pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections (STI’s).
The Foundation’s endowment was valued at $1 million, and it awarded $235,000 in grants.
The Foundation implemented the Two-Generation model, awarding grants to community colleges throughout Mississippi.
The Foundation worked with the Community College Board to pass Senate Bill 2563, which requires community colleges to address the needs of women.
David & Lucile Packard Foundation Funding
The Foundation continued to gain recognition locally and nationally, receiving a $1 million grant from the Packard Foundation.
Carol Penick announced her retirement after serving as the Executive Director of the Foundation for 9 years.
Tracy DeVries became the new Executive Director of the Women’s Foundation, effective January 1, 2017.
New Research Released
The Foundation released research on women’s access to quality jobs in Mississippi showing that closing the wage gap between similar men and women workers would cut the poverty rate in Mississippi BY HALF.
She’s on Board
The Foundation hosted its first annual “She’s on Board” training seminar where more than 130 women received board governance training.