Reception held to honor distinguished professor Frances A. Karnes, announce $250,000 challenge gift

Reception held to honor distinguished professor Frances A. Karnes, announce $250,000 challenge gift

HATTIESBURG, MS (WDAM) - This is a news release from The University of Southern Mississippi

A renowned advocate for children with exceptional abilities was recognized for her service to the field of gifted education Feb. 19 when The University of Southern Mississippi honored Dr. Frances A. Karnes at a reception on the Hattiesburg campus.

The reception was presented by the Southern Miss College of Education and Psychology and the USM Foundation and included the announcement of a $250,000 matching gift challenge to the Frances A. Karnes Chair in Gifted Education Endowment. The gift challenge from an anonymous donor is part of a plan to complete the Karnes Endowed Chair in Gifted Education, which provides the opportunity for friends and colleagues of Dr. Karnes and supporters of the Center to assist in the initiative.

In 2002, the Frances A. Karnes Endowed Chair in Gifted Education was established to honor Dr. Karnes' vision of meeting the educational needs and challenges of gifted students. This distinguished academic position recognizes visionary leadership to promote academic excellence. Dr. Karnes held the Karnes Endowed Chair in Gifted Education from the time it was established until her recent retirement from the University in 2014.

"This (Karnes Endowed Chair) is a wonderful opportunity to honor Dr. Karnes for her positive impact on gifted education, and her many years of service to Southern Miss," said Dr. Ann Blackwell, dean of the College of Education and Psychology.

The USM Foundation is leading an effort to complete the funding for the Karnes Endowed Chair by raising the endowment to $1 million. The fully funded endowment intends to:

*Provide assurance to the University and to the Karnes Center that the position will be funded in perpetuity;

*Enrich the University by attracting and retaining highly qualified faculty; and

*Help to eliminate the uncertainty of budget constraints and fluctuation of funding.

The current corpus balance of the endowment is approximately $500,000. To assist in reaching the $1 million goal, and thanks to the generosity of the anonymous donor, all contributions, up to $250,000, will be matched to ensure the endowment becomes fully funded at $1 million.

"Dr. Karnes has been an important member of the Southern Miss and Hattiesburg communities for decades," said Shannon Fleming, Executive Director of the USM Foundation. "We encourage friends and donors who are interested in honoring Dr. Karnes and supporting the Karnes Center for Gifted Studies to take this opportunity have their contributions matched dollar-for-dollar."

Karnes, a retired Distinguished University Professor and former director of the Frances A. Karnes Center for Gifted Studies at Southern Miss, served on the University's faculty from 1973 until 2014 as a professor in its Department of Curriculum, Instruction and Special Education (CISE). She founded the Center for Gifted Studies in 1979, which has furthered the education of thousands of gifted students and those with leadership abilities through teaching, research and service, as well as academic and leadership enrichment programs. Her late husband, Dr. Ray Karnes, also served on the Southern Miss faculty as professor of educational administration.

"I had a wonderful career at USM," Karnes said. "The people here have been very kind and supportive of our efforts to establish and expand gifted education in Mississippi."

Named for its founder in 1999, the Karnes Center for Gifted Studies provides support for teachers of gifted and academically talented students and their families. Karnes and the Center have impacted public policy in Mississippi and across the nation to improve gifted education curriculum and funding, while her graduate students have gone on as educators at all levels to advance her vision across the country and around the globe.

Thousands of students have enrolled in the Center's popular Leadership, Saturday Gifted Studies, Summer Gifted Studies and Summer Academically Talented Youth programs over the years, which offer courses and enrichment/accelerated programs taught by qualified educators and presenters from professional backgrounds.

Karnes has collaborated with many of her current and former graduate students in publishing hundreds of articles in peer reviewed journals and multiple books on gifted education and has been a prominent advocate for legislation benefiting gifted education in Mississippi and across the nation. Her graduates have gone on to work in academia, private industry and the public sector to advance her vision for gifted education across the country and around the globe.

"When we (Ray and Frances Karnes) came to Mississippi, gifted education didn't exist, so I worked with our local legislators and we got gifted into the definition for (identifying) exceptional children," Karnes said. "Now what's going on in this state is absolutely amazing, with programs for gifted in public schools, the School for Mathematics and Science and the School of the Arts."

Among her many honors and awards, Karnes was the 2003 recipient of the Mississippi Association for Gifted Children's Award for Excellence, and she received the Distinguished University Professor designation at Southern Miss in 2010. Also in 2010, she was named to TeachTechTopia's Top 10 Most Influential Special Education Professors and was included in the National Association of Professional Women's Legacy registry in 2011-2012.

Karnes has also generously given her time in community service, including to the Hattiesburg area Boys and Girls Club Advisory Council; the Hattiesburg Public School Foundation Board; the Forrest General Hospital Spirit of Women Advisory Council; the Forrest General Healthcare Foundation Board; the National Association for Gifted Children; the Mississippi Association for Gifted Children; and the Council for Exceptional Children.

For information on how to support the Karnes Endowed Chair in Gifted Education, contact the USM Foundation at 601.266.5210 or visit