A Tribute to Dewey Knight

Campaign seeks gifts to build scholarship in late leader's name

Dewey Knight (left), former associate director for the Center for Student Success and First-Year Experience at Ole Miss, gives a high-five to Don Cole, retired assistant provost and associate professor of mathematics, at Knight’s 2018 retirement reception. Knight’s contributions are being honored with a scholarship that will continue his work of helping students. Photo by Thomas Graning/Ole Miss Digital Imaging Services

OXFORD, Miss. – A new Ignite Ole Miss online campaign has been established to build a scholarship endowment honoring the late Dewey Knight, who helped countless students benefit from expanded academic tools and opportunities while pursuing University of Mississippi degrees.

Knight retired in 2018 as associate director of the Center for Student Success and First-Year Experience, a service-oriented unit he helped found. The center promotes student success through multifaceted programming that has been shown to positively affect student retention.

The leader first served in the Office of Financial Aid and dedicated 22 years to encouraging students, especially first-generation students, community college transfers and student veterans. He also focused on recruiting students and identifying financial aid resources.

“Many students would not have been able to attend Ole Miss without his guidance and support,” said Brett Barefoot, director of development for family and parent leadership and a former colleague of Knight’s. “That kind of legacy should be celebrated, and we believe Dewey would have been very happy to know a scholarship in his name will essentially continue his work.”

The Robert Dewey Knight Scholarship Fund has already attracted almost $15,000 in gifts toward a campaign goal of $30,000. A small portion of funds raised will be used to award the first scholarship this fall, while other contributions will be placed in a permanent endowment at the University of Mississippi Foundation, with annual interest used to award scholarships.

Students eligible for the scholarship are entering freshmen who are Mississippi residents with financial need.

Rachael Durham, assistant director in the UM Center for Student Success and First-Year Experience, helps promote the scholarship to honor her former colleague’s contributions.

“If I met a student who needed something or needed financial help, I knew I could have them talk to Dewey,” said Durham, who worked as a regional admissions counselor before joining Knight in the Center for Student Success in 2014.

Dewey Knight

“He’d always remind me that we are in the business of helping people, our students, here at the University of Mississippi. And that’s something that we will continue to strive for each and every day in his honor.”

Knight, who died in 2020, was well known for connecting with students.

“Dewey was famous for remembering not only the names of all the students he interacted with but also their hometowns, majors and interests,” Barefoot said. “He never turned off his quest to help them at 5 o’clock each working day, as Dewey could always be found working after hours, unwilling to let any Ole Miss students go without guidance.

“There is really no better way to pay tribute to him than by funding a scholarship endowment to assist students.”

An Oxford native, Knight entered UM as a freshman in 1966. He later served in the U.S. Marine Corps, which made him a loyal advocate for student veterans in his Ole Miss career. The Student Veterans Association annually presents the Dewey Knight Leadership Award to a student veteran who shares Knight’s intrinsic leadership traits.

“He was a great guy – a Marine who loved taking care of people and who was invaluable to campus,” said Andrew Newby, who worked alongside Knight as assistant director of veteran and military services. “The way he interacted with military-connected students is what led us to create the Dewey Knight Leadership Award.”

In addition, Knight taught EDHE 105 to hundreds of students over his career. The course paves the way for freshman and transfer students to transition successfully to Ole Miss, develop a better understanding of the learning process, enhance their academic skills, acquire essential life skills and begin career exploration.

To contribute to the Robert Dewey Knight Scholarship Fund, visit https://ignite.olemiss.edu/deweyknight. Checks, with the scholarship name noted in the memo line, also can be mailed to the University of Mississippi Foundation, 406 University Ave., Oxford, MS 38655.

For more information on the scholarship, contact Brett Barefoot at bmfarefo@olemiss.edu or 662-915-2711.