Davises Help Support UM Students and Sports

Meridian couple's love for university inspires major gift

With a $1 million gift to UM, Dr. Don and Lynne Davis have established endowments that support both academic scholarships and Ole Miss athletics. Photo by Bill Dabney

With a $1 million gift to UM, Dr. Don and Lynne Davis have established endowments that support both academic scholarships and Ole Miss athletics. Photo by Bill Dabney

OXFORD, Miss. – Don and Lynne Davis met in anatomy and physiology lab and realized instantly they had great chemistry.

Married 53 years, the Davises, of Meridian, admit they fell in love at first sight. They are grateful to the University of Mississippi for bringing them together and also for making them who they are today: Don, a successful otolaryngologist who recently retired after a 43-year practice, and Lynne, a retired pharmacist.

“We both love Ole Miss,” Don Davis said. “We spend a lot of time in Oxford. I credit Ole Miss with my education, which allowed me to make enough money and make the wise investment choices needed to be able to give back to the university in a significant way.”

With a $1 million gift, the Davises have established two endowments. The Donald S. and Lynne R. Davis Endowment for Athletics will provide support for the Ole Miss Athletics Foundation and the Donald S. and Lynne R. Davis Academic Scholarship Endowment will offer financial assistance to undergraduate students from Meridian.

“During this season of giving, we are deeply grateful to the Davises for their incredible generosity,” said Keith Carter, senior associate athletics director for development and executive director of the OMAF. “I am personally impressed by their all-encompassing loyalty to the university, as is evident in their giving record, which supports not only athletics but also academics.”

Don Davis, an Iuka native whose professional life was spent in Meridian, said he hopes the scholarship will provide UM tuition support for students from Meridian’s two private schools: Lamar School, the Davis children’s high school alma mater, and Russell Christian Academy. Additionally, he hopes his endowment for athletics will support continual improvements to Ole Miss sports programs.

A member of the Ole Miss Air Force ROTC, Don Davis graduated in 1958 with a bachelor’s degree in biology and then entered flight school for three years before returning to Ole Miss to take classes that would prepare him for medical school. At that time, he met Lynne Ruble of West Point, who graduated from Ole Miss in 1963 with a bachelor’s degree in pharmacy.

After Don Davis earned his medical degree in 1966 from the UM School of Medicine in Jackson, he and Lynne moved to Meridian to start a practice and a family. The couple has three grown children – Alicia Davis Johnson of New Orleans, Don Davis Jr. of Oxford and Andy Davis of Meridian, all Ole Miss alumni – and seven grandchildren.

“I told them they could go anywhere they wanted to go, but the money is going to Ole Miss,” Davis said, laughing.

At Ole Miss, Don Davis was active in his fraternity, Sigma Chi, while Lynne Davis was likewise involved with her sorority, Delta Delta Delta.

When they’re not enjoying Ole Miss sports or spending time with their grandchildren, they love to travel, having recently completed a trip around the world. Next up is a trip to the African nation of Rwanda to observe mountain gorillas in the wild, an adventure that has been on Lynne Davis’s bucket list for many years.

To learn more about the Vaught Society and how it supports the Forward Together campaign, contact Keith Carter at jkcarter@olemiss.edu or call 662-915-7159. To learn more about scholarship endowments, contact Denson Hollis, senior director of major gifts in the Office of Development, at dhollis@olemiss.edu or 662-915-5092.

Embry Legacy Continues with Latest Scholar

Killough receives 2016 award created in football player's memory

Murrell Godfrey (left), UM director of forensic chemistry, talks Embry scholar Lane Killough through the beginning stages of running a polymerase chain reaction. Forensic chemists use the PCR process to duplicate DNA until the sample size is large enough to analyze. Photo by Bill Dabney

Murrell Godfrey (left), UM director of forensic chemistry, talks Embry scholar Lane Killough through the beginning stages of running a polymerase chain reaction. Forensic chemists use the PCR process to duplicate DNA until the sample size is large enough to analyze. Photo by Bill Dabney

OXFORD, Miss. – It has been 18 years since Bill and Gwen Embry of Coffeeville lost their son Joey in a drowning accident in 1998. Joey, a University of Mississippi student and an offensive tackle for the Rebel football team, was a well-respected leader on and off the field.

The same year Joey Embry died, Lane Killough was born.

Killough, an honor graduate of Bruce High School, is this year’s recipient of the Joey Embry Memorial Scholarship, a fund established by the Embrys to remember their son and give back to a resident of Calhoun or Yalobusha counties.

“We have known, or known a family member of, each student who has received the scholarship,” Gwen Embry said. “Knowing their names makes it much more personal. Joey’s loss is helping people who knew him.”

In high school, Killough served as president of the Beta Club and the Youth Arts Council. He also was involved with the yearbook and newspaper staffs and was active in the drama club. Additionally, he served as head of the school’s library organization.

“Bill and I are very pleased for the Joey Embry Memorial Scholarship to be awarded to such a deserving student going to the University of Mississippi,” Embry said.

Killough said he appreciates the gift and understands the significance behind it.

“I have always wanted to have this college experience,” he said. “Through the assistance of the scholarship, I can more easily accomplish my goals.”

Killough, who chose to attend Ole Miss after visiting the Oxford campus, plans to major in forensic chemistry, one of only five accredited forensic chemistry programs in the nation. He hopes to use his education to help solve federal crimes.

“I immediately fell in love with the campus and the people,” Killough said. “Everything about the environment and community drew me in.”

Students interested in applying for the scholarship should speak with their high school guidance counselor.

Individuals and organizations can contribute to the Joey Embry Memorial Scholarship Fund through the University of Mississippi Foundation, 406 University Ave., Oxford, MS 38655; phone 800-340-9542; or online at http://www.umfoundation.com/makeagift.

UM Graduate Gives Back with Planned Gifts

Donations benefit School of Business Administration, support scholarships

Tim Noss (left), development officer for the UM School of Business Administration, awards the late Marion McManus a certificate acknowledging his gift to the university. Photo courtesy Tim Noss

Tim Noss (left), development officer for the UM School of Business Administration, awards the late Marion McManus a certificate acknowledging his gift to the university. Photo courtesy Tim Noss

OXFORD, Miss. – The late Marion McManus of Houston, Texas, grew up on a small farm in Mississippi, one of nine children. His parents’ Meadville home had no electricity or running water and every day he and his siblings were expected to pick cotton after school to help make ends meet. 

“They lived a kind of pioneer lifestyle after the Depression and there wasn’t any money,” said Michael McManus, Marion’s son. “Growing up with that hardship gave him a lot of drive and ambition to make a better life for himself and he realized that having an education was an important part of that.”

Michael McManus says the business degree his father earned from the University of Mississippi in 1950 instilled the knowledge he needed to become successful. In appreciation, he wanted to support education by establishing the Marion McManus Scholarship Endowment with a $300,000 planned gift and the Marion McManus Excellence in Business Endowment with a $200,000 planned gift, both to the UM School of Business Administration.

“Mr. McManus’s story is a great example of the transformative power of higher education,” Chancellor Jeffrey Vitter said. “He used the education he received at the University of Mississippi to go from humble beginnings to a highly successful businessman. We are grateful for his gifts that honor the impact this university had on his life.”

The McManus Scholarship is available to incoming freshmen in the School of Business Administration who are Mississippi residents with a minimum ACT score of 27. Recipients may retain the scholarship for eight semesters, provided they maintain a 3.0 grade point average.

The McManus Excellence in Business Endowment provides support for the greatest needs of the Business School as determined by the dean.

“Mr. McManus’s generous gifts encompass the scope of work we do here by supporting the general expenses necessary to operate the school and its programs while also meeting the financial needs of students who want to pursue an education in business,” said Ken Cyree, UM business dean.

“We are very grateful for Mr. McManus’ thoughtfulness in including us in his will and for our many loyal donors like him who provide unrestricted support as well as scholarships.”

Tim Noss, development officer for the School of Business Administration, had the privilege of visiting with McManus at his home shortly before his death.

“Mr. McManus enjoyed sharing stories with me about his college experiences and the friendships he made on the Oxford campus,” Noss said. “He had many wonderful memories of his classes and professors in the business school as well as the many extracurricular activities with his fraternity, Delta Psi.”

Michael McManus said his father also made similar gifts to the University of St. Thomas in Houston, Michael’s alma mater, and to Louisiana State University, where Marion attended briefly before returning to Ole Miss.

At LSU, Marion met the late Joan Carol Pender, who would become his wife of 60 years and mother to his children, Michael and Melissa McManus Chapman, both of Houston.

Before college, McManus served in the U.S. Navy during World War II. Upon returning, he was admitted to and planned to enroll at Ole Miss.

“There was a story he used to tell: He showed up at Ole Miss and they had thought, since his name was Marion, that he was a female, so they had assigned him to a female residence hall,” Michael said. “I think he basically got miffed and went off and enrolled at LSU.

“My uncle told me the government found out he wasn’t a resident of Louisiana and refused to pay for his school anymore under the GI Bill, so he transferred to Ole Miss to complete his education.”

After graduating, McManus was hired by Fuller-Austin Insulation Co. in Houston, eventually becoming part owner and president in 1967. The company was sold in 1974, but McManus continued to manage the company until 1981 when he started Tecon Services, which became a successful industrial insulation company.

At the age 83, he officially retired and sold his interest in the business to his partners.

McManus enjoyed playing golf, traveling, hunting and spending time with his family and friends.

McManus’ planned gift earned him membership in the 1848 Society, named for the year the university welcomed its first students. The society recognizes generous donors who thoughtfully provide for the university through planned and deferred gifts.

The McManus endowments are open to gifts from individuals and organizations. To contribute, send checks with the endowment name noted in the memo line to the University of Mississippi Foundation, 406 University Ave., University, MS 38655; or visit http://www.umfoundation.com/makeagift.

Levingston Named to Fant Chair

Donor celebrates lives of family members through endowed chair

Lester 'Ruff' Fant III (left) chats with Bruce Levingston at a reception on the UM campus. Photo by Robert Jordan/Ole Miss Communications

Lester ‘Ruff’ Fant III (left) chats with Bruce Levingston at a reception on the UM campus. Photo by Robert Jordan/Ole Miss Communications

OXFORD, Miss. – Part of the attraction of a college town is enjoying nationally- and internationally-known speakers and musicians. Acclaimed concert pianist Bruce Levingston, the Chancellor’s Honors College Artist-in-Residence, brings many eminent guests to the University of Mississippi, such as a recent visit by noted philanthropist and conservationist David Rockefeller Jr.

The educational and cultural opportunities Levingston has added to the Oxford campus have prompted another title to be added to his name: He has been selected as holder of the Lester Glenn Fant Chair endowed by Lester “Ruff” Glenn Fant III of Washington, D.C.

A longtime benefactor, Fant committed a major gift to create the endowed faculty position in memory of his father and grandfather. Ruff Fant’s father was a law professor at Ole Miss for three decades.

“Bruce Levingston is truly a treasure for our university and for our state,” Chancellor Jeffrey Vitter said. “I cannot think of a more fitting person to serve as the inaugural recipient of the Lester Glenn Fant Chair. Both the Fant family and Bruce play a significant role in helping our university achieve the highest levels of excellence.

“We are extremely appreciative of the ongoing support of the Fant family. And we applaud Bruce’s tremendous talent, teaching excellence, national stature and the extraordinary opportunities he brings to our university community.”

Douglass Sullivan-Gonzalez, dean of the Sally McDonnell Barksdale Honors College, has observed the impact of having Levingston on campus.

“Bruce Levingston exudes excellence in his teaching and concert performances,” Sullivan-Gonzalez said. “He drives our students to compete intellectually with the best in the world. Bruce knows how to instill confidence without backing away from the highest standard. They, in turn, perform beyond their wildest expectations.”

A leading figure in classical music, Levingston expressed gratitude for the expanded faculty title and the support of Fant and his wife, Susan, who also have endowed a faculty chair in English at Ole Miss honoring their friend Hubert H. McAlexander.

Holding an undergraduate degree from Vanderbilt University and a juris doctorate from Harvard Law School, Ruff Fant founded and chairs TowPath Partners, a specialty finance company that invests in mature renewable energy projects.

“I am deeply honored to be the inaugural recipient of the Lester Glenn Fant Chair,” Levingston said. “The family for whom this chair is named, and particularly donor Ruff Fant, represent the highest standards of excellence in every endeavor. I am both humbled and inspired to have been named to this distinguished position at the university.

“As holder of the Fant Chair, I plan to continue to teach, serve and mentor the many gifted students in the Sally McDonnell Barksdale Honors College as well as continue to bring leading figures in the arts and humanities to Ole Miss. My goal is to share with students not only what people in other parts of the country are doing and thinking, but also to help them understand how to be a part of that national and international dialogue as they go out into the world.”

The latest visit by Rockefeller – director of Rockefeller & Co., former board chair of the Rockefeller Foundation, leading conservationist of ocean and water resources, and a passionate music supporter – expands the growing list of prominent figures Levingston has hosted at the university, including Pulitzer Prize-winning author Ron Chernow, acclaimed documentary filmmaker Ken Burns, and international ballet stars Alessandra Ferri and Herman Cornejo.

Levingston joined the university as artist-in-residence in fall 2014. Eleanor Anthony, who was influenced by Levingston while an undergraduate at Ole Miss, is earning a degree from the Stanford University School of Law.

“Bruce’s ability to inspire and challenge students is matched only by his deep dedication to their growth and education,” Anthony said. “By bringing some of the most influential voices of our time to this university, and by sharing his own music and voice with us, Bruce empowers students to realize the impact our own voices may have.

“He represents what teaching is at its best, and the incredible mark he has already left on this university takes shape in the lives and minds of each of his students.”

Levingston holds degrees from the University of Texas and the Aaron Copland School of Music and studied in Sion, Switzerland, at the Royal Conservatory of Toronto and the Aspen School of Music. He enjoys extraordinary experiences and wants Ole Miss students to have the same caliber of opportunities.

“My hope is that whether or not students pursue a career in the arts, they will learn to be thoughtful, innovative and resourceful, so that they may build fulfilling and meaningful lives for themselves and for the communities in which they live and work,” Levingston said.

Many important composers have written works for Levingston, and his Carnegie Hall and Lincoln Center world premiere performances have won critical acclaim. The New York Times has praised his “mastery of color and nuance” and The New Yorker has called him “a force for new music.”

Levingston’s recordings have also received high critical praise. His album “Heavy Sleep” was named one of the Best Classical Recordings of 2015 by The New York Times. Levingston’s most recent album, “Dreaming Awake,” featuring the music of Philip Glass and actor Ethan Hawke, was selected as Album of the Week by WQXR/ WNYC, calling the disc a “passionate and spontaneous portrait of the composer” and “a boldly individual approach to the keyboard works of an American master.”

In addition, Levingston is the author of “Bright Fields: The Mastery of Marie Hull,” a comprehensive biography and survey of the work of the prominent Mississippi painter. He collaborates with respected cultural institutions on programs, including American Ballet Theatre, Boston Ballet, Museum of Modern Art, Whitney Museum of Art, Alliance Française/French Institute, The Aspen Institute and the Aspen Music Festival.

The Lester Glenn Fant Chair is open to accept gifts from individuals and organizations. Checks can be made out to the University of Mississippi Foundation, with the Fant Chair noted in the memo line, and mailed to 406 University Avenue, Oxford, MS, 38655; or by visiting online at http://www.umfoundation.com/makeagift/.

UM, JSU Women’s Groups Work Toward a Common Purpose

Councils partner to share insights, benefit students

Representatives from the women's councils at Jackson State University and the University of Mississippi recently gathered in Oxford to continue building on their relationship. Ole Miss first lady Sharon Vitter was also on hand as the council members shared ideas and goals to strengthen student scholarships and experiences at both universities. Photo by Bill Dabney

Representatives from the women’s councils at Jackson State University and the University of Mississippi recently gathered in Oxford to continue building on their relationship. Ole Miss first lady Sharon Vitter was also on hand as the council members shared ideas and goals to strengthen student scholarships and experiences at both universities. Photo by Bill Dabney

OXFORD, Miss. – Through a nine-year collaboration, the women’s councils of two Mississippi universities have developed a bond that is proving beneficial for both organizations.

In 2007, the Ole Miss Women’s Council for Philanthropy helped develop a similar council at Jackson State University. Ever since, the groups have strengthened each other, building on their relationship for the benefit of students. Recently, representatives gathered together on the University of Mississippi’s Oxford campus.

“Growth occurs from the interaction between the two councils; friendships are developed and ideas are shared,” said Meredith Creekmore of Jackson, a founding member of the OMWC. “This recent collaboration gave both the Jackson State and the Ole Miss women’s councils the opportunity to develop a rapport that will be ongoing.”

At the recent meeting, council members from both universities shared best and promising practices, gained insight on the structure and implementation of their respective programs, and discussed the coordination of student scholarships.

“The meeting provided the opportunity to emphasize the importance of women working together in higher education in the state of Mississippi to benefit our students and universities,” said Gwendolyn Spencer Prater, chair of the Women’s Council for Philanthropy, an organization of the Jackson State University Development Foundation.

“The meeting, with energetic and committed women from both councils, demonstrated that we have similar goals to support young people in developing a philanthropic lens during their tenure at our sister universities that will guide them throughout their life’s work.”

OMWC Chair Mary Haskell shares similar sentiments: “This was an exciting opportunity to come together as sister organizations to share our programming ideas and discuss our current and long-term goals for creating the most effective ways of supporting the outstanding students we are privileged to have as our scholars.”

While each of the councils is unique, they share a common organizational structure and mission. Helmed by an accomplished cadre of female leaders and philanthropists, the councils provide students with scholarships for tuition and books as well as guidance and training in leadership skills, career development and personal growth.

The scholars, who are mentored throughout college by members of the councils, participate in leadership training, community service projects, cultural enrichment activities and alumni networking.

By working together, the UM and JSU women’s councils focus on philanthropic giving opportunities for their respective institutions and students. The collaboration provides insight on how each council operates within its by-laws, how members participate on various committees to promote philanthropy, and how to enhance each council with new ideas and strategies for promoting philanthropic giving and activities.

Haskell said she and the other OMWC members enjoyed the opportunity to share ideas and become acquainted with the JSU women’s council members.

“It’s our mutual hope that we will be able to plan a gathering next year that will include all the various women’s councils that have been developed and are serving young students in our state,” Haskell said.

“It was a very informative, transparent and useful meeting,” Prater said. “The Jackson State cohort found our hostesses at Ole Miss very welcoming, personable, dedicated and supportive. We greatly appreciate the Ole Miss council’s graciousness and hospitality.”

On Feb. 14, 2000, the OMWC began with a group of philanthropic-minded women committed to providing endowed scholarships for its council scholars and guiding them into their careers as well as helping with the development of life skills through the leadership-mentorship program.

Seven years later, the Jackson State University Development Foundation Women’s Council for Philanthropy was officially established. Evangeline Robinson, now assistant professor of integrated marketing at Ole Miss, was instrumental in starting the JSU program when she worked there as the executive director of institutional advancement.

Not long after a conversation with then-JSU President Ronald Mason about increasing the number of JSU’s female donors, Robinson attended a conference during which then-UM development officer Ellen Rolfes discussed the OMWC.

“I immediately thought it was exactly what we needed at Jackson State to get more women involved. I introduced myself to Ellen and that started the conversation,” Robinson recalled, adding that Rolfes, who helped start the OMWC, Creekmore and Gloria Kellum, then-vice chancellor for university relations at Ole Miss, became faithful resources as she began to plan the JSU organization.

“When I told Meredith (Creekmore) that we were starting a women’s council, she immediately offered to help and committed to being a member,” Robinson said. “She was there from the beginning and always so encouraging. She later established our first endowed women’s council scholarship.”

“Our councils share an important bond, in that Meredith was inspired to share the mission of our council with this group of remarkable women, and so then served as a founding member of the JSUWC in 2007,” Haskell said.

With expectations that the two groups will meet annually going forward, Creekmore said, “I think it’s a great collaboration for Ole Miss and Jackson State.”

For more information on the Ole Miss Women’s Council, visit http://omwc.olemiss.edu/. For information on the Jackson State University Development Foundation Women’s Council for Philanthropy, visit http://www.jsums.edu/wcphilanthropy/.

Farm to YOUth Project Works to Transform Lives

UM effort aims to end food insecurity among Calhoun County children

David H. Holben (left) and members of his project team prepare bags of food to be delivered to students at Bruce Elementary School. Helping are (from left) Sydney Antolini, Michelle Weber and Kelsey Reece, all nutrition graduate students at Ole Miss. Photo by Bill Dabney

David H. Holben (left) and members of his project team prepare bags of food to be delivered to students at Bruce Elementary School. Helping are (from left) Sydney Antolini, Michelle Weber and Kelsey Reece, all nutrition graduate students at Ole Miss. Photo by Bill Dabney

OXFORD, Miss. – Children at three Calhoun County elementary schools are trying kale for the first time.

Farm to YOUth, a six-week University of Mississippi pilot project supported by a $200,000 gift from global agriculture business Monsanto Co., also has the kids eating cucumbers, pineapple, sweet potatoes, Brussels sprouts and mango – all in an effort to improve health through nutritious eating.

“I would love to see them eat more green vegetables,” said Michelle Weber of Cincinnati, Ohio, a graduate student in nutrition who is working on the project. “I would just like to hear them say, ‘Wow, I tried this and it’s not terrible, so maybe I’ll take a little bit more.'”

Project director David H. Holben, a professor and chair of the UM Department of Nutrition and Hospitality Management, believes the project also will help prevent food insecurity, which is defined as a lack of access to nutritious food for an active, healthy life.

Food insecurity creates health risks for otherwise healthy individuals, hinders disease management and undermines quality of life.

According to a USDA report from 2014, 14 percent of U.S. households were food insecure, with households headed by women and those in rural areas being affected to an even greater degree. The same report indicates that Mississippi leads the nation in food insecurity.

“We came up with this idea to address this preventable health threat,” Holben said. “The Farm to YOUth program is an outreach and education program and we are measuring its efficacy.

“We want to see if food insecurity is impacted in the short-run, if it will affect change in how kids are willing to try new vegetables and if it will decrease food waste in the cafeteria. In other words, do children eat more of their vegetables after participating in this program?”

UM nutrition graduate students (from left) Kelsey Reece, Michelle Weber and Sydney Antolini deliver bags of vegetables to classrooms at Bruce Elementary School, where they will be distributed to children as part of the university's six-week Farm to YOUth project. Photo by Bil Dabney

UM nutrition graduate students (from left) Kelsey Reece, Michelle Weber and Sydney Antolini deliver bags of vegetables to classrooms at Bruce Elementary School, where they will be distributed to children as part of the university’s six-week Farm to YOUth project. Photo by Bil Dabney

Weber and two other nutrition graduate students – Sydney Antolini of Charlotte, North Carolina, and Kelsey Reece of Grenada – spend two days in the cafeterias of three different elementary schools each week, serving the children a raw fruit or vegetable on one day and then the same in a prepared state on the second day.

A subset of the children, those in one of the elementary schools, take ingredients home each Friday so their families can try the foods. The university also gave each of the 1,200 children a cookbook containing instructions for preparing and cooking the foods introduced by the project.

“What we’re trying to do is change the household food environment to make it more likely that the family members have adequate food and that they eat in a healthy manner,” Holben said.

“Food insecurity is directly related to Mississippi’s high rates of obesity. Even people who have only one or two symptoms of food insecurity are shown to have their weight affected. If we want to have an impact on obesity, we really have to make that impact early, before they’re teens.”

When Holben presented Farm to YOUth to Monsanto, the company jumped at the chance to support the work, establishing the Food and Nutrition Security Support Fund on behalf of the UM School of Applied Sciences.

“Through education and increased exposure to nutritious food, this program will have a positive impact on more than 1,000 households in Calhoun County, and we hope the program’s findings can be duplicated in other regions as well,” said Milton Stokes, director of global health and nutrition outreach for Monsanto.

“Because it also funds graduate students and helps them gain real-world knowledge and skills working with young people, we think the Farm to YOUth program will be a valuable experience as they take the front line in fighting food and nutrition insecurity.

“Personally, I’ve known Dr. Holben for many years and have closely followed his research on food insecurity and its impact on health. Considering the need for the program, and the talent of the faculty and graduate students at Ole Miss, this partnership makes a lot of sense.”

Velmer Burton, dean of the School of Applied Sciences, praised Holben’s work.

“This project is perfectly aligned with Chancellor Jeff Vitter’s vision to transform communities through outreach,” Burton said. “Dr. Holben and his students are changing lives for the better in Calhoun County. They are making that transformative impact on behalf of the university.”

Holben, a western Pennsylvania native who grew up in a household similar to the children of Calhoun County, said he’s grateful for the opportunity to help the community both physically and economically. He hopes to see the project replicated in other school districts.

“We have a really great relationship with Monsanto,” he said. “The students are all sending thank-you notes and cards expressing appreciation for their support. We are very thankful that they established the food and nutrition security fund specifically for the Farm to YOUth project. We couldn’t have done it without them.

“I’m also grateful to Dr. Teresa Carithers, our School of Applied Sciences associate dean, and to Katie Morrison in the Office of Development for their crucial involvement in getting this project off the ground. It really has been a group effort.”

The Food and Nutrition Security Support Fund established for the UM School of Applied Sciences is open to gifts from individuals and organizations. To contribute, send checks with the endowment name noted in the memo line to the University of Mississippi Foundation, 406 University Ave., University, MS 38655; visit http://www.umfoundation.com/makeagift or contact Katie Morrison, director of corporate and foundation relations at 662-915-2135 or katie@olemiss.edu.

Greers’ Love of Writing Leads to Endowment

Couple establishes fund to support critical thinking, empower students

Reba Greer (center, in blue) and her husband, Lance (front, to her left), attend a reception in their honor hosted by faculty and staff of the UM Department of Writing and Rhetoric, for which the Greers established an endowment. Photo by Bill Dabney

Reba Greer (center, in blue) and her husband, Lance (front, to her left), attend a reception in their honor hosted by faculty and staff of the UM Department of Writing and Rhetoric, for which the Greers established an endowment. Photo by Bill Dabney

OXFORD, Miss. – To say that Reba McCullouch Greer simply has a passion for writing is an understatement. She has devoted her career and life to changing the way students learn to write.

With the establishment of the McCullouch-Greer Endowment to Advance Writing as a Civic Responsibility, Greer has extended this mission to include University of Mississippi students as well.

Greer graduated from Ole Miss in 1963 with a bachelor’s degree in English, which prepared her for work in Georgia, California, New York and Maryland. As a teacher, school administrator and central office supervisor in Virginia, she developed programs to help K-12 students understand and apply their writing and research process to create hypothesis-based text.

“I was always looking for something that would incorporate writing and that would also give back to the state of Mississippi,” Greer said.

Returning to Oxford, Greer and her husband, Lance, were pleased to discover the Department of Writing and Rhetoric, a curriculum that did not exist during her days at Ole Miss. They instantly felt a connection and wanted to help the department grow.

“Reba Greer is known well as someone who is invested in improving literacy in Mississippi,” said Robert Cummings, chair of the Department of Writing and Rhetoric. “This is an interest that we quickly discovered we shared.”

The McCullouch-Greer Endowment was established to advance writing as a civic responsibility and to empower students to read, digest, craft and argue hypothesis-based responses. This is an integral part of what drives Greer’s fundamental beliefs about the value of proficient writing skills in a world where a liberal arts education is often underestimated.

“The department is over the moon about her involvement,” Cummings said. “Greer is someone who understands the centrality of writing and rhetoric in being a full participant in democracy, especially being able to translate and evaluate events.

“With this partnership, I am hopeful we can work toward this goal of improving literacy in Mississippi together.”

The endowment aims to support the department’s ongoing and future efforts to offer a writing education based on critical thinking, ethics-based reasoning, oral communication and written communication.

“I want to make sure that kids who have a need, who want a liberal arts education and who choose to pursue a degree in technical and research writing have the opportunity to do so,” Greer said.

“I want to encourage us to recognize that writing as a civic responsibility is a critical component of American democracy and also helps us grow Mississippi’s economy. I hope others will join us in this support for the Department of Writing and Rhetoric.”

The McCullouch-Greer Endowment is open to gifts from individuals and organizations. To contribute, send checks with the endowment name noted in the memo line to the University of Mississippi Foundation, 406 University Ave., University, MS 38655; or visit http://www.umfoundation.com/makeagift.

For more information about the Department of Writing and Rhetoric, call 662-915-2121 or visit http://www.rhetoric.olemiss.edu.

Campaign Honors Chancellor through Academic Support

'Invest in Ole Miss' celebrates a new era under Vitter's leadership

The new Invest in Ole Miss campaign honors Chancellor Jeffrey Vitter, who enjoys spending time with students over breakfast. Photo by Robert Jordan/Ole Miss Communications

The new Invest in Ole Miss campaign honors Chancellor Jeffrey Vitter, who enjoys spending time with students over breakfast. Photo by Robert Jordan/Ole Miss Communications

OXFORD, Miss. – A new fundraising campaign – Invest in Ole Miss – is celebrating a University of Mississippi milestone while building support for academics.

Campaign administrators say Invest in Ole Miss honors the Nov. 10 investiture of Jeffrey S. Vitter, the university’s 17th chancellor, by increasing resources in the Ole Miss Fund, the reserve of unrestricted financial contributions that supports the university’s schools and colleges at the deans’ discretion.

The campaign welcomes Vitter in this new chapter in the life of the university, recognizing the growth and progress taking place, said Barbara Daush, regional development officer at the UM Foundation.

“The Invest in Ole Miss campaign capitalizes on Chancellor Vitter’s first year,” she said. “We wanted to use the themes of his investiture to commemorate the new, exciting opportunities that it brings.

“Annual giving is the foundation of all giving for the university, a way to engage all donors to invest in the needs of the institution. This year, we decided to utilize the crowdfunding platform Ignite Ole Miss to attract support for the Ole Miss Fund.”

Specifically, contributions will help increase educational opportunities, employ new faculty and form on-campus programs.

“Private giving, especially in the form of unrestricted support, is critical to the day-to-day operation and progress of our university,” said Noel Wilkin, senior associate provost. “This new era in the history of Ole Miss provides the perfect opportunity to engage our ever-generous alumni and friends.”

Addi McNutt, a junior mechanical engineering major from Decatur, Alabama, said she chose to attend Ole Miss after being offered a scholarship funded by a private gift from UM benefactors.

“It speaks volumes to have such a nationally recognized academic leader like Chancellor Vitter invested in the well-being of Ole Miss students,” McNutt said. “His time at our university will be a milestone for us in terms of continued growth and greater unity on the Oxford campus.”

Ignite’s crowdfunding platform enables donors to support the university by offering support to specific needs on campus.

“By contributing to the Invest in Ole Miss campaign through Ignite, alumni and friends can take an active role in the future of the university and celebrate our new leader and his family,” said Angie Avery, project director.

“This is an exciting time at the university, and there is unlimited potential when we come together with our gifts to bolster programs. We encourage everyone to participate and we thank those who already have.”

Thirteen giving levels were designated to reflect points of interest about the chancellor and the university, Avery said. For example, donors could contribute $17 in honor of Vitter becoming the university’s 17th chancellor, $500 to commemorate his 500+ connections on LinkedIn or $1029 to mark the day (Oct. 29, 2015) Vitter was named chancellor.

For more information on Invest in Ole Miss, visit Ignite Ole Miss or contact Avery at aavery@olemiss.edu.

The public investiture formally marking Chancellor Vitter’s leadership of the university is set for 3 p.m. Nov. 10 in the Gertrude C. Ford Center for the Performing Arts. To find out more, visit http://inauguration.olemiss.edu.

Westbrook Pledges Major Gift to UM Journalism School

Endowment will support new construction, featuring consumer research lab

Leslie Westbrook visits with (from left) Jason McCormick, development officer for the Meek School of Journalism and New Media; UM Chancellor Jeffrey Vitter; and Will Norton, UM journalism dean. UM photo by Bill Dabney

Leslie Westbrook visits with (from left) Jason McCormick, development officer for the Meek School of Journalism and New Media; UM Chancellor Jeffrey Vitter; and Will Norton, UM journalism dean. UM photo by Bill Dabney

OXFORD, Miss. – In true Rebel style, University of Mississippi alumna Leslie Westbrook bucked the confines of her generation and became one of the nation’s most successful consumer market specialists with Fortune 500 clients.

“Like all good Southern ladies in that era, I planned to marry my college sweetheart and teach school,” said Westbrook, a Jackson native who was named Miss Ole Miss in 1968. “I was to start the family and add to it the station wagon and dogs. Well, I cancelled the Big Fat Southern Wedding.”

Instead, she landed a job in Procter & Gamble’s Market Research Department and left Mississippi for Cincinnati. The bachelor’s degree in education that Westbrook earned from UM in 1968 would have served her well for teaching, but she required weeks of on-the-job training for her new career as a consumer research specialist and marketing strategist.

“There is a great need to offer extensive consumer research training to students who are majoring in integrated marketing communications through the Meek School of Journalism and New Media,” Westbrook said.

Determined to see students adequately prepared to enter her profession, Westbrook has pledged $500,000 to the university. The Leslie M. Westbrook Journalism Quasi Endowment will ultimately support the construction of a new consumer research laboratory bearing Westbrook’s name.

“Leslie is very generously giving for an area to which she devoted her entire professional life,” said Will Norton, UM journalism dean. “She’s basically saying how thankful she has been for her Ole Miss education and that she wants first-class opportunities that will enable students to prepare for a similar career.

“This is the first major gift for the new building, and it means a great deal to have such a significant kickoff.”

Westbrook said she has discussed the school’s needs with Norton and Meek School namesake Ed Meek over the past couple of years.

Leslie Westbrook instructs students at the UM Meek School of Journalism and New Media. UM photo by Bill Dabney

Leslie Westbrook instructs students at the UM Meek School of Journalism and New Media. UM photo by Bill Dabney

Besides providing financial support, she participates in faculty support, teaching a Global Brands course during May intersession and co-teaching, guest lecturing and meeting with students several other times a year. She also serves on the board of the university’s Overby Center for Southern Journalism and Politics.

“We found the perfect fit,” she said. “Everything that I learned and put into practice in my career is taught in IMC over the course of the four-year program.

“I can speak from actual experience, from the business world, about how IMC can be utilized in a career and with a wider variety of choices: consumer research, marketing, branding, public relations, advertising, writing and more.”

In class, Westbrook often shares case studies from her work with such brands as Pringles, Pampers, Dunkin’ Donuts Coffee and the Dairy Queen Blizzard.

“I love my time back at Ole Miss, passing it forward, interacting with students,” she said. “If I can impact even one student, I am fulfilled.”

Westbrook’s gift will benefit the university community and beyond, Meek said.

“Leslie’s gift will represent the beginning of a major campaign to build a new building and dramatically expand the reach of the Meek School,” Meek said, adding that Westbrook enjoyed an extraordinary career in corporate practice nationwide. “Her focus is a unique laboratory that will create tremendous instructional, research and service opportunities for students and faculty

After Procter & Gamble, Westbrook joined New Product Insights, a nationally revered new product consulting firm in Kansas City, Missouri, where she practiced qualitative research as a marketing strategist for seven years before starting her own company in Easton, Maryland. During her career, she met with many Fortune 500 companies which later became clients of Leslie M. Westbrook & Associates Inc.

For the past 20 years, she has lived on Maryland’s Chesapeake Bay near Washington, D.C., with her husband, Paolo Frigerio of Milan, Italy.

“The loyalty, support and dedication of our alumni like Leslie is a key element to the university’s continued excellence,” Chancellor Jeffrey Vitter said. “Her gift will have a transformative effect on the Meek School of Journalism and New Media as we build for the future.”

The Leslie M. Westbrook Journalism Quasi Endowment is open to gifts from individuals and organizations. To contribute, send checks with the endowment name noted in the memo line to the University of Mississippi Foundation, 406 University Ave., University, MS 38655; or visit http://www.umfoundation.com/makeagift.

Gispens Create Endowment to Support Croft Institute

Fund will provide for discretionary spending to enhance programs, opportunities

Kees and Jean Gispen relax on the back porch of the Croft Institute.

Kees and Jean Gispen relax on the back porch of the Croft Institute.

OXFORD, Miss. – Though he recently retired as executive director of the Croft Institute for International Studies at the University of Mississippi, Kees Gispen’s interest in the institute will continue indefinitely.

Gispen and his wife, Dr. Jean Gispen, who has been the university’s employee-health physician since 2005, worked with the UM Foundation to create the Croft Institute Enhancement Endowment, which will ultimately provide income for discretionary spending by the institute’s executive director.

The Croft Institute helps students develop and strengthen an outward orientation – to transcend the horizons of their local community, their region and the nation as a whole – and learn about the world beyond U.S. borders. Its rigorous, interdisciplinary curriculum is designed to prepare students to meet America’s global challenges.

“My wife and I are true believers in the mission of the Croft Institute,” Gispen said. “We think it is especially important that there is a program such as this in Mississippi. Our years as the stewards of the institute have been enormously rewarding, and so we decided that as a small token of our gratitude and appreciation, we wanted to make this contribution.”

Chancellor Jeffrey Vitter praised the Gispens for their generous support and echoed the importance of the mission of the Croft Institute.

“The education and experiences offered by the Croft Institute produces graduates who have an impact on the health and vibrancy of lives and communities, here at home and around the world,” Vitter said.

The institute is generously supported by the Joseph C. Bancroft Charitable and Educational Fund and the university with much of the budget committed to salaries, faculty support, operations and Croft scholarships.

“When members of our faculty have such deep passion for the university and its programs that they want to give back, it makes me proud of the academic experience that undoubtedly fosters such loyalty,” said Morris Stocks, UM provost and executive vice chancellor.

“The Gispens have been part of the fabric of our university for decades and we are thankful for the generosity they’ve shown with this gift and in many other ways.”

Kees and Dr. Jean Gispen

Kees and Dr. Jean Gispen

Gispen joined the faculty in 1983 as assistant professor of European history. He started teaching for the Croft Institute at its inception in 1998 and was named associate director in 2005. Two years later, he began to lead the institute.

“Looking back to the time when I first arrived here by myself in a U-Haul truck with my car in tow and a load of student debt, I am deeply grateful to Mississippi for giving me an opportunity to make so many friends, meet my wife, develop my potential as a teacher, researcher, and in the phase of my career that just ended, as the head of the Croft Institute,” Gispen said.

“Mississippi has been good to me, and I have given it my best.”

During his time as executive director, the size of the Croft Institute student body nearly doubled, with the entering freshman class increasing from 45 in 2007 to 85 this fall.

“It’s probably the most selective program on campus, and the institute’s reputation nationally has grown to the point that more than half our students are from out-of-state,” Gispen said.

Additionally, the Croft retention and graduation rate improved with Gispen at the helm, and Croft students are significantly overrepresented among Phi Beta Kappa inductees and Taylor Medal winners.

Under his leadership, the institute facilitated a close relationship with the Korea Foundation, which funded a visiting professorship for two years and awarded the institute a major grant that will help pay for a permanent, tenure-track position in Korean studies.

Croft also added a Middle Eastern regional concentration to complement the Department of Modern Languages’ Arabic program and major – a focus that is supplemental to the institute’s regional concentrations in East Asia, Europe and Latin America.

Gispen said he’s proud of the success Croft graduates have had after college: almost 75 percent go to graduate school, including studying international affairs at top universities in the U.S. and abroad. Many attend top-ranked law schools and medical schools or pursue advanced degrees in business, accountancy, economics, foreign languages, sociology, political science and other fields. Others are lawyers, teachers, business executives, administrators and professors across the country and abroad.

“There is a whole community of Croft alumni working in Washington, D.C., in a variety of functions in government, including the State Department and the intelligence community, in the private sector as government contractors and in nongovernment organizations,” Gispen said. “These talented alumni are living proof of the great contribution our state and university are making to the nation.”

The Croft Institute Enhancement Endowment is open to gifts from individuals and organizations. To contribute, send checks with the endowment name noted in the memo line to the University of Mississippi Foundation, 406 University Ave., University, MS 38655; or visit http://www.umfoundation.com/makeagift.