The University of Mississippi

From Supermodel to Super Mogul

Photo of Kathy Ireland, 'Kathy Ireland Shattering Glass' by Nikon Ambassador Dixie Dixon; courtesy of Jon Carrasco.

Kathy Ireland came to prominence in the late 1980s and early 1990s as one of the world’s most famous supermodels. Since then, Ireland has become a renowned leader in the world of business and philanthropy.

For her many remarkable business achievements, Forbes magazine named Ireland as one of America’s most successful self-made women. She is also recognized globally as a leader in human rights advocacy.

Ireland will share her inspirational story with the University of Mississippi and Oxford community when she visits campus on Friday, March 24, as the latest installment of the Robert C. Khayat Lecture Series. Hosted by the Ole Miss Women’s Council for Philanthropy (OMWC), the free, public event, “A Conversation with Kathy Ireland,” will begin at 3:15 p.m. in the UM School of Business Administration auditorium (Holman Hall, Room 30).

“It is a great pleasure to return to the beautiful magnolia state of Mississippi and have an opportunity to spend time speaking with and learning from the brilliant scholars at Ole Miss. Our beloved family friends, Sam and Mary Haskell, have hosted us in Mississippi many times and it is always a great joy to return,” said Kathy Ireland.

“It is such a privilege to have the honor to welcome Kathy Ireland to Ole Miss,” said Suzan Thames, OMWC chair. “Her inspirational journey of accomplishments is certain to attract a large and diverse group.”

Early in her career, Ireland gained fame as one of the most celebrated fashion models, appearing on the covers of Harper’s Bazaar, Teen, Vogue and Cosmopolitan. And while she appeared on the cover of three of Sports Illustrated swimsuit issues, she graced the cover of Forbes magazine three times as well.

“An especially notable aspect of her career is how she moved from being an enormously successful supermodel to launching an extraordinary business empire with kathy ireland Worldwide (kiWW) and remaining incredibly involved in philanthropy,” Thames said.

In addition to her many brand marketing efforts, Ireland has launched a record label, produced fitness videos and authored a variety of children’s books and a novel. She is also active in the film and television industry. In 2021, she presented the national Christmas season broadcast of “The Walton’s Homecoming,” which was produced by Emmy winner Sam Haskell, an Oxford resident and UM alumnus.

Thames said Ireland’s long, generous philanthropic history makes her an especially appropriate speaker for the Women’s Council’s Robert C. Khayat Lecture Series.

“Nurturing the practice of philanthropy is one of the most fundamental tenets of the OMWC’s mission,” she said. “Our goal is for our student scholars to develop strong leadership skills while also becoming caring, ethical leaders within their communities and to support causes that are important to them.

“Kathy Ireland personifies the mission of the OMWC. She has been a tireless advocate for numerous nonprofits and social causes aimed at improving the lives of others.”

Ireland’s philanthropic endeavors include supporting the March of Dimes, YMCA, Feed the Children, Toys for Tots, American Cancer Society, Anti-Defamation League, Jewish National Fund and the Elizabeth Taylor AIDS Foundation.

She has also worked on behalf of efforts encouraging equality in women’s athletics, ending poverty and solving the opioid crisis. Last year, Ireland was instrumental in kicking off the National Pediatric Cancer Foundation’s “Music Funds the Cure” program.

The University of California, Los Angeles, named Ireland as “one of the top 10 women’s health advocates in America today.”

“We know Kathy Ireland’s story will be of great value to all our students as well as the broader Ole Miss family,” Thames said. “Whether their academic studies or professions are focused on business, social work, law, journalism, health care, the entertainment industry or any other area, her story is so large that it encompasses them all.”

The Robert C. Khayat Lecture Series was first announced by the Women’s Council in early 2021 during an OMWC event featuring a conversation with Amy Grant, the Nashville-based singer, songwriter and musician.

The series brings renowned cross-cultural leaders, entrepreneurs and philanthropists to the Oxford campus, creating opportunities for these speakers to share ideas and experiences designed to inspire students and other audience members through thought-provoking topics and conversations.

Ireland will be among the star-studded lineup on Saturday, March 25, at the 20th-anniversary gala celebrating the Gertrude C. Ford Center for the Performing Arts. The evening will also honor Mary and Sam Haskell by presenting them with the Ford Center’s prestigious Concerto Award for their extraordinary patronage of the center and the arts.

“Mary and Sam Haskell graciously arranged for Kathy Ireland to participate in the lecture series as they continue their diligent and faithful service to the Women’s Council and so many areas of Ole Miss,” Thames said. “Mary Haskell, a former Women’s Council chair, recently chaired the Legacy Award honoring Dolly Parton, and Sam’s contributions to our organization have been invaluable. Mary and Sam are two of our greatest advocates and champion our mission in their daily lives.”

For more information or to support the Robert C. Khayat Lecture Series and the Women’s Council, contact Suzanne Helveston, managing director for the Women’s Council, at or 662-915-2956.

Jonathan Scott/University Development