Couple’s Gift Highlights Research of Liberal Arts Professors

Sanford and Susan Thomas establish UM award endowment

Susan and Sanford Thomas. Photo courtesy Susan Thomas

OXFORD, Miss. – Sanford and Susan Thomas, of Memphis, Tennessee, have made a gift of $50,000 to the University of Mississippi, establishing a faculty research award endowment in the College of Liberal Arts that reflects the value they place on academics.

The Sanford and Susan Thomas Senior Professor Research Award Fund will provide annual support and recognition for senior faculty members in one of the university’s social science departments.

“We hope this award will showcase the great research being done by professors in the College of Liberal Arts’ social sciences,” Sanford Thomas said. “We hope it gives them encouragement to do their best and also helps to garner much-needed support from others for their work.”

A Greenwood native who serves on the College of Liberal Arts Advisory Board, Sanford Thomas graduated from Ole Miss in 1978 with an undergraduate degree in psychology. Susan Thomas majored in business administration at the university.

“We both had great experiences with attending Ole Miss, and we felt like it was a good time to give back to the school,” Thomas said.

“From the time I was there as a student until now, the university has grown in numbers and maturity. It’s become nationally recognized as a great value and still has a small-town school atmosphere. People understand it is a serious school that offers a rigorous curriculum.”

Recipients of the Thomas Research Award will be chosen from the departments of Economics, Political Science, Psychology, Public Policy Leadership, and Sociology and Anthropology.

The award will be given to faculty members to recognize continuous exemplary performance in research and scholarship at the national and international levels, said Charles Hussey, associate dean for research and graduate education.

“The ideal recipient will have achieved scholarly recognition and influence well beyond the UM community,” Hussey said. “This award is an important recognition of distinction for faculty in the designated departments and is a testimony to the success and vibrancy of their academic careers.” 

“As a Carnegie R1 highest research activity university, it is important that we publicly recognize and reward our most productive faculty for their sustained efforts in research, scholarship and creative achievements,” said Lee M. Cohen, dean of the College of Liberal Arts and professor of psychology.

“The opportunity to showcase the exceptional research conducted by senior professors in social sciences will benefit the College of Liberal Arts and the university greatly. Thanks to Sanford and Susan’s generous gift, we believe the establishment of the Thomas Award will help us elevate our productivity moving forward.”

The Thomas Award augments existing awards the college presents in the natural sciences and mathematics and the humanities and fine/performing arts categories. Each award recipient receives a $2,000 cash prize, a medal to wear at graduation and a plaque.

“Other than a small stipend to those who have excelled in their chosen social science field, the award will hopefully bring attention to my peer group – those professors around my age,” Thomas said. “And perhaps the award will bring in more support toward academics.

“The university’s Carnegie R1 highest research status is such a big deal; I think anything we can do to help that along will be beneficial for the school’s credibility.”

Tax-deductible gifts to the Sanford and Susan Thomas Senior Professor Research Award Fund can be made by mailing a check with the name of the endowment written in the check’s memo line to the University of Mississippi Foundation, 406 University Ave., Oxford, MS 38655. Contributions can also be made online at

For more information about providing support to the College of Liberal Arts, contact Ron Wilson at or 662-915-1755.