Alumna Creates Scholarship, Commits to Mentoring Students

Tupelo native honors her roots through new Women's Council scholarship

Karen Moore (left), an Ole Miss Women’s Council member and former chair, visits with Matthew, Margaret, John and Anna Caroline Barker, and Mary Haskell, OMWC member and former chair, after a Rose Garden ceremony celebrating the Barkers’ new OMWC scholarship. Margaret and John Barker are alumni, and both son and daughter are Ole Miss students. Photo by Marlee Crawford/Ole Miss Digital Imaging Services

OXFORD, Miss. – Mississippi has always owned a piece of Margaret Pryor Barker’s heart, inspiring her to give back to a place and a university that have given her so much.

The 1990 graduate of the University of Mississippi’s School of Business Administration has made a generous gift to establish an Ole Miss Women’s Council for Philanthropy scholarship in hopes of giving students the support needed to realize their career goals.

“It is so much more than just a university to me,” said Barker, a Tupelo native who lives in Nashville, Tennessee. “It is family, friends, traditions, fond memories and love.”

In its 18th year, the OMWC has built a scholarship endowment worth almost $14.5 million. The $40,000 named OMWC scholarships, which are among the largest on campus, are awarded each year to both female and male students who are incoming freshmen.

Thus far, 145 OMWC scholars, in addition to a cohort of eight freshmen entering this fall, are the beneficiaries of the program, which provides scholarships, mentoring, leadership development, travel and other cultural opportunities.

During Barker’s time at Ole Miss, she was engaged in many campus organizations, and she continued her involvement with her alma mater after moving to Nashville with her husband, John Barker, also a 1990 Ole Miss business school graduate, whom she met during their freshman year.

Barker said she is excited to see who will benefit from the new scholarship endowment and stands ready to be an influential mentor in those recipients’ lives during their undergraduate years.

“Because of our love, passion and gratitude to Ole Miss, John and I wanted to give young people an opportunity to fulfill their hopes and dreams at the University of Mississippi,” she said. “Ole Miss gave me so many wonderful opportunities and experiences that helped guide me and shape me into who I am today.”

Ole Miss has played a large role throughout the Barker family, and their tradition continues as son Matthew and daughter Anna Caroline are attending the university.

The Barkers own and operate Two Rivers Ford dealership in Nashville. Margaret Barker also contributed her time and talents to formerly serve on a variety of community organizations, such as the board of the Susan G. Komen Foundation and the Monroe Carell Jr. Children’s Hospital at Vanderbilt as well as chair of the Harding Academy Auxiliary Board.

“I am very proud that Margaret chose to pursue this opportunity to give back to her roots,” John Barker said. “After moving to Nashville around 26 years ago, she has been wanting to find a way to give back to the university, especially since she is a Mississippi native.

“I am looking forward to seeing how her endeavor will make an impact on students pursuing their dreams.”

Besides funding a scholarship, Margaret Barker is one of three new members invited to join the OMWC. Council members devote many hours to mentoring students who are scholarship recipients and to attracting funding to establish new scholarships.

Through an array of programming activities, council members also encourage scholars to become servant leaders in their communities and at Ole Miss.

“Both John and Margaret are not only Ole Miss graduates, they are also longtime supporters of the university,” said Karen Moore of Nashville, an Ole Miss alumna and former OMWC chair. “Knowing the philanthropic spirit they have for Ole Miss, the time they spend in Oxford and the leadership they have shown over the years, it was a perfect fit for Margaret to become an OMWC member.”

For more information on the OMWC, visit To learn how to establish a new Women’s Council scholarship, support the OMWC Global Leadership Circle or join the OMWC Rose Society, contact Suzanne Helveston at or 662-915-7273.

Celebrating the Arts Sets Big Goal for Ford Center

Campaign launches to build endowment for performing arts

The Ford Center has cloisonne friendship balls for sale as part of the Celebrating the Arts campaign, which runs through May 18. Photo by Kirsten Faulkner

OXFORD, Miss. – Adding $1.5 million in endowment for the Gertrude C. Ford Center for the Performing Arts at the University of Mississippi is the goal of the Celebrating the Arts campaign, which will increase the total endowment to $3 million.

Mississippi native and UM alumnus Gerald McRaney serves as the celebrity spokesperson.

“It’s important to support the arts, as opposed to supporting simple entertainment, because simple entertainment quite often will fund itself,” said McRaney, who majored in theatre arts at Ole Miss. “But all too often, the arts – like fine, old books in public libraries – won’t be supported on their own.

“They need us to keep them alive, and they are an essential part of our culture. … Without the arts, without those reminders, we’re lost. We’re a rudderless ship at sea with no direction home.

“The arts in Mississippi have a long, long history, and I don’t want to see that history overlooked, and I don’t want to see it end. I want us to continue to make history, not just appreciate it.”

To honor donors to the Celebrating the Arts campaign, the Ford Center has unveiled plans for a large bronze tree sculpture commissioned from Sanford Werfel Studio and hand-carved by artist Richard Teller. The sculpture will be a permanent installation in the theater lobby.

Major initial gifts already include those from the Gertrude C. Ford Foundation, of Jackson; Mary and Sam Haskell, of Oxford; and Nancye Starnes, of Charleston, South Carolina, with their names to be displayed on the tree trunks. Dr. Ralph Vance and his wife, Douglas, as well as Chancellor Jeffrey Vitter and his wife, Sharon, also have made major gifts, bringing the early total for campaign efforts to more than $220,000.

Calling the 15-year-old Ford Center a world-class arts and entertainment venue for the state and region, Vitter said providing cultural arts experiences is a key component of the university’s mission to prepare well-rounded students and provide opportunities to the greater community.

“As a flagship institution, we’re committed to growing the capacity of our extraordinary arts and cultural resources and programs,” Vitter said. “The arts keep everything vibrant and relevant; the arts provide an enduring legacy that offers insight into ourselves, as well as cultures of other times and places.

UM alumnus Gerald McRaney is the celebrity spokesperson for the Celebrating the Arts campaign. Submitted photo

“Friends of the Ford Center have provided amazing ideas and are investing their time and energy to move the Ford Center forward. With continued support of alumni and friends, I am confident that we will have a successful campaign.”

The campaign will conclude May 18, 2019 at the Ford Center’s inaugural Friendship Ball. McRaney and his wife, actress Delta Burke, are expected to perform A.R. Gurney’s “Love Letters,” a two-character piece in the form of a staged reading of the 50-year correspondence between East Coast bluebloods Melissa Gardner and Andrew Makepeace Ladd III.

Those interested in contributing to the campaign can choose from several levels of support with names engraved on different parts of the tree sculpture. The middle trunk represents the Muse of Music and features Gertrude C. Ford rising from the roots with her violin, while the other two trunks hold figures representing the Muses of Drama and Dance.

Nestled among the trees are various sized boughs – representing gifts of $20,000, $25,000 or $30,000 – and on the ground ensuring future trees, golden acorns for gifts of $10,000. In the engraver’s brass gold are also 750 donor recognition leaves, for gifts of $1,000. When a gift is made, the Ford Center will send the donor a form with instructions for personalizing the bough, acorn or leaf.

Most performing arts centers rely upon private contributions from individuals, foundations, corporations and businesses to sustain operations and programming, and the Gertrude C. Ford Center is no different.

University resources can cover salaries and a nominal budget, and other resources come from the Ford Foundation, Friends of the Ford Center and other alumni and friends. These additional resources cover the costs of special appearances or series, as well as programming, advertising and other costs associated with running the facility.

The shows each season are major costs, as large-scale musicals can cost up to $70,000 to bring to campus, Ford Center Director Julia Aubrey said.

“We want to offer the biggest and the best that our facility can present, and this takes support beyond ticket sales,” she said. “The building is now 15 years old, and to maintain its beauty and functionality, we have to continually repair, replace and upgrade. Our technology also must be updated to keep competitive with today’s expectations.”

Investing time, energy and resources in the Ford Center is a worthy endeavor, said Ole Miss alumna and Ford Center volunteer Susan Meredith, of Oxford.

“The Gertrude C. Ford Center for the Performing Arts is a magical place,” Meredith said. “Where else can live music make your heart soar? Where else can dance make you gasp in amazement? Where else can the spoken word bring tears of sorrow or joy to your soul?

“And we have this amazing facility right here in our own backyard!”

Ford Center Director Julia Aubrey joins UM alumni and friends recently to launch the Celebrating the Arts campaign, which intends to add $1.5 million to the center’s endowment, elevating it to $3 million. A bronze tree sculpture has been commissioned to recognize donors to the campaign. Photo by Robert Jordan

Among highlights of the center’s 2018-19 season are national tours of the “Wizard of Oz” (Oct. 21) and “Jersey Boys” (Nov. 9), as well as “Ferri-Cornejo-Levingston: An Evening of Dance and Music” (Sept. 20), St. Lawrence String Quartet (Oct. 16), Warren Wolf Quartet (Nov. 13), Moscow Ballet’s “Great Russian Nutcracker” (Nov. 30), ensemble 4.1 (Jan. 21), “We Shall Overcome – A Celebration of Martin Luther King Jr.” (Feb. 12), “In the Mood, a 1940s Musical Revue” (Feb. 16), Cirque Éloize Saloon: A Musical Acrobatic Adventure (Feb. 26), Billy Hart and the Academy (Feb. 26) and Junie B. Jones (March 30).

“I believe the arts reflect the heart of a culture and society,” Aubrey said. “We seek out paintings, sculpture and music from the past to learn what people were thinking or feeling – what was important to a previous generation.

“The performing arts that are presented in the Ford Center invite an audience to share someone else’s story for a brief period of time. Whether that story is told through music, drama or dance, we have a chance to share that visceral or intellectual experience. You leave laughing, thoughtful or both, and that makes one a more empathetic human being.”

To make a gift to the Celebrating the Arts campaign, send a check made out to the University of Mississippi Foundation, with the Ford Center campaign noted in the check’s memo line, to 406 University Ave., Oxford, MS 38655 or online at More information also is available on the site, and Vitter’s comments from the campaign launch dinner can be found at

The Ford Center also has cloisonne friendship balls available for $50 at its ticket office, with the design featuring the center and Oxford. For more information, contact Kate Meacham, Ford Center marketing director, at or 662-915-6502.

Gift Creates Women’s Council Scholarship

Couple honors the late Phyllis Shane by providing opportunities for others

The University of Mississippi has been an important part of life for (from left) Cheryl, Rachel and Michael Ducker. Photo courtesy Cheryl Ducker

OXFORD, Miss. – Mike and Cheryl Ducker have established the Phyllis Shane Ole Miss Women’s Council Scholarship Endowment in memory of Cheryl’s late mother with a gift of $125,000.

While attending the University of Tennessee Nursing School, Phyllis Shane, of Kingsport, Tennessee, met her future husband, James. Soon after, she put her dream of becoming a nurse on hold.

Once her children grew up and moved out, Shane decided to pick up where she left off and finish her degree. In 1994, at 60 years old, Shane graduated with a bachelor’s degree in nursing from Gulf Coast Community College and received a standing ovation from her peers.

Shane put an emphasis on education for herself and her children.

“Education was very important for my mother because it empowered women,” Cheryl Ducker said. “So giving to the Ole Miss Women’s Council was an obvious choice.”

Mike Ducker, who attended UM from 1971 to ’73, retired in August after a 43-year career at FedEx. At retirement, he was the chief executive officer and international president for FedEx Freight. He and Cheryl met in Memphis in 1989, and have a daughter, Rachel, who is an Ole Miss sophomore.

“The University of Mississippi is very close to our hearts,” he said. “A gift like this honoring Cheryl’s mother through the Ole Miss Women’s Council is a cause that Phyllis held very dear and is very meaningful to our family.”

Since the OMWC was created in 2000, the group has built a scholarship endowment worth almost $14.5 million. The $40,000 named OMWC scholarships, which have grown to be among the largest on campus, are awarded each year to both female and male students.

Thus far, 145 OMWC scholars, plus a cohort of eight freshmen for the 2018-19 academic year, are the beneficiaries of the program, which provides scholarships, mentoring, leadership development, travel and other cultural opportunities.

The council is a group of female leaders and philanthropists committed to nurturing the development of students with a desire to contribute to create a caring, more ethical world. When their careers and personal lives allow, OMWC scholarship recipients are expected to give back to the innovative scholarship program.

Mike Ducker credits his UM education and experience for much of the success he has realized and believes it will have similar results for others. For this reason, he keeps a book of resumes from rising Ole Miss seniors who would be excellent candidates for open positions at FedEx Corp.

“After all, the brightest and best people from Ole Miss should be FedEx purple employees,” he quipped.

Ducker, who played football for the Rebels, and his wife continue to be engaged in the life of his alma mater. They attend all football games on the Oxford campus and travel to as many away games as possible.

To make a gift to the Ole Miss Women’s Council, send a check with the fund noted in the memo line to the University of Mississippi Foundation, 406 University Ave., Oxford, MS 38655; visit; or contact Charlotte Parks at or 662-915-3120.

For more information on the OMWC, visit

Couple’s Planned Gift to Support Two UM Endowments

Contributions to support scholarly work in Southern food and music

California couple Lynne Ann DeSpelder and Albert Lee Strickland are including in their estate plans support for two endowments supporting the UM Center for the Study of Southern Culture. Submitted photo

OXFORD, Miss. – Lynne Ann DeSpelder and Albert Lee Strickland, of Capitola, California, have partnered on many projects throughout their lives and someday, even in death, their collaboration will continue when their planned estate gift supports two programs at the University of Mississippi.

The husband and wife will leave an estimated $1 million from their estate to Ole Miss, half to the John T. Edge Director of the Southern Foodways Alliance Endowment and half to the Center for the Study of Southern Culture’s Music of the South Endowment.

Other donors might find it morbid to speak of their death in a public news release, but much of this couple’s work and interests have focused on human mortality.

“Our work has mainly been in the area of thanatology, studies relating to death, dying and bereavement,” Strickland said.

Realizing that their unique talents and interests meshed – Strickland is a writer; DeSpelder, a teacher – the two co-authored the college textbook “The Last Dance: Encountering Death & Dying,” which was published in 1983 and is in its 10th edition. Additionally, they are members of the International Work Group on Death, Dying and Bereavement, an invitation-only forum of members from many countries.

“We greatly appreciate Lynne Ann and Albert Lee’s vision in planning this generous gift as well as their ongoing commitment to the SFA,” Chancellor Jeffrey Vitter said. “John T. and the SFA have worked tirelessly through the years, building a program through the study of food that has made a deeply transformative impact within the UM academic community and within the lives of our students, alumni and friends.”

The gift will honor their parents – Luther Leander Strickland, Bertha Emma Wittenburg Strickland, Bruce Erwin DeSpelder Sr. and Dorothy Jane Roediger DeSpelder – all of whom valued education in different ways.

“My parents were born close to the turn of the 20th century, raised on farms in Arkansas and told me stories about picking cotton,” Strickland said, adding that his mother graduated from high school and his father only had the opportunity to complete sixth grade. “Even so, he taught himself music and became a full-time music instructor with many students during his life.”

DeSpelder said her parents were both college graduates and became educators. Her mother taught first grade, and her father obtained a doctorate and was a professor of business administration at Wayne University in Michigan.

The appreciation for music that Strickland inherited from his father and the CSSC publications Rejoice! and Living Blues contributed to his desire to support the Music of the South Endowment, which is designed to ensure excellence in teaching subjects related to the influence of music on Southern culture.

“I was raised with Southern gospel music, as well as Southern foods, despite being a native Californian,” said Strickland who, starting at age 4, performed gospel music with his parents in churches throughout Southern California.

Recently, his professional interests have been combined with his lifelong involvement in music, resulting in invitations to perform musical concerts in Australia, Germany, Hong Kong, Italy and Canada, as well as several locations in the United States. These performances focused on themes of death, dying and bereavement as expressed in traditional gospel and blues music.

A shared interest in Southern culture led the couple to Ole Miss, where they have attended the Southern Foodways Symposium and developed a close relationship with SFA Director John T. Edge and his colleagues.

“Our affection for Southern culture and for Ole Miss was strengthened by acquaintance with scholars like John Shelton Reed and Bill Ferris, the founding director of CSSC,” Strickland said.

“Albert Lee and I have long been interested in the intersection of food and culture,” said DeSpelder, also a native Californian, who once spent a year traveling the world, exploring foods of many countries and writing a weekly column about her discoveries for The Detroit News.

“Also, we have established friendly relationships with Ole Miss scholars – John T. Edge, Charles Reagan Wilson, Ted Ownby, Lee Cohen, Catarina Passidomo and Mary Beth Lasseter, among others – all of whom are involved in areas of study and community outreach that we find exciting and interesting.”

Ownby said the feeling is mutual: “I have enjoyed getting to know Lynne Ann and Albert Lee at SFA events over the years, and I appreciate the range of their interests in foodways and music and all sorts of topics. Their gift to the Music of the South endowment is an important step in helping us fund a professorship in music and Southern studies, which will be an exciting new addition to our program.”

Edge echoed Ownby’s sentiments: “Lynne Ann and Albert Lee are model SFA members: intellectually curious, engaged and generous. Their gift humbles me and helps secure a strong future for our institute.”

Sharing a similar admiration, Strickland noted, “Most, if not all, of John T.’s books and articles reside in our library and are a testament to the kind of scholarship we want to promote by contributing to the Edge Director Endowment.”

DeSpelder is an educator, author and counselor. As a psychology professor at Cabrillo College in Aptos, California, she developed and taught one of the first interdisciplinary courses on death and dying. Her first nationally published writing on death appeared in the November 1977 issue of New Age magazine.

Certified by the Association for Death Education and Counseling as a death educator and as a grief counselor, she was instrumental in developing that organization’s Education for Certification program.

Besides producing audiovisual and print resources for death education, she lectures both in North America and internationally to professional, corporate and community groups, and conducts training programs and in-service education for hospices, school districts and health care professionals.

Strickland is a writer whose interests have focused on death-related topics since the late 1970s. His published work includes articles on communication and death and children and death as well as several books on family studies and family life education.

He is a former editor of The Forum Newsletter, published by ADEC. A member of the Authors Guild, he is also working on a screenplay involving religious fanaticism, political shenanigans and nuclear Armageddon.

The John T. Edge Director of the Southern Foodways Alliance Endowment and the Center for the Study of Southern Culture’s Music of the South Endowment are open to gifts from individuals and organizations.

Checks with the fund noted in the check’s memo line may be mailed to the University of Mississippi Foundation, 406 University Avenue, Oxford, MS 38655. Gifts can also be made online by visiting or by contacting Nikki Neely Davis, executive director of development, at 662-915-6678 or

University Endowment Builds to All-time High of $715 Million

Strong investment returns, generosity of alumni and friends spurs growth

The University of Mississippi’s permanent endowment grew in its latest fiscal year to an all-time high, thanks to generous support from private donors. Photo by Robert Jordan/Ole Miss Digital Imaging Services

OXFORD, Miss. – The University of Mississippi’s permanent endowment grew in its latest fiscal year to an all-time high of $715 million, thanks in part to the seventh consecutive year of new gifts of $100 million or more.

Private support totaled more than $115.8 million from 30,332 donors, giving the university essential resources to continue providing exceptional experiences for students, faculty, researchers, health care patients and providers, citizens served by outreach efforts, and visitors to all its campuses.

“Private investments are essential to fuel the work of our flagship university,” Chancellor Jeffrey Vitter said.

“The generosity of our alumni and friends ensures the university has resources needed to sustain and expand nationally prominent programs, and it enables us to deliver on our Flagship Forward strategic plan to improve learning, health and the quality of life in Mississippi. We remain grateful and inspired by their support.”

Total private giving to the Oxford campus grew by 6.5 percent over the previous year. Private support for academics increased more than 10 percent. 

Eighty-seven percent of the private giving will provide current funding for donor-directed areas or directly affect those areas, while the remaining 13 percent was added to the university’s endowment, which also grew through returns on its investment strategies.

State support as a percentage of total revenues available for the university’s operations was 12.4 percent, making private support all the more crucial.

“Ole Miss alumni and friends are making major investments that transform students’ lives and continually enhance the quality of our programs,” said Charlotte Parks, vice chancellor for development. “Gifts to higher education also have a far-reaching impact on the economy of Mississippi and beyond, and the resources ultimately improve the quality of life for everyone.”

Healthy growth of the university’s endowment reflected the increase in funds invested and managed for the university, said Wendell Weakley, president and CEO of the UM Foundation. The endowment benefited from a 10 percent return on its investments.

Private giving helps UM maintain margins of excellence in a range of fields across all its campuses. Photo by Thomas Graning/Ole Miss Digital Imaging Services

“The endowment has now reached the historic high of $715 million, and we are on our way to realizing our long-range goal of a $1 billion endowment,” Weakley said. “We are extremely grateful to our donors who provide this permanent stable funding that can be counted on year after year and will advance the university’s mission for generations to come.”

Some of the largest gifts included: $5 million for the Sally McDonnell Barksdale Honors College; $4.25 million for several programs including Bridge STEM, Catalyzing Entrepreneurship and Economic Development Initiative, College Ready Literacy, Center for Mathematics and Science Education, First Generation Scholars, Principal Corps, Upstart in the School of Dentistry and more; $4 million for new endowed chairs in geriatrics and palliative care at the Medical Center; $2 million for the College of Liberal Arts‘ departments of mathematics and sciences; $2 million for professorships in surgery and pulmonology at the Medical Center; $1.5 million for expansion of pediatric care at the Medical Center; and gifts of $1 million or more for a faculty chair in the Patterson School of Accountancy, the Flagship Constellations, Southern Foodways Alliance and the Forward Together campaign for Ole Miss athletics.

Likewise, the Medical Center’s Campaign for Children’s Hospital campaign enjoyed a third successful year with $10 million raised, which brings the total giving in the campaign to more than $66 million toward its ambitious $100 million goal. This campaign supports the construction and renovation of facilities and recruitment of 30-40 doctors and researchers.

Work has begun on a new seven-story, 340,000-square-foot tower adjacent to Batson Children’s Hospital that will also house the Children’s Heart Center.

Gifts to the campaign represent “an outpouring of love and support that runs deep and wide across all of Mississippi,” said Dr. LouAnn Woodward, vice chancellor for health affairs and dean of the School of Medicine. “We have outstanding physicians and the best staff, and they have a passion for caring for patients. What we need now are the facilities to match that quality of care.”

Financial resources provided by alumni and friends of the university ensure students will have the tools necessary to be successful. Photo by Robert Jordan/Ole Miss Digital Imaging Services

Ole Miss athletics also enjoyed a successful FY 2018 both on the field and in investments made by alumni and friends. Cash gifts exceeded $30 million for the fourth consecutive year. The Forward Together campaign stands at $176 million, with plans to complete this $200 million campaign in FY 2019.

“Rebel Nation represents one of the most loyal fan bases in college sports,” said Keith Carter, deputy athletics director for development and resource acquisition. “The support shown year in and year out allows us to enhance our facilities to help our student-athletes compete at the highest level, while also providing a high-quality experience for our fans.

“We express our thanks to loyal donors and fans, and we look forward to the upcoming year as we close out the Forward Together campaign and begin new endeavors.”

To make gifts to the university, go to for academics, for the UM Medical Center or for Ole Miss athletics.

Whitwells Support Ole Miss Students

Oxford couple makes major commitment to Magee Center

Ginger and Quentin Whitwell, of Oxford, are supporting their alma mater and future Ole Miss students through a gift to the William Magee Center for Wellness Education. Photo by Bill Dabney/UM Foundation

OXFORD, Miss. – Ginger and Quentin Whitwell have found that living in Oxford, home of the University of Mississippi, gives them an opportunity to see the needs of college students “up close and personal,” inspiring their major support of the William Magee Center for Wellness Education.

“It’s personal,” Ginger Whitwell said. “The University of Mississippi is part of who we are.”

The Whitwells’ $100,000 gift will build on the endowment for the new William Magee Center for Wellness Education, which is intended to heighten the focus on drug and alcohol education and prevention. Opening in early 2019, the center will be housed in the university’s new South Campus Recreation Facility.

The two donors join other alumni, student organizations, friends, faculty, staff, a foundation, a corporation and a church congregation that have collectively given almost $1.3 million in an 18-month period to establish the Magee Center, with the hopes of making a difference in the lives of young people who struggle with substance misuse.

Reaching and exceeding a $1.5 million minimum endowment goal will undergird the center’s programming and operations for years to come.

The Magee Center is named for William Magee, a 23-year-old Ole Miss alumnus and former Sally McDOnnell Barksdale Honors College student who lost his life to an overdose in 2013. His parents, Kent and David Magee, of Oxford, are devoting efforts toward sharing their family’s experiences in order to help others and attract support for the center.

“Kent and David are longtime friends, and we think the world of them,” said Quentin Whitwell. “When we reconnected with them after several years, we were touched by William’s story and how they are working to make sure other individuals don’t end up faced with the same circumstances.

“We admire the Magees because they have found a powerful purpose despite their tragedy. Ginger and I are in the position to help support the Magee Center and efforts to provide more support to Ole Miss students, and we are pleased to do so.”

College students across the nation are using substances to fit in, manage anxiety, manage stress and help with sleep. Among the goals of the Magee Center is increasing students’ knowledge and skills related to responsible consumption of alcohol and medicines using harm-reduction approaches.

“Kent and I expected that sharing our son’s story would be received with empathy because almost everyone knows or loves someone who faces the challenge of addiction,” David Magee said. “However, we have been overwhelmed by the positive responses to the Magee Center and are grateful to Quentin and Ginger for this very generous gift.

“The Whitwells are deeply committed to seeing the Oxford-University community thrive and thus have embraced this center as a means of helping students.”

The center also will seek to engage students, faculty, staff, parents, alumni and the Oxford community in alcohol- and drug-related issues and concerns – a goal the Whitwells embrace.

“The development of the Magee Center makes me proud of our university – that leadership would take a stand and address issues head on,” said Quentin Whitwell, a founding partner of the law firm Harper Whitwell PLLC and a government affairs operative. He and a partner formed The Talon Group, a lobbying firm, and Whitwell also served on the Jackson City Council, representing northeast Jackson as Ward I councilman, before moving his family to Oxford, which is also his hometown.

The gift will affect students on several fronts, said Brandi Hephner LaBanc, UM vice chancellor of student affairs.

“As we approach a new academic year, our efforts to re-educate students about the risks of alcohol and other drugs will be front and center,” she said. “Wellness education is never-ending and is deeply rooted in student success.

“I deeply appreciate the Whitwells generosity – their gift will help us educate students and serve those in need. Above all, this couple’s support will help us elevate William Magee’s story so other students can make healthy decisions and excel academically.”

The Whitwells each enjoyed their undergraduate experience at Ole Miss, where Ginger Whitwell, a native of Forest, was an Ole Miss Ambassador, active on the Student Alumni Council and a member of Phi Mu sorority. Quentin Whitwell was Associated Student Body president, a Student Hall of Fame inductee and Sigma Nu fraternity member – like William and David Magee.

After graduation, Ginger earned a master’s degree in education from the University of Southern Mississippi, and Quentin earned a Juris Doctor from the UM School of Law.

“Ginger and I hope to see the Magee Center become a model for other universities and other college towns to mirror,” Quentin Whitwell said. “We are very pleased that student organizations at Ole Miss, and particularly our own sorority and fraternity, are participating in funding the Magee Center and helping address the seriousness of abuse and addiction.”

To honor their support, a large wellness classroom in the new South Campus Recreation Facility will be named for the Whitwells. Ginger Whitwell has a vision for what she wants the wellness classroom to provide.

“I hope it will be a safe place for students, a place where they feel comfortable talking about the issues they face and know those issues are important,” she said. “So many times, young people think they are going to be judged and keep problems to themselves.”

It’s natural for the Whitwells to be concerned about support to students, as they are the parents of daughter Davis, 18, who is a freshman this fall at the College of Charleston. Their son Gordon, 15, is a student and athlete at the Smith Stearns Tennis Academy in Hilton Head Island, South Carolina.

“We talk forthrightly to our children about the issues of drugs and alcohol,” Quentin Whitwell said. “Our daughter recognizes the importance as a female leader of the need to be in control of situations that involve her.

“Our son spends so much time on fitness and understands the negative impact of drugs and alcohol on the body.”

Although the center has not opened, in-depth planning and curriculum development is underway as part of the initiative, and efforts continue to seek additional financial support to sustain the program, said Brett Barefoot, development officer for parent and family leadership.

“William’s Story” can be found at

The William Magee Center for Wellness Education is open to receive gifts from individuals and organizations by mailing a check with the center’s name in the memo line to the University of Mississippi Foundation, 406 University Ave., Oxford, MS 38655; or online at

For more information contact Brett Barefoot, development director, at or 662-915-2711.

Storeys Aim to Inspire with Scholarship Gift

UM alumna honors parents in naming Women's Council fund

James and Sarah Powell (left) share a moment with their daughter, Beth Powell Storey, and son-in-law, Barry Storey. Photo courtesy Beth Storey

OXFORD, Miss. – University of Mississippi alumna Beth Powell Storey, along with her husband Barry Storey, both of Augusta, Georgia, hope a scholarship they established will honor her parents and inspire others to give back to Ole Miss.

With a recent $250,000 gift, the Storeys established the Sarah and James Powell Ole Miss Women’s Council Scholarship Endowment. The scholarship honors in perpetuity Beth Storey’s late father, James Powell, a longtime production control manager for Rockwell International in Grenada, and her mother, Sarah Powell, a homemaker.

Beth Storey and her siblings – Ole Miss alumni Sharon Powell Boler, Belinda Powell Levy and James H. Powell III – were raised in Duck Hill.

“My parents worked hard,” she said. “We were raised in a very loving home, but we did not enjoy the luxury of having lots of money. All four of us were able to attend Ole Miss. It just seemed appropriate to honor my parents in a meaningful way for the many sacrifices they made for us along the way.

“My husband, Barry, and I feel very strongly about supporting our respective alma maters and hope our gift will encourage other families to do the same. There are so many opportunities to support Ole Miss through giving of one’s talents, time or monetary resources.”

The endowment is designated for entering first-year students from Mississippi who seek a degree in the School of Education. Recipients will be chosen based on demonstrated academic ability, service, leadership potential, financial need and other criteria set forth by the OMWC.

Besides students’ academic pursuits, they will be expected to participate in leadership development and a mentoring program sponsored by the council.

“I’m excited that this gift will provide an opportunity for young people to realize their dreams of attending college,” said Beth Storey, who graduated from Ole Miss in 1983 with a bachelor’s degree in education. “It is my hope that the recipients will have a passion for education and a love of learning they can instill in others.”

The youngest of the four Powell children, Beth Storey received financial assistance to help continue her education after high school.

“Without the combination of my parents’ support and the E.H. Sumner grant, I would not have been able to attend college,” she said. “Ole Miss was one of the best experiences of my life, at an age when we begin to prepare ourselves for the real world.

“I’m very grateful for the opportunities that college afforded me and the friendships that I made.”

A Delta Gamma, Beth Storey credits her sorority for supporting a campaign for her to become homecoming queen her senior year, a memorable experience.

After graduation, she became a flight attendant and was based in Atlanta. There, she met her future husband, Barry Storey, and began teaching special needs children in the public school system in Atlanta; she continued to teach in public schools for seven years after a move to Chattanooga, Tennessee.

The couple resides in Barry Storey’s hometown of Augusta, where they have lived for the past 26 years. Barry Storey is principal of BLS Holdings Group LLC. The couple has two grown children, Shelby Storey Blackburn and Barry L. “Lang” Storey Jr.

OMWC chair Mary Susan Clinton said she appreciates Beth Storey’s desire to help students achieve their higher education goals.

“As members of the Ole Miss Women’s Council, it’s our great responsibility and privilege to see our outstanding young men and women excel in college and ultimately in life,” Clinton said. “We believe the Sarah and James Powell Endowment will play a central role in helping us encourage and mentor our students.

“We hope that, one day, these students will all be able to credit their Ole Miss education for positioning them so that they are able to give back as Beth has chosen to do.”

The OMWC is an innovative program that provides scholarships and counsel for students destined to be leaders. Helmed by an accomplished cadre of female leaders and philanthropists, the OMWC provides scholarships for tuition and books for young men and women as well as guidance and training in leadership skills, career development and personal growth throughout the students’ tenure at the university.

Scholars are guided by career mentors and sitting members of the OMWC and participate in leadership training, community service projects, cultural enrichment activities and alumni networking.

“What the Women’s Council is offering is so valuable,” Beth Storey said. “My parents instilled in us the importance of working and contributing, so I worked all four years of college.

“I would have loved to have had a mentor to offer advice and encouragement while trying to balance classes, work and, of course, a social life!”

The Sarah and James Powell Ole Miss Women’s Council Scholarship 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

For more information on the OMWC, click here.

Jones Creates Scholarships in Wife’s Memory

Endowment will help students earn degrees from School of Business Administration

The late Ann McCully Jones, of Richton, is being memorialized through a new scholarship endowment at the University of Mississippi. Submitted photo

OXFORD, Miss. – On the first day of every month for 46 years, Ann McCully Jones and her husband, Frank, repeated their wedding vows. After he lost his partner in life, Frank Jones carried out what the couple had spoken of many times: funding University of Mississippi scholarships.

Jones, of Richton, has established the Margaret Ann McCully Payne Jones Memorial Scholarship Endowment with a gift of $800,000 for School of Business Administration students. First preference for the need-based scholarships will be given to freshman students from the Christian-based French Camp Academy, Baptist Children’s Village or Palmer Home for Children.

“Ann was always looking for ways to help individuals who were having difficult times because she experienced a host of life’s trials herself,” Jones said. “Ann and I had talked many times of helping those needing the most hope, and we wanted this scholarship to assist students in the years ahead who otherwise might not be able to attain their full potential.

“We hoped and prayed that these future recipients would be successful in their chosen endeavors and, as their lives unfolded, they would be able to pass on help to other young men and women. Our desire was that each person helped would in turn help others to reach their destiny. It is our intent that they join us in caring and carrying forward a legacy of helping others.”

Henry Jones, of Brandon, the oldest of the couple’s three sons, said anyone who knew his mother, who died in August 2017, recognized her priorities. “She loved God, her family and Ole Miss, and she was very happy when any two of those loves could be found together.”

Ann and Frank Jones were not Ole Miss students at the same time. Frank graduated in 1959 with a degree in chemistry and biology. Ann pursued a major in business education, graduating magna cum laude in 1965 and as a Taylor medalist and Phi Kappa Phi member, while being involved in Mortar Board academic honorary and Delta Gamma sorority.

Frank Jones originally planned to attend West Point Military Academy, but a neck injury prevented him from taking advantage of that opportunity. Ole Miss was the only other school he would consider.

After two years in the Army Chemical Corps, he enjoyed seven-and-a-half years working with the Pepsi Cola Corp. in New York and traveled extensively over the country. The call to come back to Mississippi and join his father in the funeral profession ended the Pepsi Cola involvement.

Ann Jones joined a host of other family members who chose to make the Oxford campus their college home, and an uncle advised her to seek out the Ole Miss business school. She was born in Waco, Texas, while her lawyer father, John Triplett McCully, served as an Army Intelligence officer. The family returned to DeKalb, where she graduated from DeKalb High School before going on to Ole Miss.

Her mother, Margaret Payne McCully, was an Ole Miss graduate and a high school English teacher at DeKalb High School and Murrah High School in Jackson.

The Joneses first met in New York City at a Marble Collegiate Church function following a message by Dr. Norman Vincent Peale, and then spent the afternoon at the Metropolitan Museum of Art with friends Lester and Janaan Clark, of Hattiesburg. Dedicated to a career that took her all over many states as a business trainer for IBM, Ann McCully initially wasn’t to be distracted by romance, and Jones said it took him five years to persuade her to marry him.

“Ann was blessed with great intelligence and typing speed,” her husband said. “The business world offered an opportunity for her to earn a much better salary than teaching, which was her mother’s profession. She loved traveling with IBM, which was a good company to work for.”

McCully left IBM and returned to Mississippi to plan her wedding. Later, she helped her husband with his Standard Oil agency and Chevron jobbing businesses before the couple, upon the retirement of Frank’s father, joined the family business, Jones & Son Funeral Home. The couple expanded the funeral home to other locations in south central Mississippi.

Besides raising their three sons – Henry, John and Walt, who all earned their first degrees at Ole Miss and were Sigma Chi members, like their father – they were extremely active in the First Baptist Church of Richton through the music and children’s programs, as well as in community organizations. Second preference for the scholarship is directed to Richton High School students.

Ann Jones was well-known for being an enthusiastic ambassador for Ole Miss.

“A constant recruiter to Ole Miss, she gave many of my south Mississippi friends their first exposure to Oxford and the Grove,” said son Dr. John Jones, of Indianola. “Mom was a faithful woman and a Rebel.”

“What I cherish about my mom was her passion and commitment to the things she loved,” said son Walt Jones, of Fort Worth, Texas. “She loved the Lord, her family, friends and Ole Miss.

“Everyone she met knew they were important to her and that she valued their relationship. She taught me how to love people well and to love Ole Miss!”

UM Chancellor Jeffrey Vitter thanked Frank Jones not only for the endowed gift but also for the thoughtful designation of the scholarships.

“Ann and Frank were deeply devoted to each other, and that great love spilled over into their view of and concern for people, that is, young people who might have experienced challenges or the loss of their parents,” Vitter said. “This couple shared a desire to help others by providing scholarship resources for them to attend their own alma mater, a place where they both thrived.

“So many young people today need that ‘hope’ of which Mr. Jones speaks, and giving encouragement through access to higher education not only dramatically changes their lives but also enriches our society as a whole. We are grateful for this extraordinary gift.”

Freshman recipients of the Jones Scholarship may retain the award until completion of their undergraduate degree (up to eight semesters) and it can assist graduate students with their MBA (up to four semesters), provided they remain in good academic standing. The School of Business Administration Scholarship Committee will make the selections each year.

Individuals and organizations with the same desire to meet the needs of those less fortunate may make gifts to the Margaret Ann McCully Jones Memorial Scholarship Endowment by sending a check with the fund’s name noted in the memo line to the University of Mississippi Foundation, 406 University Ave., Oxford, MS 38655; visiting online at; or contacting Nikki Neely Davis, executive director of development at and 662-915-6678.

University Launches Flagship Society

Campuswide giving program to benefit academics at Ole Miss

The Flagship Society is the first campuswide leadership annual giving program at the University of Mississippi. Individuals can join this fiscal year and become charter members, providing crucial private support to our academic community. Photo by Kirsten Faulkner

OXFORD, Miss. – The University of Mississippi has launched the Flagship Society – its first campuswide leadership annual giving program – to recognize annual donors, share the impact of their giving and increase philanthropic support for academic programs and scholarships at a time when higher education costs are escalating.

“The Flagship Society will add to the margin of excellence at Ole Miss, advancing the university’s ability to transform lives and make a profound impact in Mississippi, the nation and the world,” said Charlotte Parks, UM vice chancellor for development.

For the seventh consecutive fiscal year, which ended June 30, Ole Miss alumni, friends, students, faculty and staff have committed in excess of $100 million in private support, much-needed resources as state support covers only 13 percent of the university’s annual budget.

Chancellor Jeffrey Vitter said he is constantly inspired by donors’ desire to give back to ensure future generations have exceptional educational opportunities and society has a higher quality of life.

“Through their giving, Flagship Society members will be expressing a strong belief in the power of higher education and the positive impact of private support,” he said. “Our alumni and friends are known far and wide for their continuous and generous investments in the Ole Miss student experience, our academic environment and outreach efforts.

“The University of Mississippi is honored to recognize these annual donors who step up, year after year, to propel the flagship forward.”

The Flagship Society name pays homage to the university’s flagship status as the oldest and largest public university in Mississippi. The name also represents members of the Ole Miss family who serve as philanthropic leaders in the academic, service and cultural programs, Parks said.

“We want to honor the Flagship Society members’ generosity by selecting a name that reflects their impact on the university,” she said. “Each Flagship Society gift combines with others to produce powerful resources.”

Gerald Wages, of Tupelo, is an alumnus and former executive with North Mississippi Health Services who has been providing consistent annual support for almost three decades.

“My decision to make a contribution to Ole Miss was an easy one for two reasons: First, a contribution would be a way to ‘pay back’ – to recognize the quality of the education I received that prepared me for my career and to repay the university for the outstanding experience that I had on campus during my college years,” Wages said. “Secondly, a contribution would represent an investment in the future of Ole Miss and an investment in the many students who will be receiving their education there in the years to come.

“For those reasons, I am excited to have an opportunity to contribute, and I encourage all alumni to continue being a part of the Ole Miss story with annual support.”

Annual gifts, for example, can bolster scholarship support for students, increase funds for recruitment and retention of faculty, increase graduate stipends to support doctoral students, heighten access to research grants whose results help people live healthier lives, increase maintenance funds to keep up the university’s array of facilities, and increase support for the cultural arts.

Having these funds available enables university leadership to be flexible and prompt in addressing needs and opportunities without diverting resources from elsewhere, said Alyssa Vinluan, an annual gifts officer in the Office of University Development.

Membership in the Flagship Society is open to any household or individual whose cumulative giving to academics totals $1,000 or more during the fiscal year (July 1-June 30). Donors can make unrestricted gifts to the Ole Miss Fund – resources used at the discretion of UM leadership for the university’s greatest needs – or donors can choose to direct their gifts to a specific school, program or scholarship, Vinluan said.

Membership in the Flagship Society can be met by an outright gift or by making pledge payments throughout the fiscal year. Levels of membership are Bronze with a gift of $1,000, Silver with a gift of $1,848, Gold with a gift of $2,500 and Platinum with a gift of $5,000 or above.

Graduates whose most recent UM degree is from the past five years can join the Flagship Society with an annual gift of $100. Likewise, alumni from the past six to 10 years become members with an annual gift of $500, as university officials understand these graduates are establishing their lives and careers.

Kirsten Faulkner, of Metropolis, Illinois, who finished her undergraduate degree in journalism in May and is pursuing graduate studies, said she hopes the Flagship Society drives home the message that gifts of all sizes matter.

“Giving back to a university that has given so much to me is something I feel very strongly about,” Faulkner said. “The Flagship Society is a great way to engage donors of all ages and let them know that gifts of any size can make a significant impact throughout the university and, in this case, through academic programs.”

Flagship Society members will be recognized in several ways and receive an exclusive Flagship Society car decal and invitations to special events. Donors who join in the Flagship Society’s inaugural year, which runs through June 30, 2019, will be identified as charter members.

With the support of alumni, friends, university leaders, faculty and staff, the Flagship Society stands to influence many areas of campus for years to come.

“The Flagship Society can help elevate the value of all University of Mississippi degrees; organizations such as U.S. News and World Report factor alumni giving participation into their rankings of the best universities in America,” Parks said. “We deeply appreciate each and every gift that fuels our reach for even greater heights of excellence.”

Gifts can be made by sending a check in support of academics to the University of Mississippi Foundation, 406 University Ave., Oxford, MS 38655; or by visiting For more information, contact Alyssa Vinluan, annual giving officer, at or 662-915-1311.

Scholarship Recipients Display Attitudes of Gratitude

UM Kelly Gene Cook scholars enjoy opportunity to thank donors

The Kelly Gene Cook Charitable Foundation board and Executive Director Katy Pacelli (front, fourth from left) joins Chancellor Jeff Vitter and Sharon Vitter for a spring luncheon to celebrate the Cook and Mikell Scholars. JoAnn Mikell (front, in pink), secretary; Carolyn Bost (front, fifth from right), director; Deborah Rochelle (front, fourth from right), chair; and Ron Page (front, third from right), treasurer; are surrounded by the undergraduate and graduate scholars at Ole Miss. UM photo by Bill Dabney

OXFORD, Miss. – “As I look around this room, it’s hard to not get teary-eyed,” Samantha Brewer told a crowd at a recent luncheon at the University of Mississippi. “Because I know it was you. You all made this possible.

“You all made me possible. You made me being a teacher possible. And I can’t thank you enough. So let me start now. Thank you. Really, thank you.”

These were the sentiments expressed by Brewer when she and fellow Kelly Gene Cook Foundation scholars had an opportunity to meet donors at a recent luncheon hosted by Chancellor Jeffrey Vitter at his home on the Oxford campus.

Brewer, a senior elementary education major from Southaven, and her cohorts received a full scholarship to Ole Miss, thanks to the Cook Foundation.

The late Kelly Gene Cook Sr., of French Camp, was a pipeliner for more than three decades who joined Houston Contracting Co. in 1956 and became vice president and general manager for domestic and foreign operations in 1971. In this capacity, he dealt with pipelines throughout the Middle East, Brazil, Trinidad, Ecuador and Nigeria.

In 1976, he and a partner formed Gregory & Cook Inc., a pipeline contracting firm in Houston, Texas.

Cook was active in the industry associations, serving on the boards of the International Pipeline Contractors Association and the American Pipeline Contractors Association. In 1986, he and his wife, Peggy, formed the Kelly Gene Cook Sr. Charitable Foundation Inc., which primarily provides funds to support religious, charitable, scientific and educational organizations in Mississippi, Louisiana and Texas.

Cook Foundation representatives at the Ole Miss luncheon were president Deborah Rochelle, of Folsom, Louisiana; treasurer Ron Page, of Houston, Texas; secretary JoAnn Mikell, of Madison; director Carolyn Bost, of Madison; and executive director Katy Pacelli, of Jackson.

“They say teachers are difference-makers,” Brewer told her donors. “That’s true. But you all are difference-makers too. You’ve made a difference in my life.

“Throughout my college education, not once have I had to worry about being able to buy my books or pay my tuition. I’ve never wondered if I’d be able to pay off student loans because I have don’t have any. Because of you, I did not have to shift my focus from school to work just to pay my bills, and that’s incredible because a lot of my friends cannot say the same thing.”

Kayton Hosket, of French Camp, who earned a master’s degree in curriculum and instruction from UM in May, echoed Brewer’s comments.

“The investment of the Kelly Cook Foundation in my education has been a life-altering blessing,” she said. “I am grateful for your support of me as a student and a young professional.

“The members of the Cook Foundation have been personable and interested in my life over the past eight years. Your generosity has opened the door for learning opportunities that will be used to impact students and educators both locally and nationally.”

Likewise, Savannah Fairley, of Lucedale, told donors she never imagined how much having the Cook Scholarship would change her life.

“The support from the Kelly Gene Cook Foundation allowed me to devote my efforts to better my mind,” said Fairley, who graduated in May with a bachelor’s degree in biological science. “It afforded me the opportunity to spend summers in Germany, taking language classes, and winter breaks doing research in a medicinal chemistry lab, rather than working to make sure I could pay for the books I would need for the upcoming semester.

“I was able to find my passions and dive into them. I was able to network and make connections with some truly amazing people. Being a Cook Scholar gave me the ability to get the most out of my university experience and I will forever be grateful. Thank you so much for the life-changing work that you do.”

The Cook Scholarship is open to entering freshmen from Mississippi who have scored at least a 24 on the ACT and have a GPA of 3.5 or higher. They also must have proven financial need and academic ability.

Rochelle, Cook’s niece, said her uncle was very proud of the way his foundation selected scholars and subsequently offered them stewardship and mentorship.

“He often said our youth are our most precious natural resource and that we should take care of them,” she recalled. “Of course, we want our students to be happy in their fields of study and to become successful members of our society.

“We have been very proud of our Ole Miss students and have had many graduate in various occupations. We also look forward to continuing our partnership with Ole Miss – a partnership that offers scholars donors who keep in touch with them and help them mature into self-assured individuals who graduate with no measurable debt.”

For more information about the Cook Scholarship, go to