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Published on October 20th, 2021 | by University of Mississippi

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Special Event at Ole Miss to Fuel Discussion on Addiction, Recovery: David Magee Launches Book, Charles Kelley Performs November 2 in Oxford, Mississippi

A family discussion about substance misuse and Grammy Award-winning music will celebrate the national launch of the book Dear William by David Magee on November 2 at the University of Mississippi, with an acoustic performance by Charles Kelley, of the popular country music trio Lady A.

The 7 pm event in the Gertrude C. Ford Center for Performing Arts will begin the Robert C. Khayat Lecture Series, hosted by the Ole Miss Women’s Council for Philanthropy. Ticket holders will receive a copy of Dear William: A Father’s Memoir of Addiction, Recovery, Love and Loss on its national release date, with a portion of book sales benefiting the William Magee Institute for Student Wellbeing at Ole Miss.

Tickets for the November 2, 2021 event – sponsored by Visit Oxford, Dick and Diane Scruggs, and the William Magee Center for Wellness Education – are on sale, available through the UM Box Office at the Ford Center.

After introducing his book, Magee of Oxford, Mississippi will be joined on stage by family members who will share personal stories of addiction and recovery, love, and loss involving substance misuse and eating disorders. Ethel Young Scurlock, interim dean of the Sally McDonnell Barksdale Honors College and senior fellow of the LuckyDay Residential College, will serve as moderator.

The Magee Institute, which includes the William Magee Center for Wellness Education, opened in 2019 to provide university students alcohol and other drug education, help with other addiction areas, support, referrals and research. 

The event is suited for the convergence of music and the written word, since Dear William shares innermost human emotions, said Magee, father of William Magee, a young Ole Miss alumnus who died in 2013 of an accidental overdose. Telling his family’s story is not just about the son and brother they lost, but about the life struggles they each have battled. 

“Hand-me-down pain is at the root of all our pain,” said Magee, also an Ole Miss alumnus and an accomplished author, journalist, and media consultant. “Our story will speak to every individual and every family, everywhere. We were broken but have healed and want to share that journey.” 

Magee first penned an Oxford Eagle newspaper piece about his son, a Sally McDonnell Barksdale Honors College student and SEC letterman in track, as Ole Miss was welcoming back students for the 2016 fall semester. That first story was read by more than 1 million people and ignited a conversation that is ongoing.

Magee and his wife, Kent, began a grassroots movement among alumni, parents, friends and students that ultimately founded the Magee Center in memory of William Magee. The state Institutions of Higher Learning board approved the university’s request to open the stand-alone William Magee Institute for Student Wellbeing; the institute is the umbrella organization over the Magee Center to address the misuse of alcohol and other drugs, as well as coming centers focusing on eating disorders and research.

The Robert C. Khayat Lecture Series is aimed at engaging thought leaders to address the university community, said Liz Johnson Randall, of Oxford, chair of the Ole Miss Women’s Council. 

“The Ole Miss Women’s Council is excited to bring the uber-talented Charles Kelley of Lady A to campus to perform and proud to be a part of the national launch of ‘Dear William,’ a powerful story shared by a courageous family,” Randall said. “By offering their story as a means of helping scores of other people, David Magee and his family are transforming the way all of us view life and support our friends, neighbors and colleagues. 

“The Magees are showing all of us how to navigate the most challenging of times.” 

The institute and center quickly received significant private support, enabling meaningful work to begin, Magee said. 

“None of us envisioned how quickly the Magee Center would become such a major force, but we certainly should have,” he said. “Everyone knows or loves someone who is battling substance abuse, whether alcohol, drugs, both or other issues. We are grateful for the magnitude of support received – 815 gifts and commitments to date for a total of $4.2 million.

“The misuse of alcohol and other drugs is stereotypically a rite of passage for college students. Still, the truth is that the issue runs much deeper – many students have extensive experience with alcohol and other drugs before they reach college. They use substances to manage anxiety and to fit in with others, and substance misuse is often a family problem.”

Tickets to the event, featuring music by Charles Kelley and including a Dear William book are on sale at the UM Box Office, by phone at 662-915-7411 or online at https://fordcenter.org/tickets/. The ticket office is open 10 am-4 pm. Mondays through Fridays. Ticket prices range from $50 for the public to $15 for Ole Miss students with their IDs.

Oxford author David Magee shares the story of how he and his family coped with the death of son William Magee in the memoir ‘Dear William.’ The national launch of the book kicks off the Robert C. Khayat Lecture Series on Nov. 2 at the Gertrude C. Ford Center for Performing Arts. Photo by Lo Magee
Charles Kelly, of the popular country music trio Lady A, is set to perform Nov. 2 as part of the launch event for ‘Dear William.’ Photo courtesy Alysse Gafkjen
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About the Author

The University of Mississippi, affectionately known as Ole Miss, is Mississippi’s flagship university. A member of the elite group of R1: Doctoral Universities - Highest Research Activity by the Carnegie Classification, Ole Miss has a long history of producing leaders in public service, business, academics and the professions. Its 16 academic divisions include a major medical school; nationally recognized schools of accountancy, law and pharmacy; and an Honors College acclaimed for a blend of academic rigor, experiential learning and opportunities for community action. Acclaimed as one of the nation’s most beautiful, Ole Miss's main campus is in Oxford, which is routinely recognized as one of the nation's best college towns.



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