By Annie Rhoades
Deano Orr (BBA 93) has enjoyed a successful career that has taken him all across the South, but what remained constant throughout his travels were his passion for community engagement and flair for building relationships.
Growing up in the small town of Courtland, Ala., Orr knew from an early age that he wanted to do something meaningful with his life that provided him the opportunity to give back and serve the community.
“I always had a strong foundation in the Scripture, so it was always kind of programmed in me to give back and help others. It’s a part of who I am, and I’m thankful that my parents engrained that in me,” said Orr.
Orr graduated from Courtland High School (RA Hubbard High School) as salutatorian in 1989. With a graduating class of approximately 40 students and limited resources to assist them in pursuing a college career, Orr knew his best chance to succeed outside of his hometown was to pursue a career in college football.
“I was being recruited by a lot of SEC schools,” said Orr. “Football definitely opened the doors and was probably one of my only ways out of that little small town that at the time had a population of approximately 700.”
Having lettered in football at both Courtland High School and Ole Miss, while playing both sides of the ball at times, Orr attributes much of his success on and off the field to the advice of then head coach Billy Brewer (BSHPE 64).
“He always taught us about work ethic, effort and discipline and all of those lessons carried over into our personal lives and professional careers,” said Orr. “I still carry a lot of those lessons today.”
Aside from coach Brewer, the most influential person in Orr’s life was former Ole Miss Rebel and teammate Roy Lee “Chucky” Mullins.
Growing up only 20 miles apart in Alabama, the two quickly became close friends with Orr giving Mullins a ride to and from Alabama when time permitted.
“To personally experience the tenacity that he had for life, the courage that he displayed…all of that just really holds a special place in me that I’ll never forget,” said Orr. “I took on all of those characteristics personally. The spirit of Chucky will always live on within me.”
Orr played for the Ole Miss football team throughout college, participating in the 1989 Liberty Bowl, the 1991 Gator Bowl and the 1992 Liberty Bowl.
“We had some very good seasons while I was there,” said Orr. “That’s one of the reasons I’m very excited to see the current team return to bowl playing.”
Orr fondly recalls his days as an Ole Miss business major and attributes the majority of his successful career at International Paper Company to the diverse cultural background and opportunities he was exposed to during that time.
“I was enrolled in the business school, which included students from all over the world. You name it, they were there,” said Orr.
Orr began working for International Paper (formerly Champion International Corporation) in 1993, steadily moving his way up the company ranks, seizing every opportunity that presented itself.
Starting out as community relations manager for International Paper, Orr’s skill set was quickly recognized as his role expanded to government relations manager and lobbyist at the state Capitol in Jackson from 2000-2011.
“They kept saying to me, ‘Deano if you really want to have an impact on the bottom line of the corporation, you really want to take a serious look at government relations and lobbying,’” said Orr. “You can change basically a few words in a sentence and it could have a profound impact on the bottom line of the company.”
Orr’s career transitioned from the business side of International Paper to the non-profit side in 2011 when he accepted the role of executive director of International Paper Company Foundation.
Orr said being in the greater Mid-South community has been extremely rewarding.
“Not only have I been given the opportunity to give back and really make a difference, but it’s also given me the opportunity to get engaged with Ole Miss and on campus more often,” said Orr.
Orr is a life member of both the Ole Miss Alumni Association and the M-Club. He currently serves on the board of directors for the Ole Miss Alumni Association as well as the executive committee.