Millsaps College Honors Alumni Award Winners

Joey Lee

April 15, 2024

"Through their exemplary achievements and unwavering service, Ward, Alex and Robika epitomize the transformative impact of a Millsaps education."

As a school steeped in a tradition of excellence, Millsaps College will recognize graduates who have made significant contributions to society during its Alumni Award Ceremony on April 20.

The annual alumni awards will take place as part of the college’s Spring Alumni Weekend. The Alumni Awards Ceremony recognizes graduates whose accomplishments, affiliations and careers have honored the tradition of excellence at Millsaps College.

Ward Emling and Alex Lawson, Jr. will receive The Distinguished Alumnus Award and the Outstanding Young Alumnus Award respectively. These honors illustrate the impact of the academic program and community-based learning at Millsaps College, recognizing them for demonstrating the power of the Millsaps experience to the people of Mississippi, the nation and the world.

Robika Mylroie will be presented with The Livesay Award which honors the spirit of commitment in which Jim Livesay served the college as an alumnus, a member of the college administration and as a volunteer. This award is given in recognition of her outstanding service and dedication to Millsaps College in the areas of volunteerism, leadership and support that its namesake has exemplified.

“As a beacon of academic excellence, Millsaps College is proud to honor our distinguished alumni whose remarkable contributions to society embody the very essence of our institution’s values,” said Keith Dunn, Millsaps College interim president. “Through their exemplary achievements and unwavering service, Ward, Alex and Robika epitomize the transformative impact of a Millsaps education.”

Millsaps College is proud to honor our distinguished alumni whose remarkable contributions to society embody the very essence of our institution’s values. Through their exemplary achievements and unwavering service, they epitomize the transformative impact of a Millsaps education.

This recognition highlights the enduring legacy of excellence fostered by Millsaps, inspiring current and future generations to make meaningful contributions to their communities and beyond.

Information on the three alumni award honorees for 2024:

Outstanding Young Alumnus: Alex Lawson, Jr., B.B.A., Class of 2013

Alex Lawson is the senior vice president for strategic initiatives at HOPE, where he coordinates corporate strategy, manages large-scale economic mobility initiatives, and leads the enterprise business development team. Alex’s work aims to close opportunity gaps in homeownership, entrepreneurship, education, healthcare and healthy food access, climate justice, and general financial services.

Since joining HOPE in 2017, Alex’s initiatives have deployed $1.3 billion to more than a million people and businesses in under-resourced Deep South communities, winning Fortune Magazine’s award for Top 10 Innovative Companies and receiving special recognition from the US Treasury Secretary.  These programs have contributed more than 20,000 jobs to the US economy and made a measurable reduction in the racial wealth gap while simultaneously catapulting HOPE to become one of the nation’s largest Black- and Women-owned financial institutions.

Deeply involved with his local community, Alex is also the chairman of the Jackson Redevelopment Authority board of commissioners, the urban renewal agency for Mississippi’s capital city. Appointed by the Mayor, Alex leads the agency’s efforts to revitalize the city’s underinvested areas. Alex was named a “hometown hero” by the Jackson tourism industry in 2023 for this work and other community contributions through his service on the boards of directors for Mississippi Votes, the Mississippi Food Justice Collaborative, and the Myrlie and Medgar Evers Institute.

In 2013, Alex graduated from Millsaps College with a bachelor of business administration degree, where he majored in finance and minored in psychology and economics. He earned an MBA from the Else School of Management in 2014.

 Distinguished Alumnus: Ward Emling, B.A., Class of 1976

Ward Emling graduated from Millsaps in 1976, with a bachelor of arts degree in English. A member of both the Millsaps Players and Singers, he went on to study for two years at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama in London, England.

For 30 years (1980-1983, 1990-2017), Ward served as the Director of the Mississippi Film Office guiding the development of the film and television industry in Mississippi, including feature films, commercial and public television production, documentaries, short films, and commercials.  He retired in 2017 and was recognized by the MS Legislature as “the longest-serving national and international film commissioner.”

Ward oversaw film production for projects like The Beast Within, Don’t Look Back, This Is Elvis, Rascals and Robbers, and Mistress of Paradise. After moving to Los Angeles in 1984, he served as a location manager for As Summers Die, In A Shallow Grave, Bonanza: The Next Generation, Vietnam War Story, K-9, and A Promise to Keep. As an actor, he has appeared in The Mississippi, Matt Houston, St. Elsewhere, Knot’s Landing, Our House, Problem Child, Matlock, and several national and regional commercials.

As Director of the MS Film Office, Ward oversaw film production for projects like A Time To Kill, Ghosts Of Mississippi, Cookie’s Fortune, My Dog Skip, O Brother, Where Art Thou? The Help, and Get On Up , and many short films, documentaries, and commercials. In 2004, Ward worked closely with the Mississippi Legislature to pass the Mississippi Motion Picture Incentive Program.  Working through a network of instate film liaison offices, Mississippi filmmakers, and the media, Ward has raised the profile of filmmaking and awareness of the value of the industry from main streets in Mississippi to congressional offices in Washington.

Ward served as President of the Association of Film Commissioners International (AFCI) from 1998-2002, representing over 300 film commissions from around the world.  mission was the same:  to create a more progressive, a more supportive, and a more efficient environment for filmmaking and for filmmakers.

Ward is a member of the Millsaps College Public Relations Advisory Board, and has served on the Boards of New Stage Theatre and The Millsaps Arts and Lecture Series,

Jim Livesay Service Award: Robika Mylroie, B.A., Class of 2003

Dr. Robika Modak Mylroie graduated from Millsaps in 2003 with a bachelor of arts degree in psychology and a minor in Classics. While at Millsaps, she was a member of Eta Sigma Phi, a Classics honor society and Kappa Delta sorority.  She received her PhD from Mississippi State University in Counseling.

After Millsaps, Robika earned her masters and doctoral degrees in counseling from Mississippi State University. She currently works full-time as a clinical distance professor at Lamar University, with part-time jobs at St. Anthony’s Catholic School as a school counselor and therapist at Mindful Therapy. On her professional journey, Robika fulfilled her dream to get her certification in equine assisted animal assisted therapies. Her two main areas of research are nutrition’s effect on mental and emotional wellness and most recently utilizing restorative circles to build connection among children.

Committed to service, Robika began the Golden Triangle Alumni Board in 2011 and chaired it until she and her family moved to Madison in 2016. She was a member of the Millsaps Alumni Board, where she served as president for two consecutive terms and led efforts to boost recruitment in the Mississippi area by bringing together alumni, faculty, and current students to meet with prospective students.