Beloved professor of political science mourned by the campus community

John Winkle (center) is meeting several of his students at Sally McDonnell Barksdale Honors College. Winkle’s students across campus remember how the late political science professor both challenged and encouraged them. Photo: Thomas Graning / Ole Miss Digital Imaging Services

OXFORD, Miss – John W. Winkle III was a monumental figure at the University of Mississippi. He has won virtually every teaching award offered by the university, more than once served as president of the Political Science Department, and contributed to the founding of the Sally McDonnell Barksdale Honors College and the Trent Lotta Institute of Leadership, to name just a few.

His most valuable compliment, however, came from a student.

“John had a student from the underfunded rural Mississippi school system who had problems but eventually passed his constitutional law exam,” said Ellen Meacham, an associate professor in journalism and Winkle’s wife. “The student said, ‘It was the hardest class I have ever attended, but Dr. Winkle never made me feel stupid.”

His colleagues, friends and former students remember the retired political science professor who died on October 23 for his many achievements and extraordinary character. Tributes poured in from all over campus and from the highest federal offices hearing of Winkle’s death.

“John Winkle was devoted to our beloved Ole Miss and her students,” said Gloria Kellum, former vice-chancellor of university relations. “He wanted his students to push boundaries in life, so his teaching was subject-based, but much more about life and life.

“He has helped create an environment of academic excellence in his teaching, ministry, and research and research endeavors. He was a change agent for our university and for many graduates and colleagues.

John Winkle, Professor Emeritus of Political Science, is remembered for his remarkable achievements over several decades and his exceptional character. Uploaded photo

“John was a friend, colleague, mentor and someone with great intellect, honesty, kindness and humor – an all-encompassing wonderful person.”

Such sentiments are reflected in the donations to the Fund for Academic Excellence John W. Winkle III. The fund provides scholarships for political science faculties with outstanding academic achievements and great interest in the public service.

“John left an amazing mark on this campus in many ways, but his class work was second to none,” said John Bruce, president and associate professor of political science. “This gift is a fitting tribute to a man who cared so much for his disciples.”

After earning his MA and PhD in political science from Duke University, Winkle entered UM in 1974. He served at the university for nearly four decades.

Winkle has taught undergraduate and graduate political science courses as well as a number of thematic courses for Honors College. He remained in the class even after his retirement and taught an empirical lesson focused on the Supreme Court at the time of his death.

The university and its colleagues have regularly recognized Winkle for his achievements on campus. His list of honors includes:

  • award for outstanding teacher Elsie M. Hood
  • Burlington-Northern Faculty Achievement Award
  • Thomas Frist Student Service Award
  • Random Acts of Kindness Award
  • four-time winner of the Liberal Arts Excellence Award
  • four-time winner of the University Research Award
  • four-time winner of the Graduate School Research Award

His students remember his encouragement and sacrifice.

“He was articulate and inspiring,” said US Federal Court Judge Michael Mills. “He also had a very nice demeanor and a great sense of authenticity. He certainly made me love the law. A very good man.

When the university named Winkle a top professor in 1980, Karen Hinton cheered on her professor along with her classmate Linda Monk.

“After my first class with Dr. Winkle, I went back to my dorm, thinking I wanted to be like him,” said Hinton, a political advisor and former Mississippi journalist. “I didn’t know who I was or who I wanted to be until I listened to him, his questions, his answers.”

Monk, a constitutional law researcher and author, said Winkle played a key role in her career.

“There are debts you can never pay,” said Monk. “Mine was for Dr. John W. Winkle III, who has been my mentor and friend for 45 years. His Constitutional Law course prepared me for the work of my life – and the rigors of Harvard Law School.

“His generosity to his former students was legendary and he graciously edited my books. The university really lost a scholar and gentleman who embodied the highest standards of excellence and did so wholeheartedly. “

Winkle left a legacy on campus that will resonate for decades to come. A recent donation from an anonymous donor to Honors College founded the John Winkle Reading and Research Room. It was an appropriate tribute, as Winkle wrote an eight-page vision statement that led to the founding of the college.

Mississippi State Auditor Shad White called Winkle his most important mentor in college.

“He was my graduate advisor and he was an amazing friend,” said White. “I still remember when I was graduating from high school, he hugged me like a bear, looked me in the eyes and said,” You will change the world. “

“The confidence in that look pushed me to achieve far beyond what I thought I could before I met him. And I am only one of the hundreds of students he inspired ”.

Winkle also proposed the creation of a leadership institute and led the early stages of what later became the Trent Lotta Leadership Institute.

John Winkle, who was instrumental in establishing the university’s Sally McDonnell Barksdale Honors College, speaks on John Winkle’s recent dedication to the college reading and research room. Photo: HG Biggs / Honors College

“He was someone who really cared for people, and he especially cared for his students,” said former UM Vice Chancellor Thomas Wallace, who is vice president of student affairs at California State University in Bakersfield. “He did all the things a great professor should do to get his students interested in science and to make learning enjoyable.”

Outside of school, Winkle has received many awards and passion projects. In 2014, he wrote the final text of the Mississippi state constitution. He also served as recording secretary for the Judicial Advisory Study Committee and the Mississippi Bar Association’s 21st Century Courts Committee.

He is a die-hard Boston Red Sox fan, and has coached many seasons of youth baseball, some of them with writer John Grisham. A character named Officer Winkle appears in “The Street Lawyer”.

He strengthened the Oxford community by helping to organize one of its fairs. Oxford Community Market was one of the first state to accept SNAP benefits.

Winkle helped write a USDA grant that helped the market obtain locally-grown fresh fruit and vegetables for low-income people in food deserts and train local retailers to grow or prepare crops and produce for sale all year round.

Bruce Levingston, artist in residence at Chancellor’s Honors College and chair owner Lester Glenn Fant, said Winkle was “the most generous, noble, and gifted man.”

“A teacher-master and an inspiring mentor to generations of students and faculty, I had the honor of teaching with him,” said Levingston. “He treated each student with dignity and kindness and showed a deep, sincere interest in their future and well-being.

“He was a dear friend who leaves a huge void in this world. His legacy of love, compassion and intellectual curiosity will live in each of us who were lucky enough to meet him. “

Winkle left a wife; the sons of Johnny and wife of Amy from Atlanta; Jason and wife Felicja of Memphis; and Will Taylor; his brother Joseph R .; six grandchildren plus a niece and nephew.

To make a John W. Winkle III Foundation Commemorative Gift, send the donation, with the name of the foundation on your check, to the University of Mississippi Foundation, 406 University Ave., Oxford, MS 38655. To make an online gift, visit winkle.


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