OXFORD, Miss. – Chancellor Emeritus Robert C. Khayat, leader of what has been called a “renaissance” at the University of Mississippi during his 14-year term, has been chosen as the 2017 winner of the Dick Enberg Award, presented by the College Sports Information Directors of America.
Khayat, who served as chancellor from 1995 to 2009, will receive the honor June 11 at the eighth annual CoSIDA Academic All-America Hall of Fame Ceremony in Orlando, Florida, at the organization’s annual convention, which will be part of the National Association of Collegiate Directors of Athletics convention for the fifth straight year.
The award, named for the legendary Hall of Fame broadcaster Dick Enberg, is presented annually to a person whose actions and commitment have furthered the meaning and reach of the Academic All-America Teams Program and/or student-athletes while promoting the values of education and academics. The award was created in part to recognize Enberg’s passion and support of the Academic All-America program, and more importantly, his dedication to education for more than four decades.
“Robert Khayat has been a champion for change throughout his distinguished career in higher education,” Enberg said. “The decisions he made for the future of the University of Mississippi were difficult, but time has shown that his passion, character and courage were rewarded in building a world class institution that embodies so many life-changing student opportunities.
“Chancellor Khayat is widely respected among his peers as one of the outstanding educators of our time, and I’m extremely honored that he has accepted this year’s Enberg Award. He truly has been a ‘Rebel with a cause.'”
Khayat is the 21st recipient of the Enberg Award, joining a distinguished group that includes a U.S. president, the winningest Division I coaches ever in football and men’s and women’s basketball, business and academic leaders, and a member of the U.S. Cabinet.
“For many years, I have admired Mr. Enberg not only for the charisma that he projects through a microphone or a television screen, but for his enthusiastic support of the academic mission of universities, colleges and athletics programs,” Khayat said.
“It is truly humbling to be included among the prior recipients of this recognition, and I have accepted the award on behalf of all the people who have worked hard to make Ole Miss the great university it is today.”
Khayat has been part of Ole Miss family for most of his life. As a student, he excelled in the classroom, earning both undergraduate and law degrees. He earned Academic All-America honors as an offensive tackle and kicker for Johnny Vaught’s Rebels in 1959 and was a two-time all-Southeastern Conference selection as a catcher for the Ole Miss baseball team.
He was a place-kicker for the NFL Washington Redskins for four seasons, earning a spot in the Pro Bowl during his rookie campaign in 1960.
In 1998, he was the recipient of the NFL’s Alumni Career Achievement Award, an honor also bestowed upon previous Enberg Award recipients Roger Staubach and Alan Page as well as Academic All-America Hall of Famers Byron White and Merlin Olsen. Khayat also received the National Football Foundation’s Distinguished American Award, presented annually to an individual exhibiting superior scholarship, citizenship and leadership, in 2003.
He returned to UM in 1969 as a faculty member in the School of Law and was named the university’s 15th chancellor in 1995.
The university that existed at his appointment in 1995 would not be the one Khayat left when he retired in 2009. Under his leadership, student enrollment increased by nearly 44 percent, and the university’s operating budget grew from less than $500 million to nearly $1.5 billion annually.
During Khayat’s tenure as chancellor, major new programs were founded, including the Sally McDonnell Barksdale Honors College, Croft Institute for International Studies, Lott Leadership Institute, Winter Institute for Racial Reconciliation and the Overby Center for Southern Journalism and Politics.
He also helped attract millions in private support and transformed the campus through renovation and new construction, including adult and children’s hospitals at the UM Medical Center, Paris-Yates Chapel, Gertrude C. Ford Center for the Performing Arts, and the Olivia and Archie Manning Athletics Performance Center.
He was instrumental in helping the university achieve its long-held goal of sheltering a chapter of Phi Beta Kappa honor society. The defining climax of his term came in 2008 when the university was selected to host the first presidential debate between then-Sen. Barack Obama and U.S. Sen. John McCain.
Khayat said he is grateful for the continued efforts of “faculty, staff and students who remain so committed” to making the university the best academic and research institution it can be.
“My name is on this, but it’s really an award for the University of Mississippi,” he said.
The College Sports Information Directors of America was founded in 1957, making it the second oldest management association in intercollegiate athletics. Its 3,000-plus members include sports public relations, communications and information professionals throughout all levels of collegiate athletics in the United States and Canada.
Previous recipients of the association’s Dick Enberg Award include Donna Shalala, president of the University of Miami and former U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services (2001); the Rev. Theodore Hesburgh, president emeritus of the University of Notre Dame (2005); President Gerald R. Ford (2006); Pat Summitt, former women’s basketball coach at the University of Tennessee (2007); and Roger Staubach, former Dallas Cowboys quarterback and a member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame (2016).